Rx California: Salinas Rodeo, San Juan Bautista

view of SF bay from the Top of the Mark, Fairmont Hotel

I miss my pre-internet brain.  Does it miss me, I wonder?

Would I even know?  Nothing that can’t be fixed with a cup of coffee and an alfajor dipped in coconut.  Or a trip to California.

Sure was nice to relax in that California sun, leaving behind a cold, wet Buenos Aires winter.  Day 1 we feasted with family at our favorite Mexican restaurant, the Blue Agave in Pleasanton.  Their chicken mole is to die for… I shared my meal with a Don Julio Añejo margarita.  Jet lag annihilated! 

  Latino elixir vitae

Day 2:  California Rodeo Salinas.  We took it slow… starting with pony rides.

We worked our way up from ponies to bronc ridin’, bull ridin’, barrrel racing, calf ropin’, team ropin’… watching, that is.  Plenty of action in the hot Salinas sun. Unfortunately, yours truly is not equipped for high tech action photos.  My apologies.  Googled these from this summer’s rodeo.

heads up at the buckin’ chutes!

Texas singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen Jr. said, “Riding a bull is like driving your car on the freeway at 70 mph and then just chuckin’ the steering wheel out the window.”

hang in there, cowboy!

“I had a rodeo career lasted 15 seconds… that’s five bulls x 3 seconds apiece. After that I just stuck to the Copenhagen part of being a cowboy.”

Bullriding ain’t for sissies!

These days bullriders wear helmets and protective vests.  Too many rough-stock riders have lost their lives.

bull fightin’ in Salinas …

The cowboy has to stay in the corral with the bull for 40 seconds to score.   Then he gets the hell outta Dodge, usually by jumping over the fence.  The cowboy, that is … although I have seen a few bulls jump fences.  Never seen a crowd of people runnin’ so fast for their lives!

cowgirls with speed and determination: barrel racing!

Santos at the Salinas Rodeo

We had a fabulous time with friends and family at the rodeo.  Even the mutton bustin’ was fun to watch.  That’s where little kids get to ride a sheep and hang on as long as they can!  My Buenos Aires boy had never seen this kind of action!

Oops! wrong end!


Calf Ropin’


Team ropin’: one cowboy heads, the other heels 

Later that evening we had dinner with Roxy and Johnny at los Jardines de San Juan, one of my favorite restaurants anywhere … in historic San Juan Bautista. 

Santos at the Casa Juan de Anza, built in 1799.  This old adobe structure has been restored several times, yet still appears to be falling apart.  So wabi-sabi.  Santos REALLY liked it.

The beautiful San Juan Bautista mission, built in 1797, is still standing and in darn good shape… especially since it was built right on the San Andreas fault.

Hitchcock filmed many scenes for his film Vertigo (1958) here at the mission. Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak… wow!!  Check out this still shot at Fort Point, right under the Golden Gate bridge.  

Kim Novak throws herself into the water and Jimmy Stewart, a complete stranger, jumps in and pulls her out.

Of course he falls in love with her, even though she’s a complete whack job.

She thinks she’s the reincarnation of her grandmother, Carlota Valdés.

This is a spooky mock-up of the mission, made for the movie.

The real mission never had a tower like that… but it does have a bell tower.

Hitchcock makes Jimmy Stewart’s character gets dizzy every time he tries to climb the tower stairs, chasing after Carlota.  He spins into crazy, psychotic, psychedelic episodes.  What kind of drugs were they on?  Hitchcock must have looked into his crystal ball and seen the Summer of Love coming, 10 years later.

don’t look down!

I guess Hitchcock needed a hallucinogenic tower ’cause more than one person has to fall from (or be pushed off) the tower.

Hitchcock and Kim Novak on set. Hitchie had a thing for gorgeous blondes.

What’s not to love about this movie?  And you cult followers can play the “spot the subliminals” game.  ‘Nuf said.

There’s no lack of cool spots to visit in San Juan Bautista.  I already told you SJB sits right on the San Andreas Fault.  Years ago there was a seismometer (an earthquake measuring instrument) in a glass box on a cement pedestal right by the mission, where you could watch the needle as it scratched up and down with the beat of every underground tremor.  It looked kinda like this:

and a tremor looks like this:

seismographic recording

I thought the seismograph had been vandalized and destroyed some years ago, but checking just now it appears to have been moved to a safe location inside the mission.  They say we’re ready for another Big One… although we did have a local Big One in 1989 – the Loma Prieta quake.  They called it a 7.1 at first but later downgraded it to 6.9.  It was real scary.

It was too early for Daisy’s to be rockin’ out that day, but evenings and weekends the place is jammed with bikers, along with sixty or seventy Harleys and other scooters parked out front.

old school bikers


The above building is Plaza Hall, built in 1868. It faces the Mission across a large grassy square. Before that, it was an old adobe building which may have housed cavalrymen, and even earlier served as a monjerio or dormitory for unmarried mission Indian women. In 1868 those same adobe bricks were used to form the ground floor of a two-story building that was planned to be the courthouse of newly established San Benito County. Lucky for us, “when Hollister was chosen as the county seat in 1870, the first floor of Plaza Hall was modified to serve as a hotel and later as the residence of the Zanetta family, while the second floor was used for public meetings and celebrations. Laid over 30-foot-long redwood beams, the floor of the upstairs hall had good “spring” and therefore became famous as a dance floor.


Many a grand ball was held there as were political rallies, temperance meetings, traveling shows, and gatherings of local groups such as the volunteer firemen.” San Juan Bautista can rightly boast of having the oldest dance hall in California. When I was dancing with the Alta California Dance Company we held numerous Californio style balls and fandangos there, with live period music.  [cf: San Juan Bautista Plaza Historic District]

Sometimes we also danced in the bar of the Plaza Hotel, across the street.  The Californio era dates from the first Spanish presence, established by the Portolá expedition in 1769. During that period Catholic missions were built up and down California, following El Camino Real, each a day or two’s journey apart. 


California became part of the US in 1848, after the Mexican-American war and the Gold Rush, that large-scale western migration lasting more than a hundred years. California officially became a state in 1850. Beautiful melting pot of immigrants… let’s keep it that way!

Next door to Plaza Hall are the old stables with an amazing collection of antique carriages, wagons and buckboards.

This one’s seen better days:

I’m guessing the lighting was oil back then.  See all the oil lamps?

Harness room.

Saddle room.

see the sidesaddle and the military saddle?

Tack room.

all kinds of bridles, bosals, bits and other stuff here

Last but not least, Santos’ favorite, the beer wagon.

We can’t wait to go back to San Juan Bautista.  If you go, and you’re hungry, JJ’s is the best burger place.  They have a to-die-for jalapeño cheeseburger, and you can get it with guacamole.


Stay tuned for part 2 of our California trip: San Francisco, Monterey, Los Osos and San Luis Obispo, including tales of the ships boarded, the towns ransacked and burned, and other true episodes of pillaging and plundering by Argentine pirates on the coast of California!

+Santos w:bear SLO*.jpg

Santos at Mission San Luis Obispo

Oops! I almost forgot to add the photo with my cowgirl credentials. This darling with her mama is one of the many babies I raised and trained over the years.

cowgirl creds

Over and out from Buenos Aires!