California I-5 sign leaves travelers wondering who Tom McCleod is

2 mins read

One bland sign standing close to Bakersfield seems to stand out on a stretch of highway in I-5, triggering curiosity of travelers and passers-by. The sign reads “Tom McCleod slept here.”

The question of many who really is Tom McCleod is raised again and again.

A San Diego writer and photographer Mike Sakasegawa’s blog in 2009 seemed to be the only available documentation online, apart from the Google Street View which shows the sign.

“Here’s a place whose only claim to fame, what they’ve decided to proudly display to the world, is that some B-lister that we’ve all long since forgotten once decided that he couldn’t make it all the way to San Francisco or Los Angeles that day and tucked in there instead,” Sakasegawa presumed at that time.

However, long years have passed after he wrote the document, the writer is not yet close enough to getting the mystery solved.

“I don’t really have any more information about that sign than what’s in the original blog post,” Sakasegawa said in an email. 

He said that he intended to investigate more but he never came back to the matter to dig further.

Over a decade after Sakasegawa’s blog, several people questioning the similar thing also dropped their comments.

In 2012, one comment stood out from the rest as it provided more details and appeared to be a more acceptable explanation.

The comment posted by “Mark” shared the sly “expatriate hunter and trapper” Tom McLeod, who is behind the American Kern Island Republic, a nation he built on his own after the Gold Rush.

Mark tells McLeod’s great story, whom he said has crossed the Central Valley before it turned into farmland and was surrounded in asphalt. He said McLeod is a Robinson Crusoe figure who can speak Latin and Greek fluently. He made connections with the Yokuts tribe nearby and is most recognized to have withdrawn from the state to establish a nation of his own, SFGATE reported.

The story, however, is still counted as still one urban legend as it was not discredited or verified.

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