Frenchman travels through Carson Valley with two mules on trek around U.S. | RecordCourier.com
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Frenchman travels through Carson Valley with two mules on trek around U.S.

by Linda Hiller

And you thought your workout was excessive.

Tuesday, a Frenchman and his two mules turned heads as they walked through Carson Valley on their way to Wyoming. This is month seven of their “walk.”

Emile Brager, a high school teacher from Montaren, near Avignon and Marseilles, France, is on a journey he calls “the prairie ride.”

Brager, 48, started out Aug. 16, 1998, in Washington, D.C., and has been walking with his mules, Ma Mie and Boy, south through the states ever since.

His wife, Marie Roesle, travels along his route with a vehicle and joins him at camp each night, he said.

“I never know where she is, though,” he said, looking around with a smile.

Brager and his “crew” spent Monday night at Bodie Flats, he said, and passed by The Record-Courier building midmorning on Tuesday.

He sports a deep tan and a long bushy mustache. His mules, carrying packs and looking healthy, had recently been shod, a practice he must do himself every 600 miles or so.

Though Brager has two sponsors who are helping with his trek – Life Data Laboratories (providing “Farriers Formula” for the mules’ hoof care), and Ste. Croix Forge (providing horseshoes) – he said staying in a motel would be too expensive, costing a week’s worth of mule food.

“Besides, where would I put my mules if I stayed in a motel?” he asked.

Brager and his mules have averaged 700 miles per month, he estimated, which comes to more than 30 miles each day.

n Please slow down. When asked about American food, Brager screwed up his face but tried to be polite.

“Too much suugar in the food,” he said. “There’s even sugar as a preservative in the salt.”

Brager said the most disturbing aspect of the trip has been the fast motor traffic that whizzes past him on the roads. To provide some protection, he carries a homemade flag made of a stick and a piece of red netting to alert drivers of his presence, as if two large mules and one solid man aren’t signal enough.

“It’s incredible how people drive – how fast and how sleepy they drive,” he said. “They pass by so fast like they own the road.”

Brager said the trip has been satisfying so far, and cited New Mexico and southern Utah – specifically the Lake Powell area – as the most memorable locales . From Gardnerville, he headed to Carson City, where he hoped to hook up with the Pony Express route. Then, he said, he’ll head east, back into Utah, on to Wyoming, Chimney Rock, Neb., and up into South Dakota to visit Indian grounds. He then plans to finish The Prairie Ride in Yellowstone sometime the end of July.

n Why walk so far? This is not the first lengthy journey taken by Brager and his wife. They traveled 6,000 miles by horseback through Europe on “the long way around,” and also spent four years going from the Strait of Magellan in Argentina to Fairbanks, Alaska on “caravan for a ccontinent.”

Brager said he is doing the trip for a variety of reasons.

For one, slides and information gathered on the journey will be compiled and presented to students in France with the aim of better educating them about the United States.

He also plans to write about the 1-year adventure in a few French horseman-related magazines.

But perhaps the most poignant reason Brager and his wife do these long, ambitious trips was summed up as he searched to find the right words in English.

“Life is made to be enjoyed, not to work,” he said.