A man (Melvin McCoy) and his M.U.L.E.
On July 1st, Memphian Melvin McCoy will set out on foot for a 500-mile journey from Knoxville, Tennessee, to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. And his only companions will be his dog and his M.U.L.E.
The M.U.L.E., which stands for Multipurpose Uniaxial Litter Enginery, is McCoy’s own invention. It’s a heavy-duty rolling backpack that can carry several hundred pounds of supplies without causing back strain.
It straps over the shoulders like a normal backpack but extends to the ground for maximum storage. A wheel at its base allows the user to pull the device, and a strap around the waist reduces strain. It’s designed to allow one person to carry the weight and volume that would normally be carried by two people.
McCoy first tested the device on a cross-country walk from Newport Beach, California, to Lewes, Delaware, in 1992. But he set a record with it in 2004, when he became the first man to cross Death Valley in the summer without vehicle support.
“Without the M.U.L.E., this trip literally would have been suicide. It allowed me to bring water, shelter, food, and medicine. I truly believe anybody could have done the same thing with the M.U.L.E.,” McCoy told the Memphis Flyer in a story about the Death Valley trip in 2004.
The upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., is an awareness walk and fund-raiser for Memphis-based Alpha Omega Veterans Services, which helps veterans recover from debilitating mental and physical conditions and reintegrate into society.
McCoy will go from Knoxville to Bristol, Tennessee. And then he’ll enter Virginia, where he’ll pass through Damascus, Richmond, and Alexandria, before entering his final stop at Washington, D.C. A map of his route is available here: themule.com/the-walk.