Dungeons and Day Trips

San Juan Capistrano small

San Juan Capistrano. The mission the swallows come back to. Built by Father Junipero Serra three centuries ago. Real California history.

And I have a piece of it.

Well, maybe not a piece of the actual mission, but a piece of the stone the Great Stone Church was built from. Probably. Well, okay, it looks really similar. And it did come from the mission gift shop.

But let me start at the beginning with Elaine and her Groupon ticket. Because I’d dragged Elaine to a bunch of cemeteries, she thought it was her turn to drag me somewhere. Not that I actually had to be dragged to see the mission, but it did take us a while to get down there.

I was in the mood for some Mexican food and the guy in the information booth told us that the El Adobe was a good place. So we walked the few blocks down to the restaurant which the guide book (sheet of paper from the information booth) said had been made from two adjacent adobe buildings. Before becoming a restaurant, it had been a courthouse and a stage stop.


El Adobe Patio

Since it was a nice day, we decided to eat outside on the patio. After a yummy meal, we headed inside to use the restrooms. While I was waiting for Elaine, I read a history of the building which they had hanging on the wall. All about how Richard Nixon used to eat there and how they’d found a dungeon when they were remodeling one of the dining rooms.

No way I was leaving without taking a look at that.

So when Elaine got out, I asked the hostess if we could see the dungeon. She smiled and led us through two dining rooms and into a small storage area before pointing down three brick steps. “It’s down there.”

At the foot of the steps was a door with steel bars. Apparently this had been the jail when the main building was the courthouse. In the center of the small room was a dark circular table with red napkins on it. Around the walls were bottles of wine. And behind the bottles were adobe walls with carvings in them, left by long ago prisoners.

Some of them are still supposed to be haunting the place.

Dungeon Room

Elaine has accused me of being more interested in the dungeon than the mission which is absolutely ridiculous.

Did I mention the dungeon is haunted?

Okay, the mission is haunted too so I guess it’s a tossup.

The mission grounds are beautiful, but there actually isn’t much left of San Juan Capistrano building-wise. A huge earthquake in 1812 took out most of the Great Stone Church, although what remains is pretty impressive. The earthquake did quite a number on the little town too so the townsfolk decided that instead of rebuilding the church, they would use the ruins to rebuild their own houses.

Can’t really blame them.

One of the buildings that may have been repaired with bits of the Great Stone Church is the El Adobe Restaurant. The one with the dungeon.

See how this all ties in?

Camino Bell

The bell on the walking stick is the sign of El Camino Real, the road (or more commonly a footpath) that ran between the missions.

Swallow Condos small

Swallow condos. No swallows around, though. Wrong time of the year for them. They come around on March 19th.

Great Stone Ruins

The remains of the Great Stone Church. Huge and haunted.

Tallow Vats

Tallow vats. Because who wouldn’t want to see tallow vats.

Serra Chapel Altar

Serra Chapel. The oldest building in California and the only place remaining where Father Serra is known to have celebrated Mass.

Lizard on a Hot Rock small

One of the local residents.


Arches. I love arches.


Gray cross, blue sky.

Of course on the way out, we had to go to the gift shop and I noticed that some of the displays had a little piece of cream and rust sandstone holding the descriptive cards. Now these little pieces of sandstone were exactly the same color as the sandstone in the Great Stone Church and seeing as how pieces of it were “liberated” after the earthquake, it seemed logical to me that these rock markers might be actual chunks of the mission itself.

There happened to be one sitting on the counter when I went to buy my official souvenir refrigerator magnet so I asked the lady behind the counter if it was indeed a piece of the mission. She picked it up and studied it a moment. “I don’t know. These are made for us by the woman who does our crafts. I don’t know where she gets them.” She dropped it down beside the cash register. “It might be.”

When she picked it back up again, I saw that a nickel-sized chip had broken off. She saw that too and smiled. “Here.” She started to give it to me, then laughed and put the fragment in a little plastic jewelry bag. “Just in case.”

And THAT was just as cool as the dungeon.


Fine Dinning

Green Water Blue Sky

So every year, Lisa and I and whoever else we can drag along go to the Irish Fair in Pomona. They hold it at the L.A. County Fairgrounds which they make a bit more festive by adding Irish banners to the flag poles and green dye to the fountains. Half a dozen little stages are scattered around outside the huge concrete commercial buildings. Little food stands line the main thoroughfare hawking hamburgers, hot dogs, bangers and mash.

But we never eat at those places.

Not that they’re bad. It’s just that after you’ve spend $12 for fish and chips and another four bucks for a drink, you’re left standing in the sun with a plate in one hand and a soda cup in the other with no place to sit and no way to eat your meal.

Enter the buffet. Where, for twenty dollars, you get not only a seat, but bangers, mash, salad, corned beef, shepherd’s pie, peas, potato salad, corned beef, cabbage, dessert and a drink. All you can eat, in the shady cavernous interior of one of the commercial buildings.

