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700,000 minutes of Lost Sea Expedition Streaming
April 24, 2019

Mule Polly and I got to wondering. How often is the “Lost Sea Expedition” being streamed on Amazon? The series is about mule Polly and my solo wagon voyage across America. According to Amazon, it’s been viewed over 700,000 minutes in the last 3 months. That’s almost 12,000 hours. Wow!

Bernie Harberts, mule, the lost sea expedition, amazon prime, tv series, documentary, mule polly
The “Lost Sea Expedition” premiered on Rocky Mountain PBS and has gone on to become an award winning film.

More important, the series has gotten over 80 reviews.

Bernie Harberts, mule, the lost sea expedition, amazon prime, tv series, documentary, mule polly
I filmed the series with only the gear I carried in my wagon. This gives the “Lost Sea Expedition” an authentic spirit that viewers appreciate.

These reviews are vital. They show Amazon the series is engaging viewers. That means Amazon (okay, Amazon’s algorithm) encourages folks to stream the series. That really helps word get out about this beautiful series.

If you’ve reviewed the series already, a hearty thanks. If you haven’t, it would be great if you did. A few words and a few seconds is all it takes. You can do that right here.

Thanks from mule Polly and me!

PS: If you haven’t watched the series yet, you can stream the series right here.

Posted Wednesday April 24, 2019 by Bernie
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Tennessee Easter Sunday Lodgings
April 23, 2019

Bernie Harberts, mule, tophat, allie brewer, yolanda treece
Easter evening with Allie Brewer and Yolanda Treece. Allie was up from Knoxville visiting her parents. Yolanda is known for her incredible voice and vocal performances. (outside Russellville, TN)

Easter Sunday evening I was really starting to wonder where the mules and I would find a pasture for the night. Enter Allie and Yolanda. They were in the front yard visiting. I rode up. Problem solved. Allie’s dad, Gary Brewer, owned the pasture next door. We’d found a place to stay.

Bernie Harberts, mule, carrot
The Brewers even sent a bag full of carrots up the hill to where the mules and I were camping. Here, Cracker, celebrates, cigar-style. Do I detect Churchill in victory mode?

The next morning, Laura, Allie’s mom, sent us off with a bag of food and well wishes for the road.

Bernie Harberts, sandwich
Food – and a note – for the road.

Thanks so much Allie, Yolanda, Laura and Gary. We met at just the right time.

Posted Tuesday April 23, 2019 by Bernie
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Isuzu Mule Anchor
April 22, 2019

You keep your car from rolling away with your parking brake. But what about your mule? Most days, I spend 6 – 8 hours riding my mules West as I make my way across America. But how do I keep them from wandering away at night?

Bernie Harberts, mule, picket, isuzu
A bucolic scene. The mules hanging around my tent on Rick and Tracey Love’s property. I’d like to think they’d just hang with me. They don’t. Without tethering, they’d soon wander off to the proverbial Greener Pastures. (Outside Erwin, TN)

Nights, I tether my mules out by a rope. This allows them to graze overnight, replacing valuable calories they burn during the day. One end the rope attaches to one of their front legs. The other end is secured to anything from a fence post to a rock. Or, as happened last night, to an old Isuzu street sweeper.

Bernie Harberts, mule, picket, isuzu
The old Isuzu street sweeper I picketed Brick to last night. It belongs to Ryan Crick of Crick Enterprises. Ryan and his wife Pam own McMillan Caftish Farm and Horse Camp. (Outside Greeneville, TN)
Bernie Harberts, mule, picket, isuzu
Bumper hitch? I tied one end of my picket to the bumper. In this case, I extended the picket rope with a piece of nylon webbing. The other end…..
Bernie Harberts, mule, picket, isuzu
… I attached to Brick’s front leg. I use a single hobble with a heavy duty swivel. The hobble is padded with a piece of fleecy you put on your seat belt. The swivel reduces kinking. The garden hose reduces the chance of rope burn.
Bernie Harberts, mule, picket, isuzu
Grazing bliss. Brick putting in some quality grazing time. In the background, the Isuzu she’s tethered to. Her tether is 60’ long so she has plenty of grass to choose from.

