The Start of Dangerous Planning

It happens the first week of every January. You kick off the New Year swearing you’ll go traveling this year. Hike the Appalachian Trail. You doodle up the trailer you’re going to build for your bike. Maybe even cut out some paper, lay it on top of that burnt out camper shell you saw in the classifieds. Dream about rebuilding that sucker and pulling out for Frisco.

I get that. I’m not immune to the dreamer’s tug. A few years back, I decided early in the year I didn’t want to be a delivery captain. Found myself sketching tipis and mules instead of clippers and cutters. Went out, bought a mule and a month later started riding toward California. Scared hell out of me. Turned into one of my best years ever. Didn’t miss the ocean a bit.

Your standard VW Roadside Midwest War of the Worlds Gothic. In its sights are Maggie and Woody, my cross country traveling mates. (Slaughterville, OK)

This year, the muse of Single Mule Voyaging is pushing my pen across blank sheets of paper. Made me crank out some pretty funny looking wagon designs in the tender days of the new year.

Some wagon doodles. The concept is to make a lightweight travel trailer. The scrawlings alone are innocent enough. Scattered across an atlas, they’re bang up dangerous. Sorta like the primer cap/gunpowder thing. Separated, they’re relatively benign. Together, sheesh, stand back for the bang.

Mule Polly checking out the chassis of what, with a measure dose of madness, could become a new mule conveyance. She should be more concerned. A few years ago, she pulled the last wagon I built from Canada to Mexico. (Asheboro, NC)

Okay, so my buddy Ronald Hudson and I couldn’t resist hitching Polly to the contraption. You know, to run it through the cemetery next to where he lives. The usual way we try out our ideas. And it worked fine. Now we’re getting excited. This thing might actually work.

Just how far I’ll follow the madness remains to be seen. I mean really, how far are you going to go this year? Are you actually going to build that trailer? Yeah, you know the one. The one rattling around your head the last time you got the positive review at work – without the raise.

Yeah, I’m going to smack you around on this a little. See if I can jar you into action. So are you going to buy those nails, dig out that tent? Maybe fill up the gas tank and head out to Big Dirt country?

Don’t let me hear you wimped out and burned off those 10 gallons of 89 octane commuting to work. Man, you could have been 200 miles from where you’re reading this post.

Or are you going to to settle for pushups and flossing, like I do some years….?

So get going. Make a dangerous break from the ordinary. Make me proud. Send me a card.

I’ll let you know if I decide not to proceed. But right now I gotta go. Two painter’s drop cloths and a heavy duty tarp just arrived in the mail.

See you out there.

Oriental, NC
(As in past years, I’ve been working lately with here in Oriental, NC. Be sure to check out the Shipping News column if you you’re into voyaging under power and sail.)

Leo Lawton
2012-01-03 18:23:20

Bernie, I’m very happy that you woke from hibernation. I sort of thought you might be in for the winter like our black bears here in the north country of New York.
I followed your harrowing tales on the trip from Canada to Mexico, but I came on the scene somewhere in the middle of it.
I’ve wondered for two or three years now why you, or Bob Skelding, or someone else hasn’t used a pickup slide-in camper attached to some sort of light trailer as a roadworthy vehicle. It seems to me they have everything necessary for travel already in a concise package. I rebuilt one a couple of years ago, and lightened it down to about 500# in the process. I, of course, use it on my pickup, but it would seem to work well for you also.
I check your page near every day hoping you’ll do something exciting so if you manage to do something I’ll be ther with you in spirit.
Take care.

2012-01-04 23:09:04

Great hearing from you. Feelin’ rested as a New Mexican bear fresh off hibernating. Thanks for noting.
You mention using a stripped down camper for a wagon. Great way to go, especially for someone with a team in a hurry to get on the road. If I recall, Bob Skelding has a photo of such a rig in his excellent wagon hand book.
The only thing is you’d need quite a bit of mule power to pull a rig like that. That means two mules or one giant one. I’m a fan of compact, light vehicles that can be pulled by one mule. About a third the footprint (and quarter the weight) of those slide-ins.
Having said that, if my drop cloth/canvas tarp wagon scheme doesn’t work out, now I have an idea. If you see me coming up the road with one of those pop-up Alaska campers strapped in behind Polly, feel free to accuse me of stealing your brain wave….
Hope you’re off to an adventurous new year. Cheers! Bernie

Dale Sutherland
2012-01-14 16:46:04

Hey Bernie:

Have been copying Josh’s cassette tape letters into my computer for transfer onto CDs. Santa left me a gizmo that is turning out to be pretty neat. Have just finished Lorcha 2000 tape 15 (Tonga). You and he recently met / with other cruisers just now attended church … with the king. And other really fun stuff.

Josh now telephones us most Saturdays and today we found ourselves thinking /talking about you. I said I would try to get a message to you. (Josh is off the grid and also off-line … but has cell coverage).

He asked that I issue an invite to you to show up. He thinks you would like Desolation Sound and what he and Ms Johanna and Kai have on the go there.

If you receive this note please e-mail me and i will send a couple photos.

It was great finding your web site again.


Dale S.

Capt. Natural-Lee
2012-01-28 16:07:58

Hey Partner! Go to see you’re still a bein’ what ya want to be and always will be. Me too and I am waitin’ for the right time to do it. Got plans for a voyage in the spring should the creek not rise, or the sailboat sink.

Happy and safe trails to ya!

Capt. Nat

Lorie Kinney
2012-02-20 12:09:19

Hi Bernie, its been a long time. I admit I haven’t followed your travels, so I’ll have to catch up. We did some traveling also. We moved to Florida in Dec. Finally getting settled, but still a garage full of boxes. Horses in temporary quarters. Get in touch if you have a moment. The last we heard from you was before the sunami. I’m glad you made it back.

2012-04-19 12:49:01

Hi Bernie,
I’m fascinated with the ingenuity you put into your wagon, especially the cover. I’m building a summer camp wagon out of an old farm wagon right now and have a few questions about the covering for you, if you don’t mind sharing your expertise with me.

From my internet research, I know the old sheep wagons had 3 layers: inside was an oilcloth, then some quilting for insulation, then canvas tarp.
I see you use quilting and above you mention “Two painter’s drop cloths and a heavy duty tarp “ How exactly do you install this? Do you lay the tarp over the quilting? Do you sew it yourself? Do you paint the tarp with 2 part polyethelene like kayak builders do? Do you leave a gap so the tarp is never touched when it rains? I would really appreciate any information about how you make your tarp waterproof and warm, photos would be bliss.

By the way Farnham may not be too far out of your way to Canada’s maritime provinces if your not crossing Maine but decide to come up through vermont. That’s going to be a hairy trip through Maine!
Thanks for sharing your stories with us dreamers!

2012-04-19 23:16:12

Howdy Fay,
You asked about how I covered my wagon. Simple. There are three layers. Each is held in place with staples.
1) patterned blanket: this goes over the frame and gives the interior a homey feel.
2) waterproof white tarp: bought for about $20 online. This keeps things cozy dry inside.
3) canvas painters drop cloth: about $15 online (I had to sew two together, hence mention of two drop cloths). The canvas cloth covers the white tarp so it doesn’t look like my wagon is covered with, uhmmm, a cheap white tarp…. Gotta keep up appearances ya’know.
That’s it. I put on all three layers in just over a day. Then, to increase dirt resistance, I rolled on a gallon and a half of water-based paint. Drifting Dune was the color.
Hope this helps. Keep me posted of your sheep wagon construction! Cheers. Bernie


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Current Ramble
Other Cool Reads