The last two days have been a bit of a whirlwind of riding (and walking) my bike to visit the final two missions in Santa Barbara County. Getting to my resting place for the night has involved more time and miles than is typical for me and my body feels the stronger for it. I’m grateful to have sufficient energy, health and stamina to be able to do this type of journey (even at my slow pace) at this stage of my life. A couple of people have asked me point blank: “How old are you?” I suspect they may think I’m older than I am (58).
Mission Santa Inés is just east of Solvang, a now-tourist town founded in 1911 by Danish immigrants who wanted a West Coast settlement for their community. The buildings are all Danish in style and there are restaurants, bakeries and stores selling traditional Danish fare, art and crafts. It is quite the contrast to the Spanish architecture of the Mission, which was founded over one hundred years earlier in 1804 on the feast day of Saint Agnes of Rome (hers is a horrific story of being killed at the age of 13 for being chaste and pure.)
Misión Santa Inés was number nineteen in the chain of twenty-one, founded by the then-president of the Missions Father Estevan Tapis. It’s about half way between Misión La Purísima and Santa Barbara, and more in-land, in the beautiful Santa Ynez (today’s spelling) Valley. It was a productive mission; however the largest Native uprising began here in 1824 as the result of an “excessive” beating of a Chumash neophyte by a soldier. Any beating at all is excessive to me.
Butch Briery’s Guide to the Camino Real recommends taking Refugio Road from the Santa Ynez Valley to the coast. The English cycling couple were planning to take Highway 154 past Lake Cachuma, but the Guide says that there is no shoulder on that route for cyclists. Similar story for parts of 101. So off I went towards Refugio Road, aware that the pass over the mountains was at a significant elevation. It was beautiful beyond belief, really, on both sides of the mountain.
As I started the climb in earnest I forded a stream a few times, the paving gave way to dirt and rock, and eventually a sign said the road was closed and that the County of Santa Barbara would not be responsible for its use. I was expecting this, so I continued unabated. I saw no one after this point. When I saw this rock in the road I glanced up at the side of the mountain. Was it still coming down?
By now I’m walking my bike, of course, and as the way gets steeper it’s increasingly difficult to keep the front wheel from losing its grip on the road. It turns to one side or the other, and I have to continually center the wheel as I simultaneously push and pull on the back end, which carries the most weight, up the hill. This goes on and on to a height of 2,261 feet, for a total elevation gain of 1,765 feet.
At one point as I was thus engaged I looked down at my bike and saw a cross. My handlebars stick straight out to the sides from a center column, and the rest of the bike lies perpendicular to them. It struck me that this was an experience not unlike Jesus’ when he carried his cross (not any where near as horrible, of course, but similar.) I cried, which is an indication to me, these days, that I’m having a spiritual experience. I felt grateful that I was experiencing this trial and that it must be healing something in me, and/or preparing me for something. This whole pilgrimage feels that way.
What would I see at the summit but this cross.
The descent down the other side was gorgeous and a breeze!
I had to ride my brakes to keep from going too fast. The road on this side is open, and paved, and apparently Ronald Reagan had a ranch on this road at one time.
I began to see signs of habitation once again, such as these beautiful flowering trees
and an avocado orchard. Warm weather flora are becoming more common. It feels good to be in Southern California.
Arriving at Refugio State Beach campground at about 7:00 pm was a relief, and its name was especially apt for me that day.
The next morning I met another cycling couple from Los Angeles; they took the train to San Francisco and are riding back home. They met in Cambodia where she had gone for a bicycle tour; he was the mechanic on staff. He asked if I was having any trouble with shifting gears and in fact I was; he quickly and expertly fixed the problem for me. Will the blessings never cease?
Yesterday was a fairly long ride along the coast,
some of it on a bike path. I had a delicious lunch at the Whole Foods in Santa Barbara from their prepared foods bar and then continued to the Mission.
Mission Santa Barbara is noteworthy in that it is still an active Franciscan Monastery. The order owns and runs the Mission which is also atypical. There is a stream of visitors from all over the world and all proceeds from the tours go to maintaining the Mission. The grounds are lovely
and their museum is extensive. I especially enjoyed this old photo of some of the Franciscan friars who have lived and worked here in the past.
Santa Barbara is a happening place and it’s main drag, State Street, is hopping with restaurants, shops and beautiful people. I noticed that conspicuously unbrushed, long hair seems to be in vogue among certain affluent, stylish women.
The unkempt hair I can fit in with; the rest of the package is another story. ?