Are You Dan from Madison?
January 15, 2019

Bernie Harberts, mule, mule polly, lost sea expedition, adventure, lost sea expedition, amazon prime
Dan’s postcard on our fridge. Dan wrote to tell us how much he and his family enjoyed the “Lost Sea Expedition” series. You can stream the series right here on Amazon.

Are you Dan from Madison, Wisconsin? If so, we loved your postcard! It’s always great hearing from folks that enjoy the “Lost Sea Expedition” series about my mule wagon voyage across America. Messages on a post card score bonus points on the Adventure Correspondence scale.

If you’re not Dan, we’d still love to hear from you…. especially by good old fashioned US Mail. If you write us and put your return address on your missive, we’ll try to write you back. You can find our mailing address right here.

Carry on letter writers, carry on…

Bernie Harberts, mule, mule polly, lost sea expedition, adventure, lost sea expedition, amazon prime
What Dan wrote us. I especially like the part about “Keep Wandering”!

PS: I have a long history of mailing stuff with a mule. Here are a few stories you might enjoy:
A letter from the Lost Sea Expedition wagon
Delivering books to the post office with mule Polly

Posted Tuesday January 15, 2019 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Mule Polly and I go to the Dentist
January 11, 2019

Mule Polly and I both went to the dentist this week. Separately.
We took different approaches to visiting the tooth doc. I brushed and flossed my teeth bleed ’til they damn near bled. Polly just got on the horse trailer.
We drove her over to Dr Hay at Tryon Equine Associates in Tryon.

I’ve been going to the dentist since the tooth fairy shook down my parents for a dollar. This was Polly’s first visit.
That’s the equivalent of a 50 year old woman plopping down in the dental chair and hoping for the best.
In Polly’s case, that’s just how it panned out.
No cavities. No broken crowns. No holes that had to be plugged with a $5,000 implant. Instead, Dr Hay just found a few sharp edges on her upper teeth. He noted that her lower teeth where getting very short. Short but useable. A bucket of water and 20 minutes of rasping later, the sharp edges were gone, leaving Polly with level, if not new, choppers.
All in all Dr Hay said her teeth weren’t too bad for a mule nearing the quarter century mark. He explained that at her age, she’s firmly in middle age. Like me at 51.
It got me to wondering.
So how do my teeth, at an equivalent age, stack up to my mule’s?

At the half-century mark, I’m up to 9 fillings, 5 crowns and a piece of metal stuck in my jaw bone.
I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere. Something about how a life of eating hay and drinking water and pulling heavy objects up the road leads to better teeth than daily flossing, brushing and Friday night burgers.
Right, the logic’s skewed. But briefly, it had me pondering switching to mule Polly’s dentist.

If you haven’t already, you can stream the “Lost Sea Expedition”, the public TV series about mule Polly’s walk across America, right here on Amazon

(Post scrip: I’m actually very happy with my dentist Dr Grimes. I’d sign Polly up for his annual dental program but I don’t think his dental chairs and tools are large enough).

(Post Post script: another piece on how Polly’s teeth relate to an ancient marine creature is here).

Posted Friday January 11, 2019 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Ursula Daniel Obituary (1935 - 2018)
December 10, 2018

Ursula Daniel
(1935 – 2019)

Ursula Daniel, ursula blatter
Ursula Daniel in 2015 when she returned to Switzerland, home of her birth (Elfenau Park photo, Bern Switzerland)

Ursula Daniel died December 9, 2018 in Bern, Switzerland.
Ursula was born in Bern, Switzerland in 1935 to Fritz and Heidi (née Egger) Blatter. She studied and worked as an actress until she left Switzerland for an acting job in Vienna in 1956.

Ursula Daniel, ursula blatter
Ursula: stage actress

Soon after arriving in Austria, the Hungarian Revolution erupted in neighboring Hungary. In November 1956, a large Soviet force invaded Budapest. This trigged an exodus of Hungarian refugees that arrived in Austria seeking asylum. Ursula decided that since she was already in Vienna, helping the refuges, not pursuing her acting career, was the new priority.
She contacted the Swiss Red Cross to offer her assistance. For the next months she worked helping process incoming refugees.

In 1958 she resumed her acting career in Bogotá, Colombia. Despite paying her own way as an actress, she was unable to earn a living on the stage. She began to feel as though she was “playing the role of an actress instead of acting.” In 1961, she completed her acting career in Mountview Theater Club in London as Estelle in “In Camera”.

In 1961, Ursula married Michael Daniel and moved to the Bahamas. Michael was an architect and ardent sailor. Ursula shared neither of these passions. To fill her days, she began a radio program that addressed the underserved mental health needs of the island’s poor inhabitants. “No Man is an Island” would grow to be a popular call-in program, a show in which poor residents could reach out anonymously for mental health counseling.

The radio show prospered. Ursula and Michael’s marriage failed. In the early 1970s Ursula moved, alone, to Washington, DC. She was in her 30s.

Ursula attended Catholic University where she received her Master of Arts degree in Social Work. Upon graduation, in what she credits as one of her greatest strokes of luck, she received a position at Georgetown University as a social worker. She would work at Georgetown until the early 1990s when she expanded in to private practice.

