The Mules’s I-5 Arrest and Subsequent Events

Shoulder of I-5 in Oceanside, CA

On February 23, 2018, the Mules were arrested walking on I-5 north between Oceanside and San Clemente. Why were we walking on the side of I-5? Because no alternative route exists to connect a seven-mile stretch between Oceanside and the Pacific Coast Highway trail ending at Las Pulgas Road near Camp Pendleton marine base gate. When no alternative route is available, the law allows access to the interstate by those pedestrians, bicyclists, equestrians, wheelchairs, etc. who are otherwise denied.

Following is our documented attempts to work with CHP and Caltrans as we have read in California Vehicle Code 21949 that it is the policy off the State of California that safe and convenient pedestrian travel and access be provided to the residents of the state and 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.

Monday, March 5, 2018
After our arrest and subsequent release, we emailed California Highway Patrol (CHP) commissioners, the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) directors and Governor Brown to request a motorized escort if that is what was needed for us to travel this section.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018
CHP Captain Pembleton responded on behalf of CHP Commissioner Stanley. His email stated:

Dear Mr. Sears,
We received your email regarding an incident you had on Interstate 5 near the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base on February 23, 2018. We are responding to you on behalf of California Highway Patrol Commissioner Stanley. Interstate 5 northbound and southbound, between Harbor Drive and Las Pulgas Road is not open to pedestrians and would be in violation of California Vehicle Code section 21960 (a). We contacted the Provost Marshal’s office on Camp Pendleton and they informed us of new security measures now in effect. The Provost Marshal no longer allows individuals access onto the base without proper clearance. In addition, we contacted Caltrans, District 11, regarding this issue. To assist you with your request, you may contact Caltrans at (619) 688-6843, and apply for a special permit to travel from Harbor Drive to Las Pulgas Road on Interstate 5. There are also alternate routes further east through county roadways which will give you access around the Camp Pendleton Base. Mr. Sears our main concern is for the safety of the motoring public and yourself while traveling through California.
Should you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me at the CHP Oceanside Area (760) 643-3400.
Brent Pembleton, Captain
Oceanside Area
435 La Tortuga Drive
Vista, CA 92081
(760) 643-3400 Fax (760) 639-3770

Captain Pembleton’s recommendation that the Mules go around and through the mountains on dangerous narrow county roads having many blind curves that would be like going to Mars to get to Jack-in-the-Box. This is hardly a safer alternative. The shoulder on I-5 is by far wider and subsequently provides a much higher degree of safety than the roads on the route that was recommended by CHP.
CHP Captain Pembleton’s email also stated that if we walked this section of I-5 between Oceanside and Las Pulgas Road, we would be in violation of California Vehicle Code section 21960(a)21960 (a) The Department of Transportation and local authorities, by order, ordinance, or resolution, with respect to freeways, expressways, or designated portions thereof under their respective jurisdictions, to which vehicle access is completely or partially controlled, may prohibit or restrict the use of the freeways, expressways, or any portion thereof by pedestrians, bicycles or other nonmotorized traffic…

If this was the case, why were the Mules stopped and detained for being on I-5, but not the bicyclists who were riding on this same section? This is a photo that we took of a cyclist riding on I-5.

As well, Captain Pembleton referred us to Department of Transportation Caltrans to obtain an encroachment permit. We tried calling several times the Caltrans number listed on Captain Pembleton’s email but the number didn’t work. So, we called Caltrans general information line and was provided additional names that we called….District 12 Lindsey Hart and District Caridad Sanchez. Hart listened with great interest and said she would research and get back to us, but we never heard back.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018
We emailed 11th District Caltrans Director Cory Binns a second time forwarding him the CHP response and asked him what is the process to apply for a special permit to travel from Harbor Drive to Las Pulgas Road on I-5. Binns immediately responded and forwarded our email to Caltrans Permits Engineer Joy Lee and her supervisor Marco Peinado and said that they will be in touch, but we never heard from them. Instead Joy Lee forwarded our email to Anh Hoang.

Anh Hoang from Caltrans Encroachment Permits for District 11 emailed back.

