Saddling up to ride the California Mission Walk – on an eBike

Cursed with a longtime camino addiction and Europe closed to Americans Theresa told me a few weeks ago, “You need a walk.” She was right. After a few months of being COVID-couped up I’m ready to hit the road. What better choice than to do a camino right in my backyard?

I’ve been hearing for a few years about the California Mission Walk, and a few months ago some wonderful folks in Santa Barbara wrote me and asked what it would take to do a guidebook on the journey. I’ve been working with them and advising them in their project, but in the back of my mind I’ve also been wondering just what the walk is like.

The bare facts are that this walk connects the 21 Franciscan missions established in the 18th c by Spanish missionaries on the California coast between San Diego on the south and Sonoma on the north. By my calculations the distance is 850 miles or about 50+ walking days. I’ll bike it instead so I can make better time, and after last year’s rides in Spain and Italy I’ve come to appreciate the flexibility that comes from having two wheels available for side trips and additional exploration. I’ll use my new Aventon Level e-bike, which already presents a few problems: ebike batteries aren’t allowed on airplanes or some ferries. So here’s the plan: I’ll take the train to the Bay Area, ride and SMART train it to Petaluma, then ride up to Sonoma for my beginning. I’ll then ride around 35-40 miles a day — a relaxed pace — and make it to San Diego in time to high-tail it back home on the train for a couple of important birthdays and an anniversary.

In addition to the exploration, this trip will be something of a homecoming, too. My great-grandparents walked from Mexico to Mission San Juan Capistrano in 1860, and my mother’s side of the family is sprinkled all around Southern California. My mom was born in San Diego and four of us five kids were born in SoCal, too. I attended kindergarten and first grade there, so while I’m in town I’ll ride by our old house, my grandmother’s house, my old schools, and the church where I was baptized.

There’s a strong Mission Walkers group, and I’ve already benefitted from contacts with people like Butch Briery, Steven Woody, Jill Ballard, and many, many others. They’re all super-friendly and eager to help. I’ll have a tent and sleeping bag with me, plus all the usual gear. Should be fun!

7 thoughts on “Saddling up to ride the California Mission Walk – on an eBike

  1. Sandy, this, or at least part of it, has been on my bucket list. I am looking forward to hearing about it through your writing. I’d be curious to know what approximately 200 mile section you would recommend for a walking trip. Have a wonderful, WONDERFUL time!!!

  2. Please let us know when you’ve published a book on this route. I packed away my brand new copy of “The Way of St Francis” along with my dreams and plan for doing it in 2020.
    I live in San Francisco – this route has realistic potential for me. I feel hopeful that I can do this in 2021. Thanks.

  3. Sandy,

    We live in Encinitas along the route. Would love to have you stop in for a visit or help out in any way. If you need a place to stay overnight you are welcome

    • Thank you, Paul! I should be in Encinitas on about the 9th of August. If the date works out for you I’d love to take you up on your offer of an overnight!

      • I would like to add to my previous comment:
        I saved a June 12, 2011 SF Chronicle newspaper article re walking/hiking from Santa Cruz to Monterey (CA) during the one week each month of lowest tides so you could walk almost exclusively on the beach. The company was (is?) Slow Adventures.
        As yet an unfulfilled dream.
        Coastal walking/hiking could be a great addition to your book.
        Prior to COVID-19, I walked/hiked through Europe twice each year – two 3-week trips each year. I’m a female solo traveler – backpack only, AirBnB, iPhone only.
        It has all been bliss. Pure joy.
        I have never feared for my personal safety – whether hiking volcanoes in the Aeolian Islands or in bigger cities. My May 2021 trip was to be your Assisi-Rome pilgrimage. I have my Credenziale del Pellegrino which your office mailed to me 18 Feb 2020.
        (Hard to believe! Right!)
        My concern in USA is SAFETY. I have never had safety concerns in Europe – perhaps out of ignorance?
        I will follow your CA travels closely not only for routing – but also safety.
        My personal belief is – no Europe until Fall 2021. More realistically – Spring 2022. I’m extremely healthy – but until there’s a widespread effective vaccine in place, at age 75 it might be stupid to risk illness in Europe.
        Your wife’s very wise suggestion that you explore CA is brilliant. (Aren’t you lucky!) I believe the future must be local for quite awhile.
        My body aches and my heart weeps from lack of travel.
        Carry on – we await your new book!

  4. Local backyard caminos are a fine idea, and ought to come more i focus in times where airtravel poses an environmental problem. For instance in Denmark they have established ‘The Monastry Route’ that covers most of the country. A modern route that connects places of historical significanse.

  5. Hi Sandy,
    We are looking forward to your visit to La Purisima Mission State Historic Park!! My name is Ann and I would love make sure you get our stamp and if time allows a brief tour as most or our buildings are closed due to Covid 19. But we can put something together. You can call our office 805 735 3712 so we can chat and schedule. Looking forward to hearing from you!! 🙂 Ann

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