At an age when many retire, Ursula began learning Russian, studying eastern textiles and traveling extensively. Her interest in ancient textiles led her to remote regions of India, Russia and China.
Ursula enjoyed gardening at her Palisades (Washington, DC) home. For over 40 years she cultivated her backyard oasis though this passion did not play out without drama. The raccoons that raided her aquatic garden were a source of constant consternation – and a well received BBC documentary.

Ursula continued her private practice until 2014. In 2015 Ursula returned to Switzerland where she died in late 2018. She was preceded in death by her parents and sister, Lislot Harberts. She is survived by her nephews Christian Harberts of Paris, France and Bernie Harberts of Caldwell County, North Carolina.

Her life’s joys were Bach and friends. Her life’s regret was not re-marrying. Irritations included robins and Republicans.

Posted Monday December 10, 2018 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Lost Sea Expedition wins Winnie Award at EQUUS Film Festival
December 6, 2018

Bernie Harberts, Equus film festival, winnie award, horse, adventure, lost sea expedition
The 2018 Winnie Award (EQUUS Film Festival photo).

Man walks across America with mule. Man makes movie. Movie goes to New York City and….wins shiny gold trophy.


Okay. Sorry. I got a little emotional there.

It’s just that I’m excited that the “Lost Sea Expedition”, the account of my mule voyage across America, just won a Winnie award at the EQUUS Film Festival in New York City. It won for best Full Length Equestrian Film Travel Documentary.

Bernie Harberts, Equus film festival, winnie award, horse, adventure, lost sea expedition
The “Lost Sea Expedition” originally premiered on Rocky Mountain PBS as a 4-part series.
Bernie Harberts, Equus film festival, winnie award, horse, adventure, lost sea expedition
It was an honor for the “Lost Sea Expedition” to be accepted by the EQUUS Film Festival. This year, the New York film festival featured equine-themed works ranging from vaqueros to India’s Marwari horses .

What now? Well, mule Polly, star of the series, can’t eat a trophy so I have a better idea.

On our latest jaunt, a 6 week amble from North Carolina to Virginia and back, Polly developed a real love for little red apples. So red apples it is – a whole bag full if that’s what it takes. Heck, I might even plant her a Red Delicious tree.

Bernie Harberts, mule polly, lost sea expedition, horse, adventure, lost sea expedition
Mule Polly served as pack mule on Julia and my trip from western North Carolina to Virginia and back. That’s Julia in the background riding Dusty. You can read more of the journey at my travel site RiverEarth.com and Julia’s blog Saddle Under the Stars.
Bernie Harberts, mule, horse, apple, hat, public tv, adventure, lost sea expedition
A hat full of apples. They came from a road side tree in western North Carolina (Todd, NC).

I also want to thank everyone that helped us get this far up the road.

First, a ten-year wide thanks to Will and Deni McIntyre of Will & Deni Media Inc. whose involvement with this project spanned over a decade. Were it not for artist Charlie Frye who painted 30-plus paintings for the series, the marine art world would have never collided with Appalachian folk art. Also, a huge congrats to Julia Carpenter. Without her encouragement, the “Lost Sea Expedition” would be a box of film footage instead of a beautiful movie.

The money to make the movie? For that I’d like to thank everyone that supported the film with their hard earned dollars. You can find that list here.

Bernie Harberts, mule, horse, apple, hat, public tv, adventure, lost sea expedition
In the neighborhood of 100 individuals and companies stepped forward with contributions to pay for all the the things needed to make a movie – from audio engineering to color timing to insurance. Public Television, while a wonderful distribution platform, does not pay us to air the series. Rather, it was up to us, the film makers, to find the funding. That’s where all these folks stepped in to help. Thanks again guys!

Finally, my gratitude to all the people of the Great Plains who saw mule Polly and me through a land that alternated between achingly beautiful and achingly lonely.

Bernie Harberts, mule, horse, apple, hat, public tv, adventure, lost sea expedition
Colorado rancher and horse breaker Duane Ackley. Duane featured in the “Lost Sea Expedition”. You can hear some audio footage of Duane we didn’t use in the move in this story from the road.

In the meantime, here are 3 ways you can watch the now “award-winning” “Lost Sea Expedition”:
-buy the DVD at the RiverEarth.com General Store store

-stream the series on Amazon

-buy the DVD from Charlie Frye and Susan Frye at their Frye Art Studio in Lenoir, NC.

Posted Thursday December 6, 2018 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

2018 EQUUS Film Festival Schedule
November 15, 2018

Bernie Harberts, Equus film festival, horse, adventure, lost sea expedition, amazon prime
The EQUUS Film Festival runs Nov 29 – Dec 2, 2018 in Brooklyn, NY. The festival is dedicated to all things horse, mule and donkey and features movies from around the world.

2018 EQUUS Film Festival

12:00 pm
90:00 min / Directed by: Bernie Harberts
Trailer: “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5vWlAttTaY”:
Equestrian Documentary – Full Length (over 30 minutes)
The “Lost Sea Expedition” is the 4-part series about Bernie Harberts’ 14 month wagon voyage from Canada to Mexico. Filmed with only the gear he carried in his one mule wagon, the series provides an in depth look at life on the road with a mule, the people of the Great Plains and the ancient sea that covered the middle of America.
Filmmaker Bernie Harberts films with old gear, flushes with gravity water and heats with wood in western North Carolina. He has sailed alone around the world, traveled both ways across America by mule and naps 23 minutes every day.

