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Stories from Bernie's current trip - a mule voyage from Canada to Mexico

Off Down the Road - Southern Pines, NC
February 27, 2006


Watch those fingers…

For months I’ve welded, glued, hummed and painted a wagon body into existence. This week, with a bit of good advice and horsepower, I mounted the wagon body on the chassis.

Now all that remained was the shake down. Once the brakes were adjusted and bled (this took three days, mind you) I hooked Jack and Bill up to my new creation.


Ok boys, “Up! Up!”

Then we hit the road for shakedown number one.






Off down the road

All went well so I hauled my outfit to Oriental, NC to start on shake down number two.

Bernie
RiverEarth.com

(Thanks Susan Edwards for the great photos…! Bernie)

Posted Monday February 27, 2006 by Bernie
Let's Get This Thing on the Road! - Southern Pines, NC
February 25, 2006

There comes a time in any journey’s preparation when you look at the parts and say “Ok, no more building… Let’s get this thing on the road!”

So last week I decided to tow the wagon body out of Mel’s garage and mount it on the chassis I’d been using under my hay wagon.


Hay wagon chassis

I pulled the flat bed body off the chassis but then I got to looking at that red running gear. “You know” I thought “wouldn’t it just look better if I painted it John Deere green?”

So I did…


You know you have to take the wheels off these things to paint them, right?

Then of course, I just HAD to paint the wheels. ‘wouldn’t do to have white wheels on a yellow and green wagon would it? So they got a coat of danger yellow.


Now can we put this thing together?

I won’t bore you with how I had to replace the brakes….

Bernie
RiverEarth.com

Posted Saturday February 25, 2006 by Bernie
The Stove - Southern Pines, NC
February 17, 2006

A large percentage of gypsy wagons that are being restored show scorch marks. They come from where the wood stove set the wagon on fire.

Not good.

So to guard against this sort of Viking sendoff, I lined the stove nook with plywood and aluminum sheeting. Just to make sure the air circulated up behind the panels, I routed some air holes into the frame work.


Frame work for stove nook with vent holes that (should) dissipate heat (I hope).


Then I went down to the folks at Creative Sparks and they sheared out some plate steel for me.

That was for the stove.

I know, I know. I wanted a genuine oil can stove like Bob Sundown had but when I checked into buying a metal gas can, it turned out it would be cheaper just to weld up a bit of steel into a box and call that a stove.

For a front door, I used an inspection door like you put into the cinder block foundation under your house.

So here it is.


Bernie’s stove. Note aluminum heat shield in place. Yes, the section of counter covering the stove is removable…

I know. There’s no damper or ashpan but really, who cares? The little sheet metal stove I used in my tipi never torched my lodgings.

So there.

But just in case in my heat calculations are off, I’ll carry along something most genuine gypsies didn’t.

A fire extinguisher.

Bernie
RiverEarth.com

(Thanks Susan Edwards and Ferill Britt for helping me with photographs and welding up my wood stove. Bernie)

Posted Friday February 17, 2006 by Bernie
Building the Interior - Southern Pines, NC
February 12, 2006

Between catching my mules, hauling hay, working on the book and sewing up the odd cat, there’s been scarce little time for working on the wagon.


The wagon shell waits…

Which isn’t all bad.

It gave me time to think…

In the end, I realized that most projects consume exactly as much time and money as you have on hand. So you might as well start off small, on a scale you can finish.

And afford.

With that in mind, I set about building a pretty Spartan interior.

First I built a light frame for the counters and drawers I wanted on either side of my living space.


Framework for drawers and counter


Then I remembered I wanted to start my trip in Canada.

In late winter.

Hey, didn’t that ring a bell? Hadn’t I just started a trip the year before at the same time of year? Yeah! Of course. And it had snowed on my tipi…


A cold start (Southern Pines, NC – February 2003)

Just after I cleared my head of tipi walls sagging under snow loads, I remembered Bob Sundown. Remember Bob? He was the fellow in the shepherder’s wagon I met in Deming, New Mexico. He was the one that inspired me to build my own.


Bob Sundown (outside Deming, New Mexico)

I holed up with Bob for a few stormy winter days during which my tipi blew down. He thawed me out at his home-made wood stove.


Bob’s oilcan stove (Deming, New Mexico)

So I went back and cut out a nook in my framework just large enough to hold a wood stove.


(Space for the stove Bernie has yet to build…)

Now I just have to weld one up…

Bernie
RiverEarth.com

Posted Sunday February 12, 2006 by Bernie
Two Questions -Southern Pines, NC
February 7, 2006

Two questions came up recently and I only had one answer.

Question One: How much can a horse pull?
Question Two: Bernie, do you want some free hay?


Hey Bill, can you pull this thing…?>

Of course the answer to Question Two was an unqualified “Yes”.

Then Mel told me I had to pick it up in Jack and Bill’s wagon.

Oh.

The hay was in a hay barn across town. All I had to do was go get it.

So it got me to thinking again about how much a horse, or a mule for that matter, could pull.

I did a bit of research and learned the Army (back in the days when it
relied on horses and mules instead of Hummers and MREs) said a draft horse could pull its own weight twenty miles per day on a smooth road.

Twenty miles! I was only looking at maybe eight miles. Max. And Jack and Bill weighed 2200 pounds combined, quite a bit more than the weight of my work wagon and the twenty bales I planned to haul.

Piece of cake. That answered Question Number One.

So I hooked Jack and Bill up to my wagon and drove them across town to pick up the load of hay. Two of Mel’s students rode with me to help out.


Waiting

Jack and Bill stood quietly while Erin and Kaily helped me load the hay. Then we drove home.


Student Drivers – Hobby Field, Southern Pines, NC


A short chat

Now for Question Number Three.

Will Jack and Bill be able to pull the wagon I’m building in Mel’s garage?

Bernie
RiverEarth.com

Posted Tuesday February 7, 2006 by Bernie


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