Highwayman Running on Empty

Before Thomas Weller leaves his El Cajon house and “goes out to play,” he looks like a character from the movie Mystery Men: he puts on black shin-guards (like the kind worn by baseball catchers), a reflective vest, and a Panama hat. He has a white, neatly trimmed mustache and looks like a homemade superhero.

You see, Weller (aka “The Highwayman”) has spent the past 38 years looking out for motorists stranded on San Diego’s highways. With his sidekick Shela (a six-and-a-half-year-old lab/collie mix) strapped into the passenger seat of his tricked-out 1955 Ford wagon, Weller takes off in search of those in need. Out of gas? Weller has plenty in the back of the wagon. Flat tire? It can be changed in 90 seconds — Weller was timed once by an impatient police officer. Dead battery? You get the point.

But because of exorbitant gas prices, Weller’s days of helping stranded motorists are sputtering out. He says he feels pangs in his chest thinking about it.

“It lifts my spirits, and if I don’t go out I start feeling very depressed. I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t go out and play anymore.” On average, Weller spends over $100 per rescue mission and his wallet is wearing thin...as is his wife’s patience.

Weller’s solution: to try and find “an angel.” For 17 months (starting in 2002), the Auto Trader paid for Weller's gas and for a cell phone, but those times are long gone and he's in search of a new angel.

For more info on Weller, cruise through his website at sandiegohighwayman.com.

Thomas "Highwayman" Weller

Thomas "Highwayman" Weller

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I had to comment on this. I met the Highwayman some years ago when I needed some snow chains built for my minivan, another of his talents. I went to his home in El Cajon with my wife and had a thoroughly enjoyable visit. When he learned we were heading for Big Bear while our home was being treated for termites, he asked if we had any snow toys for the kids. I said I planned to pick some up and he went back in his garage and came back with some snow shields and a sled and said, "Here, take these. Just bring them back when you're done." No paperwork, no rental fee, nothing. I am basically a cynical type, but this guy was the real deal and I left smiling with a crack in my cynicism. I wish I could be his angel but I don't have the money. I hope someone does help, because just meeting the guy raises your spirits.

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