1:35 pm
59:37 min / Directed by: Colleen Ochab
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_O0mXnr86E
Equestrian Documentary – Full Length (over 30 minutes)
Have you ever wondered what it is like to work at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament in Schaumburg, Illinois? Check out this in-depth and behind the scenes look at the Chicago castle atmosphere and hear the stories of 18 amazing team members that make a show possible!
Since this documentary was made, the Chicago castle has now released its BRAND NEW SHOW titled SOVEREIGN featuring a sole female ruler as Queen of the realm. Come out to see the same amazing environment (and people) as featured in this documentary with a new, fresh storyline and new costumes!

16:00 min / Directed by: Mary Gallagher
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/292017981/b73a1bf6db
Equestrian Documentary – Short (under 30 minutes)
Wise Horsemanship at Freedom Farm introduces the vision and guiding principles behind the equestrian magic of Freedom Farm, Port Angeles, Washington. Owner/lead trainer Mary Gallagher narrates over moving scenes of herd life, daily work and play at Freedom Farm.
Mary’s fascination with horses began at the age of six and has never ceased. She is a versatile trainer and clinician, combining her knowledge of show jumping and natural horsemanship to reach new dimensions of balance and communication between rider and horse. Mary has ridden for world renowned instructors, trained with Olympic riders, and personally hosted A rated shows in Washington State, all while adopting and developing principles of natural horsemanship. She has a lifetime of knowledge, experience, and passion for horses and horsemanship. Her personal instruction and clinics emphasize connection, communication, and cooperation.

3:00 pm
40:21 min / Directed by: Elaine Heney
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9-YygGGd-A
Equestrian International – Documentary
Jeff Sanders is a sixth generation Californian horseman. Jeff travels around the world teaching horsemanship and preserving the traditions of old Spanish California. This is his documentary.

3:45 pm
88:00 min / Directed by: Leonhard Hollmann
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/251037419
Horses Helping Humans
The documentary SILENT COMRADE accompanies three soldiers that are trying to find a way back to life with the help of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy for PTSD. Where the conventional medicine is limited, Claudia Swiercek fills the gap with her horses.
“Horses are mirrors of the soul.” With this sentence in mind, I went on a journey through Mongolia in the summer of 2014, accompanied by two horses.After five weeks in the saddle I still hadn’t come to a full understanding of what that saying was supposed to mean. Shortly after my return to Germany I met Claudia Swierczek who told me about her Equine Assisted Psychotherapy for traumatized soldiers. I was fascinated by the thought of these sensitive animals helping soldiers to cope with their traumas. “Pony Pastorale” and soldiers – how could these two possibly go together? And how does Claudia Swierczek manage to help even with the allegedly hopeless cases? SILENT COMRADE attends the therapy sessions as a silent observer and allows access to Claudia Swiercek’s unique form of therapy. It takes an intimate look at three characters, who talk about the causes and consequences of their traumas with an unusual openness and sincerity.Through their interaction with the horses, their invisible wounds become visible and palpable.

5:15 pm
59:00 min / Directed by: Mary Jordan
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/wildhorseroadtrip
Equestrian Inspirational Documentary – Under 60 Minutes
Join an adventure in ‘Trusting More’ as one wild family takes off across the United States in an RV named ‘Grace’ to adopt two bonded wild Mustang mares, the ‘Soul Sisters’, and bring them back to their forever home.

6:20 pm
05:00 min / Directed by: Michael Aku RoDriguez
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/254067715
Category: Wild Horse Music Video

6:25 pm
44:31 min / Directed by: Michael Aku RoDriguez
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/140967488
Equestrian Documentary – Full Length (over 30 minutes)
A “Trail Of Tears” direct descendant Cherokee womans’ personal journey that informs & reflects into the world of horse slaughter. Bringing awareness to the issues affecting horses, both Wild & Domestic, and connects people to the spirit of the Horse through multicultural participation and co-creation through all the ARTS.

7:15 pm
84:00 min / Directed by: Ron Davis (Harry & Snowman)
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQrQChIgV-M
Going To The Dogs
LIFE IN THE DOG HOUSE tells the inspiring life stories of Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta and the remarkable work they do at Danny & Ron’s Rescue. Ten years and 10,000 dogs later, their unique approach to life and dog rescue will capture hearts and inspire millions to make the right choices when it comes to mans best friend.

8:45 pm
80:00 min / Directed by: Annette van Trigt
Equestrian International – Documentary
Downfall of an Olympic Show Jumping Stable
The long arm of the law has caught up with a white-collar criminal in the Netherlands, who also happens to have a tremendous passion for show jumping horses. His internationally successful Olympic show jumping stable is now facing the prospect of going under. The hunt is on for London, a champion horse and winner of 2 silver medals at the Olympic Games in 2012. Top jockey Schröder must now continue to perform under enormous pressure, while he can do no more than sit on the side-lines as the owner is involved in a bitter battle against the banks to stay afloat.

