April 2020 - Discover Ojai - Guest Post
Ojai through Rose-Colored glasses: Searching for my pink moment
- The Traveling Delanys (originally posted Oct 2019)
Ojai (the Chumash Indian word for “nest”, pronounced Oh-Hi) is less than a 2 hour drive from anywhere is Los Angeles. Despite its close proximity, it is sheltered from the outside world by the Topa Topa mountains. Ojai has been a peaceful getaway for Angelenos for generations.
This valley offers a weekend visitor a bounty of options to guide you into relaxation: serene landscapes, olive oil groves, spiritual retreats, wineries, art galleries and the Arcade, a perfect place for wandering around at a leisurely pace and poking into its unique shops.
As part of our trip, I assigned myself a photographic challenge. I wanted to capture what locals call the “pink moment”, that enchanted instance when the setting sun casts a pinkish-purple light onto the mountains, most vibrant a few heartbeats before the sun ducks below the horizon.
Pulling onto picturesque Hwy 33, I was not expecting to feel anything but Ojai wrapped us in a welcoming embrace, enfolding me in tranquility even before entering the city limits. Only small pockets of traffic on this woodsy road, a welcome respite after fighting Friday traffic on the 405 & the 101. The Ojai Valley Trail accompanied us as we drove. Natural beauty gathered all around us, as if we were a parade it wanted to see.
The Ojai Valley Trail
California received a lot of rain this past winter and a super-bloom of flowers erupted all over the southland. The Thomas Fire of 2018 devastated parts of the Ojai Valley and it was gratifying to see that the winter’s rain was beginning to heal the scars.
Our love of the quirky and off-beat attracted us to the Caravan Outpost which offers eleven different Airstream trailers for overnight guests but they were already fully booked for our weekend.
Caravan Outpost (from their website: https://caravanoutpostojai.com)
Maybe next time.
By no means a second choice but certainly a different one, we chose the Blue Iguana Inn for our stay. It is ideally situated 2 miles outside of the commercial center of Ojai – close enough to be convenient, far enough away from the town center to feel like a getaway. Its lush landscaping, comfortable, stylish rooms and a welcome basket loaded with teas, coffee, banana bread and other breakfast goodies made us feel right at home.
We dumped our suitcases and flopped on the bed. We would have laid there unmoving for the whole night if hunger hadn’t driven us out in search of food!
The Blue Iguana Inn, 11794 N. Ventura Ave., Ojai, CA 93023 (805) 646-5277
Room Keys from the Blue Iguana Inn. The mini flashlights on the key rings are a thoughtful touch.
We found our dinner at the Ojai Beverage Company.
Ojai Beverage Company, 655 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, CA 93023 (805) 646-1700
Ojai Beverage Company runs a liquor store in the front and hosts a bar with yummy pub food in the back. The perfect pit-stop for these two road weary travelers and the ideal way to ease into a relaxing weekend. Husband was delighted to hear they had 50 kinds of beer on tap! With brand names like Pink Boots, Luponic Distortion and Scorpion Bowl IPA, I was already starting to love this place.
50 different kinds of beer on tap at The Ojai Beverage Co.
First up: Fried pickles. A basket of pickle slices drenched in a tempura batter, fried light and crispy, served with a ranch-like dipping sauce on the side. Flaky on the outside, crunchy on the inside and delicious all throughout. The noticeable silence on the other side of the table was a clear indication that Husband relished his ribeye melt and Belgian pilsner. I had never had a blood orange margarita but I felt the tangy citrus would be a perfect match to the spice of fish tacos. I was right about the combination, but truthfully, I could have happily made a meal of just the fried pickles. We were tempted to go back for dinner the next night. . . and the next.
Morning broke hazy, the shroud of fog blanketed the valley, giving a layered view of the mountains. Even though the misty gray had its own smoky beauty, I was beginning to wonder if the clouds would remain and obscure the pink moment, but I could not dwell on that because we had stops to make before sunset happened.
For book lovers like us, a trip to Ojai is not complete without a visit to Bart’s Books.
Bart's Books 302 Matilija St., Ojai, CA 92323 (805) 646-3755
A Craftsman style house transformed into a bookstore, with shelving even on the outside – books selling for as little as $.50. You can buy books after hours as well. There is a slot in the door where you can leave your money. Apparently readers don’t steal and thieves don’t read.
Interior of Bart's Books
I had daydreamy visions of the two of us getting lost in the stacks, finding new books, reading the morning away like we did when we were first dating.
EXCEPT – there is no public restroom. I mean, how am I to stay all day if there isn’t a restroom?
A small disappointment, but I decided to make the best of it. I would just stay until my kidneys couldn’t take it anymore.
There were new discoveries around every corner. Making my way over to the Travel section, I was delighted when I spotted my favorite childhood book on the shelf! I hadn’t thought about that book in years. It was the first book I ever read unassisted.
Go Dog Go!
How I loved to read this book when I was a child! The dogs were traveling in cars, scooters and on skis, all going to a mystery destination, which at the end of the book is revealed to be a dog party in a tree with lots and lots of pink cake. A different kind of pink moment! This book may well have sparked my love of travel as well.
We shared a nice couple of hours at Bart’s. There was no way we could leave empty handed – here’s our stash, contributing to our library of World War II, travel, art and architecture books. And “Go Dog Go!”, a baby shower gift for my bestie’s daughter who had requested children’s books instead of cards.
