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