On Monday, March 5, 2018, the Mules emailed California’s Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and California Highway Patrol (CHP) requesting motorized escort in the seven mile section where no other public pedestrian route is provided from Oceanside to the Old Pacific Highway Trail.
The email was sent to – Laurie Berman, Caltrans Chief Deputy Director – Cory Binns, Caltrans Director District 11 – Rachel Carpenter, Caltrans Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety Branch Chief – Warren Stanley, CHP Commissioner – Scott Silsbee, CHP Deputy Commissioner – Jim Abele, CHP Border Division Chief – Edmund G. Brown, Governor of California
The email stated the following:
Hello, my name is John Sears. I serve in the capacity of a roving monk living outside with one pack mule named Little Girl, who has been by my side for the past 25 years walking the western United States, exercising our constitutional right to use the federal, state, county, and city public thoroughfare. We also refer to ourselves as “The Mules” and document our journey extensively on our website 3Mules.com and our 3 Mules Facebook page.
On February 23, 2018, we went to Camp Pendleton’s Main Gate and requested passage to walk through the base to get to the Las Pulgas gate so that we could continue our journey onto the Old Pacific Highway Trail to San Clemente as we have done as part of our migratory journey three times in the past four years. We were denied access this time because we were not traveling by bicycle.
Upon getting off the base, I phone California Highway Patrol (CHP) in Oceanside and spoke to the CHP watch commander informing him that I would be walking north on I-5 from Oceanside because I was refused entry into Camp Pendleton. The watch commander told me that I would not be allowed on I-5. I said that when there is no alternative route, we have the right to use the only one route that is available, and that by default is I-5. He repeated his statement that we were not allowed on I-5. I responded that we will be walking on I-5. The watch commander said, “Use your best judgement.”
After walking for about 30 minutes on I-5, we were stopped by CHP demanding that we turn around and leave I-5 or face arrest. We refused to leave asserting our right to use the public thoroughfare as this was the only route that will take us to the Old Pacific Highway Trail under seven miles away. The public thoroughfare is not, nor was it ever intended for the exclusive use of high speed automobiles. Bicyclists were riding on this same I-5 shoulder and were not stopped, detained or arrested. However, the Mules were arrested, charged with Penal Code 148(A) obstruction failing to obey a police officer with the Monk taken to Vista Detention Center, released and given a Notice to Appear in North Division Court in Vista on April 6, 2018. Little Girl was impounded and held at the Humane Society Animal Shelter in Escondido.
The Mules still need to travel north to San Clemente. I-5 is still the only available route. I am writing you to request a motorized escort to be provided by Caltrans, CHP or both in this seven mile section where no other public route is provided from Oceanside until we can reach the Old Pacific Highway Trail and continue our journey north.
In researching California and other cases, we found the following:
(a) The Legislature hereby finds and declares 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.
(b) In accordance with the policy declared under subdivision (a), 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, and reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries.
The California Vehicle Code Section 21949 has stated a policy for the Department to provide safe and convenient travel for pedestrians. Conventional highways can be used by pedestrians. Although the Department will work to provide safe and convenient pedestrian travel on these highways, not all of these highways will contain sidewalks and walkways. All state highway projects administered by Caltrans….must be designed in accordance with the requirements in Design Information Bulletin 82, “Pedestrian Accessibility Guidelines for Highway Projects.”
“The use of the highways for the purpose of travel and transportation is not a mere privilege, but a common and fundamental Right of which the public and the individual cannot be rightfully deprived.” [Ligare vs. Chicago, 28 NE 934; Boon vs. Clark, 214 SSW 607; 25 Am.Jur. (1st) Highways Section. 165]
“The Right of the Citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, either by horse drawn carriage or by automobile, is not a mere privilege which a city can prohibit or permit at will, but a common Right which he has under the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” [Supreme Court of Virginia, Thompson V. Smith, 154 SE 579.]
Since I live outside and keep my phone off to preserve battery, I can best be contacted via email, ThreeMuleJourney@gmail.com. Please provide contact on who I may phone to discuss my request to continue our journey walking north from Oceanside to San Clemente with my pack mule.
The Mules are reading a number of comments regarding the issue of safety following our recent truthful account of our arrest on I-5. Nobody or no one exists or operates in total safety mode. Life on earth by its very nature is unsafe. To be completely safe, you need to be dead. Life on earth is rife with risks.
With regards to the Mules walking down the side of the highway, are we perfectly safe? No.
Are motorcyclists darting in and out of traffic at high speeds perfectly safe? No.
Is the high-speed motorists moving at speeds of 65 to 80mph bumper to bumper in heavy traffic distracted by alcohol, drugs, texting, eating, etc. perfectly safe? No.
