A few weeks ago, on the way out to
, we kept passing markers for legendary “Route 66.” At some point, it occurred to me that I had no idea why Route 66 is legendary…. I just remember the song: “Get your kicks on Route 66.” Wasn’t it on a Mountain Dew commercial or something??? California
Before the Interstate system was created, Route 66 was the major cross-country highway, stretching from
to Chicago . It no longer appears on maps because the road no longer exists as such. For example: Between Los Angeles and Pasadena , following Route 66 means taking Santa Monica Colorado Boulevard to Fair Oaks Avenue to Huntington Drive to Mission Road to Sunset Boulevard to Santa Monica Boulevard. Not all of these roads are directly connected. In fact, one would have to do quite a bit of research in order to follow the old trail.
The same goes for “El Camino Real” – a path carved out by Spanish missionaries who settled
in the late 1700s. El Camino Real (Spanish for The Royal Road, or The King’s Highway) is also mentioned in a popular song… remember Jim Morrison beckoning “ride the King’s Highway” in The Doors’ song “The End”? He managed to make it sound like a path through the underworld… the stuff of myths and legends. Actually, the King's Highway was a dirt path stretching from present-day San Diego to Sonoma. California
The first mission on the King’s Highway was built at
in 1769. From there, Franciscan missionaries continued up the coast, building new missions on sites where the soil was fertile and the Native American population was large. The last mission was built in San Diego in 1823. Sonoma
Amazingly, all 21 missions still exist, in one form or another. There are two in greater
– San Gabriel Archangel (1771) and Los Angeles , Rey de Espana (1797). Since these missions seemed like a good starting place for a tour of San Fernando history (the California or Plymouth Rock of our new home) we decided to pay a visit to one of them. Jamestown
An exact replica of the original
mission - named for the King of Spain - is on the north side of the valley, and it’s an unassuming little compound packed into the Mission Hills neighborhood. It’s an extremely popular location for weddings and, since 2003, has also drawn a lot of Bob Hope fans – the entertainer is buried in a mini-amphitheater in the middle of a lush garden behind the chapel. San Fernando
For me, the most intriguing sight in the entire compound was a room filled with photos of the mission before it was restored, and the
San Fernando Valley before it was densely populated. The realization that, until fairly recently, this was an untamed wilderness with a single dirt road through the deserts and mountains, really does make it seem like the stuff of myths and legends.
Like Route 66, El Camino Real doesn’t appear on most modern maps… but tourists traveling along the coast will probably notice at least one of the 158 cast-iron bells that exist to commemorate the first highway.