10:15 pm
59:00 min / Directed by: Tom Lloyd
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/romanyrai/273110276?autoplay=1
Equestrian Documentary – Full Length (over 30 minutes)
A Romany Rai can be described as a Gypsy gentleman and scholar, or a non-Gypsy who is respected by Gypsies.
Walter LLoyd, who died at the age of 93 in January 2018, was one of only a few ‘gorgios’ (house dwellers) who had the trust of the Gypsy and Traveller community. He counted many Gypsies as his friends, and his knowledge of the Romany language, Gypsy tribes, history and customs made him a truly modern-day Romany Rai.
Since he was a small boy, filmmaker Tom LLoyd has travelled with his father Walter to Appleby Fair, the largest Gypsy horse fair in Europe. Since 1995 Tom has been filming these journeys travelling in a bow-top wagon pulled by their home-bred Fell ponies, creating an extraordinary collection of moving images. Romany Rai includes previously unseen film footage taken by the Gypsies themselves in the 1960’s.
Not since Magnum photographer Josef Koudelka travelled among Gypsies and Travellers in the 1980’s has an artist had such sustained and intimate access into this world. Romany Rai weaves together candid conversations about Gypsy and Traveller culture with stunning images and gritty fireside music sessions.
Featuring Billy Welch (Shera Rom or Head Gypsy), his family and many other Gypsies, Travellers, horsemen and women who Walter encountered on this extraordinary journey.


12:00 pm
51:00 min / Diercted by: Javier Ortega
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/237532016
Wild Horse – Documentary – Full Length (over 30 min)
How is the life of horses when they live in the wild?
Answering this question is the engine that launched the scientific project created and led by Lucy Rees, unique for its characteristics in Europe, in the mountainous north of Extremadura (Spain). And it is also the starting point of our documentary film.
We will have Rees, expert in equine behavior of extensive experience as well as writer of essays on equine behavior and fiction, as narrator of his adventure, which began bringing a group of horses of race pottoka, considered the oldest that exists thanks to DNA studies, to a space where they could live in freedom and without any human management to study their behavior.

1:00 pm
23:00 min / Directed by: Philippa Waddell
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/245001517/61d40e05d9
Equestrian International – Documentary
Marwari is an ancient breed from the Marwar region in Rajasthan, India. They are identified by their distinctive inward curling ears, and are particularly admired for their intelligence. They are considerably smaller than their European counterparts, but have been used as cavalry horses in India throughout history due to their loyalty and bravery. Today, they are also popular for a diverse range of purposes – from use in special ceremonies such as weddings; to endurance trekking and ‘dancing’. The programme allows us to learn more about these fascinating creatures and the local people who breed, train and love them.

1:30 pm
28:05 min / Directed by: Kelly Colbert
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/143494282
Equestrian Documentary – Short (under 30 minutes)
The true story of a horse, a prince of Big Sky Country, who was bred for strength and rodeo glory but discarded through a chain of events to auction and, ultimately, human cruelty. His name and his lineage were forgotten. But his royal pedigree and his upbringing in the Badlands of Montana instilled in him the strength and tenacity that allowed him to survive his journey through neglect and starvation, until he was found and his name and heritage rediscovered.

2:00 pm
97:00 min / Directed by: Hanno Olderdisse
Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7119170/videoplayer/vi4119575321?ref_=tt_pv_vi_aiv_1
Equestrian Children’s Film – International
Wendy has been living happily at Rosenborg stables for a year. Yet the financial situation of the estate is dire. As Wendy learns about a tournament organized by the near-by modern riding stable, she decides she has to win! With the prize money she might be able to save Rosenborg. But her trained circus horse Dixie is not a jumper and sure doesn’t feel like changing careers. When a traumatized tournament horse called Penny arrives at Rosenborg, Wendy immediately recognizes her potential, even though she is scared of jumping. Now Dixie starts to feel neglected and Wendy faces a tall order; she has to save her friendship with Dixie while helping Penny to overcome her fear and win the competition!

3:40 pm

80:00 min / Directed by: Elaine Heney
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jocFrx86gHw
NEW – Equestrian Inspirational Documentary – Over 60 Minutes
“As I spend my time helping people with their horses, one thing that always sticks in the back of my mind is ‘I wonder if they have any idea of what is possible, with the horse they already own”. Steve Halfpenny. What if there was more to communicating with horses? Could you truly build a relationship of trust and confidence with your horse using feel, timing, balance, empathy and light hands? This is the new movie based on the life of Steve Halfpenny, the remarkable Australian horseman. “Soft Feel and Light Horses” is directed by award-winning filmmaker Elaine Heney, with music by the Grammy nominated Mary Ann Kennedy.

5:05 pm
22:05 min / Directed by: Philippa Waddell
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/175818984
Equestrian Documentary – Short (under 30 minutes) -English
A Devon Pony Club Club
Watch the exciting events of the Mid Devon Hunt Pony Club unfolding through the eyes of 10 year old Biba, as she attends their annual camp at Bicton Arena. From the early starts, feeding and looking after their ponies, the nerves of the first ride, the excitement of cross country and the fun had and friendships that are made at their pony club camp.

5:30 pm
22:00 min / Directed by: Giacomo Cardone
Equestrian Inspirational Documentary – Under 60 Minutes
This film is about the almost unknown possibility of training horses to be controlled when at liberty in completely open (unlimited) spaces, perhaps similar to how dogs can be trained.

6:00 pm
23:28 min / Directed by:Elaine Heney
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jocFrx86gHw
Equestrian Series -International
Film description: Steve TV is the monthly new TV show with Australian horseman Steve Halfpenny. Tune in each month and watch case studies, meet great horses from around the world and get all the latest news and insights from Steve Halfpenny, the #1 best-selling author, award-winning film-maker, international clinicican and founder of Light Hands Equitation. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Elaine Heney.

