End of Voyage Accident

This wasn’t the way I planned to end my voyage across Newfoundland by mule and wagon. Saturday afternoon, October 6 2012, a four-door vehicle drove head-on into the back of my wagon. There were no skid marks or signs of collision avoidance at the scene. The impact was strong enough to separate the wagon in two. Mule Polly, the driver of the vehicle and I are okay.

Scene of the accident. In the foreground, the front half of my wagon after it was struck from behind by a four door sedan. The wagon came apart upon impact and the front half of the wagon came to rest approximately 45 feet from the aft end. Inspecting the wreckage is Jesse Peddle. Mule Polly is okay. Three law enforcement vehicles and a tow truck responded to the accident. (Lethbridge, Newfoundland)

The front part of the wagon as it came to rest on its side. The remainder of the wagon is in the distance. (Lethbridge, Newfoundland)

The collision occurred in Lethbridge. The community was the final destination of my 4-month, 1000 km voyage across Newfoundland by mule and wagon. The accident took place about 5 km from where a group of friends was assembled to welcome Polly and me at their home.

Polly and I were travelling south bound. The sun was low. The driver that struck the wagon said the sun was in his eyes. There were no skid marks or other signs of collision avoidance evident at the scene. The impact deployed both the vehicle’s air bags and ruptured the radiator. The car was removed from the scene by tow truck.

The bright red wagon Polly and I were traveling in was marked with three high visibility safety flags. It displayed the slow moving vehicle as required by law.

In the bottom right corner is the bumper of the vehicle that struck my wagon. The impact was so violent it separated the wagon in two. The aft half is visible against the guard rail. The slow moving vehicle sign, required of agricultural and animal drawn equipment traveling over the road, is visible on the back of the wagon. In the distance is the front half of the wagon. It overturned and came to rest approximately 80 feet from the point of impact.

The side view. The vehicle shown was passing through the scene. It was not involved in the accident.

The underside of the front half of the wagon. It was thrown on its side in the accident. It is constructed of heavy steel. The collision was powerful enough to bend a 3/8” by 1” section of steel plate around Polly’s hindquarters. She is sore but appears to have escaped serious harm.

Following the accident, mule Polly and my wagon were trailered to Jesse and Louise Peddle’s home in Lethbridge. Polly is sore but expected to be okay. In addition to harness breakage, the wagon suffered multiple broken welds, bent framework, body and roof damage.

Today, October 7, is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Now I have something to be really thankful about. It could have been much worse. A few hours before my wagon was struck, a local teenager lost his life in a vehicular accident. By comparison, we have emerged unscathed.

I would like to thank the citizens of Lethbridge and Newfoundland for their concern and assistance. Thanks as well to everyone who brought Polly treats after her close call.

Happy Thanksgiving.

October 9 update: Polly and I are currently dealing with wagon repairs and preparing for our return to North Carolina.

Polly a few hours before the accident. She is sore but okay. (outside Lethbridge, Newfoundland)

The way Polly and I want to remember our voyage across the Rock. At its core, the trek was all about meetin’ Newfoundlanders. Here, in a calmer moment, Polly and I visit with the friendly folks of Daniel’s Harbour. I think there was some side betting going on as to whether (or not) we’d make it across the old girder bridge that leads into town. Proper thing as they say in these parts. Proper thing….

(Map note: the map shows the general area of Lethbridge, not the site of the accident.)

2012-10-07 10:21:05

Heart-stopping image. Glad you put at the top of the post that you & Polly are ok. Wishing you safe & easy return home

Jesse and Cyndie
2012-10-07 11:49:15

Just looking at your site this morning to get your email address. Wow, we are glad you all are OK, Thank God, it could have been so much worse. Give Polly a big hug.

2012-10-07 15:56:24

Dang – well Happy Thanksgiving Bernie. I’m relieved to learn you and Polly are fine. That is an amazing photo – it looks like man and beast were fortunate to escape harm.

Salut to the north…

2012-10-07 18:41:40

Thanks Giving indeed! Your friends at Two Whales (Port Rexton) are relieved you all emerged uninjured from the accident – that low sun is quite the thing when you are driving. What a shock.
Wishing you both a safe return home and we look forward to seeing you again some day.


Tom & Liz Lathrop
2012-10-08 08:20:20

You and Polly are indeed lucky that this is the Year of the Happy Dragon!!! Please let us know when you return to Oriental, NC. We look forward to seeing you again and hearing of your amazing travels and good luck!!!

