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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The California Mission Ride: The Antithesis of High-Speed Rail

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge ca_ride.jpg

While California is planning a costly high-speed train system from San Francisco to Anaheim, seven riders are about to mount their horses and head for the border.

Transportation in California has altered over time, and so with it our relationship to the landscape. First horses, then cars, trains, and finally planes, safely removed us from interacting with the people and places along the way. With greater ease of travel, we not only become removed from towns and cities, but from their cultures.

Few of us have visited more than a handful of California's 21 Spanish and Native American missions dotting the coastline, but next month a filmmaker, a writer, a horse trainer, an actor, a high school student, a stuntman, and a wrangler will see them all.

CALIFORNIA MISSIONS FOUNDATION
  • California Missions Foundation

Rider and organizer Leslie Dunton-Downer has been to all 21, including the "bonus mission," San Antonio de Pala. She first caught "mission fever" during her childhood in Northern California. Now a writer in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dunton-Downer's current "to do" list is as long as it is varied. Last year, she spent a few weeks in Seville, Spain researching mission documents at the Archivo General De Indias. This year, she's concerned about horse vaccines and talking with Indian elders.

"I've been taking lessons in mounted sword fighting and jousting," she added, "to gain strength, balance, and confidence."

lesliedd.sword.jpg

The California Mission Ride is a "600-miles horseback journey through the past and for the future" which will start next month in Sonoma, ultimately concluding at the Mexican border. A camera crew will document the journey from mission to mission, where a local group will have devised events "capturing a community's past, present, and hopes for the future." This includes an archeological exploration, tours led by Native Americans, performances, art exhibits, fiestas, musical performances, and even ghost stories. Each mission will explore the issues most pressing to their communities, including the environment, agriculture, education, parks, tourism -- and even wine.

Dunton-Downer is excited for the foreseeable and unexpected challenges along the way, particularly as they "meet people with diverse ties to the missions." Native Americans and the people who study them and their ancestors have a complex relationship, and their interpretations of history are often at odds.

Only seven riders are commencing on the journey, but readers are encouraged to join them at each location. On August 25, Curators Andrew Galvan and Vincent Medina, both Chochenyo-speaking Ohlone Indians, will offer a special tour of Mission Dolores and its grounds from 2 - 4 p.m.

The California Mission Ride will take place in two phases. The riders will visit the missions of Northern California, between Sonoma and San Miguel, from August 18 - September 16. They will continue South in 2013. Visit the California Mission Ride for more information.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook. Follow Alexis Coe on twitter @alexis_coe.
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Alexis Coe

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