6:30 pm
90:00 min / Directed by: Madison Shambaugh
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax5UYf-WwdE
Wild Horse – Documentary – Full Length
Inspirational Documentary – Over 60 Minutes
Follow young horsewoman, “Mustang Maddy,” as she explores the possibilities of the horse-human relationship with Amira, a former, wild horse out of chances. A series of events led Maddy to set out on a mission to train Amira to ride without her ever having worn any ropes or tack – in just one week.

Posted Thursday November 15, 2018 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

A letter from the Lost Sea Expedition Wagon
May 29, 2018

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter
A letter for you, straight from the Lost Sea Expedition wagon (Otero County, NM)
Polly’s tied up in the wind to a road sign that says “Pinon Creek Rd” – a road that leads from dust to more wind.

That’s how the letter started.

Traveling from Canada to Mexico with my wagon for the Lost Sea Expedition TV series, I kept in touch with friends largely through letters – occasionally a phone call. Toward the end of my voyage, crossing the parched expanses of the Chihuahua Desert, sending these letters got tougher. There just weren’t any post offices in this land of choya, prickly pear and wind. Forget about phone booths.

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter
Day’s end. Here mule Polly and I knock off for the day. We’re camped way off the road in the New Mexican desert. That didn’t mean the filming stopped. On this particular evening, I broke out my dulcimer and serenaded mule Polly with a 3-string concert. Okay, it was one song. It was just good enough to include on the Lost Sea Expedition TV series. You can stream the series on Amazon included free with Prime and Vimeo. Or you can buy the DVD here at the RiverEarth.com General Store
bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter
Can you see my tiny home? You may have to look reeealllly hard. It’s the yellow speck toward the middle of the picture just above the century plant, the aloe-looking plant with all the spines. This is where I wrote the letter you’re about to read.

These simple paper and pen missives reeked of wind, the dust and the alone-ness.

Here’s a letter I wrote to my dear friend M. Looking back on it now, through the lens of all the electronic communications that’s eroded my attentions span since that voyage, I like how it feels better than ever before.

From Crow Flats, New Mexico, I wrote:

Dear M,

Polly’s tied up in the wind to a road sign that says “Pinon Creek Rd” – a road that leads from dust to more wind. I haven’t been able to call for over a week now so decided to write you a note and have one of the road construction guys mail it on his way home.
In the past week we’ve climbed and rattled down 2,500 feet of elevation. More important, we haven’t heard from the outside world, the “crisis” having a way of filtering into our every day lives.

With 2+- weeks left in the voyage, I’m already looking forward to returning home to spring, complete with fingers digging in moist soil, making tiny bed holes for even smaller roots.

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter

I must bring you something home from this desert, something that a little water and prosperity won’t kill. Oh, wait, that could be me…
Well, better run. The gravel truck is heading this way.
Now this letter’s adventure begins. Please note the postmark so we can see where it was mailed from.
See you soon! Give my regards to J and W.
PS: Hope school’s going well. I couldn’t send you a cactus for your garden but I could draw one for your letter.

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter

So that’s what I wrote. Now I just had to get that letter in to the US Postal system.

On board the Lost Sea Expedition wagon, I carried a few stamps. I stuck enough postage on my letter to carry it to its destination. The only traffic I’d seen were the occasional gravel truck I’d mentioned in the letter. It got me thinking.

Then I just waited. And waited. And waited some more.

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter
Waiting is a big part of wagon travel. I’m good at it, having had lots of practice. This is a skill that’s easily eroded by social media. That’s why I regularly go offline. Just to keep my waiting skills honed.

Finally, a cloud of dust on the gravel road I was traveling. A gravel truck.

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter
The gravel truck that appeared out of the desert road dust cloud. It belongs to the Otero County Road Department (New Mexico)

I flagged down the driver. Gave him my letter. Asked him to post it when he got home.

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter
The hand off. You can see by the grin on my face that I’m mighty happy to be seeing someone way out there in the desert. Thanks Otero County Road Department!

That night, alone in my wagon, I thought of the new journey my letter had begun. How that letter, entrusted to a flagged down stranger, would be making its way back to civilization. Outside, the desert wind blew. I felt a little less alone knowing word of my existence would reach the outside world.

Mule Polly and I are home now. Here’s how you can watch the entire Lost Sea Expedition series:

Public TV:

-Rocky Mountain PBS (Colorado)
June 7, 14, 28 and July 5 / 7p


- Amazon included free with Prime. If you enjoy the series please leave a review on Amazon. These really help.

- Vimeo


- available at the RiverEarth.com General Store.

PS: I have a hard wired need to mail folks letters and cards. Oh, and to pay for my travels as I go. To help finance my half-year journey around Tasmania on a $10 bike, there was the Postcard from Tasmania….

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter
The Post Card from Tasmania

That series sold out but here’s some of the cards I sent from:
- the southern-most pub in Australia.
-wallaby-thick Flinders Island, Tasmania
Yes, I discovered you can even send a beer can postcard from Tasmania to anywhere in the world

Posted Tuesday May 29, 2018 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Three Lanterns
April 24, 2018

A good kerosene lantern makes you wish the power would stay off a few more lamp lit meals. A bad one makes you choke and hope like hell the power company gets the lights back on as soon as possible. The truth lies somewhere between the romance and the smoke.

bernie harberts mule rider unct tv public television tiny home vardo
Wagon life with a kerosene lantern on a good evening. From UNC-TV’s “Mule Rider” program about one of my wagon trips through eastern North Carolina. You can view the program at the end of this piece.

