Miles or Steps? Measure of a Journey.

Folks often ask me, “how many miles can you and the mules travel in a day?”.

I tell them 25 and they’re not impressed.

Let the day – and miles – begin. Cracker and I get ready to head up the road with Brick. We travel 15 to 25 miles per day with 20 miles being an average day’s run. I walk a lot to save wear and tear on the mules’ backs. (outside South Gifford, MO)

25 miles. Big deal. I can knock off 25 miles in my pickup in half an hour while drinking coffee and splitting a pack of M&Ms with my wife Julia. In 25 miles, the candy will be gone but there’ll still be java left.

Julia and I heading out in our ’92 Dodge on our honeymoon trail ride at Love Valley (NC). You can read Julia’s account of that – and her thoughts on my present mule ramble – here on her site.

It irked me that a day’s worth of mule travel produced such an underwhelming result. So I bought a pedometer.

Mule Miles Math

A pedometer. You know, that thing you strap on your wrist or leg and it counts how many steps you take in a day.

A few days after I bought it, I strapped it to Cracker’s breast plate and set off up the road.

At day’s end I had a look. Based on my map and phone, we’d traveled 25 miles that day. The pedometer backed me up. So far, so good.

25 miles on the pedometer.

But how many steps was that? I clicked on the pedometer settings until I found the steps mode and what I found sorta blew me away. Cracker had made over 58,000 steps that day. Holy Crap! Fifty eight thousand steps. 58,759 to be exact.

Countin’ steps.

58,000 steps seemed like way too many steps. To double check I did some quick math.

One mile is 5,280 feet. That’s 1,760 yards. Cracker’s stride is just under 3 feet – one yard – long. So he was making about 2,000 steps per mile.

2,000 steps X 25 miles = 50,000 steps. It all checked out.

Sheesh! Now that’s impressive. Way better than saying we’d just covered 25 miles.

But that’s not what really got my attention. No, what really opened my eyes was how much friction on the mules’ backs 50,000 steps caused.

I’ll explain that in another post.

Daily Run Adjustment

When I originally wrote this post, the first week of July, I was traveling across Iowa and making 20 – 25 miles per day. Two weeks later the summer heat hit – hard. I cut my daily mileage back to 10 – 20 miles per day. The mules could have walked much farther but their hides wouldn’t have stood up to the heat and friction.

More Pedometer Fun

A few years back, getting ready for the “Lost Sea Expedition”, my wagon voyage across America, I did a similar experiment. Read about it in the article “Not Knots and Miles Anymore”. You can stream the “Lost Sea Expedition” series right here.


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Christian Harberts
4 years ago

I’ve heard of three-toed sloths, but three-toed mules have got to be a vanishingly rare species… Steer well clear of graduate students and doctoral candidates looking for a good subject – you might never see your long-eared pals again! 😉


Bob Skelding
Bob Skelding
4 years ago

Hey Bernie,
It sounds like you’re having a good time and meeting some nice folks. If you could find a tanned sheep skin and use it for a saddle blanket it would probably solve your problem with galls – it always did the trick for me. Take care and safe travels, Bob

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