March 2005

C. Howard Replogle’s ROAD STORY NEWSLETTER #9

PMB 13552 -- 235 Rainbow Drive -- Livingston, Texas 77399

E-MAIL --   Cell Phone – 360-601-5607

Hello Everyone!

Welcome to my ninth ROAD STORY newsletter, email edition. I wrote my last newsletter about a year ago from Sinaloa, Mexico where I spent the winter. The last year has seen me repeat my previous travel patterns of annual visits with friends and family and two important blues festivals. But there have been some differences: In late August my Mexicana friend Florina Camacho flew to Portland to join me for a month long tour of the U.S. West Coast. It was her first visit and I had fun showing her a few highpoints such as the Oregon Coast and Yosemite and we visited friends along the way. She practiced her English and I practiced my Spanglish. The month flew by and I had to hurry East to make the King Biscuit Blues Festival after I put her on a bus in Nogales, AZ for her trip home to her family in Sinaloa, Mexico.

I took a break from Mexico this winter and spent Christmas with my daughter’s family near Portland, OR, before a slow drift to the Southern Climes of the West Coast. Right now, I’m in Lakewood, New Mexico which is THE big news of the year for me. If you read my last newsletter you heard me “complain” about several aspects of my lifestyle. In fact, twice in the last year I almost reverted back to living in a house and going back to work but I stifled myself in time. Not that there’s anything wrong with full time RVing. There isn’t, but I have some special challenges due to my relatively young age, my single marital status, and my tight budget. I’m hoping that “The Ranch” here in SE New Mexico will alleviate some of my issues and avoid such an extreme measure as bailing out all together. Aspects of my life, such as too much travel and the accompanying costs, too few social contacts, and a lack of a “home base” to store some of the stuff I’ve accumulated in my truck and trailer will hopefully be changed by this amazing community. The Ranch is coincidentally only 60 miles South of New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell where I graduated from High School in 1966 (before the alien mythology became popular). So I’m planning to attend Homecoming there in October. Carlsbad is 20 miles South of here so if I’m inclined I might find work or take a college class there. The Caverns are always interesting to visit and the Guadalupe Mountains have spectacular hiking.

“Escapees” is an RV Club for full time RVers that I joined in January of 1998 even before I moved into my trailer. In addition to many support services such as mail forwarding, educational seminars, and a magazine, Escapees has spawned eleven affiliated membership “Co-ops” across the country. They are each owned by a separate corporation with different rules and different environments, so they each have their own character. Each is essentially an upscale RV park but the “lots” have small but often unique buildings on them and each lot is “held” by an individual (or couple) “leaseholder.” The eleven Escapee Co-ops are extremely popular as “home bases” and they all have long wait lists for “membership,” many in excess of five years. In addition to space for 120 RV’s, The Ranch has communal facilities like a “Ranch House” with a big meeting/dining room, kitchen, library, and gym/game room, a laundry, a workshop, wells for water, wireless internet access, and electric fences to keep the cattle out.

I paid $4,000 for a lifetime lease of my lot. It doesn’t have a shed on it, but I intend to buy or build one. If I want to leave permanently I can have my investment in the lot and my improvements back, but no profit. But no loss either. While I’m a leaseholder, I have to pay $380 a year for maintenance of the common facilities and I’m responsible for maintaining my 50 by 60 foot lot. But aside from my electricity, that’s my total cost for living here. When I’m traveling, my lot (but not my shed) goes into a rental pool for the use of other Escapees. That way, the park has a source of income to which I contribute by “loaning” my lot back to the park. The members here have a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie but we’re not a commune. There is no religious, ideological, or cult feel to the place at all. The commonality is simply Full Time RVing. The members built the park and share in it’s upkeep. They greet Escapee “guests” when they arrive, hold daily “social hours,” share pot luck dinners, and generally become friends. I intend to contribute my handyman skills here. The place has a bit of “retirement community” feel to it that can seriously creep me out if I’m not in the right mood, but these are pretty active and adventurous people who spend more time traveling than roosting. They’re a little older than I am on the average, a little more conservative, and tend to be in couples, but I otherwise have quite a lot in common with them. I’ve only been here for a week so I’m just now meeting people as they come “home” for Spring from wherever they’ve been roaming.

As I’ve said in previous newsletters, my involvement with the RV Lifestyle has as much to do with a less complicated life than it does with traveling, so this place might be great for me. I still intend to travel but I’m now envisioning spending spring and fall here, winter in Mexico, and traveling to a different part of the country each summer instead of making the annual loops of the continent that I’ve been doing. That should reduce my miles by at least a third and save me some money. It will also relieve the necessity to keep moving due to park time limits, park fees, and the possibility of otherwise wearing out my welcome. I figured out early on that it costs less to “stay” than to “go” in an RV, mainly due to fuel prices. When the “staying” is as inexpensive as it is here at The Ranch; that effect will be magnified significantly.

There are some negative aspects to living here: The Ranch is beyond rural; in fact it’s remote; 15 miles to any services at all besides our tiny post office. It’s cold at night as in any desert, and very hot in the summer. It’s normally windy in the afternoon, the well water tastes bad, and there are nasty stickers for Peppers feet and my bike tires. The oil wells stink when the wind is right and there are rattlesnakes. Freight trains rumble by about 500 yards away and military jets zoom by fast, and low; I guess in pursuit of aliens. But it doesn’t rain much and the sunsets are fantastic!

I’m also on the waiting lists for the Escapee Co-ops in Benson, AZ; Sutherlin, OR; and Chimacum, WA. I’ve previously thought that I liked those parks better than this one due to location and physical appeal. But the costs here are so low and the residents are so friendly that I think that after I’ve made a few friends here, my point of view might change. The Ranch isn’t close to much but it’s fairly equidistant to many of my usual destinations. So when my number comes up at Benson, I might pass. And I might add Chimacum or Sutherlin so I can have a place in the North West too.

I’m pretty excited about building a shed on my lot. The maximum size allowed is 288 square feet. Electricity is permitted but not plumbing. Some people have tiny sheds that they use just for storage; others have large and fully finished “day rooms” that are used for everything from hobbies to offices. My evolving plan is for a 12 by 20 foot pre-fab building that I’ll use for storage and a little workshop. I’ll probably build an awning and a concrete patio too. That probably doesn’t sound like a very big deal for someone that lives in a house, but believe me, after 7 years on the road in a 25 foot trailer, it is a VERY big deal!

I splurged a bit last summer and bought a foldable kayak. It’s a 13 foot Folbot “Yukon” and is not fast but highly stable and comfortable and has room for Pepper. So when I find myself near some inviting flat water I can explore a little that way. I had a lot of fun with it in Puget Sound after the Port Townsend Blues Festival last year and paddled some beautiful lakes in Central Oregon with my friends Ed and Jolene Northup. I always find my construction help appreciated by Ed and Jolene on their Bend vicinity homestead, and this year Ed helped me design and build some fancy bookcases in his workshop for my daughter Elka and her family.

Please make a note of my new cell phone number in the header above. I finally broke down last summer and bought one after so many years with just voice mail service. It’s helped me stay in touch and even works with my computer for getting email. So if you’re inclined, you can now call me up!

Well, that’s about all of the big news I’ve got for the last year. I’ll attach a copy of the most recent additions to my travel log in case you’re interested in the details of my wanderings. It's in Excel 97 so almost everyone will be able to open it. Until next time...

Happy Trails,

Howard Replogle