Over the years I’ve messed with a bunch of lanterns in my wagon travels. Three stand out. They are:

- the Dietz No 8 Air Pilot
- the Cheap Chinese lantern
- the Ever Bright lantern

Dietz No 8 Air Pilot
This is my good lantern. It’s big. It throws a lot of light. I put a match to its inch-wide cotton wick when the lines go down and the bulbs go dark. I also use it for short trips in my Newfie wagon, the wagon mule Polly toured Newfoundland with. bernie harberts  wagon kerosen lantern
The Dietz No 8 hanging in the Newfie wagon, the wagon I traveled Newfoundland aboard. It throws off enough heat to warm the wagon on a cool night. Only trouble is it makes the wagon smell like an airport. Should I be burning lamp oil instead of kerosene?
bernie harberts  wagon kerosen lantern
The Newfie wagon in Newfoudland. I built it in my barn. Mule Polly and I ended up spending half a year traveling Newfoundland together in this rig.

The Dietz holds a scary amount of kerosene. It’s what I imagine Misses O’Leary used to burn down Chicago. I’ve had this lamp 20 years and it’s survived sailboats, parties, my Alzheimered mother and multiple wagon voyages.

The only thing about this lantern is it’s big. Really big. So mostly it hangs on my cabin wall, waiting for some tree to fall on the power line and plunge us in to darkness. I sometimes use it in the Lost Sea Expedition wagon, the wagon I used for the Lost Sea Expedition TV series. (You can read plenty more about the series at LostSeaExpedition.com.)

bernie harberts  wagon kerosen lantern
The Lost Sea Expedition wagon toward the end of mule Polly and my 14 month voyage from Canada to Mexico. I filmed the journey with the solar powered gear I carried on my wagon. The series premiered on Rocky Mountain PBS. You can stream it on Amazon free/w Prime and Vimeo. Or you can buy the DVD here at the RiverEarth.com General Store. (Hudspeth County, Texas)
Cheap Chinese kero lantern from Walmart.

A few years after I traveled from Canada to Mexico for the Lost Sea Expedition, I decided I’d visit Newfoundland with mule Polly. I knew the big Dietz was too large for my wagon. I needed something smaller. Funds were tight so I went to Walmart and bought this cheap lamp. I paid $5.67. It’s called the Florasense Hurricane Oil Lamp.

bernie harberts  wagon kerosen lantern tiny home vardo rocky mountain pbs
The Florasense Hurricane (Tourism Newfoundland & Labrador / Walmart photo)

The name inspired equal parts patsy and badass. The “Forasense” made me think of scented oils. The “Hurricane” made me think this lamp could survive Newfoundland. I should sue for misrepresentation.

I bought this lamp because I wanted something cheap, something sacrificial, something I wouldn’t mind breaking.

My new purchase didn’t disappoint.

The day I brought the lantern back to my wagon, before I even fired it up, I sat on it. Broke the glass. Not the lamp’s fault. I hadn’t even left town yet so I drove back to Walmart and forked out another $5.67 for a replacement lamp. Walmart doesn’t sell the glass globe for this lamp. You have to buy the whole lamp.

This second lantern traveled with me 6 months across Newfoundland by mule. It leaked. It stank. It spilled kero at the lightest bump. The glass fell out of the holder. The burner assembly jammed. The top unscrewed. All. The. Time. But it survived. A real piece of junk that was supposed to be a sacrificial lamp so I didn’t destroy my good lamp.

I finally broke it by…. sitting on it. Again.

I didn’t replace it.

bernie harberts  wagon kerosen lantern
A scene from my wagon journey across Newfoundland. The Chinese Hurricane lantern is hanging from my writing desk. The lamp lived up to its name. The day this photo was taken, a hurricane was passing over top of us. Look closely and you can see a soaked mule Polly hunkered down outside the wagon door.

That lamp did achieve a sliver of immortality. It appears 42 seconds in to this short piece filmed by Tourism Newfoundland and Labrador. Check out the video for a great recap of our voyage.

Yellow Ever Bright

After my trip across Newfoundland, UNC-TV and “Our State” magazine wanted to join me for one of my wagon rambles through eastern North Carolina. Their film crew would join me for a week on the road to give viewers a look at the wagon life.

bernie harberts  wagon kerosen lantern
A scene from “Mule Rider”, the piece UNC-TV did about my trip through eastern North Carolina. The yellow lantern I used on that trip appears a few times

A few days before the guys with the big cameras and microphone booms showed up, I smashed my cheap lantern. My buddy Kieth Smith of TownDock.net in Oriental loaned me this lantern. He’d used it for years as an anchor light on his sailboat Heatherbelle. If memory serves, that yellow lamp ended up going to Cuba with Keith and then up the East coast to Nova Scotia.

It proved a great wagon lamp. The narrow wick didn’t throw a lot of light. No matter. After half an hour of lamp light, your eyes get used to the dark so it was plenty to see by. It was tough, too. Strong enough to get jostled around the wagon without breaking.

UNC-TV put together a great piece about that week long wagon trip. It’s called “Mule Rider” and won a regional Emmy for director Morgan Potts. You can see the yellow lamp in the opening scene.