Dear Mr. Sears,
My name is Anh Hoang and I’m with Caltrans Encroachment Permits.
What kind of permit do you need? I can assist with the permit process.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you.
Anh Hoang
Caltrans Encroachment Permits D. 11 – MS 110
Website: Caltrans Encroachment Permits

We immediately responded back to Anh Hoang and Joy Lee via email: “As stated in the email by CHP Captain Pembleton, I need a permit to walk north on I-5 with my mule from Harbor Drive to Las Pulgas Road on Interstate 5. We would need to walk against traffic as my mule and I need to be able to see traffic coming our way. If we are required to walk with the flow of traffic, we would need a motorized escort behind us for our safety.”
Thursday, March 8, 2018
We had not yet received a response from Hoang or Lee, so we called Hoang’s phone number in her email. We asked us what was it that we needed to do. We repeated our situation on the phone with her. She said that she would look into it and give us a call back.
Monday, March 12, 2018
We sent email to Hoang, Lee and Binns, “Anh, this is John Sears. I spoke to you on Thursday in regards to obtaining a permit to walk on the side of I-5 from Oceanside Harbor Drive to Las Pulgas Road where the coastal trail starts again, because there is no alternative pedestrian route for that 7-mile stretch. You said that you were going to follow-up with your manager. Awaiting your reply.” We did not received any response to this email.
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
This morning we spoke to Hoang who told us to speak to her supervisor Joy Lee, which is who District 11 Director Cory Binns originally delegated to work with us, but passed us on to her subordinate. Hoang said that the encroachment permit doesn’t apply to our scenario.
The Mules sent another email to CHP Captain Pembleton requesting a yes or no answer to whether or not CHP has the administrative authority to give us the Mules an escort for the 7-mile stretch on I-5 where there is no alternative route.
Thursday, March 15, 2018
We have not received a written response from CHP. We sent another email to Joy Lee and Cory Binns asking a yes/no question if they have the authority to give the Mules an escort to walk the 7-mile stretch from Oceanside to Las Pulgas Road.
Cory Binns immediately responded that he will look into our request and follow-up next week. Note that our original email to him was on March 5, 10 days ago and we have been getting the run around.
In the late afternoon, I left a voicemail message to Seth Cutter, Caltrans District 11 Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, who’s role as stated on the Caltrans website is “committed to advocating for the accommodation of all users of the State Highway System.
Friday, March 16, 2018
Completed and submitted Base Access Bike Route Request form online and another screen appeared confirming that our submission was successful.

Monday, March 19, 2018
Since the Base Access Bike Route Request form didn’t have a comments section to explain that we were not riding a bike, I made a phone call to Base Access Control number listed on the Bike Route Access Form. I explained to the woman who answered that I am trying to get access to travel north from Oceanside and that we filled out the bicycle access form on Friday, but that I don’t have a bicycle and that I am walking with my mule. She put me on hold for four minutes and said I am not allowed to walk thru the base with an animal and said that gave me the name and phone number of Nick Moran, a point of contact that she said would be able to help me out better.

I called Nick Moran and explained that Base Access Control gave us his number and that I was trying to get access across Camp Pendleton with my mule because there is no alternate route to go south to San Clemente. Mr. Moran said he didn’t know why Base Access gave me his number because he is the physical security officer for the region and that he doesn’t have Camp Pendleton. He asked us to explain our situation further, so I did. We explained that we are nomadic and that the mule carries all my belongings and that we’ve traveled through the base a few times before. He said that there is a requirement by the Department of Defense that there needs to be a legitimate reason to travel through the base. He asked us what we were told by the main gate. We explained that we were told that we could not walk through the base with a horse. Mr. Moran said horses are allowed on the base, but just not on the main road due to safety. He said it is unsafe for people to walk in the base since they have big vehicles that traverse the base, and that people don’t walk inside Camp Pendleton. If that was the case, we asked then why were bicycles were allowed to get from gate to gate as they have the same exposure as a pedestrian. Mr. Moran said that he has no authority to grant us access and to contact our senator to get Department of Defense to change their policy.

This same morning, Caltrans Joy Lee called back with follow-up information providing the Caltrans contact information for Caridad Sanchez, Caltrans Public Information Officer in San Diego, for us to discuss next steps on how to go about changing the California Vehicle Code. Joy said Sanchez is expecting to hear from us and would be able to provide information on how to contact Caltrans headquarters in requesting changes to the California Vehicle code.

We also decided to email Seth Cutter, Caltrans District 11 Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, as he had not returned our phone call yet. I received an immediate out of office response that he was out of the office thru Thursday.

Since Seth was out, I forwarded my email to Caridad Sanchez and stated that Joy Lee told us that she could assist us. Ms. Sanchez never responded back.

Friday, March 23, 2018
I called Seth Cutter. He said that he is well aware of our issue and had his staff researching how they could try to get us thru I-5 with Little Girl. He said that his team contacted the Base. They were also told that we would not be allowed to walk north through Camp Pendleton. He said he exhausted the things he could do and that Joy Lee’s boss, Marcelo Peinado, Caltrans District 11 deputy of traffic operations division, is the person that we needed to speak to. He said that I-5 is on an easement that Caltrans maintains thru the U.S. Marine Corps and is part of the Base. He said that the Caltrans District Engineer beneath Mr. Peinado determines what is allowed and not allowed for District 11.

