Resting up After 62 Mule Days on the Road.

With mules, there’s no going to NAPA for OEM (Original Equine Manufacturer) parts. The only things that fixes wear and tear on mules is time. After 62 days on the road, the mules and I need to catch our breathes a spell.

Napkin may
United States of Naplkin: how far the mules and I have come. No journey should take more than a napkin to explain.

This week mules Brick, Cracker and I hit the 750 mile mark of our journey from North Carolina toward Idaho. 750 miles. It doesn’t sound like much. You and I can knock off that distance in a day cruising up the interstate at 65 mph stopping occasionally for gas and junk food.

It’s a different game on a saddle journey. For the mules and me, 750 miles has taken 62 days. That’s averaging five 10-hour travel days per week. In terms of equine travel, that’s a heavy travel load.

The Travel Schedule

I start these summer days at 5:30a. Then it goes like this:

  • 2 hours: pack the tent, saddle the mules, put on hoof boots, visit with hosts, etc
  • 3-4 hours: ride and visit with folks who wonder what the hell we’re doing
  • 1.5 hours lunch break (1 hour to graze / 1/2 hour to unsaddle and saddle back up)
  • 3-4 hours:ride and visit with folks who wonder what the hell we’re doing
  • 2 hours: unsaddle the mules, remove hoof boots, pitch tent, picket mules, visit with hosts, cook meal, etc
  • Total: 10 – 12 hours

If there’s time left over, I’ll post on RiverEarth.com.

The remains of the day (outside Pana, Illinois)

That’s why, after 2 months on the road, mules Brick and Cracker and me are ready for a break. We’re a wee bit trail weary.

Enter Todd and Julie

But how do you find a place to rest up your mules for a few days? How, when you don’t know a soul in the county you’re riding through, do you find a safe harbor for your animals?

Simple. You keep going until you ride across the solution.

Which is how, on the outskirts of Quincy, Illinois, I found what I was looking for.

The sun was setting. The primal unease I face every day – where I was going to spend the night with my mules – was creeping from my stirrups toward my heart. A house with a horse trailer and a pond caught my eye. This could be a good place to tie the mules out on some grass for the night.

That’s how I met Todd and Julie Curry. They said it was okay for me to spend the night over at their pond.

Camp Curry: Brick enjoying some lush grass next to the Todd and Julie’s pond. A few hours later…
…we were treated to a mellow sunset. Even the normally ravenous Brick had to lift her head to admire the sky. I swear I heard that mule take a big breath of relief. Or maybe that was me.

Better yet, they said it was okay for the mules and me to spend a few days resting up at the farm Todd grew up on.

Which is how the mules became inhabitants of a pasture so large I wonder how I’ll ever find my mounts again. Last I saw them, they were shuffling between a salt block, a water trough, a tub of grain and 10 acres of grass and clover.

Vanishing point: look reallly closely and you’ll spot the mules. Head down, of course.

I’ll let you know how it goes when I try to catch them. They might be just a bit too rested up…..

Thanks

A great big thanks to Todd and Julie Curry for putting up the mules and me. Todd works at HyVee, an employee-owned super market chain. Without HyVee’s coffee and lemon meringue pie, this post would have taken a lot longer to write. Thanks Amanda and everyone at HyVee.

A Few More Pics

Here are a few more photos of the mules, their restful digs and my laundry. Gotta wash those duds from time to time you know.

Cracker has to decide between the clover and…
…a tub of grain.
Camped out under a catalpa tree. That’s my tee-shirt hanging out to dry.
Wash day.

3 Responses to Resting up After 62 Mule Days on the Road.

  • Beth, visiting with Julie, directed me to your site, and your adventure. Following avidly. I’m sure you’re having some great conversations with hosts, and others you meet along the way. Not many take time to truly explore the heartland of the US as intimately as you have done, and are doing now. (I certainly have not.) Blessings, and fair roads on your journey, Bernie. Those mules are handsome creatures, and I wish they could write their own blogs!

    • Hi Octavia, Terrific hearing from you. Julia just mentioned you today (she and Beth were hanging out when I called). So good to hear you’re enjoying this mule ramble and a glimpse in to the mid-West life. The mules really travel at the perfect pace to absorb the people, climate and mulberries (they hang like thorn-less blackberries but nobody eats them except the mules and me). I, too, wish Brick and Cracker could write their own blogs. Maybe I’ll give them a shot at it! Go well. Bernie

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