My brother and my Dad each had an El Camino!
This route actually originated in Baja California Sur, now a big party place for singles of all ages, and Spring Break for crazy students. Back in 1683 until 1834, Spanish missionaries built a series of religious outposts in what is now our home state of California. Interestingly, the missions were about 30 miles apart, basically one long day’s ride on horseback. Local lore says that the missionaries spread mustard seed along the trail in order to mark it with bright flowers. I thought it was for the mid-day weenie roast!
These bells line the El Camino through three counties
Back in 1912, the state began paving a section of this historic route in San Mateo County (just south of San Francisco City and County). It later became U.S. Route 101, then ultimately to State Route 82 in the north. It is possible to drive the mostly four and six lane boulevard from San Jose in the south, almost to the heart of San Francisco. If you have plenty of time and patience, it is a worthwhile drive. I would say today it is dominated by auto dealerships, fast food restaurants, huge apartment complexes, and big box chain retailers. Once every 15 or 20 miles, it is possible to see a single, most likely old, family residence.
Some of the more interesting places along El Camino are: Leland Stanford Junior University in Palo Alto, Pee Wee’s Pizza in Sunnyvale, Clark’s Burgers in Mountain View, Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Burlingame, Famous Frankfurter in Millbrae, Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City, and See’s Candy headquarters in South San Francisco. Notice these are mostly eateries? I have probably driven the El Camino Real or part of it hundreds, maybe thousands of times. Interestingly, the El Camino Real has its own California landmark status.
A long drive, even by western standards!
These are the original missions, pueblos, and presidios. The San Francisco Presidio has a great golf course, now open to the public.
- San Francisco de Solano (Sonoma Mission) (1823). Sonoma County.
- San Rafael Arcángel (1817) . Marin County.
- San Francisco de Asís [also known as Mission Delores] (1776). San Francisco County.
- San José (1797). Alameda County.
- Santa Clara de Asís (1777) Santa Clara County.
- Santa Cruz (1791). Santa Cruz County.
- San Juan Bautista (1797). San Benito County.
- San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (1770), also known as Carmel Mission. Monterey County
- San Antonio de Padua (1771). Monterey County.
- Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (1791) . Monterey County.
- San Miguel Arcangel (1797). San Luis Obispo County.
- San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (1772). San Luis Obispo County.
- La Purísima Concepción (1787). Santa Barbara County.
- Santa Inés (1804). Santa Barbara County.
- Santa Bárbara (1786). Santa Barbara County.
- San Buenaventura (1782). Ventura County.
- San Fernando Rey de España (1797). Los Angeles County.
- San Gabriel Archangel (1771). Los Angeles County.
- San Juan Capistrano (1776). Orange County.
- San Luis Rey de Francia (1798). San Diego County.
- San Diego de Alcalá (1769). San Diego County.
- El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe (1777). Santa Clara County.
- El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles (1781). Los Angeles County.
- El Presidio de San Francisco (1776). San Francisco County.
- El Presidio de Monterey (1770). Monterey County.
- El Presidio de Santa Barbara (1782). Santa Barbara County.
- El Presidio de San Diego (1769). San Diego County.
By the way, the road actually served a purpose. It helped bring thousands of emigrants (mostly Spanish and Mexican) to Alta California. Today, it is just a boulevard that traverses many busy towns and cities. It is hard for us to imagine going horseback from mission to mission. Instead of looking for shade or water, today we look for a gas station or place to eat or shop. Is that “real” progress, or the El Camino “Real”? See you in Carmel!