One parting bit of advice. Be sure to tie your mule off to a broken down looking vehicle. Or at least something with flat tires. You don’t want hear a cranking noise in the night and, in the morning, wake up to find that truck – and the mule you picketed to it – gone….

Thanks, Ryan, for letting us spend the night at your yard.

Posted Monday April 22, 2019 by Bernie
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A Top Hat Full of Easter Eggs
April 21, 2019

Happy Easter. The mules and I are waiting out a patch of wet weather at Ryan and Pam Crick’s in Mosheim, TN. Because I can’t give you a chocolate bunny, you’ll have to settle for a top hat full of eggs.

Bernie Harberts, mule, picket, isuzu
A top hat full of eggs. They’re a gift of Pam and Ryan Crick. The big one’s a turkey egg, the small ones are bantam eggs. The medium-sized one might be a Sexlink or an Oprhington (because those are the only 2 chicken names that come to mind). (Mosheim, TN)
Bernie Harberts, mule, picket, isuzu
My top hat spends most of its days riding on top of mule Brick’s pack saddle. It’s triggered stories from passers-by I would have never imagined.
Bernie Harberts, mule, pavillion
Ryan Crick. Here finishing breakfast in his shop. He invited me to join his crew for a bite. I haven’t had biscuits and gravy, bacon, fried eggs and Coke for breakfast in a while. Ryan is a direct man. I like how he stabbed his knife through his breakfast box to signify breakfast was over.

I met Ryan a few days ago while riding through Greeneville, TN. It was getting late in the day and I needed a place to stay. He offered me a great place to picket out my mules for the night.

During my stay, he told me some rainy weather was headed our way. Really rainy. As in inches of rain.

The next day I rode to his home where I holed up for the Easter weekend. Ryan was right. It “came a toad strangler” as folks say. Here are some photos of where we weathered the deluge.

Bernie Harberts, mule, pavillion
A dry place out of the rain is really appreciated out here on the road. The mules have their own round pen full of grass and I’m spending the Easter weekend…
Bernie Harberts, mule, pavillion
… camped in the pavillion.
Bernie Harberts, mule, pavillion
How the eggs met their end.
Bernie Harberts, mule, pavillion
The end of the eggs. The world will just have to live with one less turkey and a few less chickens.

Pam and Ryan own McMillan Caftish Farm and Horse Camp. Mules Brick and Cracker will tell you first-hand how much they enjoyed their stay here. Thanks guys for putting us up!

Eating these eggs made me think of Johnny the Chicken Slat Man.

Posted Sunday April 21, 2019 by Bernie
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Pink Purse by the Road
April 20, 2019

Bernie Harberts, mule, road, sign
The mystery of the roadside suitcase and the pink purse. (Hwy 107 outside Greeneville, TN)

Did she break up in a hotel? Did she throw her old life back East out her car window as she stormed off West? Did someone rob her? Did US Air loose her bag? I’ll never know. All the mules and I found was her Samsonite suitcase and pink purse on the side of Highway 107.

Bernie Harberts, mule, road, sign
Brick and Cracker inspect the find.
Bernie Harberts, mule, sign, pink purse
The purse.

Should I open the purse? What if I found her finger? What if I found a thousand dollars? What if I found nothing?
And that’s what I found…nothing.

I got back on Cracker and rode him up 107, wondering about that dame and where she was now.

Bernie Harberts, mule, sign, pink purse
Back to grass
Posted Saturday April 20, 2019 by Bernie
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Johnny the Chicken Slat Man
April 18, 2019

It happened in Globe.
The man walked up to mule Brick who was tied to a poplar tree and said, “I thought she was loose.”

“She’s not,” I said, “but thanks for checking.”

Bernie Harberts, mule, chicken slat, johnny, man
The man, the tree and Brick. (Globe, NC)

The man looked tired.
Me: “What do you do for a living?”
Him: “I build chicken slats.”
Me: “What’s that?”
Him: “It’s what chickens lay eggs on and the chickens will always keep laying.”
Me: “Where’s your job?”
Him: “Taylorsville, one and a half hours away. There’s no work in Globe.”
Me: “I’m Bernie. What’s your name?”
Him: “Johnny.”

He looked distant and weary.

