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!