Larry Riddle
2012-10-08 08:43:07

Bernie I am so sorry about the accident. It just scared the pujeebers out of me when I popped up you site and saw the photo. I know not only Polly is sore, but imagine you are also. As I live in North Carolina and have given a hand to Bob Skelding, if you think I could help you in anyway feel free to ask. My ph# 828-635-5510.

Grace B. Evans
2012-10-08 08:57:48 

My cigarettes haven’t tasted the same lately, but this end to your current adventure is not what we’ve been looking for, except it’s good news you and Polly are OK. Have a safe trip home and back to Oriental. Grace

Mike Anderson
2012-10-08 09:10:01

Happy to hear that you two will be able to carry on with your travels. Let me know if I can help.

Lesley Byrne
2012-10-08 12:46:24

Hello Bernie (and Polly too of course!!)….I was driving to Clarenville on Saturday, and passed by you on the Bonavista Highway… you were stopped at the Cabot Highway Campground, with many admirers… it was wonderful to see the 2 of you again, and that beside the incident on that very day, that all went wonderfully. Don and I enjoyed having you for a visit when you were in King’s Cove, and I hope that you enjoyed the Jam and Beets during the rest of your travels. Hope you have safe travels home….give Polly a scatch behind the ears….. Good Luck, and Good Grace!!

2012-10-08 13:38:38

Howdy everyone. Bernie with mule Polly here in Newfoundland. Just wanted to thank everyone for their thoughts and offers of assistance. Polly and I are preparing for our journey – truck and trailer style – back to ‘Carolina.
To all my new friends in Newfoundland, a hearty tip o’ the salt and pepper cap. Look forward to seeing y’all again in the land of jiggers, kitchen parties, pickled beets and partridge berry jam. Sue, the Whale bagel may have been the extra bit of padding that saved me from concussion.
To everyone south of the Rock…
Larry, I’m taking you up on that cup of coffee in T-town this fall. Mike, I’m glad I don’t have to ask you for another tiny home. And to everyone in Oriental, look forward to seeing you the water or Water Street. Cheers! Bernie – Polly – Lethbridge, Newfoundland

2012-10-08 13:45:32

I am very sorry your trip has ended in such a terrible way, but I hope that you will return to our province and finish your trip! You two are like celebrities here!!

Everyone is so relieved to hear that you and Polly are alright after the accident and we all wish you a speedy recovery! And I can speak for everyone here in NL in saying that I do hope the person responsible will be dealt with accordingly, and that your equipment gets replaced.

If you are ever in the Gander Bay area and need anything please drop us a line.

God Bless you both, Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels to you and darling Polly.

Candace Young
2012-10-08 14:23:57

So glad you both escaped more serious injury.

Josephine Vokey Johnson
2012-10-08 17:20:58

Bernie we were shocked to read of the mishap but oh so relieved to know you both are okay after that frightening incident.
My father, Henry, says that Polly is one fine mule. He continually talks of the days you visited him in Trinity and especially when Polly stood proudly side by side with the Leah Caroline.
He truly enjoyed your visit and we both wish you well in your continued adventures.
By the way, how did your LP hold up in that collision? Hope it was well protected.

Your visit was a definite highlight for young and old alike.

Jane Wright
2012-10-08 17:31:29

Bernie – WOW – what an adventure you are having in Newfoundland. Not like you would like it to be. Glad both you and Polly excaped serious injury. Will be glad when you can visit us all here in Oriental — Travel safe:)

Jane and Sparky
2012-10-08 18:37:13

Bernie……I was so sorry to hear this, but relieved that you and Polly are okay. You are always in our prayers.

Ron Barker
2012-10-09 11:29:41

We just heard about the accident and are happy to hear you and Polly are not seriously injured. Your vist was one of the highlights of our visit to NL this past summer. Best regards and hope to see you on “the Rock” again in the near future.

Don Skelding
2012-10-09 13:07:48

Ahoy Bernie….Whether in Newfy or Mississippi, ‘ you can’t fix stupid ‘ concerning a few mindless drivers. Thank goodness You & Polly walk away with only bruises & near the finish line. Fair thee well friend !!
Don Skelding…..Bob’s Dad

Bama Lutes Deal
2012-10-10 11:31:14

I’m sure you are taking good care of Polly and yourself…so sorry for the upset. It sounds pretty awful and jolting for both of you. Be well and reflect on what must have been another lovely journey.


E. Denise Mouland
2012-10-13 08:53:09

I heard about your terrible accident, but never dreamed it was to this extent!! I was shocked to see the above photos but ever so relieved that you and Polly both came out okay…it could, as you said, have been much worse!
I too hope that you return to our beautiful Newfoundland some day…it was a pleasure meeting you and mule Polly. You both have a place in my heart.

