On the road...still

I had the idea that when I graduated from college, I would tour the country, hanging out at truck stops while listening to the adventures and wisdom of truckers. This would also involve eating a lot of pie at roadside diners. When I had enough of the road, I'd stop and write a book with lots of accompanying gritty black-and-white photographs. However, student-loan bills were calling my name, and instead of indulging in my fantasy, I joined the work force. Sometimes, I'm just too damned practical for my own good -- that, and I'm also pretty spoiled.

There are certain things that just shouldn't be considered luxuries, such as being able to take showers, sleeping on clean sheets, enjoying central heat and air, and having access to a telephone, a television, and a computer. No backpacking across Europe for me. Nooosiree, I demand all the comforts of home. For that I'd need a large, monster vehicle fully equipped. Something just like the Phoenix One, the 32-foot-long, 12-foot-tall, 8-foot-wide mobile home that Megan Edwards, Mark Sedenquist, and Marvin the dog live in.

After a wildfire destroyed their home and business in 1993, the husband-and-wife-and-pet team decided to tour America. Edwards says she saw an opportunity to start over, unburdened by the stuff she couldn't bear to leave (see: Albert Brooks' Lost in America or my 9-foot-long 1950s steel-frame couch). They planned a six-month trip, but they're still traveling five years, 48 states, and four Canadian provinces later. They started a Web site (www.roadtripamerica.com) in January 1996 to chronicle the places they've been, people they've met (say, the artist who creates trailer-park and drag-queen versions of Barbie), and vehicles they've encountered (both the Hershey's Kissmobile and the 1952 Oscar Meyer Weinermobile). They've also started a business, RTA Publicity Tours & Event Management, to help businesses start mobile marketing campaigns. Hmmm, wonder whether they're responsible for the video-game trucks, karaoke shower stages, and Clairol beauty buses that have plagued this town all summer. Gee. Thanks, guys.

Their next venture is the promotion tour of Edwards' book, Roads From the Ashes: An Odyssey in Real Life on the Virtual Frontier. The book begins with the fire that left them with two suitcases, each other, and their dog, and continues through their first 130,000 miles. The idea of writing about seeing America from a highway is not new; there's John Steinbeck's Travels With Charley: In Search of America, Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and Charles Kuralt, just for starters. There's even a 1997 book about a couple that quit their jobs to tour America in an RV. Road Trip America's just doing it differently. The Phoenix One has a cellular phone and modem so they can update their Web site constantly with new photos and stories.

They could definitely milk this all the way. Marvin the dog could "write" his own book; he already, ah, contributes to the Web site. Edwards and Sedenquist could write a book for couples. Who better than two people who've shared only 200 square feet every day for five years? Maybe they'd like a reporter to tag along and write On the Road With Road Trip America or something. Probably not, since they're doing all the writing they need themselves. Too bad, since I was all set to fill out reimbursement forms and work vacation requests so I could go with them. That is, as long as they'd let me bring my own pillow and more than one pair of shoes.

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Shannon Sutlief

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