7 Sleeps

Where will I spend the night? Out here traveling across Kentucky with my mules, I rarely know. About 3 hours before sundown I start knocking on doors, asking folks where the mules and I might lay over until the next day.

Bernie Harberts, general store

6 beds. 7 sleeps. I rarely know where I’ll spend the night. Could be a bed. Could be a bivy bag.

Though it’s nerve wracking looking for a place to spend the night with your mules, it’s fun looking back at where you slept. But there’s more to it than that. These places I’ve slept stand for way more than a good night’s rest.

Many people are afraid these days. Lots of folks I meet lock their doors, even when they’re home. Most lament the violence they see on the news. Some, more than I thought, keep a loaded gun close at hand: by the door, on the fridge, in the 4-wheeler.

But when I show up with my mules, many drop their apprehensions to help us out. This amazes me.

Imagine you’re mowing your lawn. You look over and there’s this dude with 2 mules riding up your driveway. He smiles and sticks out his hand and says, “Hi, I’m Bernie and these are my mules Brick and Cracker and I’m looking for a place to knock off for the night.”

Then he asks, “do you know where I can spend the night? Tie them out on some grass until tomorrow?”

That’s crazy, right?

Well, yeah, it is. But what’s even crazier is that so many folks ponder on what they’ve just encountered. Think it over. Then offer to put the mules and me up for the night.

I’ve thought a lot on this generosity. Of how me, a guy out here on a mule, can show it to you.

Finally, it dawned on me. I would show you the random places I’ve slept in the past week. These tents sites, beds and trailers are more than just places to sleep. They represent the generosity of people still willing to put up a man and his mules as they make their way across the land.

Remember you’re looking at 7 nights I stayed last week. I’ve spent well over 1,000 nights on the road in my mule voyages so this is only a tiny sampling of the hospitality I’ve received. (FYI: a series of beds I slept in appear in my “Lost Sea Expedition” Public TV series which you can stream here on Amazon.)

Okay, now those photos. Here’s a look at 6 places where I slept the last 7 nights on the road.

Bernie Harberts, mule travel, adventure, camping, trail ride

Tazewell, TN: The guest of Danny and Linda Coffey. I pitched my bivy bag in their barn. They fed me hot dog casserole and let me use their shower. The next morning, Brick and Cracker escaped. Ugghhh…..

Bernie Harberts, mule travel, adventure, camping, trail ride

Middlesboro, KY. Slept in the bivy under a tractor trailer next to the Tractor Supply. Thanks to William “Bill” Hayes for putting us up. I’ll say hi to Idaho for you.

Bernie Harberts, mule travel, adventure, camping, trail ride

Flat Lick, KY. I knew I was okay when I rode up the drive and Fred Hensley had a mule license plate on his truck. I didn’t know he and his wife Linda would put me up in the spare bedroom. The weather turned rainy. I spent 2 nights in that bed, showered and clean. Like I was floating in a cotton cloud.

Bernie Harberts, mule travel, adventure, camping, trail ride

Lily, Kentucky. I was out late in the day and still didn’t have a place to stay. Diana and Denise were trimming a climbing vine in the front yard when I rode in. Here’s a bit more about them and my stay at their place.

Bernie Harberts, mule travel, adventure, camping, trail ride

Corbin, Kentucky. Slept by the river that night next to a railroad bridge. A man came by and said, “that river’s real deep next to that bridge. A locomotive fell off that bridge and it’s still down there.”

Bernie Harberts, mule travel, adventure, camping, trail ride

London, Kentucky. Spent the night behind Cindy and Eddie Ricardson’s single wide home. The season’s first fireflies blinked away all night and the whippoorwills raised hell about dawn. Cindy and Eddie brought me a Mason jar full of coffee that used to hold Gatlinburg. moonshine. “One day,” Eddie said, “we’d like to have a double wide.

Bernie Harberts, mule travel, adventure, camping, trail ride

Somerset, Kentucky. Spent the night in Tiffany Crawford’s horse trailer. Tiffany stopped me earlier in the day on the side of the road. She said I could stay at her barn. I was cooking Rica-a-Roni in front of the tack room and she brought me a steak. It came from a cow that was always escaping. I ate the steak for supper and the rice the next day for breakfast.

A great big GIANT thank you to everyone who let me spend the night at their place. Your actions show the world their are still lots of trusting folks out there ready to step in to lend a hand.

Post Script: This post was written a week ago so now I have a whole new batch of photos of where I slept.


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