Last Saturday afternoon after delivering the Declaration of Emergency to Sebastopol City Hall and stopping at the Sebastopol Library to recharge phone and tablet, we were walking on the side of Gravenstein Highway South (116) heading towards Cotati when a Sonoma County Animal Control Officer stopped to talk to us.
Usually, anytime we are stopped by a police officer or an animal control officer (ACO), it is because a concerned citizen called police or animal dispatch to report the unusual sight of a man walking with three horses that look skinny, tired, and/or abused. The ACO usually approaches and asks the usual questions. We explain that Lady, 36, has walked with us for 31 years, and Little Girl, 26, has walked with us for 23 years, while Who-dee-doo, 11, has only been with us for four months. ACOs usually provide feedback that the kids are in excellent, lean and muscular condition than many of the horses that they see left alone in paddocks all their lives. After confirming that the mules are fine, ACOs wish us well and move on.
However, this past Saturday afternoon, the encounter we had with Sonoma County Animal Control Officer Shirley Zindler was different. She stopped to talk to us after receiving a report that there was a man walking three horses on the side of 116-S. She asked where we were going and we weren’t quite sure yet. She said that she lived a half mile down the road and had a fenced pasture and invited us to stay the night on her property. We accepted her kind offer and ended up staying two restful nights in her pasture. On Sunday, her friend Lisa brought a bale of alfalfa for the kids.
During the course of the weekend, we learned that Shirley started as an animal technician in 2001 for Sonoma County Animal Care and Control and decided to become an ACO when the other ACOs would return to the shelter with adventurous stories from the field. For the past 10 years, she has held the position as an ACO. On her personal time, she fosters dogs, cats, and wildlife at her Dogwood Animal Rescue Project.
Thank you Shirley for your hospitality to The Mules.
As we arrived in Cotati, we were greeted by Cotati Police Officer Perez and a few fans of the Mules, one bringing carrots for the kids. Thank you everyone for your support as well as providing us directions to Cotati City Hall.
Awhile ago, I heard the story about a Chinese farmer named Chen Guan Ming who has been traveling the world since 2001 peddling a one speed, heavy tricycle loaded with his gear and pulling his rickshaw with a rope to get up mountains, visiting 23 countries and over 87,000 miles. He sleeps outside in his rickshaw with his belongings and by news accounts has been redirected to remove himself from riding on a few public thoroughfares by police for safety. My interest in Mr. Chen grew greater when I heard that he had entered California. I wondered if our paths would cross. But before we get to that, here is some background about Mr. Chen.
The Olympic Rickshaw Rider cycling around the world In 2008 at age 53, Chen decided to ride his three-wheel rickshaw 497-miles from his village to the Olympics in Beijing. He rode around 1,700 cities in China to celebrate the Beijing Olympics and was dubbed the“Olympic madman.” Filled with the Olympic spirit, in May 2010, he decided to embark on a truly epic journey. A two-year rickshaw ride from eastern China to London, England, the host of the 2012 Olympics. His long and tortuous route took him through some of the world’s most troubled regions and difficult terrain including flooded Thailand, the Himalayan foothills, war-torn Afghanistanand Pakistan. But despite the condition, and being turned away from Singapore and Myanmar, he finally made it through 16 countries that also included Vietnam, Turkey, Italy, France, where he took a ferry to England and arrived in London in July 2012.
Because nobody knew he was coming, nobody in London welcomed Chen. And with no English to explain his rickshaw odyssey to the locals, it didn’t look like anyone would recognize Chen’s feat. One man, John Beeston, spotted Chen slumped over the handlebars of his rickshaw. Using his limited knowledge of Mandarin Chinese, Beeston discovered Chen’s amazing story and set out to tell the world. Only a few days later, Chen had spoken to BBC and CNN, been awarded a ticket to the opening ceremony of the London games, and been honored at a dinner held by the Chinese Olympic team. Energized by the that journey to the London Olympics, he set his mind to ride to the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
In June 2013, he flew from London to Nova Scotia, traveled west acrossCanada, entering the United States in Washington in January 2015, riding through Oregon, and entered California in February. After KRCR News found him traveling through Red Bluff and ran astory, the 3 Mules began receiving more messages from followers about Mr. Chen traveling through California and we were informed about his Facebook pagewith posts on his whereabouts.
The Mules Close encounter with Mr. Chen While Mr. Chen was in Northern California riding south to Los Angeles, and we (the Mules) turned around in San Diego to head back north, I kept tabs of his progress. I wondered when and where our paths would cross since we were both following Hwy 101 going in opposite directions. On March 21, I found out an hour after the fact that we were both in Santa Barbara riding/walking on the same road. However, the Mules missed seeing him by a mere 30-60 minutes as we had experienced a delay in our morning start. However, I still felt it was really cool that someone who I have been following and cheering virtually from afar was so close by, but we had no way to catch up to him at our 3mph speed.
