There are real men among us throughout history, I am humbled by your story, true or not it is history and inspires the weak among us (like me) to look up and to aspire ... to be better than what we are. Where can I visit these Missions?
The California missions were founded by Father Serra and the Franciscans in the mid to late 1700s. Each mission has its own persona. Mission Carmel is the only mission made out of sandstone, and it happens to be where the saintly Father Serra is buried. A cork tree in the garden reminds one of how practical the Spaniards were. La Purissima is more like a town than a mission, and has reenactments with period dress. Mission San Juan Capistrano has a tiny little chapel where the latin mass is still said, but you have to get there over an hour early to get a seat. Every one of the missions took what was available from the local materials in order to bring about a civilized society, a huge leap given the circumstances. Each of the missions has taken huge hits from earthquakes, hence the need to make the walls as thick and as strong as straw and adobe mud will make them.
Roughly speaking, U.S. Highway 101 in California connects many of the missions. Just plan a road trip up the coast between San Diego and San Francisco and you can stop at many of them along the way.
Some are very close to the highway. Others would be a little side trip. We seem to visit Mission San Juan Capistrano and Mission San Luis Obispo about once a year, and pick up the others occasionally, as well. Most missions are active parishes. However, the one near Lompoc, (La Purisima?) is a state-run museum. The church is not consecrated any more. It’s still interesting, but don’t expect to attend mass there. However, there’s another mission not too far from that, Santa Inez, which is an active parish. Also, San Antonio is in the middle of a military base in the middle of nowhere. When I visited as a child, the only other occupant of the parking lot was a steer!
I like Santa Barbara’s museum the best, for it’s explanation of why and how Indians and Spanish connected with each other. I like almost any of the churches as places to contemplate.
There are 21 missions and most of them still function as parishes. They had been seized by the Mexican government during the time that California was part of Mexico after the latter country obtained its independence from Spain, and basically then were obtained by ranchers who had friends in government. Years afterwards, when California became part of the US, Abraham Lincoln restored their ownership to the Catholic Church.
Some of them have been heavily restored and some not; some have good museums and some don’t really tell you much of anything. But they are all worth seeing. We started in San Diego and then worked our way up to San Luis Obispo (I think there were 5 or 6 missions in between the two). A few years ago, we had done the Northern and Central California missions, so this completed the chain.
Here’s a good website about them: http://www.missionscalifornia.com/