Mission San Juan Bautista


I got an early start on Day 4, mostly because I needed to find a set of chains for my rental car, before heading east into snowy Yosemite.  After driving around the Monterey Peninsula for a while, and failing to spot a single auto parts store, I decided to head towards Yosemite, and hope to find a store somewhere along the way.  I didn’t have many other goals for the day, other than buying the chains and getting into Yosemite, but I found a few interesting places to stop along the way, including Mission San Juan Bautista.

From Monterey, head north on California Rte. 1 to Rte. 156.  Rte. 156 passes San Juan Bautista, then runs into Route 152, which will take you halfway across the central valley, then Rte. 59 up to Merced, and finally, Rte. 140 on into Yosemite.

I hadn’t planned on visiting another mission, but San Juan Bautista seemed like a good place to stop for a moment.  Mission San Juan Bautista was the 15th of California’s 21 missions to be dedicated and built along el Camino Real, the Royal Road (roughly traced by modern-day US 101).  It was established in 1797, and its church was dedicated in 1812.

The “convento” wing leads up to the church entrance.  Currently, these rooms are used for the mission’s museum.  Historically, they were used as living quarters and work areas for Native Americans.

There’s the church itself.  It’s the widest church of any of the California missions, with three aisles.

Parts of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1957 movie Vertigo were filmed at Mission San Juan Bautista.

El Camino Real played a critical role in the success of the California missions, and Mission San Juan Bautista was no exception.  You can still see part of the original road, just over the hillside, on the north side of the plaza.

Not only is this the path of el Camino Real, it’s also part of the San Andreas Fault.  A 1906 earthquake caused the side walls of the church to collapse.  It took 70 years to restore them.

In front of the church, there’s a wide, green plaza.  It’s the only original Spanish plaza remaining in California.  Old buildings surround the plaza, such as the Plaza Hall, Plaza Stables…

… and Plaza Hotel.  All of these buildings are part of the San Juan Bautista State Historical Park, owned and operated by the state of California.  You can take a self-guided tour any day except Monday, when the park is closed.

San Juan Bautista isn’t just a mission, there is also a small town here, with businesses lined up on 3rd Street, just one block down from the mission and historical buildings.

The Mission Cafe looked tempting, but I needed to get back on the road, on my drive towards Yosemite.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Monterey to San Juan Bautista:

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