Monday, March 26, 2018
Called Marcelo Peinado and left voicemail message.

Thursday, March 29, 2018
Spoke to Marcelo Peinado, Traffic Operations for District 11. He said that the reason that they don’t allow pedestrians is that they are concerned of the safety of the pedestrians and motorists and that he stands by this vehicle code. We asked why bicycles were allowed on this section of I-5 and he said that bicycles are not allowed. I said that bicycles were riding past us as I was arrested being put in the CHP car, and the CHP didn’t stop or arrests any of the bicyclists that passed us on I-5. We ask Mr. Peinado if he could provide an Caltrans or CHP escort to slow traffic for us if they were concerned about safety. He said that CHP can provide escort on the highway system and referred to call CHP or look on their website. We said that CHP bounces us back to Caltrans stating that Caltrans has the authority. Mr. Peinado said the way for pedestrian passage in this section of I-5 is to elevate this via the legal route. I asked Mr. Peinado to send us his stance in writing via email. He said we could call Caltrans Customer Service and they would respond within 24 hours. I said not going to call Customer Service as I was speaking to him and provided him my email address.

Sent the following email to Captain Pembleton as he didn’t answer our email that we sent previously.

“Captain Pembleton, we spoke to Marcello Peinado, District 11 Deputy of traffic operations division. He informed us that CHP provides escorts on I-5 to those who would require one for various reasons. Please respond with a yess or no. If yes, where can the public obtain in written form exactly who CHP can provide escorts to and who it cannot. 3Mules is requesting a CHP escort on I-5 where there is no alternative route available (from Oceanside to the Las Pulgas gate Camp Pendleton.”

Friday, March 30, 2018
A straight forward answer to a straight forward question is not what CHP is able to do. Received the following e-mail response from Captain Pembleton:

Mr. Sears,
I received your email from yesterday. Interstate 5 northbound and southbound, between Harbor Drive and Las Pulgas Road is not open to pedestrians and would be in violation of California Vehicle Code section 21960(a). There are alternative routes further east through county roadways which will give you access around the Camp Pendleton Base. Our main concern is for the safety of the motoring public and yourself while traveling through California.
Should you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me at the CHP Oceanside Area (760) 643-3400.
Brent Pembleton, Captain
Oceanside Area
(760) 643-3400

The Mules have found themselves at what is showing itself to be a point of energy gathering, intensifying, and seeking expression in the unforeseen. The Mules have been given a word sound to identify this place of time and circumstance in which we find ourselves CALL-DUN-DRUM. A place, a condition of confusion, uncertainty, disorder, neglect that’s seeking to settle rest, acquire resolution for itself. By using the Mules as a gathering tool, this place has brought many players to its realm. Listed below are the many players who the Mules have contacted in regards to the I-5 call-dun-drum.

The Mules entered this I-5 call-dun-drum on the day we were arrested on February 23, 2018 and while in its grasp using us the Mules a common-sense practical solution has made itself known. A CHP escort for the 3 Mules and all equestrians seeking passage from Harbor Boulevard in Oceanside to the Old Pacific Coast Highway bike trail start at Los Pulgas on the I-5 call-dun-drum can be made readily available.
CHP provides escorts all the time slowing traffic by using its flashing blue and red lights when stopping a motorist, picking up dangerous debris which has fallen from a truck, responding to an accident. This common-sense practical temporary solution granted upon request within a one hour period can be in effect until the obvious more permanent solution being a parallel path where equestrians, hikers and bicycles can move safely separated from the irresponsible high-speed motorist. For the State of California, CHP and Caltrans to use the false pretense of safety when a simple common-sense remedy is in plain view and deny the Mules and all other equestrians the right to move freely in this country using the public thoroughfare is illegal and unconstitutional.