Perfect for a warm day, especially if you’ve left your third arm at home.

I checked the website the night before to make sure that the buffet was happening this year. And there it was. “Fine Dinning,” it said. Ha ha.

Except that it wasn’t a typo.

Because this year, right next to the tables with their little white tablecloths, was a stage.

With a Celtic rock band playing on it.


With every decibel reverberating through the big concrete jet hangar-sized building around us.

We ate there anyway because we were starving and the food was good. But next year I’m bringing my earplugs.

Teetering Through Texas


So hoping your foot is not broken is no substitute for actually seeing a doctor.  Who will lecture you about waiting two months to get an x-ray.  And put you back into a boot.

Even though you are going to Texas in two days.

But Brian was a trooper and rented me a wheelchair.  Here are the top ten things I learned traveling around the Texas State Fair in a wheelchair.

1. It is totally possible to roll a wheelchair around the livestock barns.

2. You will accidentally grab the manure-covered wheel instead of the steering ring no matter how much you try not to.

3. Friendly strangers will push your chair through the ladies room into the handicapped stall.

4. Your chair will end up facing the wall behind the toilet and you will have no idea how to get from one to the other.

5. Sometimes you have to circle an entire building to find the handicapped ramp.

5.  Wheelchairs were not meant for off-roading.

6.  Sometimes you feel guilty because Brian has to push you up hills in the heat.

8.  Sometimes you feel terrified because he has let go of the handles and is walking beside you while the chair flies downhill unguided.

9.  Always go to the doctor immediately after an injury.

10.  So you don’t have to go to Texas in a damn boot.

Meanwhile in the Santa Monica Bay…

Another photo challenge from Mark. (Mark provides the photos, I provide the story.)

It was hot. Stick to the car seat hot. Burn yourself on the door handles hot. So four friends, Lenny, Charles, Steve and Michael, who all happened to be cotton swabs, decided it was a perfect day to escape the Valley and go down to Santa Monica for a dip in the ocean.

Luckily the woman who owned the purse they lived in had the same idea.

When she took out her sunscreen, they spilled out onto the remarkably wood-like looking sand in a rather neat row.

Lenny jumped to his…other end. “The beach! We’re here! Let’s get wet!”

Charles frowned and tugged at the white plastic cap on his fluffy head. “Why do we have to wear these stupid bathing caps?”

“The Olympic swimmers wear them.”

“We aren’t Olympic swimmers, Lenny. This makes me look like a Q-Tip.”

Michael shook his head. “You are a Q-Tip, Charles.”

“We can pretend we’re Olympic swimmers.” Lenny hopped into the surf. “Come on, come on, let’s go.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Charles asked.

“It’s a great idea.” Steve floated out farther from shore.

“Charles, just go with it.” Michael shoved Charles into the water.

Lenny bobbed excitedly. “Oh, look. Is that a dolphin?”

Michael squinted in the direction his friend was…tilting. “Wait, Lenny. Don’t go over there. That’s not a dolphin. It’s a tweezer shark!”

“No, it’s not. It’s a cute little…”

But it wasn’t.

“Oh my gosh, the tweezer shark killed Lenny!”

Charles rolled his eyes. “Who didn’t see that coming?”

Michael turned to him. “Charles, try to focus. Lenny’s dead and we’re stuck in the water with a killer shark.”

“I was hoping Lenny had filled him up.”


Steve pointed at the surface of the hard brown water. “Hey, look, a slushie cup.”

Charles shoved it away. “Damn it. Doesn’t anybody read those ‘Drains into the Ocean’ signs on the storm drain outlets?”

Steve grabbed the cup. “Maybe we can use this to muzzle the shark.”

Michael nodded. “Yeah, if he’s got a cup on his nose, he can’t bite us. We’ll be safe.”

Charles shook his head. “Not if we’re close enough to the storm drain outfall to be finding discarded slushie cups.”

“Charles, are you going to help or not?”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Pull his tail.”


“Pull his tail. Then while he’s looking at you, Steve and I will sneak up and seal his mouth closed.”

“Unless he’s got me in it.”

“We’re not going to let him eat you.”

“You let him eat Lenny.”

“Lenny was an idiot. Now when I give the word…”

“Look out, it’s coming again.”

“He got Steve!”

“Okay, Charles, it’s you and me and the Slurpee cup.”

“We could just get out of the water.”


“It’s not even very deep here. Look.”

“Just hold the other side of this cup and when he swims between us, shove it onto his nose.”

“So if you lose your left hand to a shark, do people start calling you Lefty?”


“Wow, it actually worked. Maybe they ought to change those signs on the storm drains to do not throw anything but the occasional slushie cup.” Charles’ voice trailed to a stop.

“What’s the matter now?”

“The cup fell off.”