Bicycling The California Missions

One Man's Adventure into the Dark Heart of Evil That Is Solvang, California

Between 1769 and 1833, Spanish missionaries established 21 missions in what is now the state of California (as well as many more in Baja California, Mexico), which served as outposts to the far-flung edges of the great Spanish empire.  Think of them as the McDonald's of the 18th Century. 

For many decades, all fourth-graders in the California public school system have learned about the missions as part of the required instruction in California history.  Of course, until recently, California history consisted solely of the Gold Rush, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and two pages of John Steinbeck's story "The Red Pony."  Today, however, Californian fourth-graders can learn about Kim Kardashian, marijuana, and the entire Transformers movie series.  We've come a long way!

When I was a fourth-grader, my dad helped me build a cool papier-maché model of Mission San Antonio de Padua.  Well, I say he helped me, but in fact he took one look at the sloping, dissolving pile of mucoid baking powder I'd constructed, which actually resembled a nest of dying slugs more than a Spanish religious center, and took over the job, to my eternal gratitude.  It was an awesome model. 

In return, I made my dad promise that we would someday take a trip to see all the missions, but, as these things happen, we never quite got around to it.  Pops passed away in 2009, and so, in his honor, I decided to bicycle to all of the California missions. 

The moral of this story is this:  never promise your kids anything more than a trip to the closest 7-11. 

Mission San Antonio

Mission San Antonio de Padua, with one of the bicycles
used by the Spanish explorers

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