“Trash to Triumph” Book Update

Last day of the “Trash to Triumph” voyage. Here is my last day on the road after riding from North Carolina to Idaho. Sign up right here to hear when the book comes out.

A little over two years ago, I finished riding mules Brick and Cracker from North Carolina to Idaho. I am currently working on the third draft of the book. The title of the book is “Trash to Triumph”.

Writing the first draft took three times as long as riding the mules 200 days to Idaho. It sure was worth it, though. I think you’ll really enjoy how the book is coming. In this post, I wanted to share a bit more about the trip and how that’s translating into the new book.

Riding in to Triumph, Idaho – October 20, 2019
The welcoming party: my brother and sister-in-law Nick and Carolyn Parker (Triumph, Idaho)

How I Got Here

On April 5, 2019, I rode my mules Brick and Cracker out our front gate outside Lenoir, North Carolina, turned right, and headed west. Unlike the “Lost Sea Expedition” (view on Amazon here) – my wagon voyage from Canada to Mexico – this was just a good old-timey ramble – no firm route, no destination.

Leaving the front gate for our journey.

About the only timetable I had was to keep going until the snow started falling or I had to call off my journey for some unforeseen reasons – from saddle sores to homesickness. Mule travel is a fickle business. But that’s what makes it so interesting.

You can read plenty more about the journey here on the RiverEarth.com site. Just browse the 2019 archives for stories like the video of the mules and I crossing Ohio River with a police escort.

Our route West.
Camping in Idaho with winter coming on.
Faces of America

About the Upcoming Book

While I posted a lot of my journey on my RiverEarth.com travel blog, that was just the stuff that was quick and easy to write about. The meatier stuff, my personal observations on everything from roadside trash, peoples’ thoughts on religion, agriculture, pesticides, dogs, farm subsidies, grasshoppers, herbicides, crop dusters, to uranium mining, pigs and Woolly Bugger trout flies, well, for that, I needed to write a book.

There will be lots of things about horse and mule travel in this book. How the mules wore hoof boots instead of steel shoes on this trip. How we dealt with traffic. How I kept mules Brick and Cracker fed along the way. How we found places to stay.

I took my trip without a chase vehicle, sponsor or much forward planning. That meant I had to rely on folks I met along the way to put the mules and me up. This gave the trip an unscripted feel and introduced me to all sorts of folks I would ordinarily not have met, from shrub diggers and truck drivers to coal miners and spinners.

Don’t forget about the Dead Animals of Kentucky

Putting all those thoughts into a book takes time. It takes months to pore over all the pocket notebooks (3), journal (1), emails home to wife Julia (lots) and photos (over 10,000) I compiled on the trip. And then there are all the memories I carry around in my head. It takes lots of time to digest all this material and then extract meaning from it. It takes even more time to weave that all into a book.

Here’s a glimpse at some of my source materials.

The three pocket notebooks I filled on my trip. I kept these tucked into my shirt pocket so I scribble fleeting thoughts into them straight from the saddle.
From my #1 pocket notebook: writing about dogs I encountered in the Appalachians: out here “a dog’s not worth much let alone cutting his balls off. Tied to rusty cars, dying trees, chains sweeping the dirt clean like a mud floor shack….head like a catfish, body like a boxer.”
There are sketches from my journal to jiggle the memory. I’d forgotten all about the damn spring scale, casualty #1 …. on Day 1.
The white notebook is the first draft, the green notebook is the journal I carried on my journey. The small green notebook on top of the stack is one of my small pocket notebooks.

Remembering Their Faces

What I enjoy most about writing this book is remembering the folks I met on my journey. The Cowboy Bride, Cowboy Dave and the Girl Who Just Wanted to Catch a Turtle.

Some of the folks met along the way. Everyone pictured above is in the new book.

Some of the folks that put me up on my journey have become friends. Laurel digger Richard Gragg, who I stayed with the second night of my journey, visited Julia and I a few weeks ago.

Richard Gragg. You can listen to him talking about digging wild laurel right here.

Other folks are dead or incarcerated. One of them was killed over a pile of dirt. Another is back in jail.

Yep, that’ll all be in the book.

How to Get a Copy

I’d be happy to let you know when the book is published. If you haven’t already, please sign up for the RiverEarth.com newsletter and I’ll drop you a line when it’s ready.

Signing up for the newsletter really helps me out. In addition to letting you know when the book is ready, it helps me show publishers how much interest there is in the upcoming book. This is vital in an era when publishers rely on authors to generate interest in their work.

Fear not, mules Brick and Cracker and I won’t sell your address to anyone or bombard you with emails. We’re too busy writing the book for that!

You can sign up for the newsletter here. Thanks!

Yes, a big chunk of this book was written “in the saddle”. Nothing like a bit of butt-in-saddle time to give the words the right flavor.

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