Bernie Harberts, mule, chicken slat, johnny, man
Johnny: chicken slat builder.

Every week I’m out here on the road with my mules, I learn of a new job I never knew existed.
I will think of Johnny next time I fry an egg.

Posted Thursday April 18, 2019 by Bernie
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Ryan Crick and Opening a Bottle of Strawberry Wine
April 17, 2019

Tonight the mules and I are the guest of Ryan Crick of Crick Enterprises in Greeneville, TN. Ryan fixes heavy diesel things – think tractor trailers and dump trucks.

Bernie Harberts, ryan crick, mule, fence
The Crick Enterprises garage. I just rode off the highway to ask if it’s okay to spend the night there. The guys are waiting while I find Ryan Crick, the owner, to ask permission. Ryan said that would be fine. He had some grass that needed mowing anyway. Thanks Ryan! This is how mule lodging goes out here on the road. (Greeneville, TN)
Bernie Harberts, ryan crick, mule, fence
Ryan Crick with his employees outside his business. Ryan’s the big dude on the far left. Standing third from the left is Scott who gave me a shop tour. Standing third from the right is Keith who gave me his 3 strips of bacon for breakfast. Thanks for everything guys!
Bernie Harberts, mule, water
Brick ponders the ebbs and flows of a mule’s water supply. Yesterday, she and Cracker slurped down puddle water behind a Dollar General. Today, they guzzled down 5 gallons of Ryan’s bottled water. What will tomorrow bring? (Greeneville, TN)
Bernie Harberts, mule, grass
Cracker tackling a mound of grass. This is why he walks away from his grain these days.

Today the mules and I rode through Greeneville, TN, the rolling Tennessee hills replaced by speeding cars, loud pipes and air brakes. Not relaxing but mules and drivers all behaved. Big thanks to Wilma of Hyperion Fine Food and Spirit for the roadside hamburger. A much-needed respite to the noise and speeding traffic.

Bernie Harberts, mule, cars
Rush hour. At least there’s a wide shoulder to ride down.

Riding along Highway 107, I learned you can get a Prom Spray Tan for $45. Tonight, I jacked open a free bottle of homemade strawberry wine, a gift from Tom in Limestone Cove.

Bernie Harberts, prom, sign
Why didn’t I think of this before my prom? Maybe I would have had a date. Given that right about that time my acne peaked, I could have probably used some makeup.
Bernie Harberts, wine, bottle
Tonight it’s lentils for supper. To drink, a fine strawberry wine, the gift of folks I stayed with in Limestone Cove. The only problem was the lack of a bottle opener. That’s where the multi-tool scewdriver comes in handy. If the French had built this model of the Leatherman, it would have had a corkscrew.
Bernie Harberts, wine, bottle
Sweet success!

The plan is to head out tomorrow and find a place to weather the patch of cold and rain headed our way this weekend.

Goodnight from my tent in Greeneville, TN.

Posted Wednesday April 17, 2019 by Bernie
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Through the Ice
April 16, 2019

A young mother stopped the mules and me this week and asked, “why do you travel with a top hat on your pack mule?”

Bernie Harberts, bamboo, trailer
The top hat that rides atop my pack saddle.

She asked, “Is it in memory of someone? Is it like putting an empty pair of boots in an empty saddle when somebody dies?”
She was giving it way more symbolism than I did.
“No”, I said. “It’s the top hat I got married in.”
“Oh”, she said. “It reminds me of my son. He was 8 years old. He fell through the ice and drowned on January 22. That hat makes me think of him.”
It makes me a bit sad looking at my top hat now.
I think of that young boy going through the ice. Of how he drowned and now his mother would stop to ask a man with a mule what his hat meant.
Here’s a cheerier chapter from my top hat’s life.

Posted Tuesday April 16, 2019 by Bernie
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Monday Mule Commuting Blues
April 15, 2019

Bernie Harberts, mule, road, sign
Even mules have to make commuting decisions. At least – for the moment – traffic is light (outside Limestone Cove, TN).

Good Monday morning. It’s off to the races time – me, you and mules Brick and Cracker. If it makes you feel any better, this is what my commute looks like. Only today it’s raining and my mules don’t have heated seats and windshield wipers. Yuck. Today we’re riding from Limestone Cove toward Erwin. If you see us on the road, give us a little toot.

