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Sought: Mule Rambler Lodging

Bernie Harberts, mule, trail ride, gas pump

Brandenburg, Kentucky: my destination for Sunday, May 12. Know anywhere there I could put up the mules for the night? A pasture is all it takes.

Want to host a mule traveler?
The mules and I are heading to Brandenburg, Kentucky on Sunday (May 11, 2019). If you – or someone you know – could put the mules and me up Sunday night that would be terrific. A grassy pasture is all it takes. No fence required. Bonus points if… Continue reading

The Road to Speck

The mules and I are screwed up at the crossroads. Three roads. No signs.
Which way to Speck?
I flag down the muddy truck and ask the guy with the beard, “which road goes to Speck?”
His name is Sean Pendelton.

Bernie Harberts, mule, trail ride, shawn pendelton

Sean moments after I met him. He’s holding an ax. More on that shortly.

This flagging down cars for directions is part of mule travel in eastern Kentucky. I still travel with paper maps. Even when I use my… Continue reading

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… Continue reading

The Colorist

He stepped out of a battered van and told me, “My first color was Play Boy Pink and we sold a 55 gallon drum of it to Hugh Heffner.”

He was a colorist. I’m a guy traveling with mules. People tell me all sorts of things. I just take them at their word. With all the words people pour in to my ears, making judgements is too much work.

Bernie Harberts, billboard, miner

Cracker and the colorist

The words poured out.

Him: “I also… Continue reading

I Hope Their Legs Keep Working

Bernie Harberts, mule, trail ride, Gray, Kentucky

Russ and Shannon

The mules were tied to the chain link fence on the side of the highway. They were eating away their hour-long lunch break.
I heard the putt putt of a 4-wheeler.
Many people I’ve met on this trip that ride 4-wheelers are out of shape. Big. Many look like they can’t use their legs any more. Not all. But many.
I turned. Expected what to see.
These 2 looked like their legs still worked.
“You’re in Gray,”… Continue reading

Whose Lights are the Miners Keeping On?

Bernie Harberts, billboard, miner

Whose lights do miners keep on – the home owner’s or the funeral home’s? (Pineville, KY)

The mules and I are riding deep in to Kentucky coal mining territory. The billboards advertise line boring, hydraulic hoses and prep plants. Retired coal miners and their families talk to me of black lung, cancer and OCPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

When I saw this billboard, I had to wonder. Whose lights are the miners keeping on – America’s or the funeral home’s?


Keep Out Bang Bang

Bernie Harberts, general store

Keep Out: A Charles Manson-esque warning. These chilling words channel the famous “Death to Pigs” vibe as written in blood by the Manson family. (Lily, KY)

Traveling the land with my mules, I must have faith that I’ll encounter man’s better nature. Then I see a sign threatening as a revolver to the belly and it reminds me of man’s darker side. Of how thin the veneer is in some places. This sign I came across outside Lily, Kentucky, makes… Continue reading

Where is Home?

Where is home? Where, indeed, is home when you sleep in a tent one night. Or your sleeping bag cast out under stars. Or the horse trailer of someone you met 2 hours ago on the side of the road. Or someone’s spare bedroom. Where is home to the man who is traveling the land with his mules?

Bernie Harberts, mule, trail ride, adventure, fence

Traveling the land with mules. Brick, Cracker and me at the start of our journey.

Bernie Harberts, mule, trail ride, adventure, fence

The first glimpse many folks get of… Continue reading

Greetings from Science Hill, Kentucky

Bernie Harberts, mule, top hat

Welcome to Science Hill, Kentucky

Greetings from Science Hill, Kentucky. Mules Brick and Cracker have really pounded out the miles this week – 60 in the last three days alone. Now they’re entitled to a few days of rest. Thanks Terry and Debora Simning for letting them cool their heels in your hay pasture for a few days. Though it’s stocked with Kentucky’s finest blend of bluegrass, fescue and clover, Brick is also enjoying the poison ivy. Mules will be… Continue reading

Hay Field Breakfast

Bernie Harberts, mule, map

Hay field breakfast. On these cool mornings, I like to start my mornings with hot oatmeal. And my top hat. No, Brick isn’t begging for breakfast. It’s an optical trick of the lens.

Mules Brick and Cracker and I spend most of our days clip clopping up some Tennessee highway shoulder. Tractor trailers roar past. Cars honk. Drivers wave. I spend all my energy guiding my small troupe safely to the next destination. We are riding West.

Riding the shoulders… Continue reading

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