On February 23, 2018, the Mules left Oceanside to go north to San Clemente taking I-5. Unlike cyclists and pedestrians, equestrians have no alternative route, no trails, no frontage road, for this nine-mile stretch from Oceanside to Las Pulgas Road trailhead. Since Camp Pendleton denied bike route access to the Mules which they’ve granted the Mules three times previously, the Mules used the wide shoulder of Interstate 5 (I-5) to walk north. We were stopped by California Highway Patrol (CHP) and told to go back to Oceanside. We refused on the grounds that since no alternative route existed we had every right to use the freeway. Since we refused, we were arrested and taken to jail (Mule’s Account of Arrest on I-5). The San Diego District Attorney dropped the charges as they felt their case was not winnable with a jury.
Between March 5 through April 9th, the Mules had numerous back and forth emails and phone conversations with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and CHP requesting an alternative route that the Mules and equestrians can take or provide a motorized escort to get from Oceanside to Las Pulgas Road trailhead. Caltrans and CHP repeatedly said no to our request.
On April 23, the Mules received the following letter from Caltrans Interim District Director Timothy M. Gubbins:
The Mules believe that California Vehicle Code 21960 is unconstitutional. When there is no alternative route for a nine-mile stretch without walking excessive out-of-the-way-to-the-moon-and-back miles, the Mules and all other equestrians cannot be refused access to the public thoroughfare on the grounds of safety when the Mules offered a scheme by which a motorized escort could be provided by CHP and/or Caltrans. They do it all the time for assorted circumstances and ours would certainly be one of those. There is no reason why it couldn’t be done for the Mules and all other equestrians to go nine miles from Oceanside to Las Pulgas Road exit.
All laws are based on common sense. They start from that category and that’s what gives them a foundation for legitimacy, a common sense start. So we claim that to any common sense mind, equestrians have the same right to the public thoroughfare as any motorist, cyclist and pedestrian. We are legal citizens of the United States, we pay our taxes, and we have equal access to the public thoroughfare. And when our right to use the public thoroughfare is denied arbitrarily by the legislature picking winners and losers not on the bases of good common sense but on the bases of self interests, that is illegal. CVC Section 21960 was passed illegally and stands in an illegal condition.
On the 3 Mules Facebook page, we requested route recommendation from the local people that follow our page. A gentleman by the name of Thomas Firth who knows the area and the roads very well and is also an experienced horse person pleaded with us to not use the roads that would get us to the Pacific Crest Trail. He said that they were very dangerous and it was suicidal. As well, the Pacific Crest Trail is seasonal. It can only be traveled when the snow is not there. Firth wrote to us, “If your plan is to get to the PCT, you are not equipped for that trail at this time of year with your animal, as much of it isn’t navigable with stock yet, due to snow and downed trees over Mt. San Jacinto. If you plan on doing the PCT south, it is still closed, and doesn’t get you where you wish to go anyway, without dropping back onto 74. That stretch is suicide at best.” The PCT alternative route proposed by Director Gubbins was not a viable alternative route to get to San Clemente.
Gubbins further stated, “There are also several resources available online to locate equestrian trails, including National Park Service, California Trail Map, and Trail Link.” These suggested trails by Caltrans are recreational trails not anywhere near Oceanside and are not useful for equestrian travelers trying to get from Oceanside to San Clemente.
No National Parks exist between Oceanside and San Clemente. The California Trail Map shows that there are no existing trails to get from Oceanside to San Clemente for pedestrians or equestrians. The route that the Mules have walked through three times in the last five years was through Camp Pendleton from Las Pulgas gate to Oceanside gate on the Camp Pendleton bike route. This is the only route to get from Oceanside to the Las Pulgas Road/Old Pacific Highway Trailhead avoiding I-5.
On August 25, 2015, the Mules were going from Sausalito to San Francisco and had to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, which allow pedestrian access. However, we were stopped as equestrians were not allowed on the premise of safety. The Mules asked the Golden Gate Bridge District for an exception based on our experience but our request was denied. As an alternative, the Golden Gate Bridge District agreed to provide the Mules a motorized escort across the Golden Gate Bridge at their expense. Marin Humane Society, who contracts with the Bridge District to handle all animal issues, picked us up on the north end of the bridge in a trailer and dropped us off in San Francisco.
We repeatedly contacted Caltrans and CHP requesting motorized escort to resolve the I-5 CALL-DUN-DRUM and was repeatedly denied. In the Oceanside area, CHP and Caltrans contracts with the San Diego Humane Society, as that is who picked up Little Girl when we were arrested.
Instead of transporting the Mules nine miles to the nearby Old Pacific Highway trailhead where we were trying to get to, the State of California solution was to transport Little Girl 30 miles to Escondido and the Monk 15 miles to Vista and use up San Diego County time and resources processing the Mules.
A bus is provided for pedestrians to go from Oceanside Transit Center thru Camp Pendleton to San Onefre. Cyclists are permitted to ride thru Camp Pendleton and are also cycling on the shoulder of I-5. Similar to the Golden Gate Bridge solution in place for equestrians, a motorized escort for equestrians provided by CHP/Caltrans contracting with the Human Society of San Diego would be a temporary solution until the common sense solution of building a path, paralleling I-5 connecting Oceanside to Las Pulgas Road/Old Pacific Highway trail head, is constructed.
California Vehicle Code 21949 states that it is the “policy of the State of California that safe and convenient pedestrian travel and access, whether by foot, wheelchair, walker or stroller be provided to the residents of the state. It is the intent of the Legislature that all levels of government in the state, particularly the Department of Transportation, work to provide convenient and safe passage for pedestrians on and across all streets and highways, increase levels of walking and pedestrian travel…”
The State of California failed to follow their policy. The Mules travel by foot. The Mules have four legs and they walk, and the Monk has two legs. We have the same rights to access the public thoroughfare to get from Point A to Point B as any pedestrian, cyclist, or person traveling by wheelchair, walker or stroller. By excluding equestrians on the public thoroughfare, the Legislature/Caltrans is picking winners and losers and deciding that the Mules and all equestrians are losers and they have no rights to the public thoroughfare. This is unconstitutional and illegal. The United States Constitution, the supreme law of the land, grants equal access to free movement in this country to all its citizens for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Why do the Mules take the I-5 CALL-DUN-DRUM so seriously? The answer to us is obvious. The public thoroughfare must remain public. Any restriction of its use to its citizens is dangerous. The Mules have their feet on the ground all day every day. While most people are moving around sealed up inside their automobile with air conditioning moving from one building to the next, the Mules are out here on the road on the earth all day every day. We see what is happening. We know what is taking place. It won’t be long before equestrians will be relegated to moving around in a horse trailer going from one sawdust ring to the next. If you don’t like that scheme and continue to ignore what is currently happening and take no action by contacting your local, county and state policy makers, you will find that in the future your freedom to travel in the United States of America has disappeared. Good luck in getting it back.