Travel by Mule

Dancing (Sorta) With Mules

Fancy the Self Portrait Mule Head Rub Dance? (Rineyville, KY)

The day didn’t quite start with dancing but it looked that way. In the photo above, I’m faring Luna Ortiz well. She and her husband Kevin put us up for the night. What looks like a Fred Estaire-esque move on my part really isn’t.

To make this photo I set my camera on a tripod and set the self timer to go off in 10 seconds. 3 seconds before the… Continue reading

Playing the Harmonica to Stay Awake

Paul Compton used to play the harmonica to stay awake. “I had a mail route and as I drove around I’d get sleepy so I just played the harmonica to keep from nodding off.”

Paul Compton: mail carrier, harmonica and poet. (Shelbyville, IL)

I met Paul because I needed to find a place to stake out my mules Brick and Cracker for the night. His son, Gerry Compton, said it was okay to picket them out by the old grain… Continue reading

Mule Speed Storm Drain Cover Observations

Traveling the land at 3 mph with my mules, I’m noticing things I’ve overlooked my whole life. Like how, west of Jasper, Indiana, many of the cast iron storm drain covers are humped up, not flat, like back East. They’re the same way here in Missouri.

I’m sure Cracker is thinking, “I can tell we’re in the mid-West now because the storm drains are bowed upward.” (outside Jasper, Indiana)

Have you noticed that humped-up thing about the storm drain covers… Continue reading

The Stay Put Mule Rain Blues

I rode in to La Plata, Missouri, ahead of the storm. The plan was to buy sardines and ramen and then ride out the other side toward Idaho. But the rumblng clouds shattered and poured down on me in pieces. It’s rained over an inch and I’ve eaten most of the sardines and some of the ramen and the damn wet stuff keeps falling. And I’m still in La Plata.

A mucky slog. The mules and I have walked in… Continue reading

Grain Bin Drowning Danger

How is a grain bin like an above ground pool? You can drown in both.

I’m sure the mules are thinking, “you tied us to a drowning danger?”

Last week the mules and I took a lunch break in the shade of an Illinois grain bin. I had the usual sardines and dry ramen noodles washed down with jug water. Then I strolled around the grain bin and discovered how it might kill me.

I’ve always considered grain bins friendly… Continue reading

Bridge Across the Illinois River

Going solo: Cracker leads the way across the bridge that spans the Illinois River outside of Meredosia, IL. Unlike other bridges we’ve crossed on this trip, we didn’t call for a police escort.

In the past month, mules Brick, Cracker and I have crossed 4 major rivers: the Ohio, the Wabash, the Illinois and the Mississippi. For the first two, we enlisted the help of local law enforcement to get across. For the Mississippi, the mules got a ride… Continue reading

Crossing the Mississippi River With 2 Mules

Mules Brick, Cracker and I have crossed the Mississippi River! No, not on a barge, ferry or flatboat. No, I didn’t ride them down Interstate 24 across the bridge that connects Quincy, Illinois to Missouri. No, I loaded them up on a trailer and hauled them across Big Muddy behind a red Ford pickup.

The bridge that needed crossing. Look closely and you’ll see a tug going underneath. What you don’t see is the west-bound traffic on Interstate 24. Just… Continue reading

Herald-Whig (Quincy, Illinois) Photo Essay About the “Mules West” Ramble

Waiting to cross the bridge across the Mississippi. This barn is on the farm where Todd Curry of Quincy, Illinois, grew up. Todd and his wife Julie are giving me and the mules a place to rest for a few days. Full photo essay at the Herald-Whig. (Herald-Whig / Katelyn Metzger photo)

A wonderful photo essay in the June 13 issue of the Quincy Herald-Whig. It shows how mules Brick and Cracker and I are passing the time waiting… Continue reading

How Cracker Cracked my Helmet Not my Brain

I got the space man’s view of the rodeo. There I was way high up in the air above my mule Cracker. There he was way down below me bucking his guts out. Then gravity took over and I re-entered the earth head first like a faulty Russian rocket. CRACK! Landed right on my skull….which was snugged up in my helmet.

The wreckage: That’s Cracker’s saddle and my Troxel helmet – split in to 3 pieces.
This could have… Continue reading

How I Met Young Captain America

Cracker meets young Captain America – aka Pierce Robinson (outside Mosheim, TN)

The mules and I are in Quincy, Illinois today preparing to cross the Mississippi River in the next day or two. I’m sorting photos. This photo I took a few weeks ago caught my eye. I thought you’d enjoy knowing how it came to be.

I was holding Cracker in a Tennessee pasture and looked up and there stood young Captain America. Dressed in a red and blue… Continue reading

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