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THE CUTTING EDGE | TECH CAREERS / MAYRAV SAAR

Slight Detour Keeps Them on the Road

June 02, 1997|MAYRAV SAAR

When Mark Sedenquist and Megan Edwards hit the road in a high-tech recreational vehicle three years ago--spurred by a wildfire that destroyed their Altadena home and retail business--they quickly discovered the joys and limitations of electronic publishing in the age of the Internet.

From their 32-foot-long RV, stocked with two computers, two cellular phones and a satellite navigating device, the couple published RoadTrip America (http://www.roadtripamerica.com), an online 'zine about the quirky towns and townspeople of America's blue highways. It was fun, but it didn't pay many bills.

With the insurance money running low last year, they decided they'd better find some work. As it happened, one of their faithful readers faxed them a newspaper item he'd seen that called for drivers to apply for a countrywide, six-month promotional tour, all expenses paid.

A few letters, faxes and references to the RoadTrip America Web page later, and the modern-day hobos found that their Web page had helped them go corporate: The American Cancer Society and SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare hired the pair to be the driving force behind their joint anti-smoking campaign, housing Sedenquist, 42, and Edwards, 44, in an RV called the NicoVan for a six-month, 20-city tour that started Feb. 19 in San Francisco.

This required putting their beloved off-road cruiser, known as Phoenix One, in storage and moving into the new vehicle, a less functional but slightly more luxurious camper.

"It's like moving from a New York condo to a house in the suburbs," Edwards said, pointing out the beveled mirror that hangs over the oak bed. "It's not like the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile."

At parades, carnivals and strip-mall parking lots, the couple are met by pharmacists and American Cancer Society representatives who advise approximately 200 people per visit on how to quit smoking.

"By putting a van out there, we have a presence at a market level," explained Steve Kapur, assistant director of promotions for SmithKline Beecham. "It's a way to get consumers face to face with counselors."

At a stop in a Tarzana supermarket parking lot, the couple joined counselors who told nicotine quitters how to eat healthily. Throughout the trip, Sedenquist, Edwards and their mutt, Marvin the Road Dog, will spread the word about such less-thought-of aspects of smoking cessation as diet, exercise and emotion.

"It's like we were trained for the job," Sedenquist said. "Most people think driving around the country would be an ongoing vacation. They don't know that it's work."

True to their nature, Edwards and Sedenquist still find interesting stories everywhere they travel, and their adventures have been covered in the latest issues of RoadTrip America, just as they have been since 1994.

"Megan really enjoys the people she meets," Kapur said. "We're very pleased we ended up with Megan and Mark. Based on the enthusiasm everywhere [the van goes], it seems to be very well received."

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Mayrav Saar is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.

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