The only hitch in the whole thing was I forgot to return the yellow lantern to my buddy Kieth after I got done using it. I think he was grumpy about it. We’re good friends so that shows you how much he thinks about that lamp. I finally got it back to him. I saw it on his shelf last time I visited. We’re all right now.

Here’s the full UNC-TV / “Our State” magazine piece. Watch for the lantern.

The verdict
Do I have a favorite wagon lantern? Not really. Turns out the big Dietz that throws all the light is too big for long term wagon use. And the cheap lantern threw off enough light but gassed me. And the one I liked the best, the Ever Bright? It’s sitting on my buddy Keith’s shelve, hundreds of miles away. I may have to pay him a visit.

Posted Tuesday April 24, 2018 by Bernie
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Where, When and How to Watch the Lost Sea Expedition Series
December 30, 2017

bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition tiny home rocky mountain pbs adventure documentary
Enough viewing options to stop a mule in her tracks….
It’s enough to confuse a mule that’s walked across America: where to watch the Lost Sea Expedition series. Here, in terms even mule Polly can understand, is the schedule.

Rocky Mountain PBS

bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition tiny home rocky mountain pbs adventure documentary

The Lost Sea Expedition made its Prime Time premiere January 4, 2018 at 8 pm on Rocky Mountain PBS. A new episode airs every Thursday in January.

Amazon Video Direct

dvd bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition tiny home rocky mountain pbs adventure documentary

FREE with Amazon Prime. Stream one episode. Binge watch your merry way across America. Start streaming right here.


vimeo bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition tiny home rocky mountain pbs adventure documentary

Stream a new Episdoe Vimeo every Thursday in January. You can check out the snazzy Vimeo page we’ve set up right here.


riverearth general store dvd bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition tiny home rocky mountain pbs adventure documentary

Lost Sea Expedition DVDs are available right here at the General Store and at LostSeaExpedition.com. All pre-ordered DVDs will be signed by me (Bernie Harberts). DVDs ship after the series airs on Rocky Mountain PBS. Shipping date Feb 19, 2018 (tent).

See, that’s simple enough even mule Polly can figure it out!

We look forward to sharing the series with you. Feel free to us drop a line with any viewing questions.

Posted Saturday December 30, 2017 by Bernie
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The Lost Sea Expedition on Rocky Mountain PBS January 4, 11, 18 and 25
December 5, 2017

bernie harberts lost sea expedition rocky mountain pbs

I’m super excited to announced the airing time and dates for the 4-part Lost Sea Expedition documentary on Rocky Mountain PBS (Colorado). You’ll also be able to stream the series on Amazon. That link will be up shortly (in the General Store).

The Lost Sea Expedition on Rocky Mountain PBS

Starting January 4, a new episode of the Lost Sea Expedition will air each week in January. Each episode will air twice. Airing times and dates are:

Primetime (8pm)
Thursday, January 4 at 8 pm
Thursday, January 11 at 8 pm
Thursday, January18 at 8 pm
Thursday, January 25 at 8 pm

To make it easy, just remember that’s the first 4 Thursdays in January at 8 pm.

If you missed the series or are a night owl, you can catch it 5 hours later.

Overnights (1am)
Thursday, January 5 at 1 am
Thursday, January 12 at 1 am
Thursday, January 19 at 1 am
Thursday, January 26 at 1 am

Be sure to tell all your friends that live in Colorado to tune in to the series.

bernie harberts lost sea expedition rocky mountain pbs
596,000 weekly viewers throughout Colorado tune in to Rocky Mountain PBS delivering an unmatched 98% reach into Colorado homes (Source: Nielsen November 2016).
It will air on all the Rocky Mountain PBS affiliates. They are:
KRMA - Denver
KTSC – Colorado Springs/Pueblo
KRMJ – Grand Junction
KRMU – Durango
KRMZ – Steamboat Springs

What if you don’t live in Colorado…?

Don’t live in Colorado but want to check out the series? No worries. Here are some ways you can watch the documentary anywhere.

Streaming the series

Starting January 4, you’ll be able to stream each of the 4 episodes after it airs on Rocky Mountain PBS. We’ll have that link up in the General Store. For those who generously donated to the Lost Sea Expedition, we’ll get up a link where you can stream the series for free. Stay tuned.

DVDs are coming

We’re fitting special shoes to mule Polly’s hooves so she can stomp out Lost Sea Expedition DVDs the pioneer way. Just kidding. We will have factory pressed DVDs available after the series premiers so you can enjoy the journey. We’ll let you know when they go on sale.

bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition fort collins rocky mountain pbs
A scene from mule Polly and my fundraising trip to Colorado this June. Here she’s hanging with Tuesday and Oakley during an earlier jaunt in to Ft Collins. Thanks for the purple carrot guys! For a fun story about plant decapitation and fundraising gone awry – check out the story about Pat’s Palm.
bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition fort collins rocky mountain pbs
The Lost Sea Expedition DVD. With a bit of mule power, we’ve transformed mule Polly’s wagon voyage across America in to this snazzy DVD. It will be available for pre-order and ships after the series premiers on Rocky Mountain PBS.

In the meantime, you can catch up on all the Lost Sea Expedition series news and updates here at LostSeaExpedition.com.
Or you can preview the full length series trailer right here.

The map below shows where the mule Polly was hanging out in the photo above.

Posted Tuesday December 5, 2017 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Pickle Barrel Raft
May 15, 2017

bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
Some voyages include dolphins off the bow (Falkland Islands, Southern Ocean). Others entail pickle barrels lashed up under a deck (western North Carolina). Both are fine ways to sally forth.

