In 1985, Woodbury set off in an 18-foot motorhome to explore America and write magazine articles about who he met and what he found. His RV, he notes today, "broke down nearly every trip and leaked when it rained." Still, he was able to earn enough to pay for repairs, buy gas and keep going.
In 1988, on a whim, he published a 24-page tabloid newspaper he called Out West, which he billed as "American's on-the-road newspaper." The media got wind of the folksy periodical and soon Woodbury found himself in its spotlight. In the next few years he appeared on ABC World News Tonight, the Today Show, CNN and in hundreds of periodicals including USA Today, the Washington Post and People Magazine. "Hardly a day passed that I didn't do a phone interview with a radio talk show," he said. One appearance on National Public Radio brought in $50,000 in subscriptions.
After his appearance on ABC-TV, he landed a book deal with William Morrow that resulted in the "Best from Out West" and he was signed by the New York Times Syndicate, which distributed his stories to newspapers around the world.
Out West continued for 10 years until, said Woodbury, "it ran its course." About the same time, the World Wide Web was catching on. "I knew it was going to be big," he said, "so I bought a bunch of domains related to RVing." Today, more than 200,000 RVers a month read his websites and daily newsletters. Woodbury continues to travel by RV, logging about 12,000 miles a year gathering stories and, nowadays, making videos for his YouTube channel. He occasionally wanders aboard, most recently touring Iceland in a small camper van.
"My dream beginning in college was to combine travel and writing," he said. "I loved the idea of travel with a motorhome, which to me was simply a small home and office that moved. When I look back now, after 30 years on the road and millions of words written, I realize I carved out a wonderful life for myself. I could have never imagined how everything would play out when I began with a manual typewriter, a portable darkroom and tiny, mechanically-challenged motorhome, hoping only to somehow pay my bills."
Woodbury's hour-long talk will chronicle his three decades of "on-the-road" journalism through words and photos beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Plaza Room of the Edmonds Library. The 90-minute event is part of the Edmonds Literary Series. Admission is free.