Despite the appearance of this Vacation Rental in San Clemente, which housed a group of surfers during my recent visit here, Orange County strikes me as being affluent. It also has a reputation for being politically conservative. Honestly, I wish we could get away from these polarizing identifications which divide us, but they are stronger now than I can ever remember. Maybe it’s a sort of balancing system that we humans need to keep us going forward; like an airplane on automatic pilot, we constantly veer one way and then the other with the result, ultimately, of staying on course (a course to destruction, perhaps, but still a course.) These days, though, the swings from left to right seem extreme and are separating families and friends. Is this what it was like prior to the Civil War?

As in previous counties, I have been taking advantage of several amazing Bike and Pedestrian Trails. Southern California really excels in this!

I must give credit also to Google Maps, which has a bicycle option in its choices of modes of travel. It sends me to all the bicycle paths and recreation trails, which is helping tremendously to make cycling in Southern California a breeze.

I just rode on a bike lane through a business district reminiscent of Silicon Valley, with large office buildings of glass, stucco and steel softened by perfect rows of nicely manicured trees.

New, chic “apartment homes”

and swanky shopping centers are common (could it be that bike trails take you through the better, or newer, parts of town?)

In addition to bicycles on bike lanes and recreation trails, people are using buses, trains (including Amtrak, Metrolink and other lines), skateboards, motorcycles and even surfboards to get around.

Trains are conspicuously present, which I am enjoying.  There is something about them that I find comforting and nostalgic.

Perhaps it’s because we spent time in Southern California beach towns in my childhood and the trains were always there, or maybe it reminds me of Europe, where I and a cousin of mine spent three months traveling all over the continent on a Eurail pass at the age of eighteen. From the continent I went to England where I bought a bike and toured over a thousand miles. I’ve traveled only a third to one half of that distance this time around, so far.

Orange County has blessed me with generous friends and family with whom I have stayed. After the Fullerton International Hostel I stayed two nights in North Tustin in the home of a friend whose guest quarters were luxurious and oh, so comfortable! What a contrast it was to some of my recent accommodations. She and her husband also have a salt-water pool that was perfectly heated by the sun, making a swim in the warm afternoon a refreshing experience. I’m very grateful for their kindness and hospitality.

I met up with another new friend at Saddleback College, where she is a student of Kinesiology. It was yet another serendipitous moment; her college was right on my way to San Juan Capistrano. We discovered that we share an interest in yoga, massage and nutrition–the healing arts and sciences.

San Juan Capistrano is a picturesque little town that seems to have grown up around the old, beautiful Mission. It has a neighborhood called Los Rios District that has antique, wooden houses, some of which have been turned into shops and restaurants. This one is still a home and had apricot and peach trees loaded with ripe fruit in its front yard.

At Doheny State Beach near Dana Point I met up with my cousin Jon Limebrook and his wife Tina. Jon’s mother, Mary Helen Limebrook, was my father’s sister and lived on the beach in San Juan Capistrano for over fifty years in a house built by her and her husband Bill Limebrook.

The house was recently sold and I miss it, and especially, her. She was the family genealogist of her generation (we have more in the next generation, including my brother the Reverend John Emerson) and she loved to uncover interesting stories about our ancestors. She didn’t care if they were scandalous or secret; in fact she seemed to like those stories best. My brother, on the other hand, prefers to highlight the exceptionally successful and prominent characters.

Here’s a portrait of one my great, great grandfathers, I believe, who is on my mother’s side (or is he a great uncle, John?)

Jon and Tina live over the hill in Lake Elsinore and coming to the coast for a visit was a cooling way to spend an afternoon and evening. We enjoyed dinner together in their vintage travel trailer, which Jonathan is retrofitting with solar panels. They have three grown children and are happily enjoying Jon’s retirement. Tina still works part time and is pursuing a bachelor degree in Geology.

Jon’s brother Hugh Limebrook lives in San Clemente, and after I had failed to find lodging for the night (and it was getting dark) Hugh kindly came to get me and my bike in San Juan Capistrano. I had hoped to camp at Doheny State Park but the camping area was full; I was tempted to camp illegally along the bike path somewhere but Hugh was concerned for my safety. I retraced the Camino the next day, by bike.

I have thoroughly enjoyed staying with him and his partner Kimba. They are both relaxed and welcoming; as dedicated life-long surfers they have the aloha spirit and lifestyle. This is a picture of Hugh and Kimba’s beach finds; Kimba has a keen eye for finding interesting and beautiful objects and is gifted in the art of design.

Mission San Juan Capistrano is the most organized and manicured of any California Mission I have yet seen (and, like much of Orange County, seems to be well-to-do.) They are working hard to restore and preserve its many elements, from the original stone church, which is in ruins since the earthquake of 1812,

to the soldiers’ quarters,

to the Serra Chapel, which houses this painting of San Juan Capistrano (his Spanish name) who was a 14th-15th century Franciscan Friar born in Italy.

It’s a very beautiful mission, and is used as a backdrop for photographs of weddings and other momentous occasions.

Mission San Juan Capistrano is famous for the swallows who migrate back here every spring in March, after flying thousands of miles from South America.

I’m on a schedule now; I have until Saturday to see the final two missions on this leg of my journey. But it won’t stop with the end of the Camino Real of upper California. Let’s see where my nose leads me next!

2 thoughts on “Orange County–Mission San Juan Capistrano

  1. Hi Jody. Everything sounds serendipitously delightful. Loving your diary and your pictures. Keep on enjoying the road! Cheers, Sharon

  2. I agree that San Juan Capistrano is the most manicured. It may be the most elegant ruin in California. A complete restoration would take away from the feel of being surrounded by something ancient, the aftermath of a tragic story.

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