Some days, a man dreams of sailing away in a schooner, dolphins dodging the striker stay. Others he’s content with a pond and a pickle barrel. It’s okay to take a break from pursuing something big to take a shot at something a bit, well, tangential.

Thing is, there’s an ebb and flow between life on the road and life at home, digesting the latest journey, pondering the next. Right now, I’m about midway through this cycle.

A year and a half ago, my friends asked me if I’d help them sail their wood ketch from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia, off Antarctica. Of course I went and lost myself in that dark nether part of the ocean world.

That was the Southern Ocean, that watery universe of glacier blue icebergs and business-suited penguins. That was the ocean so cold sailors joked the only reason to wear a bright colored life jacket was to make it easier to find the body. The ocean that could put your vessel on the rocks at the whim of a gale.

This was Shackleton’s part of the world, where all skin that could be covered was protected which is why men, including me, grew beards.

bernie harberts south georgia, ice berg southern ocean sailor raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
My beard offered good protection from the bitter winds blowing off Antarctica and nearby icebergs. It offered no protection from sailing in to icebergs, like the one in the background. Yes, that still happens in the Age of Autonomous Vehicles and Machine Learning. (53 degrees South, off South Georgia, Southern Ocean)

Which brings us back to now. I’m home in western North Carolina. Home on the farm more concerned about the last frost date than being sunk by an ice berg. The beard is gone.

bernie harberts south georgia, ice berg southern ocean sailor raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
Thank you: here, I’m thanking some of the many folks that are helping underwrite the Lost Sea Expedition documentary. The 4-part series is heading toward Public Television. It’s my way of taking viewers on the road with mule Polly and me. It would be great if you could help us out!

It’s been a time of great focus. Instead of running away, the focus has been on staying home to bring one of my all-time favorite runaways to Public Television. That would be the Lost Sea Expedition , the 4-part documentary about my 14 month Canada to Mexico wagon voyage.

Currently we (Julia and I and a bunch of other folks) are working on fundraising and distribution.

Thing is, I’ve got wiggle worms in my blood. Sure, I can stand in front of my computer for hours and weeks editing film footage. But when Julia asked me one day, “hey, could we use foam to build a raft?” I said, “well, barrels would be better.”

24 hours later, we had 10 pickle barrels waiting to be assembled in to a raft. 48 hours later, we had a frame cobbled together.
72 hours later, we had a forest fire. Damn. So…….4 months later, we’d converted those barrels, bolts and boards in to a 10’ X 10’ raft.


Here are some photos of the whole caper unfolding.

bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
Pickle barrels: I keep calling them “pickle barrels” but they actually contained vinegar. Here, Snookie supervises as Julia and I seal each bung with silicone caulk.
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
The frame is made of pressure treated wood – aka “poison pine”. Instead of using 2” x 6” boards, I built it with 2” X 10” lumber. Having just come back from the Southern Ocean, I guess I was still worried about ice bergs. I know. That’s sorta paranoid given we’re 300 miles from the ocean. I hadn’t reckoned on the extra weight this would add to the vessel. So….. I went back with a chainsaw and cut out sections of each beam. This reduced the weight without affecting the strength much. The diagonal wires attached to the corner posts keep the raft square.
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
My back woods construction site. No, this vessel is not Coast Guard approved.
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
Strikin’ a pose: the raft ready for launching. Every vessel needs a flag. In this case, a piece of Danger Red plastic we tied to the end of the over-length boards we hauled home from the building supply store.
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
Launch: instead of using Polly the mule to push the raft in to the pond (romantic) we used the New Holland tractor (boring but effective).
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
Going from land to pond critter. The rafts moments before touching the water.
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
She floats! Yes, that’s wood smoke wafting up from the deck. It comes from….
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
…the burn barrel every proper raft needs. In this case, I used an old cast iron pot. It came from my good buddy Kenny Tyndall – river dweller, scrap yard man and mule driver.
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
A ceremonial toast

The lesson to all this? Sometimes, it’s okay to throw in a few small side projects while aiming at something big.

In the case of the Lost Sea Expedition , that voyage took 14 months. Turning that footage in to a Public Television series has taken much, much longer. In that time, my restless spirit has raised its head numerous time. Sometimes a few barrels, bolts and boards are enough to bring temporary relief. They’re enough to keep me slogging ahead with a much bigger project.

bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
Snookie never had any doubts the raft would float. Funny how quickly he’s sliding in to the shanty boat dog lifestyle.

Of course, now Julia, Snookie, my brother Christian (who took a bunch of these photos) and I are ready to haul the Pickle Raft to the nearest river and float ‘er down to the sea. But first I have a documentary to finish.

So tell me, what does your lateral project, your personal, symbolic “pickle raft”, look like?

Pickle Raft specs:
Dimensions: 10’ x 10’
Draft: 8”
Capacity: 6 humans, 2 dogs
Big (55 gal) barrels: 8
Med (40 gal) barrels: 2
Barrel source: Craigslist / Charlotte, NC
Cost (est): $500 = lots of free stuff around the farm + barrels ($100) + hardware ($100) + lumber ($300)
Time to build: 40 hours over 4 months (I hadn’t planned on the forest fire….)

Posted Monday May 15, 2017 by Bernie
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