Fun on the San Luis Rey Bike Trail
A family heads to Oceanside for a day of discovery and a bit of a history lesson
By Alyssa Guttendorf
When my husband, John, had suggested we take the kids to Oceanside for a weekend away, I envisioned a relaxing day of sunbathing. But John had something else in mind: a bike ride to visit the historic San Luis Rey Mission. Actually, architecture, great weather and ocean views sounded good to me. It wasn’t every day we got to see the ocean. Melanie and Ryan, our 16-year-old twins, would love their dad’s idea.
Getting up to speed
We arrived in Oceanside in the early afternoon to rent bikes. After getting equipped, we took off to find the bike path entrance to the San Luis Rey Bike Trail.
As we cruised down the carefully paved bike path, I found I couldn’t help but smile. I looked over at Melanie, who is naturally cautious like I am, but was now looking quite pleased as her golden brown hair flew behind her from underneath her helmet. She caught my eye and grinned.
“Hurry up, slowpokes!” Ryan called as he zipped determinedly behind his father. He certainly wasn’t going to let his mom and sister slow him down. He rode ahead and then circled back, so he could ride at his own pace but still stick with the family. While Ryan may have been focused on speed, I was content to take in the view. I spotted some wildlife and a skate park buzzing with acrobatic and brave teenagers doing tricks, I even spotted a handful of skydivers gently cresting down to their landing point with colorful parachutes.
Exploring the Mission
About five miles down the path, we reached the destination of our tour, the historic San Luis Rey Mission. I was immediately struck by the beautiful white facade of the chapel. “Isn’t that something?” John remarked as we dismounted our bikes.
It was Saturday afternoon and the parking lot was slowly filling with reverent visitors. We followed them and entered the doors of the chapel, where we saw one of the most colorful church interiors I’d ever seen. The scenes and structures were vibrantly accented in yellow, green and red, and grounded by deep mahogany pews. The chapel was full of people, all content to sit respectfully in its glory.
John started meandering introspectively up one of the side aisles of the church and Ryan followed a step behind. Melanie seemed captivated by the altar. She was admiring it for a while, and I was certainly captivated as well. Topped with a wooden dome and surrounded by an archway of turquoise and a vibrant pinkish tan, the back wall featured statues of saints surrounding an inset sculpture of Jesus on the cross. The chapel’s interior was a work of art.
“This is so pretty,” Melanie observed.
I couldn’t have agreed more.
An unexpected revelation in an unexpected place
I exited the church feeling humbled and, surprisingly, slightly emotional. I felt lucky to have been able to experience such a significant place with my family. The worries that occupied my mind so frequently—Would the kids end up at a good college? Will they always be happy? Can I make the perfect dinner that everyone likes?—were trivial in comparison to this shared moment in this historic place. With its lasting adobe facade and historic past, the 200 year-old mission embodied the mainstays that were really important in life: love and family.
A perfect end to the day
After we explored the mission grounds, we rode back to Oceanside beach. It was a flurry of activity. Surfers paddled out and carved the waves on the north side of the pier. Families pedaled around on group bicycles. Young couples strolled along the pier holding hands. It was a joyous scene.
I’d been expecting a standard beach vacation, but that proved not to be the case. This vacation turned out to be one that left me feeling accomplishment, gratitude and fulfillment.
“Thanks, Dad!” I called louder than necessary to John. It prompted Melanie and Ryan to chime in, too.
“Yeah, way fun!” Melanie said.
“Definitely.” Ryan said, “And did you notice those skydivers?”
Reconnect with your family in Oceanside, where you’ll experience the best of Southern California.