Little Red Vardo Gypsy Wagon Road Trip

This week, my wife Julia and I hitched our little red vardo gyspy wagon to the Subaru and headed west. It’s the same wagon my mule Polly pulled across most of Newfoundland and then through Pamlico County in eastern North Carolina. It featured in the “Our State” / UNC-TV’s episode “Mule Rider” which won a regional Emmy Award for director Morgan Potts.

Loading up L’il Red. I also call it the Newfie Wagon because my mule Polly pulled it across most of Newfoundland. I built it in the barn you can see behind the wagon. Pictured are the spare tire, tire iron, wash basin, stove pipe, and skillet. I designed the wagon myself. It takes influences from vardos, gypsy wagons, and sheepherder wagons.
“Mule Rider”: just click on the arrow between mule Polly and me to watch the video. She’s pulling the same wagon Julia and I are taking on our road trip. (Directed by Morgan Potts)

Why We’re Heading West in our Little Wagon

Julia and I hope to travel the West with our horses and mules next year. The plan is to trailer our critters to our starting point somewhere between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean and tour our nation’s public lands by saddle. While we’re out West, we hope to do a Friday night podcast in addition to posting on my website and Julias site

The goal of our current trip west with our little red wagon is to find out where we might start our saddle trip. Montana? Colorado? Wyoming? We’re still not sure exactly sure which state we’ll start riding in, but we have a sense of what we’re looking for.

The biggest challenge of long-distance saddle travel is finding grass, water, and shelter for our horses and mules. We won’t have a support vehicle following us on our trip so we won’t be able to rely on someone bringing us provisions as we travel. That means we’ll need to travel during spring and summer in areas where grass grows and water flows. That can be hard to find out West.

In addition, we’ll need to think of wildfires. In the last few years, much of the West has burned. If you’re traveling in a car, you can avoid the parts that are on fire. If you’re traveling with a horse or mule, it’s harder to get out of the way of a fast-moving fire.

Right now, we have three areas in mind. They are:

  • Oregon
  • Along the Rocky Mountains from Montana toward New Mexico
  • New Mexico and Colorado
In 2004/5 I traveled from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean with my mule Woody and pony Maggie. Some of the land I traveled through was so dry I rigged a cart for Maggie to pull so we could carry water with us. (outside Gila Bend, Arizona)

A Few Photos From our Current Road Trip

I thought you’d enjoy seeing some of the land and meeting some of the people Julia and I are meeting on our exploratory road trip. Here, in no particular order, are some photos from our first few days on the road. We started in Caldwell County in western North Carolina and are heading to Oregon. I’ll post a few photos every few days and let you know what we’re finding. Enjoy!

Welcome to our camper wagon
The interior set up for sleeping. There’s also a small wood stove, a desk and shelves for cooking and writing gear. The ceiling is made of plywood strips bent over red oak frames. The covering is a blanket covered in a white trap and a painter’s drop cloth painted with roof paint. No, we’re not traveling with a dog. That’s a pillow.
Hooked and ready to go: we’re pulling the trailer with a Subaru Crosstrek
We rarely know where we’re going to sleep. Some nights, we end up in beautiful spots like the Bixby Public Access campsite outside Douglas, Wyoming.
Our rig looking ridiculously small compared to the trucks we share the road with
Visiting a windmill display in Mullen, Nebraska
Home cookin’ on the road. Julia and I enjoy camp cooking. We use a BioLite stove that uses wood instead of propane or gasoline for fuel. Here, I’m boiling water for coffee. I have reviewed the BioLite stove after a month of use here.
Our food chest. Before we headed out, we packed a wood box with our favorite foods so we didn’t have to eat too much junk on the road. The box is stored in the back of the car and is easy to get to.

More on the L’il Red Wagon

I built the wagon in my barn a few years ago. It’s based on a trailer frame I bought from Northern Tool. Here are some photos and links of how I built it.

Mule Polly pulls the wagon outside Maberly, Newfoundland. The wagon attached to the two-wheeled cart that Polly pulled. It can also be towed behind a pickup or small car.

Here are some links to posts of my wagon voyage across Newfoundland with my mule Polly

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Christian Harberts
Christian Harberts
1 year ago

Man, so happy to see the “Newphie Wagon” back on the road! As you may recall, I wrote all kinds of content in the cozy confines of the little arch-backed ark. I guess not enough room for two concurrent artists working in the same space, but you’ve already spelled out the solution – Cracker Barrel. Since when can you buy beer at Cracker Barrel? My productivity would plummet, under those circumstances… Plan B could be the RV nomad’s oasis, aka Walmart. But, that’s not got quite the nice friendly aura of your current choice.

Regardless of your choice of venues, hope you’ll meet some RV folks and do your usual magic showing the best of “ordinary” people – we all need regular doses of that!


1 year ago
Reply to  Bernie

Pen sketch? NOW we’re talking!

(You do know that it won’t be red, right?)


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