Our treasures from Bart's Books
Such a great concept and a very cool bookstore. Hit the bathroom before you go, just saying.
Our next stop was Summer Camp, a small, curated “Moonrise Kingdom” of mid-century Americana in a converted gas station. (For those not familiar, Moonrise Kingdom is a 2012 Wes Anderson film. Set in the mid-1960s, it is the story of a boy scout and a clever girl who run away and set out on an adventure with the scout troop and the entire town in hot pursuit. This store made me feel like I stepped right into that movie.) Eagle Scout Husband is always looking for vintage Boy Scout items and given the theme of the store, he had high expectations of finding something cool.
Patches for sale at Summer Camp
Summer Camp 1020 W. Ojai Ave., Ojai, CA 92323 (805) 861-7109
This thermos instantly brought back memories of camp outs, beach picnics and pool parties. It must have struck the same chord with Husband, because we reached for it at the same time. Sure, it’s a little scraped and dented, but so are we.
Our vintage thermos from Summer Camp
We tucked the thermos next to our bag of books in the back seat and we headed into the country.
Ojai Olive Oil Company.
The roots of the family that operates this olive grove are as deep as the roots of their olive trees, which are over 100 years old. After an informative tour and demonstration of how olive oil is made, we walked hand in hand among the olive trees. I imagined myself in Italy or in Greece, or better yet – owning my own vineyard!
Ojai Olive Oil Company
Here’s Lily! Such a sweet girl. She is the neighbor’s dog who has appointed herself the grove greeter, arriving daily to welcome visitors and nap in the shade.
Ojai Olive Oil Company 1811 Ladera Rd., Ojai, CA 93033 (805) 646-5964
We added bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to the accumulating pile in the back seat and we drove back to town. I laid my head on my arm resting on the open window and I discovered why my dog loves this so much. However, I couldn’t just zone out. I had a mission – watching for the perfect spot to try and capture a pink moment. And then I saw it.
“Stop the truck! Stop the truck!” I grabbed the sleeve of Husband’s shirt.
He pulled over to the side of the road next to a grove of orange trees. I got out of the truck, making that cheesy film school scene between your open hands. This was it: unobstructed view of the mountain, the citrus grove and the purple flowers blooming on the side of the road, all worked together to make a tranquil scene.
However, Husband had his own mission in mind. “Great! That’s great, honey. Jump in – let’s go get dinner and we will come back and wait for sunset. “
I was so happy with this location, I barely heard him.
“I’m hungry.” Husband complained, “Let’s go get dinner.”
“Hang on a minute. I just want to make sure this is the right spot.”
“I’m going to get an orange off of that tree.” Husband declared.
“No! This is private property.” I blurted in a loud whisper.
“That nun is eating one.”, he pointed out.
What?! My head whipped to the right like a cartoon character and there she was: a nun in full habit, defiantly eating her contraband.
She made his point. Off to eat we went, with a hopeful vision of a pink moment blossoming in my mind.
But after dinner, we could NOT find the spot again! We used Google maps, which we had used to find the Ojai Olive Oil Company in the first place. We turned around at the Ojai Olive Oil gate and followed what we thought was our previous drive back. We ended up back on Ojai Road and I knew we’d gone too far.
“Let’s drive back up and try again.” Husband sighed and did a U-turn. Our second try wasn’t any better.
“Are you sure this is the way we came down from the olive groves?” Husband asked as we pulled over to try and get our bearings.
I wasn’t sure anymore.
He suggested, “Let’s just try and find another spot. The sun’s not going down for an hour. Do you want to take the picture right here?”
We passed multiple picturesque spots, Husband repeatedly asking, “How about this? It’s a good spot, let’s take it here. It won’t matter that much where we take it, you’ll be able to see it from everywhere.”
I finally settled on this view, as sunset loomed.
This was as pink as it got. Not at all what I had hoped, but beautiful just the same. Another reason to come back.
Sunday morning, we headed out to visit the Farmers’ Market, the early morning streets quiet and empty. We turned onto Matilija Street and plunged into the hubbub of the bustling marketplace.
I emptied my Bart’s tote into the back seat and we headed into the market. The sights and smells of the herbs, gorgeous produce, soaps and flowers met us as we walked the busy aisles in search of we didn’t know what. My empty bag was quickly refilled with local offerings: organic veggies, nuts, honey, jerky, more olive oil, baked goods and Pixies (Ojai’s treasured variety of tangerine).
Heirloom tomatoes at the Ojai Farmer's Market. These were so delicious!
Fresh herbs and spices for sale.
Sunflowers at the Ojai Farmer's Market. Sundays, 300 E. Matilija St., Ojai, CA 93023
I tossed our bag of treats into the back with all the rest and we drove off from the Farmers’ Market.
Back at the Blue Iguana Inn, it was still early enough in the day to grab a quick nap before this Eagle Scout and his clever girl had to end their adventure and return to real life. We could have used another day or two here, but even this small spell in Ojai did the trick. I was recharged, relaxed and rested.
In the pink, you could say.
Husband shoehorned our suitcases into the packed back seat.
He got into the truck. “You ready to go?”
I turned around and looked at the jumble of treasures, each cataloguing a stop on our trip through Ojai.
I turned around, buckled my seatbelt and said, “I’m ready.”
A big Thank You to The Traveling Delanys for allowing us to share their article. Please get to know them better and read all about their adventures. You can visit their website by clicking here.