Posted Monday April 15, 2019 by Bernie
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From Saddle Bag Rice to Strawberry Wine
April 13, 2019

“Lord god, what do you do for food?”, folks ask when they meet me and the mules. My wife Julia sent me off with a bag of food: rice, coffee, pecans, ramen noodles and a few other staples. I’ve been eating rainbow trout, smoked potatoes and drinking strawberry wine. Okay, and a little rice.
How the hell does that work?

Bernie Harberts, mule, horse, trail ride
Mule Brick and the gear I’m packing.

In horse and mule travel, it’s the weight, not the miles, that kill. Things you think you can’t live without – from beer to a roll of toilet paper – get left behind. That’s why Brick, my pack mule, only carries about 100 pounds of gear. That includes the 30 pounds that make up her pack saddle, pad and rigging. That’s well within her capacity.

Bernie Harberts, mule, horse, trail ride
Headin’ up the mule trail…er, mule highway. Sometimes, it’s a mighty tight fit.

Life in the saddle is a life of constant motion. You’ll spend 4 – 8 hours in the tack. Your arms and legs swish back and forth thousands of times per day. Your eyes dart back and forth, checking for cars ahead and logging trucks behind. Your inner gyro sways left and right, back and forth, maintaining balance, minimizing impact on your mule’s back.

Then there’s all the riding activity.

Mornings, your mules need to be fed, watered, saddled and packed. That takes an hour and a half if you skip breakfast. During the day, you’ll have to put on hoof boots, ask for directions, answer questions from visitors, find a place to break for lunch, find a place to spend the night, take off hoof boots, check grazing arrangements, carry water, hammer pickets, attach hobbles, stake out mules, brush off mules, check for saddle sores and feed your mules grain if you have it.

Then there’s all the non-equine stuff that needs doing. You have set up camp, pitch your tent, pound tent stakes, unroll your bed roll, change from road clothes to camp clothes, visit with your hosts, break out the cooking gear, cook a meal, then clean up your cooking gear.

All that takes energy. I burn hundreds more calories out here than I do at home. Food is a big deal. I’m always hungry.

Julia sent me on this mule ramble with a large Zip Lock bag full of essentials: rice, nuts, coffee, lentils, ramen, sardines, quinoa and a small bottle of olive oil. I tucked it away in the pack bag labeled “F” (for Food).

Bernie Harberts, mule, horse, trail ride
Provisions: here’s the bag of food Julia sent me off with. It’s resting on top of the map I use for navigation. Julia and I used this same map for the mule ramble that took us from western North Carolina to Virginia and back.
The first night on the road, at the Anita Alta horse camp, I raided it for a bag of rice, a can of sardines and a handful of pecans. The next morning, I visited with some of the horse campers.

I ran in to Rascal and Angie around their camp fire. We talked horses and how their mule was shot with a crossbow. They offered me a cup of coffee. We talked wound vacuum pumps and roping horses. They sent me off with a peanut butter sandwich, Butter Finger bar, potato chips, 3 peppermints and a cold Coors beer wrapped in napkins.

And that’s how it’s been since the first day of my trip.

I’ve eaten a good bit of the food Julia sent me off with. I’ve eaten even more of other people’s food.
After a week on the road, I’m nowhere near close to having to go to a grocery store. How’s that possible when, back home, Julia and I run to Food Lion twice a week?

For one, I’m just feeding one person, not two. Also, I eat less out here. I carry mostly food that has to be cooked: rice, lentils and ramen. That means there’s less snacking. Eating isn’t as easy as opening the fridge. When I get the urge to eat, I have to dig out my stove. Fire it up. Dig out my provisions. Spend half an hour cooking rice or a feed of lentils.

Bernie Harberts, mule, horse, trail ride
My cooking setup. Here I’m getting ready to brew a cup of coffee on my MRS stove. I just boil the ground coffee in the pot for 5 minutes until the ground settle. For a second cup, I just add more water. No, by the third cup of coffee the caffeine isn’t all gone. I drink decaf. Life on the road is plenty exciting. I don’t need extra stimulation.
Bernie Harberts, mule, horse, trail ride
The business end of my stove. It burns gasoline. This scares many folks. They’re happy to say, “Oh hell, we’re cooking with gas now!” but they’re afraid to actually do so. Wimps.

