The moving population of Rinaldi Street in Granada Hills, normally limited to drivers of cars and motorcycles and an occasional jogger, was joined Sunday by a woman in a red jacket riding a slow, milk-colored horse. Behind her, in a small leather doghouse strapped to the horse's back, was a white poodle.
Mara Domecq, 38, and her dog Jalima were on their way from Ventura to Mission Hills, continuing a journey by horse to all 21 missions established by Father Junipero Serra, a Spanish missionary famous for the missions he founded throughout California.
"Father Serra was Spanish, and I thought it would be important to remind Americans about what we have done, we Spaniards," Domecq said of her journey. "I'm Catholic and this is a spiritual thing for me. It's a big adventure for me."
Journey Begun Nov. 11
Domecq, who talked as she rode, said she and her dog began the journey on her horse, Blue, in Sonoma on Nov. 11, partly to commemorate the 200th year since Serra died on Aug. 28, 1784, at San Carlos Borromeo mission in Carmel.
She said she plans to end the journey in San Diego within the next few weeks. She rides all day, every day, covering as much as 25 miles in a day. At times she stops for several days to rest or, as happened for January and February, she stops for as long as it takes Blue to recover from saddle sores.
Linda Palmer, president of the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council, coordinated Domecq's ride Sunday as she rode by dirt trail and paved road to the San Fernando Mission. Along the way, Palmer said, Domecq stays with local residents, often members of horseback-riding organizations.
Palmer said she was told that the Domecq family is "very prominent" in Spain. Palmer's husband, Bob, said his wife received a letter from state protocol officials and was told to make arrangements for Domecq's passage through the Los Angeles area.
Domecq, who wore a wide-brimmed black hat with a red and yellow band and matching suspenders, said her trip was arranged with the help of state officials to whom she brought a letter of introduction from the American ambassador to Spain, Thomas O. Enders. Blue's swaying flanks displayed signs announcing, "We're From Spain," also in red and yellow.
Blue, however, is from Stockton, Domecq said.
Father Serra aside, the gregarious Domecq said, she is making the trip because she is a wealthy, admittedly eccentric Spaniard searching for adventure. She said she has never married and lives with her mother on an estate of about 300 acres in the sherry region in southern Spain. She said she has always longed for unusual experiences.
"I don't work; I never worked," she said, speaking in an accent as Spanish as the sherry that she said brought a fortune to the Domecq family.
"Yes, I'm eccentric," she said, removing her sunglasses for a moment. "But I like to do things that are different. Otherwise, what's the point?"
One of the sacks suspended from the horse's side carried, in sewn letters, the words " Mara y Jalima ."
"Write about my dog," said Domecq. "She's more important than I am. She's my friend. She's my companion. She's my happiness. She's a French poodle but she's Spanish."
Domecq is writing a book about her experiences, which she hopes will be published in Spanish as well as English. But she said she has never written a book and has no publisher. As she rides, she holds to her mouth a small microphone and speaks her impressions into a miniature cassette recorder strapped to her waist.
A sample impression, spoken in smooth English with cassette player turned on:
"The Americans all move so fast, so fast, like airplanes. It is as if they all had nuclear reactors in them."
When a reporter suggested a comparison between Domecq and another Spanish wanderer named Don Quixote, she brushed the idea aside with the wave of a hand.
"No, no, he was a fantasy, a fiction," she said. "I am real."