Travel by Mule & Wagon

Recapturing the Mule Nation – Southern Pines, NC

“Oh man, I’m so sunk!” I thought as I turned away from the open gate and thought of Craig.

Craig aboard his boat before she was lost at sea
(Rodrigues Island, Indian Ocean)

Craig was a mad keen Australian I’d sailed with aboard Sea Bird. He’d bought a small twenty-three foot sailboat in Australia, sailed her from there around Africa’s stormy Cape of Good Hope, then up to Cuba and on to Newfoundland.

From there, he planned to cross the… Continue reading

Gone! – Southern Pines, NC

Friday the 13th…

The phone rang this morning and before I could answer it, Mel left the frantic message on my machine.

“Bernie, your mules are gone!”

Gone? Gone! No! Oh god, that was bad way to start the 13th. Or a mule expedition for that matter…

I called her right back, still in my pajamas, and she repeated the news. “Bernie! You’re mules are gone. We’re over here at Buckin Field and can’t find them. “

She didn’t have… Continue reading

Danger Yellow Versus the Grim Reaper – Southern Pines, NC

My biggest fear about hitting the open road in my new wagon is getting rear-ended by a car and waking up with the Grim Reaper saying “Hey, that joker that hit you told the cops he couldn’t see you. Said you just looked like some desert scrub out there in that tan wagon.”

The Grim Reaper (well, actually, it’s Bernie deciding that those tan walls need some yellow paint rolled onto them.)

So I marched down to the hardward store… Continue reading

Busted Wagon Hoops and Then Success- Southern Pines, NC

Ok, so the Christmas rush is over and now it’s time to make hoops for the roof of my wagon. As usual, I consulted my Technical Drawing Number One.

Technical Drawing Number One: the roof beams are at 12 o’clock.

Ok, ok, so you just saw Technical Drawing One two updates ago. But a quick sketch is really all you need if you want to build a wagon badly enough.

Wagon hoops are the pieces in a wagon’s roof that… Continue reading

Merry Christmas from RiverEarth – Southern Pines, NC

The Red Hat and Flashing Antler Club: Jack, Joanie and Bill

I never realized how enormous Jack and Bill’s ears were until I snapped a pair of flashing red velvet reindeer antlers behind them. It was a pretty good fake rake, a six-pointer with a thirteen inch spread if I’d been scoring them through a rifle scope. But that’s not what impressed me.

No, what struck me was that even with those enormous Yule appendages, Jack and Bill plodded on… Continue reading

The World's Largest Blue Bologna Sandwich – Southern Pines, NC

After living in my tipi for almost thirteen months on the road, I decided my next home would have more substantial walls.

Bernie’s last home on the road. Winter 2003

Ok, so there were some privacy issues with my last living arrangements. Like cows.

Cows at the tent flaps

I decided that if I was going for stock-proof walls this time, I might as well go for warmth too. That meant adding insulation to my dream.

Here’s how I did… Continue reading

Steer Steering – Happy Valley, NC

“So in all you’ve seen” Hoy asked with a grin that was amplified by the hand hooked into his blue overalls, “have you ever seen a steer climb a set of stairs?”

“Nope.” I had to admit.

But if ever a man could castrate a bull and then convince him to scale a flight of steps, Hoy was the man. That was why I was here to see him. Hoy, I hoped, would shed some light on just how I… Continue reading

A Training Rig for Jack and Bill – Southern Pines, NC

Somehow, in my new-found enthusiasm for welding, sand blasting and paint, I overlooked one small detail of my pending expedition; my mules Jack and Bill.

After all, hadn’t I bought them early in the planning stages of the trip so I could get them in shape? But now they mostly just kept their round bale company.

Woody and Maggie escaped my inattention. I still managed to ride them weekly. But the thought of riding plow mules raised the hollow enthusiasm… Continue reading

Blasting and Macho Green – Southern Pines, NC

Despite what it says on a pack of 60 grit sandpaper, steel needs sand blasting. That’s really the only way to remove the mill scale, the protective coating the steel mills apply to raw steel to keep it from rusting while the metal is handled. Leave the mill scale on and just paint over it and your new paint job won’t adhere for very long.

I rolled my frame to Ken’s White and in two hours his assistant Sammy Parrish… Continue reading

Framed up and Street Legal – Southern Pines, NC

Woody taught me everything I needed to know about wagon design. Strength comes first followed closely by light weight.

Woody strength testing the Forest Service bulldozer he’s tied to. (Forest Service Station, Catherine Lake, NC, May 2004)

Occasionally, when he was tied up and couldn’t get to Maggie, he leaned into his halter with enough force to break the lead rope.

With Jack and Bill I thought it was different. After all, they were older than Woody and came from… Continue reading

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