A Year After Riding to Triumph: The Book is Coming

Heading toward Brandenburg, Kentucky with Cracker and Brick. (Sue Waddell photo) Sign up for the newsletter to get a heads up when the books comes out.

A year ago, I finished riding mules Brick and Cracker from North Carolina to Idaho. I’m now on Draft 2 of the book.

A year ago, the snow jammed between my saddle horn and zipper flew free as I climbed down from my saddle. The winter’s first snow fell cold and soggy but I’d arrived. Mules Brick, Cracker and I had just ridden 198 days from western North Carolina to Triumph, Idaho.

Riding in to Triumph, Idaho – October 20, 2019
The welcoming party: my brother and sister in-law Nick and Carolyn Parker (Triump, 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 un-forseen 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 in 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 the wide Idaho open 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 road side trash, peoples’ thoughts on religion, agriculture, pesticides, dogs, farm subsidies, grass hoppers, herbicides, crop dusters, to uranium mining, pigs and Woolly Bugger trout flies, well, for that, I needed to write a book.

Don’t forget about the Dead Animals of Kentucky

And that takes time. It takes time 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. It takes time to digest all this material to extract meaning from it. And it takes time, lots of time, months, to write this in to a book.

Right now, I’m well in to the second draft. Here’s a glimpse at some of my materials.

The three pocket notebooks I filled on my trip. I kept these tucked in to my shirt pocket so I scribble fleeting thoughts in to 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

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 few weeks back.

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, just sign up for the RiverEarth.com newsletter and I’ll drop you a line when it’s ready. 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.

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.

16 Responses to A Year After Riding to Triumph: The Book is Coming

  • Hey man we gotta get on the trail down in these parts papa

    • I know. I’m thinking blackened spots, collards hanging from wagons, hung up wedges, headlight chandeliers with beer can shades, asleep at the lines, running the law off the road, draw bridges and Ronald.
      Is that what you had in mind?
      I could be the outrider on Cracker.
      When are you heading out next?
      Big howdy from up the hill.

      Bernie

  • I have followed you i so need details excited about the book

    • Great hearing from you Sarah. Right now the “details” are keep writing! And write some more.
      And of course keep riding mules Brick and Cracker to keep the words flowing.
      I’d be happy to give you a heads up when the books is released.
      If you haven’t already, feel free to sign up for the RiverEarth.com newsletter
      Have a great weekend!
      Bernie

  • Good evening.
    That sounds like it was an amazing ride across the country.
    I would like a copy of the book

    • Hi Paul,
      It really was an amazing ride across the country. I met with so many people with so many different views I couldn’t possibly agree with them all….and yet they gave me an amazing passage across our nation. I sure look forward to sharing the book – and the people, places and thoughts I encountered – with you when it’s published. I’ll be sure to put you on our mailing list for the heads up.
      Sure was good hearing from you Paul.
      Bernie

  • You are simply amazing, setting out to do what most (like me) only dream of! Can not wait to read the book!! Thabk you for being you and doing what you do!

    • Howdy Heidi,
      Thanks for the lovely compliment. Kind words like that keep me slogging ahead through by far the hardest part of journeys like this. The toughest part of these trips is not dodging hurtling logging trucks on skinny mountain roads while astride a bolting mule, wrestling with tiny buckles with heavy gloves in the snow or even missing my ever-so-patient wife Julia. It’s writing up the experience. I sure look forward to sharing it with you when it’s done! What’s your dream? Bernie
      PS: Just let me know if you want me to add you to the RiverEarth.com newsletter or you can sign up right here.

  • Hi Bernie its Dianna from Daniel WY. You stayed at my ranch and I sent you the bridle you forgot in Alpine WY. I would like 3 copies of your book. How do I order???

    • Hi Diana, What a lovely surprise hearing from you! Brings back lovely memories of Daniel and owning my first can of bear spray. You asked about ordering 3 books.
      Do you want to order copies of “Too Proud to Ride a Cow”, the account of my Atlantic to Pacific ride? If so, you can order them here at the RiverEarth.com General Store. Order 2 copies. I’ll gift you the third for free just for your hospitality.
      If you’re looking to order the new book of my latest trip (where I visited you), well, you’ll have to wait. I’m still writing it. Still, I’ll be happy to put you on our mailing list so you get a heads up when it is published. Thanks again for all the help on our trip. Big howdy to everyone at the Green River bar! Bernie

  • Its Diana, Bernie, not fyana????? Dang computers

  • Wow, I cannot imagine what an adventure that was!

    • Hi Joan. That’s what I’m working so hard to get this book written! This is a grand country. Traveling at our pace, we were able to absorb, record and now, write the whole caper up. Hopefully that’ll go a long way toward helping you imagine what it’s like out there. Bernie

  • Much admiration. I would like to ride across Texas.

    • Hi Pamela, I love the idea of riding across Texas. I don’t know what part you’d think of doing but I loved riding the Palo Duro canyon across a good chunk of the Pan Handle on my Atlantic to Pacific mule ramble. Heck, that got me +- “across” a good chunk of Texas on a trail! The roads are good in that area for saddle riding. Do you have a route in mind? Happy Texas Rambling. Bernie

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