by Brandon Mercer

EL CERRITO (CBS SF) — Being “homeless” in the Bay Area doesn’t mean being without pets, from dogs, cats, even parrots, but when a modern-day nomad took to the streets of El Cerrito with a mule train in tow, it turned a few heads, although law enforcement turned a blind (or blindered?) eye to the spectacle.

I made the mistake of being a city slicker and embarrassingly misidentified his pack animals as horses.  I was quickly corrected as I asked him his name. The outdoorsy character gave his name as “Mule,” saying he feels a camaraderie with the animals he leads and cares for along the public streets.

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His well-equipped mule train is loaded up with metal and wood packs, and canvas bags on top, looking ready for an expedition, but Mule says his mission is just to wander.

He tells me they live outdoors, with nowhere in particular to go.  While he may not have a destination, he does have a goal.

When you spot the website emblazoned on the last mule’s pack, you’ll see the plan: to make all thoroughfares across the U.S. open to multiple uses, including equestrians.  On his site,, you can find his real name (it’s John Sears), and you’ll notice he’s spent a bit of time in court, and a lot of time with lawyers.  Many of the citations are for camping outside, and not for walking down an East Bay sidewalk with a team of mules.

Also on the site is a petition calling for nationwide multi-use trails. So far, he’s got 597 signatures.  Only 99,403 to go.

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It’s clear that not every police agency is so tolerant.  His site shows citations given as the mule team walked down Highway 101.

While I walked alongside, he did stop and wait for the crosswalk before leading his animals through busy traffic near the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station.

Tonight, he’s heading to the Bay Bridge, where he’s arranged a ride across.  He said he needed a ride for that, and wasn’t considering marching the mules across the span.

If you’re in San Francisco this weekend, you might bump into Mule and his mules on the streets.  If you do, he’ll share his thoughts on cars and traffic – something many city-dwellers would agree on -and his mules will likely clear a few weeds out of the sidewalk cracks.

Say hello if you see his mules. Just don’t call them horses.

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