It’s not every day that Paul Fry and his wife, Gretchen Simpkins, see a man and two mules casually clopping down the sidewalk along El Camino Real in Santa Clara.
Fry and Simpkins were driving down the King’s Highway — once travelled by monks walking between the 21 California Missions — on Oct. 12, when they encountered the unexpected trio known as the 3 Mules.
“We thought it was a wonderful sight and pulled over for about 10 minutes,” said Fry, who took photos as the three chatted. The mules snacked on the grass by the sidewalk, their typical wayfarer’s meal.
John Sears, who calls himself both “Mule” and “Monk,” and his two mules, 30-year-old Little Girl and 11-year-old Little Ethel, were headed for San Diego.
“Mule was a very kind and gentle soul, even though he looks like a diamond in the rough,” said Fry. “He’s definitely a free spirit.”
Mule, 73 in November, was raised around Los Altos. He has been on an endless journey, living a nomadic life out West for 36 years, the last eight in California.
He walks by day and sets up camp on public property, such as parks, over night. There, he writes in his journal and updates his 3 Mules Facebook page, which has more than 51,000 “Likes” and “Followers,” plus a video of their walk from Auburn to San Jose, Sept. 15 – Oct. 13.
Fry and Simpkins weren’t the only ones curious about Mule. A Santa Clara Police Department officer stopped him after a concerned citizen reported him to the police.
“Our intention … was to do a welfare check of him and his animals. Once it was determined that all was well and no help was needed, he continued on his way,” said Assistant Chief of Police Wahid Kazem.
Mule posted about the police encounter on Facebook. The officer will have to excuse Mule if he was unforthcoming. He has been stopped by the police numerous times.
And a number of those times, he was arrested and jailed. It’s all detailed in his blogs on his website: www.3mules.com.
Mule’s latest arrest was January 23, 2020, in Paso Robles for allegedly not following the orders of CHP officers to get off the highway. He spent the night in jail and had to pay $266 to get his mules out of impound.
He filed a claim against the State and the CHP in July for “our unlawful and illegal arrest.”
“… it is the law to share the road with other public thoroughfare users (pedestrians, equestrians, cyclists). Slow down, yield or stop to safely pass. Also, do not text and drive,” wrote Mule, who after Santa Clara, was stopped by the police near Morgan Hill.
“Without access to a strong healthy public thoroughfare, the Mules’ ages old nomadic way of life will come to an end. The energy of our ancestors, who have roamed and wandered across this earth for thousands of years, is harbored and available for our use,” said Mule.
And so, the 3 Mules continue their endless nomadic journey through life, recording it almost daily on Facebook. They are energized by Facebook comments and the kindness of the curious strangers they encounter along their way.