Soledad is a Spanish word meaning “solitude.” I always thought the town of Soledad was so named because it was in the middle of nowhere. I have discovered that it bears this name because it is named after its Mission Nuestra Señora de La Soledad, or Mission of our Lady of Solitude. This title for the mother of Jesus commemorates her solitude on Holy Saturday, the day after Jesus was crucified and the day before he was resurrected.

The volunteer docent told me that the Friar in charge of this mission was an alcoholic who was a poor manager of the community of natives who worked and lived there. When he would sometimes pass out from an over consumption of wine the natives would take the opportunity to walk to Mission San Antonio by way of Reliz Canyon Road, a short twenty mile walk. Here there was abundant food and they could eat their fill before being sent back to Soledad by Mission San Antonio’s Friar. Or so the story goes.

Just before leaving Gonzales last Sunday, I happened upon a parade of macho looking Mexican men on their horses. They were making the horses prance, side step and generally show off. It was in honor of Cinco de Mayo, the day in 1862 that Mexican forces were victorious over the French in the Battle of Puebla.  I felt that I had suddenly been transported to old México.

Cycling south from Gonzales to Soledad along River Road took me through wine country, specifically the Santa Lucia Highlands. I saw several wineries and was amazed by these vast vineyards.

Monterey County now produces as many wine grapes as Napa County, and just slightly less than Sonoma. The state of California produces 90 percent of the wine grapes grown in the United States.

I crossed the Salinas River a few times that day.

It looked dark and muddy, while the Arroyo Seco River was clear. That there is water in them at all is a blessing beyond compare! After four or five years of serious drought the rains of this past winter were a godsend. Nevertheless, according  to the Soledad Bee, fire danger is high again this season as there is ample fuel from growth due to the high rainfall coupled with dead plant matter resulting from the long years of drought.

The town of Soledad is no longer in the middle of nowhere; the Salinas Valley is growing in population at a rapid pace. Construction of houses is booming

and traffic on highway 101 is significant even this far south of the Bay Area. The two prisons Soledad State Prison and Salinas Valley State Prison employ many people, including “officers,” nurses, doctors and more. I hear that it is not unusual for the inmates to sue the doctors for malpractice and to deal in drugs inside the prison walls. The officers are sometimes their suppliers. The Serenity Prayer comes to mind. I also know that many good people regularly volunteer their time to bring wonderful programs into these prisons, including Alternatives to Violence, Al-anon Family Groups, Alcoholics Anonymous, and The Work of Byron Katie, to name only a few. The balance between the dark and the light continues.

I’m moving on today to a campground in King City, and from there to Mission San Antonio de Padua the following day. I looked into cycling over Reliz Canyon Road which is a shorter route, but it runs through private property that is closed to the public. (Have these property owners not heard of  the “right to roam”?) As long as the wind stays at my back I’ll have no trouble reaching my destinations.


23 thoughts on “Soledad

  1. You are back on the road again, and we are further blessed by your history lessons and thoughtful wonders. My prayers continue for comfort, amazement, and illuminations. Love you, my friend!

    1. Thank you dear Diane! Amazement and illuminations are indeed forthcoming. This journey is meeting my expectations and then some. Even comfort I have in my little tent and sleeping bag. My cup really runs over; it’s way past half full. I hope all is well with you and your family. It would be good to catch up some time soon. ♥️

  2. Very interesting Jody. The men on horseback remind me of the Spanish Ferias de los caballos in southern Spain. The men ride beautiful Andalusian horses and wear wide
    brim hats (not as wide as the sombreros) and bolero jackets. Looks like you are having good weather. Be well.

    1. Hi Ellen! Spain did have a big influence on Mexico, after all. The Americas didn’t even have horses before the Europeans brought them over, isn’t that right? The weather has been nearly perfect; just a bit windy sometimes, but the wind has been consistently at my back, thank heavens. Let’s see how hot it gets in Southern California.

  3. Years ago, Karin and I went to Soledad. It was one of our goals to visit as many of the old Spanish missions as possible. We also stopped ta San Antonio de Padua. That is a beautiful place. Karin loved it there.

    I had read most of the Steinbeck stories before Karin and I explored the Salinas valley. That helped because his novels gave some slight sense of the history of the place.

    After almost thirty years, maybe we will see it all again.

    1. I hope you do, Frank! It’s a great way to see much of California. Highway One at Big Sur is closed, so it makes sense especially this year.

  4. Hilarious about the friar! I love the little local lore one learns about when visiting in person. Vineyards make such pretty landscapes… We have more and more popping up all over Oregon too and many use sustainable practices! We recently discovered Domaine Roy et Fils that uses an unfiltered process and the wines taste more earthy and different each vintage. You have covered a lot of miles this last week! I hope a vineyard owner invites you to stay on their property.

    1. No invitations to stay on property yet, but I did have a farmer allow me to ride my bike on his property yesterday to avoid having to ride on highway 101. I was grateful.

      Yes, the vineyards are beautiful. I especially enjoyed riding along Los Coches Road near Greenfield yesterday.

  5. Jody, thank you for continuing to inform us about you and for the wonderful photos.
    I feel like I am learning more and more about a very close to my heart part of the history of California from you.
    “The Missions” love it! While I have visited the Soledade Mission and a few others I still have many to go to. I am cheering you on and sending more prayers.

    1. Thank you Dora!! I so appreciate everyone’s suppprt. It means a lot to me to know that others are watching and reading about my progress.

      Tomorrow I will go to Mission San Antonio; I’m just a few miles from there now in a primitive campground on Fort Hunter Liggett. Mostly hunters here, looking for wild boar! ?

  6. Your stories and pictures are wonderful bringing a smile to my face. Hugs. ??

    1. Love to you Bonnie! How are things in Indiana?

  7. I’m inspired by your travels. Looking forward to the next update! Xo.

  8. I love the photographs alongside your writings! It’s a beautiful partnership. Each one makes the other shine, the photos give me a felt experience of the writing, including the history. I can better imagine where you are, and see you there.

    1. Hi Ellen! Spain did have a big influence on Mexico, after all. The Americas didn’t even have horses before the Europeans brought them over, isn’t that right? The weather has been nearly perfect; just a bit windy sometimes, but the wind has been consistently at my back, thank heavens. Let’s see how hot it gets in Southern California.

    2. I’m so glad, Reggie. It’s quite fun to take them as I go and then tell a story around them. I’m very grateful to everyone for reading, and commenting. It makes me feel accompanied and supported. ?

    3. Yay! My phone is computer, camera, and telephone all rolled into one. I’m even more attached to it now. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not; it just is. For now, at least. ?

      1. I use my phone for almost everything! It’s a computer, camera, library, maps, bank, phone, journal, organizer, you should see all my lists! I think it’s a good thing!



    1. I’m sure you could teach us a lot! Would love to pick your brain some time. ♥️

  10. Hi Jody,
    Thanks for the History lessons…I love that.
    It was nice to see you in Soledad.
    Josie ♡

    1. It was good to see you, Josie, and to have lunch with you. Thank you for your hospitality!

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