Monday, April 3, 2018
Called Camp Pendleton Base Access to inquiry if the Bicycle Access form that I completed on March 16th was approved and was told that my name is approved to ride a bicycle from gate to gate. I asked if this means that I can also walk across with my mule. Was told that I cannot walk, but must ride a bike. I asked if I can ride a bike with my mule in tow. The person didn’t know the answer to this question and gave me another phone number to call. Called that number and that person didn’t know the answer and gave me another phone number to call. Tried calling the third number and got a message that voicemail box is full, so couldn’t leave a message. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2018
San Diego District Attorney Drops Charge. 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 County 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.
Monday, April 8, 2018
The Mules emailed the I-5 CALL-DUN-DRUM letter to the head of California CHP Warren Stanley, Caltrans District 11 Director Cory Binns, CHP Border Division leaders Jim Abele and Scott Silsbee, Caltrans Director Laurie Berman, CHP Oceanside Captain Brent Pembleton, Caltrans Engineers Marcelo Peinado and Joy Lee, and Camp Pendleton’s Community Relations and Media contact emails.
Tuesday, April 9, 2018
CHP Captain Pembleton emailed back: “I received your email from April 8, 2018. Your concerns on this matter have been thoroughly vetted and adequately addressed. As such, we consider this matter closed.
The Captain would not address the issues in the CALL-DUN-DRUM letter as his response clearly shows. He would not go on record by sending the Mules an emailed response for the public to view where his argument justifying denial of a motorized escort could be scrutinized and withstand public review.
The Mules walked to Oceanside CHP office and asked to speak to Captain Pembleton. He came out of his office and requested we go outside, so we did. We spoke at length with the Captain regarding the issues of the CALL-DUN-DRUM letter. The Captain repeatedly used the word “safety” to justify his non-response to our request for a motorized escort. Motorized escorts by their nature is to promote safety. When you turn on the blue and red flashing lights to slow traffic to 25 miles per hour, you are now in the Twilight Zone, safety beyond all perception has been achieved.

We asked Captain Pembleton to provide us the detailed route turn-by-turn directions that he referred to in his March 30th email. He said to go around the base by going east and north around it on county roads. We asked what are the street names? He would not provide them and said to look up the directions yourself on your phone using Google maps. He would not commit or take responsibility in providing directions to a safer route because there is none. We do not find this an acceptable response as he is telling us to go far out of our way (go to Mars, turn left and proceed to Jack in the Box, when Jack in the Box is only around the block) on an extremely unsafe single lane route with blind curves, little or no shoulder and traffic moving at high speeds to get from Oceanside to San Clemente.
The Mules acting as the ambassadors of the 3 Mules Nation (all those who cherish the right to move freely in this country how they choose, when they choose, whether by horse, bicycle, or foot) have done their job, served their purpose. The Mules have brought energy and attention to this CALL-DUN-DRUM. For the Mules know that the CALL-DUN-DRUM that has taken root on I-5 is a portent (a sign and warning) of things to come – large areas of land being shut off and down to all but a privileged few.
We now pass the baton of this CALL-DUN-DRUM on to those who will give their energy, time, skills, and creativity to its resolution to ensure that the freedom guaranteed by the law of the land, the United States Constitution, to move freely within its borders be available to all and the generations to come.

This problem which has been festering for years and which now has come to a head due to Camp Pendleton refusing the Mules and other pedestrians access to travel through the base.

Here is a thread in Walkabout California website where one pedestrian named WenderzW posted on June 20, 2017:

“Attempted this leg…and was denied entry into Camp Pendleton as they noted no walkers or runners are allowed on the bike trail…they must have rules to view anyone on foot as a threat as they pulled out guns and was very intense about our presence.” 
The Mules are proposing a simple common sense solution. Caltrans post on its overhead neon signs a mandatory speed reduction to 50mph for the seven-mile stretch between Harbor Boulevard and Las Pulgas Road. This would allow the Mules, pedestrians, cyclists and all other legal users a safe passageway (due to I-5’s extra wide shoulder) in this 7-mile section with no alternate route. There is 24 hours in every day. Many of those hours are consigned to rush hour traffic where speed is well below the 50 mph limit. The remaining hours at which a 50 mph speed limit would be in force is only a seven-mile stretch. They can make it safer by putting in a cement barrier as they do on other roads and bridges.
There are many examples throughout the state where pedestrian, bicycle and equestrian access is allowed on interstate freeways in California. A 3-mile stretch north out of San Luis Obispo being one.
This simple, common sense solution would make I-5 with its extremely wide shoulder at least as safe as any of the county and state roads with their narrow shoulders and blind curves that the Mules travel every day throughout the state.
Per all our conversations above, we will need to contact our state senator to contact the Department of Defense to get the No Access to Pedestrians policy changed for this section between Oceanside and San Clemente. We will be reaching out to Caridad Sanchez again on how to get this process started. When we have this information, we will share with the Three Mules Nation, Walkabout California and other walking, hiking and equestrian groups, on how you can help get this policy changed for this short section between Oceanside and San Clemente.

The Mules

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