Out West and on the Road with Chuck Woodbury

An independent writer and publisher travels through the American West in his motor home for a glimpse of out-of-the-way places and the people who live there.

  • Chuck Woodbury
    "How great it is to be free to see this beautiful country."
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    Woodbury has found a way to thrive by doing something he loves.
  • RV Rear Window
    "My last trip was one of my best," Chuck Woodbury says. "Good weather, good people, good stories, good grub."
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    Woodbury parks his traveling newsroom to photograph a very large steer along the road in Nevada.

  • Chuck Woodbury
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  • RV Rear Window
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"I feel like Walter Mitty waking to find out my dream's come true!" Indeed, according to his mail at least, Chuck Woodbury, editor and publisher of Out West, "the newspaper that roams," is leading the life many of his subscribers only dream about. Much of the time he travels the back roads of the American West in an 18-foot motor home equipped with two computers and a darkroom. By the time he returns to his tiny, three-room rented house in Sacramento, another quarterly edition of his ad-free newspaper is 80% written, and its photography is completed.

"I picked the West as my territory because it has a certain mystique. It was also," he confesses, "as far as I could easily travel and still get back home to take care of business."

Business involves reading his voluminous—and often hilarious—correspondence, dealing with an ever-growing subscription list, and preparing his 40-page, tabloid-size newspaper on his Macintosh Plus computer. The package is a fresh and funny look at rural and small-town Americana that many must have thought was forever lost in today's amalgamation of interstate highways, fast-food franchises, look-alike motels, and media-melting-pot attitudes. But by wandering off the interstates, using his publication as a primary interviewing tool, and letting his "skewed way of looking at things" (as one reader described it) guide his subject matter, Chuck shows us an America that has never been lost at all. And people love it.

"Out of every five subscribers, one orders a gift subscription for someone else, and out of every five gift subscriptions, one of those soon gives Out West as a gift."

The newspaper came into being in January 1988 with $500 capital and 25 subscribers. "And some of those were relatives," Chuck readily admits. "I first got into publishing when I attended California State University, Sacramento, and worked as the business manager of the school paper." Later he helped a friend put out a rock-and-roll publication and eventually owned a monthly newspaper in Rancho Murieta, a suburb of Sacramento. But the inevitable stress of staff management and maintaining a successful business convinced him to sell out and try freelancing—in both public relations and travel writing. He found freelancing to be a fairly lonely profession, but that loneliness paid off. It was while traveling in his little, $8,000 motor home "on a long, lonely road that the idea for Out West popped into my mind."

A Minor-League Somebody

Despite his small subscription list, Chuck printed 3,000 copies of his first issue, which he describes as "24 pages with ink on them." Hoping for some free publicity, he mailed 500 to various media, and what happened next was truly worthy of a Walter Mitty fantasy. By March 1988, Charles Murphy of "ABC News" was wanting an on-the-road interview. That was followed by CBS's "Nightwatch" and NBC's "Today Show." He was written up in such newspapers as the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times and has been a guest on numerous radio shows. In January 1989, Out West was featured in People magazine. "I suddenly became a minor-league somebody," he says, still a little dazed by it all.

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