Native San Franciscans have been frustrated with the cool summer temperatures, but we've been enjoying them. But it was time to resume our travels.
We were heading inland, down I-5 to Highways 152 and 101, into the San Juan Valley and the town of San Juan Bautista, so we expected to find some hotter temperatures.
As we neared our destination, the landscape of rolling hills was unexpected. We had expected to find farm lands. After all, we had passed through Gilroy, CA, "The Garlic Capital of the World" and were not far from Castroville, "The Artichoke Center of the World."
And then there is Salinas about 20 miles south of San Juan Bautista. Sustained by the agricultural production of the rich valley farm lands and bolstered by excellent grazing land in the foothills of the mountain ranges on each side of the valley, the fertile Salinas Valley produces such enormous quantities of fruits and vegetables annually that it has earned the title the "Salad Bowl of the Nation."
And although they are few in number, the boutique wineries that do reside here are truly excellent.
But, even without crops or vines, the hills had an interesting beauty to them.
The well-preserved Mission San Juan Bautista, the largest of the 21 Spanish missions in California, was the first "must see" on our list. San Juan Bautista State Historic Park has the only original Spanish Plaza remaining in California.
In June, 1803, the cornerstone was laid for the Old Mission San Juan Bautista. The church has had an unbroken succession of pastors since its founding on June 24,1797.
Only three of the nine bells in the chapel area remain.
The community of San Juan Bautista gathered on December 17, 2001 as Old Mission pastor Father Edward Fitz-Henry and sculptor Thomas Marsh unveiled an eight-foot statue of mission patron, St. John the Baptist.
With three naves or aisles, it became the widest of all the mission churches.
As I was taking photographs of the interior, I was especially interested in the colorful decorative work on the columns and in what was probably the choir loft. To me, it was a tribute to the cultures of the Native American and Spanish workers and parishoners of the earliest days.
Interior completion of the church continued through 1817 when the floor was tiled and the main altar and reredos (which holds the six statues) were completed by Thomas Doak, an American sailor who jumped ship in Monterey. He painted the reredos in exchange for room and board.
The church surrounds a courtyard, which had been and still is a garden and had been the center for learning skills of carpentry, tanning, weaving, and candlemaking.
The San Andreas Fault runs along the base of the hill below the cemetery. The 1906 earthquake shook the greater part of central California. The side walls of the church collapsed. They were restored in 1976.
And Mission San Juan Bautista was featured in Alfred Hitchcock's film Vertigo, although the bell tower, featured in two dramatic scenes in the movie, does not exist.