February 2, 2010
So many missions- so little time
I awoke to a beautiful day in Ventura. My first stop of the day was the mission at San Buenaventura located in downtown Ventura. Founded in 1792 it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812, which seems to be a common fate for these missions. The church and school are still there after being rebuilt several times over the years.
Onward to Santa Barbara to Mission Santa Barbara which is called the Queen of the Missions. It too was destroyed by earthquakes several times and was last rebuilt in 1925 so it is relatively new by mission standards.
Santa Inez in Solvang was next on my list. Solvang is an interesting town in its own right. My ride there was an interesting one in that this mission is off of the Camino Real (basically hwy 101) and up in the foot hills. I took the Chumash highway through the Los Padres National park and had a great time getting there. The Chumash were the Indians that the padres were trying to convert to Christianity and supposedly this tribe has been totally absorbed by our present society. The mission suffered through the 1812 earthquake that damaged many of the missions. It also suffered an Indian revolt in 1824 that did it some damage. I guess the Indians didn’t come to Jesus as easily as we would have liked. Most of the mission has been rebuilt since 1904 and is a lovely place now.
Next on the route was La Purisima Concepcion in Lompoc, which is a state park. This mission is not accessible by auto or Spyder but you can park and take a short hike to it. Not having cars around gave this mission the most authentic period look of all the missions I visited. It all looked like it should have back in the days when it was used as a mission. While it was destroyed in the Indian uprising of 1824 (something to do about casino rights I believe), it was rebuilt in 1935. All the rooms had the proper furniture, the stock pens had the burros and cattle and sheep, and the grounds were un-manicured as one would expect them to be at the time. There were no people around and it was very quiet and peaceful. This was far and away my favorite stop so far
The church at La Purisima
San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is in the center of old town San Luis Obispo. This older part of town is very interesting as most of the old towns are. Of course these older downtowns have been bypassed by more modern roads and buildings but they do have a lot of charm. The mission is known for having its thatched roof burned 3 times by those pesky Indians. This led to the development of the curved tile roof that became the standard on other missions and is still in use in construction today.
San Luis Obispo mission bells
San Miguel Arcangel was founded in 1797 and prospered for many years at the confluence of the Salinas and Nacimiento Rivers. The Indians in the region had already been exposed to Christianity at other missions so they were much more agreeable to having a mission in their area. This mission was abandoned by the Franciscans in 1840 and the buildings were used as shops and even a saloon. The church regained control in 1878 and it is mostly restored at this point in time.
An arachnid anachronism
Now the next mission was located on Fort Hunter Leggit Army base. (By a show of hands: How many of you have ever heard of Fort Hunter Leggit?)/ To get to this mission I had to drive to about 23 miles southwest of King City which is a long way from anything. I then had to check in at the guard shack and drive through this Army base. All of the Army must be involved in foreign wars because I only saw a handful of soldiers.
The mission was even more deserted. It was eerie. It too was as it was in it’s hey day. It was very quiet without any manmade sounds. This mission was used to convert the Mutsun Indians who later died off due to disease. The mission was abandoned and left in ruins until 1948 when the Franciscans returned and rebuilt it. The church was nice but scary so I lit a candle, said a prayer and got the heck out of there.
San Antonia tower
The last stop of the day was at Nuestra Senora de la Soledad and the most impressive thing about this mission is the length of its name. I had to travel through fields and a recently flooded road to get to this mission which is in an unlikely location in the middle of fields. As it turns, out flooding was the reason this mission never prospered and it was an unpopular posting among the padres. Since 1954 the church and wings have been restored by the church. It is a rather sad mission with an unfortunate location.
Soledad is Spanish for loneliness
The day was coming to an end and I was beginning to get little spray of rain, so it was time to find a suitable domicile for the evening. I found what I thought was just such a place in Salinas. It looked clean and new and had a name that I had ever heard of before. So I checked in. It was like a Motel 6 but without all of the frills like indoor lighting. The TV did not work at first but a kid came by on a skate board and fixed it for me. I like to call it the No Inn Ternet because that is what it is known for. At least with me it is. Actually it had internet service but it was so bad that it was practically useless.
And at this low point I have to come to a decision. Some personal issues are drawing me home. Some physical issues are beginning to bother me but I think that has more to do with the personal stuff. My bike has developed a fatal flaw. Potentially fatal for me, not the bike. The weather is turning against me but not dramatically so. All of these things combined cause me to be drawn back to the Velvet Rut where I live. We shall see in the morning.