Take care and on your next journey, try to stay off the road in low sunlight….wouldn`t want a repeat!

Safe travels Bernie…..and keep writing..your book is great!!

Ruby Denney
2012-10-13 20:42:45

Oh my Bernie and Polly, I just heard about your accident. I hope you guys are doing fine, the next time your in my area please feel free to drop in. I will keep checking to see when you make it back home. All the best

Sally Van Natta
2012-10-16 22:02:06

So enjoyed talking with you a few months back and glad you and Polly didn’t get too badly banged up in this end of your adventure — you went out with a bang, not a whimper — tse wasn’t always right. I took your advice and bought a local music CD and Simani kept me company on my way to Hermitage, Galtois, and McCallum. My blog is on hold — a little technically challenging at a time when I have little patience or time to deal with it. I am retiring at the end of the school year and so hope to return to Newfoundland next summer with more time and perhaps a little more technical expertise if I dare use that word in context with a reference to myself. Have a safe journey back to North Carolina. You and Polly were certainly one of the highlights of my time in Newfoundland. You’ve provided a great vicarious journey for more than you will ever know. Cheers. SVN

kelly peddle
2012-10-29 19:56:23

hi,everyone is wondering where you are.i hope you and polly are safe from the storm.hope to hear from you soon.take care.

Neal Tremblett
2012-11-02 12:57:18

Hi Bernie,

My family and I were also sad to hear about your accident shortly after you left Charleston. We’re glad to hear that you and Polly were not seriously injured.

I hope you liked the mushrooms that I gave you! 😀 I’ve picked many more since, about 50 pounds in total!

It was very nice to meet you and share some stories.

Take care,

– Neal

Jim Oldford
2012-11-03 09:25:16

Hi Bernie
Just wondering how you and polly are doing.been watching for you on highway after you were sopose to leave lethbridge.hope all is will. Nick and Shannon enjoyed the ride at Terry’s.
Take care JIM

Roland Keats
2012-11-07 11:32:26

Hi Bernie:

Glad to know you made it back home ok. Sorry I missed you when you came back through Port Blandford. All of your friends here says hello and was glad to know you and Polly were not seriously hurt in the accident and we all look forward to seeing you again.

2012-11-12 22:12:29

Dang, Bernie! That low sun has caused many an unfortunate mishap. I’m glad you and Polly are ok. See you soon.

Linda Solomon
2012-11-22 17:39:07

Dear Bernie,
I am glad you and Polly arrived home safely. Your stories from the road are terrific. Hope you and the equines and familes have a terrific Thanksgiving.
Best Regards,
Linda Solomon

kathy Davis
2013-05-05 21:05:13

Im very impressed you did such a huge journey. I am about to start building a gypsy wagon in New Zealand. I was wondering if you had any tips for keeping it light enough for one horse to pull?
Kathy Davis

Jane and Terry
2013-05-27 19:12:46

Great to have you visit the Co-op today. Love your site, thanks for sharing your journey with us. Jane and Terry Hielman

Paul Dolk
2013-05-30 16:56:56

Hi Bernie,
only learned this news recently, I am very glad that you and Polly are ok after this ordeal.
Take care, Paul & Sandra Dolk

2013-05-07 13:27:37

Howdy down there in Kiwi Land. I spent 1 1/2 years in Whangarei fixing my boat to sail back to the US. The whole time I was chipping rust in the bilge, I day dreamed about traveling the island with a horse. One day…

You asked about light wagon travel. I used a Pioneer one-ton chassis for my first one-horse/mule wagon. Don’t think you’ll find one there. Still, if I were to tackle the project today, I’d be real tempted to build a two-wheeled cart. Like the forecart I used on my Newfie voyage. Then, if I found I needed it, just build a small, lightweight covered trailer to pull behind that. It’d be a miniature version of the rig I used for last year’s voyage across The Rock.

Good on ‘ya for trying to do it with one horse. Too often we build big, heavy wagons – just so we can haul around our insecurities and comforts. I’ve done it myself. Dig through the RiverEarth.com archives and check out the wagon I gave to Bob Skelding….

Keep in touch. Maybe one of us will finally get to travel New Zealand in the fashion I’d dreamed all those years ago in the bilge.


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[…] Me talking about deer strikes with the trooper. He says the stretch of highway where we hit the deer is notorious for deer collisions. The California Highway Patrol job did a fine job responding to our accident. Almost exactly ten years earlier, the same wagon was involved in a serious accident while my mule Polly was pulling it. […]


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