Sure, I carry a few cans of sardines and some energy bars in my saddle bags. But not many. It’s a weight thing. They’re reserved for when I really need them – the times when I’m starving hungry and I can’t fire up my cooker.

I’m adapting to limited rations. I’m learning to live with a rumbling stomach and a slack belt. I’m more shivery in cool weather than usual.

Still, even after compensating for eating less, my body feels like it’s getting a lot more calories than are coming out of my saddle bags.

Then it dawned on me. Folks are giving me lots of food. Out of curiosity, I made a list of every individual item of sustenance I was given – every serving of fruit, every can of beer, every smoked trout.

Bernie Harberts, mule, horse, trail ride
“Coors, Muscadine + Vodka”. I carry a small notebook in my shirt pocket. In it, I note peoples’ names, directions and random thoughts from the road. Here’s a partial list of the food I’ve been given.

A guy named Larry gave me a cold Natural Lite 4 hours in to my ride. Six days in to my trip, it had grown to resemble a glutton’s grocery list.

Here it is:

Day 1
Natural Lite beer

Day 2
Coors Lite
PBJ
Chips
3 peppermints

Day 3
Coors Lite
3 baked rainbow trout
Broccoli
Roasted potatoes

Day 4
2 fried Bantam eggs
Bacon
2 slices whole wheat toast
Grapes
Apple slices
Butter
Peach jam
Roasted potatoes
Coffee
Muscadine juice with vodka

Day 5
10 pounds corn for the mules
Bottled water
Homemade venison and sausage bratwurst
Hoop cheese
Ritz crackers
Busch beer
Busch beer
Busch beer
2 glasses strawberry wine
2 X 7 oz bottles strawberry wine

Day 6
Smoked pork loin
3 yeast rolls
Smoked sweet potato
½ smoked white potato
Busch beer
Busch beer

Damn, that’s a lot of food!

No way I could pack this away in my saddle bags. Between the spoilage factor and trying to wedge it all in to my army rucksacks, it would be unfair to ask pack mule Brick to lug this all weight around. Hell, the beer, strawberry wine and muscadine vodka cocktail alone would weigh 10 pounds.

Here’s what I’m learning from this. In life, you need to set forth with what you have. Don’t haul along everything you think you’ll need for your physical and emotional needs. Just get going.

I won’t starve out here. People are incredibly generous out here. For the most part, they go out of their way to take care of one of their wandering own.

That’s some powerful thought medicine. Suddenly, instead of thinking you have to haul everything with you, you realize if you just set out, what you need will find you.

Bernie Harberts, farmers exchange
Della and John of the Farmers Exchange hooked us up with water and corn. (Sandstone Cove, TN)
Bernie Harberts, mule, horse, trail ride
Della and John.
Bernie Harberts, mule, horse, trail ride
Della’s necklace.

This find-it-as-you-go-along approach has surprising knock on effects.

Remember how Angie sent me off with a cold beer wrapped in napkins? The napkin wrapped cold beer seems a tradition in these parts. I’ve accepted, a can at a time, a six-pack of paper towel-wrapped beer this week.

With all those wrapped up beers, don’t ask me what I’m doing for toilet paper.

Bernie Harberts, mule, horse, pasture
Mules Brick and Cracker enjoying some lush grazing compliments of Theresa, our host for the weekend. They’ll have 3 days of well deserved rest before heading out again Monday.
Bernie Harberts, strawberry wine, wind bottle
Okay, I knew you wanted to see that strawberry wine. Cheers!

PS: A magnum-sized thanks to Rascal, Angie, Milton, Richard, Steve, Joann, Jimmy, Johnny, Della, John, Tim, John and Theresa for all the food, water and lodging you’ve provided mules Brick, Cracker and me.
PPS: Yes, the mules are eating as well as I am. That’s the topic of a whole other story.
PPS: Pardon the shaky grammar. I’m writing these posts on the fly in my tent and people’s pastures.

If you enjoyed this story, please share it with your friends.

Posted Saturday April 13, 2019 by Bernie
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