Days 24: El Camino Real

There was “no room at the inn” (er, campground) last night, so I wound up sleeping a little ways off a backroad outside of San Luis Obispo, under very a dark sky (my favorite…except when I’m looking for a place to sleep after dark).  I was surprised to wake up just a few yards from a farmer’s field (oops!), and I scurried of there quickly when I saw the farmer doing his thing.  The last thing I want to do out here is get arrested for trespassing!

I had the most delicious cinnamon roll at a local spot in a neighboring town then headed on my way.  Next stop: Santa Barbara.  The only thing I really wanted to see there, especially since I was on a time schedule, was the Old Mission.  I hadn’t known much about the missions (or El Camino Real), but my Tahoe hosts told me a little, then I was fascinated to learn more at the mission museum.  The place itself, originally built in 1786, was beautiful, and though I’m not Catholic or overtly religious, I’m a very spiritual person, and I felt a tremendous sense of calm wandering around the grounds of the still-working mission, despite there being quite a few people sharing my space and time.

It made me smile and warmed my heart when a man distributing bulletins for evening mass stopped me for a conversation.  He asked me if it was my first visit, welcomed me to stay for services, and asked my name…then eagerly traced the Biblical roots of it with me.  Besides my mom, there’s probably no one else who knows (or remembers) the meaning of my first and middle names together – God’s promise of light – and it felt special for me to get to share this with a total stranger who actually appreciated the sentiment.  Of course, I told him I was my grandma’s namesake, and that meant more to me than anything, getting to share her memory.

A friend I met driving Lyft lives in San Diego.  He was planning to meet me somewhere in southern California during my journey, but when I found out I had to go to LA to pick up a new tent, I decided I might as well go on south a little ways to visit him and check out his city.  From Santa Barbara, I continued south along the coastal highway (Route 1).  Jon told me it was scenic and beautiful, and choosing it felt like the thing to do, but boy was I ever silly to think it wise to take the scenic route through the second largest city in the country!  It took me most of six hours to get around LA by way of Route 1.

By the time I arrived in Oceanside, just north of San Diego, I was exhausted from driving but surprised by how calmly I’d reacted to the long and tedious drive, which included making it all the way down to Laguna Beach only to get stopped by and diverted around an accident, which took me another extra hour north and east out of my way.  The prospect of sleeping in a real bed and doing laundry and taking showers without tokens must have been what kept my spirits relatively high despite stressful circumstances.  And that felt like a win!

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