Is a bicyclist peddling along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway or on I-5 from San Clemente to Oceanside perfectly safe? No.
So it behooves the Mules, to walk over to the safety scanner, walk through and get a reading as to our degree of safety.
The Mules walk at 3mph, weigh about 1000lbs, have never been in a wreck or caused one, as opposed to the high speed motorist who moves at 65 to 80mph, weighs from 1500lb to 40,000lbs and kills and maims itself and others by thousands every year.
The degree of safety at which the Mules operate is by far much higher than the high speed motorists, the gap between the two is huge. For the CHP to stop and order the Mules off I-5 using the pre-text and guise of safety to justify their order is illegal.
To any common sense mind, the Mules by far operate at a much higher degree of safety than the high speed motorist. When non-motorists (pedestrian, bicyclists, equestrians, wheel chairs, etc.) step onto I-5 because there is no other alternative route, that section of I-5 immediately becomes subject to the same rules and regulations that apply to all state, county, city roads.
California vehicle code law 21949 passed by California legislature and made effective January 1, 2001 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, and reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries.”
California’s Department of Transportation (CalTrans) can easily post a mandatory speed reduction to 50mph on their overhead flashing neon signs bringing this unlawful section of I-5 into compliance so cyclists, pedestrians, equestrians and all other legal users can exercise their constitutional right to move freely on the state public thoroughfare.
A mandatory speed reduction of 50mph in this section of I-5 where no alternative route for non-motorist is present will bring this section under the same rules and regulations as all roads we travel every day.
UPDATE: Attorney Candice Fields of Candice Fields Law, who assists the Mules and the Three Mules Nation, sent us an update in regards to our I-5 case: The San Diego District Attorney decided not to file criminal charges against the Mules for Penal Code Section 148(a) Obstruction, which means there will be no case at all, and therefore no hearing on Friday, April 6, 2018.
The District Attorney said that they did not make this decision because they felt the law, as written, would not support a conviction. They made their decision because they were concerned about jury nullification. They felt their case was not winnable with a jury who might ignore the law and find the Mules not guilty.
For those not familiar with this area, United States Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton is located on the Southern California coast in San Diego County spanning over 125,000 acres, bordered by the city of Oceanside to the south and Orange county to the north. For an 8-mile section where Interstate 5 (I-5) goes through Camp Pendleton, the Old Pacific Coast Trail for non-motorized use discontinues. The only way for non-motorized travelers to pass through this section of the California coast without walking on the side of the interstate is to enter through Pendleton’s Main Gate near Oceanside and walk 8.3 miles through the base to get to the Las Pulgas Gate, where the Old Pacific Highway Trail begins again to get to San Clemente. One cannot walk along 17-miles of the sandy beaches on the coastline that parallels I-5 as this also is part of the base. The Mules have taken the Pendleton Main Gate-Las Pulgas Gate (and vice versa) route three times in the past four years with military escort without any issues.
Arriving at the Main Gate guard shack, I secured Little Girl and went into the guard shack requesting passage through the base to the Las Pulgas Gate so that we could continue our journey onto the Old Pacific Highway Trail to San Clemente. The guard said to wait while he checked with the PMO. We waited outside for about half an hour. The guard came back and said we would not be allowed to go through the base. I told the guard we had passed through there three times previous with a military police escort. He said he was sorry but the PMO said we could not pass and we would have to leave immediately. So we did.
Upon getting off the base, I phoned California Highway Patrol (CHP) in Oceanside and spoke to the CHP watch commander informing him that I would be walking north on I-5 from Oceanside because I was refused entry into Camp Pendleton and there was no other alternative route other than I-5. The watch commander told me that I would not be allowed on I-5. We said, when there is no alternative route, we have the right to use the only one route that is available, and that by default is I-5. He repeated his statement that we were not allowed on I-5. I responded we will be walking on I-5. The watch commander said, “Use your best judgement.”
We then headed for I-5 and got on it. The shoulder was wide with other bicycles on it.
After walking about 1.5 miles, a CHP officer on a motorcycle came towards us and stopped. He informed us that we could go no further and that we would have to turn around and get off the freeway. We said we had the right to be here because there was no other way to travel north to San Clemente other than I-5. He repeated his assertion that we must turn around and get off. I said I would not. He said if we didn’t I would be arrested and Little Girl would be impounded. So, that’s what happened.
I was taken to Vista Detention Facility. Little Girl was picked up by animal control and taken to the animal shelter. I was in jail for about 5 hours, charged with Penal Code 148(A) obstruction failing to obey a police officer, given a court date, then released.