Out of the Who Dee Doo Fast forward to July 6, 2015. Woke up in the morning on the Sacramento River, packed up the Mules, and started walking on Hwy 32 going west towards Orland. We got to Orland around 2:30 and went to the city hall to deliver the Declaration of Emergency. We then walked through Orland to Hwy 99, where we decided to we would go south to Willows. Around 3:00, there was a nice green grassy spot along the side of the road for the mules to stop and eat. As I was sitting on my water bucket letting the mules graze, a gentleman named Omar approached and introduced himself. He looked us up on 3Mules.com and appreciated what we were doing. We said thank you and then we had a conversation that lasted for awhile. He asked us if we liked peaches and said he would bring us back some peaches from his tree. When he came back, we continued our conversation.
During one part of our conversation, he started out by saying “There was a Chinese gentleman that came here with his bicycle…”
I immediately said “Mr. Chen!”
“That’s right!” said Omar.
He then took out his Smartphone and showed us a picture that he took of Mr. Chen near the same exact spot that we were currently sitting.
Thus, we think this is something that comes out of the Who Dee Doo. Because if we hadn’t decided to change course and stop in that same exact place at the time we did and wait awhile, we would never have met Omar, who met Mr. Chen, a person we have great interest following on his inspiring, epic world journey to “promote the Olympic spirit, hope for world peace, and protecting mother earth.”
This is the energy, magic and mystery of this place that we seem to encounter frequently along our journey and where we find ourselves in this point in our lives.
On May 24, Ruben Chavez, police chief of Livingston, CA, e-mailed the Mules: “The mules are welcome to stay in Livingston for water, food, etc. We currently have two rescued horses we use for mounted patrol. We would love to have you stay with us. We also have charros who ride through town daily. We are equine friendly, so please call me if you have any questions.”
We responded to the email and called Chief Chavez and accepted his offer to stop and rest for a couple nights in Livingston.
For over a year, we’ve only been two mules (Lady and Little Girl) and the monk. Originally, Pepper, the third mule, traveled with us for 14 years, and did a very good job. Her tendon in one of her legs broke down and she was not able to do the job anymore. She had to be retired and currently lives as a pet on a property in Malibu with other horses and donkeys that she has for company. When Pepper retired, we were given another mule named Fred, who was injured and had to be put down. Thus for over a year, there has only been the three of us.
This past weekend, we got a third mule in a magical, mystical sort of way after we were invited to spend a few days at the horse arena in Norco. While grazing up in the hills above the arena, it started to rain. Then all of a sudden, some ladies appeared coming up from down below asking a few questions and we gave them a few answers. Then they said, “Do you want a mule?” We said sure, even though we really didn’t. Moving and living in the Megatropolis with two mules is enough. Denise had originally bought the mule to be a riding mule, but found that he was a follower and didn’t like to lead. As well, the mule doesn’t have a left eye and only sees on his right side.
We considered the complexity in adding a third mule to the pack (need to find a place to stay, food, water, more horseshoes, and the new inter mule dynamics to name a few things). As well, we considered the dangers of the Megatropolis of having a mule blind on one side by not being able to see cars, light poles, and other obstacles. At 11 years old, the mule is strong, healthy and full grown. We thought that we’d give him a try and see what happens. We renamed the mule Who-dee-doo (original name was 9-to-5).
We take Who-dee-doo back to the corrals and start having second thoughts. Why are we taking a mule that has only one eye? It is hard enough to move through the Megatropolis with mules that have both eyes! Well, we got him now, so we better find out what he can do even though the negative voice within says no way will never be able to do the job.
While in Norco, Julie introduced herself to us and wanted to learn more about 3 Mules. During our stay, she got gasoline for our stove. As Who-dee-doo was being prepared for our next journey, Julie asked where we were going. We responded that we had to go to Thousand Oaks to get a saddle. Julie said that she had a saddle for us and brought it back with cinches, saddle blankets, straps, and a brand new proofer. Another gentleman approached us on his horse and joined the conversation. Asked if I needed anything. More horseshoes. He brought back horseshoes with nails. Unfortunately, I didn’t get his name or picture.
Tuesday morning, we left Norco on a bright sunny day filled with lots of energy acquired from the hospitality, kindness, and generosity of so many people, which we are very thankful. We met many people and we can’t remember everybody’s name to give them proper credit. We proceeded into the belly of the Megatropolis.
We walked along the river before arriving in Riverside where Who-dee-doo clipped a telephone pole and scraped a fence. Since those two occurrences, Who-dee-doo has been moving around getting around as well as you could expect from any two-eyed mule. So how is this possible? We didn’t know. The Monk was setting up and Little Girl was grazing a vacant lot taking a break when all of a sudden Pepper and Fred, the two mules that are no longer with us, appeared in our minds’ eye together.
So there’s the answer as to why Who-dee-doo is moving around and getting around so well. Pepper and Fred have come from the energy to be Who-dee-doo’s blind side. So when you see this place of one human being and three mules (3mules.com) walking through your neighborhood, Who-dee-doo the one-eyed mule has brought a whole new dimension to 3mules.com.