Since April, a 24-foot recreational vehicle has been home to Chuck and Rodica Woodbury.
And the view from their motor home is a panoramic window to the geographical beauty of the West for the 10,000 subscribers of the Woodburys' folksy quarterly newspaper.The Woodburys own, edit and publish Out West - "the newspaper that roams," says Chuck Woodbury, longtime reporter and publisher. The family, including 3-year-old daughter Emily, set up camp in Salt Lake City Sunday. As they start the trek Monday to their house in a small town near Lake Tahoe, the small-scale Charles Kuralts say they are a little burned out from their travels.
"I'm letting some good stories get by. It's time to go back home," Chuck Woodbury said.
Four times a year, the Lake Tahoe residents pack their comfortably sized motor home with every-thing they'll need for a monthlong venture into the West - and they go.
No agenda, no deadline, no stress. They choose their own destinations.
"It started out as a hobby seven years ago, and then it just grew. Growing up in Southern California, our family would go out in our travel trailer for three weeks every summer. When I was older I found I had an incredible love for travel in a self-contained home," Wood-bury said.
In 1988, he took a small break from publishing a community magazine in Sacramento, Calif., to travel across the country. Near Thermopolis, Wyo., Woodbury was struck with the idea of publishing "an on-the-road newspaper," he said. "Maybe Charles Kuralt had something to do with it."
Two months later, after producing the entire paper from his motor home, the first issue of Out West rolled off the presses.
The 24-page paper was mailed to editors of newspapers across the country. From that one mailing, Woodbury received a rave review from USA Today. Shortly after, Out West was featured on the Today show and U.S. News Tonight with Peter Jennings.
"The TV experience was neat," he said. "The only other experience I'd had with TV was a man-on-the-street interview."
Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, Rodica Iliescu, a travel magazine editor, was searching for some fodder for her publication. Her interest in Woodbury's travels piqued her interest after an article about him crossed her desk. She rushed a letter off to him that day asking him to write a column for the international travel magazine she supervised.
After nearly a year of correspondence, the travel magazine ceased publication and Iliescu headed to Seattle where she planned to free-lance for local newspapers and magazines.
When Chuck was in town for a radio show in Seattle, Rodica called him to arrange a meeting in a campground in Kent, Wash. At that rendezvous, Rodica says she found "a kindred spirit" in Chuck.
After they talked and laughed for hours, she accepted an offer to travel with him through the deserts of the Southwest. "It was love at first mile," Rodica says. They married less than a year later.
Boston-born Rodica said the desert sun is searing, but she is enchanted by the West.
"I think that it is much harder to take the West than the East out of a person. My home now is the West," she said. "What I love about this state is the unbelievable stuff you have got in the south, and the unbelievable mountain ranges you have here in the north. Utah has definitely cornered the market on geologic one-upmanship."
"I like Utah, number one, probably, because of the Mormon influence; it is family-oriented. And I also like how tidy the small towns are. I really like the big, wide streets of the small towns," Chuck said. "Plus Utah has a really good basketball team."
The Woodburys have ranked Highway 128 following the Colorado River into Moab as one the nation's most beautiful roads, and Huntsville's Shooting Star Saloon in Weber County as one of the best places to get a thick, juicy burger.
"Southern Utah is the most beautiful place," Chuck says. "I am asked that question a lot and I always answer the same. There is no place on Earth like it."
For some, living in such cramped quarters would be next to impossible. The Woodburys' motor home is equipped with computers, printers, cameras, cam-cor-ders, radios, TVs and herds of stuffed animals for Emily. Add to that a makeshift bedroom and play area, and not much room is left for comfort. The couple says it serves the purpose for a month on the road, but they couldn't do it forever.
It's OK because I know there is a beginning and an end," Rodica said. "I had never ridden in a motor home before I met Chuck. I just fell in love with them. After doing it for a while you realize how little you need."
Chuck Woodbury says while the publication is profitable, "it's not going to make us rich."
"We do as well as we would do if we had good jobs. I don't care if someone was to pay me 10 times as much, I wouldn't do it. The idea is to stop, snoop, write."
Now, after a brief visit to Salt Lake City, the Woodburys move along the rarely traveled back roads to another site on their way back home. They search, in rustic towns and greasy spoon cafes, not for front-page stories but for snapshot glimpses of the real America.
"The reality is that people are really nice, not the other way around," Rodica said. "For every story that we do and every story that we let go, we see so much more. We have met some really nice people."
Like they say, life in the Wood-bury home - wherever it may be - is good.