I was told by the jail that my property was being held at the CHP. I called CHP from the jail lobby and was told by the lady who answered the phone that the property officer was out for the day and would not be back until Monday morning. If I wanted to get my property, I would need to make an appointment to talk to the property officer on Monday. I told the lady over the phone that I needed my cell phone and my wallet and various items that were in my backpack and I could not wait until Monday. She said she was sorry, but the property officer was out for the day and he would not be back until Monday.
I decided that I would go to the CHP office across the street from the jail and see what I could do. Upon entering the office, a uniformed officer was in the room. He asked me what it was he could do for me. I told him that I was informed that my property was here. He said hold on, I’ll see what I can do. About 10 minutes later, he came back and told me that my property was not in their possession and that it was at the Palomar Airport Road Animal Shelter. He gave me a number and an address. I asked him if he could call them and make sure that was where my property was and that they had possession of it. He got on the phone, made the call, and apparently talked to somebody there who gave him confirmation that yes indeed they had my property.
The CHP officer would not allow me to use there phone, so I walked back to the jail and called the number myself to confirm the information given to me by the CHP officer but I could not get through.
I returned to the CHP office, and informed the officer that I called the number he gave me and was not able to reach anybody there. I inquired why he was able to get through and I was not. He said he didn’t know, but he assured me that he had spoken to the Palomar Airport Road animal shelter and that was where my property was.
From there I started walking at approximately 4pm, I left the CHP office in Vista and started walking to animal shelter in Carlsbad. I walked until about 9:00 pm, found some bushes to take shelter, stayed through the night, awoke in the morning about 6AM, and continued my way to the Palomar Airport Animal Shelter. Upon arriving there around Saturday morning 8:30am, I talked to a lady that was walking a dog if they had a mule on the premises. She said I could go around in the back where they keep the large animals and take a look. There were no large animals there. I asked her if my property was in their possession. She went inside to find out, returned and stated clearly that it was not in their possession. So I asked her where would it be? She said Escondido Humane Society takes large animals. It was her best guess that was where my mule and property would be.
I got on the phone, made some calls and confirmed that Little Girl was 16-miles away at the Humane Society shelter in Escondido. I spent the rest of Saturday walking and riding the bus to get to the Escondido Animal Shelter to retake possession of Little Girl and my property. The Mules say thank you to L. Monreal, Carlie and the staff of folks at the San Diego Humane Society (Escondido) for taking such good care of Little Girl while the Monk was in jail.
I am not admitting guilt to the charge against me, but this is a truthful account pertaining to our arrest, charges brought of obstruction. and then our subsequent release for walking with Little Girl on Interstate 5.
We will be contacting California’s Department of Transportation CalTrans Chief in Sacramento and the CHP watch commander and once again informing that we need to walk on I-5 as there is no alternative route. The base is not an acceptable route, which requires waiting 4-5 days for permission to be granted. At which time if we are again refused and threatened with arrest by CHP, we will request CHP escort on I-5 where traffic can be slowed down to a safe level for our passage. We will not accept trailer transportation from a private party. We will be asserting our right and all equestrians’ rights for a safe means of moving on the public thoroughfare.
The Mules are also in search of an attorney who is interested in representing us pro bono at our San Diego County Superior Court date appearance on 4/6/2018 7:30am in Vista, CA (325 S. Melrose Dr.). If interested, contact the Mules via email at ThreeMuleJourney@gmail.com.
(a) The Legislature hereby finds and declares 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. (b) In accordance with the policy declared under subdivision (a), 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, and reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries. (Added by Stats. 2000, Ch. 833, Sec. 6. Effective January 1, 2001.)
California Department of Transportation Manual Chapter Topic 105 – Pedestrian Facilities Topic 105 – Pedestrian Facilities 105.1 General Policy The California Vehicle Code Section 21949 has stated a policy for the Department to provide safe and convenient travel for pedestrians. Conventional highways can be used by pedestrians. Although the Department will work to provide safe and convenient pedestrian travel on these highways, not all of these highways will contain sidewalks and walkways. Connections between different modes of travel should be considered when designing highway facilities, as all people may become pedestrians when transferring to a transit based facility. Pedestrian use near transit facilities should be considered during the planning phase of transportation improvement projects. See DIB 82 for accessibility guidance of pedestrian facilities.
(b) All State highway projects administered by Caltrans or others with pedestrian facilities must be designed in accordance with the requirements in Design Information Bulletin 82, “Pedestrian Accessibility Guidelines for Highway Projects.”
U.S. Supreme Court ruling “The right of a citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, by horse drawn carriage, wagon, or automobile, is not a mere privilege which may be permitted or prohibited at will, but a common right which he has under his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Under this constitutional guaranty one may, therefore, under normal conditions, travel at his inclination along the public highways or in public places, and while conducting himself in an orderly and decent manner, neither interfering with nor disturbing another’s rights, he will be protected, not only in his person, but in his safe conduct.”