Living life one ride at a time

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By MIKE MORRIS

Dozens of drivers have met Randy Ellison after rounding the sharp turn on Highway 49 known as Carson Hill.

He stands, supported by his wooden walking stick, with his thumb out to passing cars.

Ellison, a self-proclaimed nomad, has rented a small room in a Carson Hill house since April. Before that, he lived throughout Calaveras County.

He has no car, television or phone just a modest radio that blasts country tunes 24 hours a day.

"Except for the lights, it's like it was 150 years ago," the 59-year-old said of his apartment.

"I don't sleep," he added. "I just listen to the radio."

Songs from some of his favorite singers like Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam both keep Ellison company and help drown out the highway's noisy traffic.

Ellison stays up at night and reads anything he can get his hands on cheap paperbacks, various newspapers, photography magazines. He read two war novels on Monday.

"Sometimes I'll go a day or two without sleeping, and then just go down for a day," said Ellison, a disabled veteran. "I'm a night person."

Typically, Ellison will get three hours of sleep on his worn, brown sofa before he heads across the street in the morning to catch a ride with the Calaveras Transit bus system. He'll go buy used paperbacks and grocery shop in Angels Camp, and once a week, he'll make the haul up Highway 4 to check his mail in Arnold.

About twice a week, Ellison said, he'll hitch a ride to wherever he needs to go.

"They sort of wonder who the hell I am," he said of the college students, tourists and construction workers who pick him up.

He said it takes anywhere from three seconds to 30 minutes for someone to stop.

Ellison is a familiar sight in Angels Camp, said Dorothy Trunnels, an employee at Mark Twain St. Joseph's "First Choice" thrift store.

"He always has a bag on his back," Trunnels said.

Along with his signature backpack and walking stick, Ellison always wears a tattered brown hat with two pheasant feathers and two pins one of a frog and the other of a miner.

11513873
The Union Democrat
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