“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.

26 Responses to “Trash to Triumph” Book Update

  • Bernie you did something I have wanted to do for thirty years, now I’m going to find me a riding partner and put Billy Fred and Liberty on the road, that is my two mules.congradulations I really look forward to reading your book

    • Holy Smoke Edgar,
      Thanks for signing up for the newsletter. We sure look forward to letting you know when the “Trash to Triumph” book is released
      I love your dream! I don’t know Billy Fred and Liberty but they sound like good traveling partners to me. Don’t wait for another one. You’ll be waiting another 30 years! Okay, just kidding about that but I think it’s vital to do a trip like this when you can. I’ve had the incredible luck to have my wife Julia join me for the 45 day mule ramble we took together. I’ve also spent over 1,000 nights traveling alone. Many of these were done with just a single animal.
      Keep us posted of progress. Oh, and get going as soon as you can.
      You can do this.


  • Hi, Bernie. Just logged into your website for the first time. Glad to see that you’re still traveling. I envy you! How’s my trailer doing? Still working well for you? I didn’t recognize you with all that face brush! I look forward to your new book.

  • I definitely want your book ,we still talk about the good visit we with you at crazy acres.

  • met you at leatherwood,nc and saw your film during mule days have your book great reading would love to get a copy of the new one. Stanley Robbins. rocky mount,nc

    • Hi Stanley. Leatherwood rocks! I’ll be happy to let you know when the books is released. Hope all’s well with you out Rocky Mount-way. 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

  • 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

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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.


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