California Missions Ride

Mission San Juan Bautista

The first ride of the season is complete! Our mini tour of the California Missions was pretty awesome I must say. Even though we had a small turnout, we had a dynamite time and for you guys who didn’t show up, you missed out.

Our tour took us across the valley floor to Little Panoche road which winds over the mountains and pops out in Hollister. We stopped half way over at the Panoche Inn to have a cup of coffee and stretch. It’s a popular place for bikers and other travellers and the owners are just the nicest people on the planet. After a brief stop we continued on, passing all sorts of bikers and even a small group of folks driving classic racing cars, complete with leather helmets and goggles on. So cool!

Our first mission stop was San Juan Bautista. The Mission in San Juan Bautista is pretty interesting, but it’s old and not very attractive architecturally. I did get my favorite picture of the day there though and that’s the one you see here. The town of San Juan Bautista itself though is really cool. Little shops, pubs and restaurants line the main street and it really has that charming quality that so many little California towns have. We checked out the mission, dropped into Mom and Pop’s pub for a quick beer, then hit the road.

Our second stop was the Carmel Mission, formally known as San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission. This mission is far more ornate and architecturally interesting than San Juan and it’s also kept up better. I really enjoyed the beautifully kept garden areas and I think the statues of the various saints and priests were the most interesting to me. The huge pipe organ was also pretty impressive and I wish I could have heard it play.

Even though the buildings were interesting and it was interesting seeing a bit of history, I came away feeling kind of let down. Being a Christian I think I expected to feel moved at being in such religiously significant places, but honestly I felt just the opposite. I felt spooked and a little put off, and here’s why.

First, there obviously was a lot of energy spent erecting tributes to men. What I mean by that is everywhere you look there are plaques and statues giving praises to priests, or saints or the Pope. I mean EVERYWHERE. For a religion that very clearly states that we are all sinners and that the first on earth shall be the last in heaven, the Catholics seem to spend a lot of time worshiping each other. Christ seems to be presented as almost secondary to the holiness of the saints and past priests.

Secondly, the blatant commercialism is a major put off. Now, I expect a mission to offer souvenirs to tourists in order to help maintain the grounds. But when you plaster Our Lady of Guadalupe on just about everything imaginable, I think it kind of cheapens things. It was like Gene Simmons was the marketing director for the mission. I fully expected to see holy toilet paper and thank goodness I did not. I did however see Bible-opoly though, where Boardwalk is now Jerusalem and you build churches instead of hotels on your properties. I don’t know, it was just too much.

Aside from those things though, the buildings and artifacts are fascinating and beautiful and it was very cool taking a peek back into history. We finished the day with a lunch in Carmel and then rode back home. It was an outstanding day to ride a motorcycle. Can’t wait for our next ride where we’ll be heading to Half Moon Bay to enjoy some fantastic riding, food and drink.