I was impressed with the town of SLO very quickly as I began to notice signs for bicyclists saying: “Bicycles may take a full lane.” Elsewhere I see signs admonishing motorists to “Share the Road” with cyclists, which is much appreciated. But I have never seen bicyclists given the right to a whole lane! Of course, on many roads and highways vehicles are traveling at high speed and when space is limited it can be difficult if not impossible to give cyclists a wide berth. For this reason it is in the cyclist’s best interest to defer to the one ton beasts. At times I get off the road entirely, though weeds are sometimes an obstacle. Mustard and dandelions are tall, and thick, this year, and keeping shoulders free of weeds is not always a high priority, apparently.
SLO is home to the “Bike Kitchen,” a non-profit organization whose mission is “To improve the quality of life in SLO County through bicycle advocacy, education and inspiration.” They have many programs with these goals in mind, and the Bike Kitchen is just one of them. Rather than do repair and maintenance work for you, the volunteers at the Bike Kitchen teach you how to do it yourself, handing you the necessary tools and checking your work. I went in Thursday afternoon to go through the process of removing and patching a punctured bicycle tube, just in case that scenario becomes a reality out on the road. It was good to practice after so many years without using this skill. I was coached by Tyler Jamieson, a very kind and patient young man, who deserves many blessings for his voluntary service.
I was inspired to make a donation to the cause and encourage everyone to check out their web site here:
Riding to the wonderful Hostel Obispo, my first stop, was extremely pleasant. The weather was fine (as it usually is in SLO) and I was surrounded by nicely restored and maintained houses in an older, Victorian-ish style. The town is obviously on the upswing as people are enjoying the town’s many advantages.
Better national chains have moved in, and they even have a Barnes and Noble bookstore. Fine dining options are abundant, including plenty of healthy to super healthy vegetarian and vegan restaurants (my favorite being New Earth, which makes a raw coconut yogurt that is over-the-top amazing!) Again I am reminded of Los Gatos, my childhood home. If you’re looking to invest in real estate, SLO is my hot tip.
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (named for a 14th Century French Franciscan, St. Louis, bishop of Toulouse) was founded in 1772 and is the fifth in the chain of 21 missions in Alta California. The natives in this area are known as the Chumash and the area was known for its grizzly bears. There is a bronze sculpture of bears in front of the Mission to commemorate the founding of “La Cañada de Los Osos” (Valley of the Bears), which had been named by Portolá on a failed trip to find Monterey in 1769.
I was fortunate enough to be there on an afternoon when “Pete” was giving tours. His knowledge about all the missions is extensive and I was much interested in his stories and interpretations.
Pete thinks that the Missionaries genuinely cared about the Native people and protected them from the soldiers and others who would otherwise take advantage of them. The Franciscans certainly had their agenda and their opinions about how the Natives should live and worship, but they had those opinions precisely because they believed that the Natives mattered. Subsequent authorities, such as the Mexicans during the Mexican Period, and especially the Americans after they won the Mexican-American War, cared little if at all about the Native People, and gave them neither respect nor rights of any kind. They were treated much as were blacks in the South, even though California was supposed to be a no-slave state. While it is widely believed that Native Californians died out completely that is not the case; they have integrated into mainstream society and are now reclaiming their roots and their traditions.
Pete informed us that most of the paintings that adorn California Mission walls came from Peru and other South American countries. I was struck by the beauty and intimacy in the expressions of Jesus and the Franciscan monk in this one:
It hangs in the mission’s extensive museum that houses relics of the Mission Period as well as artifacts from the Chumash people.
The church at Mission San Luis Obispo was built from 1792-1794 and is unique in that it has an L-shaped plan.
It has five bells hanging in its belfry, one for each of the first five missions.
Shortly before setting out on my second attempt at following the Camino Real of Alta California I learned about a modern day Franciscan monk who was flying to San Diego shortly to begin a walking pilgrimage of the same Camino, from south to north. His name was Friar Anthony and he was planning to take the journey on foot and on faith, with no money, as tradition suggests. I was much impressed and interested and was able to contact him by email prior to his departure. I simply said that I hoped our paths would cross, and that I was impressed by his faith.
As Providence would have it, we both set out on May 1, he from Mission San Diego on foot, and I from Mission San Carlos Borromeo, on my bike. He is traveling without a phone of any kind and is using Butch Briery’s Guidebook to find his way. On Thursday, May 25, he did not follow the guidebook but took a different route than was suggested. At about 4:30 p.m. that same day I was just about to turn off Broad Street in SLO to go to the Natural Foods Co-op when I saw a young man striding towards me on the side-walk wearing the traditional Franciscan robe. It was, indeed, no other than Friar Anthony! We had had no contact at any time during our pilgrimages.
I was amazed that he had come so far in such a short time (he averages 20 miles a day) and he thought I would have been done by now. He said that he had seen no one else walking the Camino in its entirety. He carries half of a sleeping bag only and has needed to use it only once. His food and lodging needs are being provided for very well. He reminded me that this is the time of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that to experience the blessings of God one must serve Him.
I thank my Higher Power for these assurances that I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this moment. ?♥️?