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Friday, November 13, 2015

Living High in Ojai


I hadn't seen Jim in over 30 years. In the intervening years, he'd done a stint in the Navy, gotten married, had a bout with cancer, and earned a degree.

He's also a very good woodworker and I'd contracted him to make a piece for me. Instead of having him ship it to me, I thought it'd be nice to drive up to his town...Oxnard, California...pick it up in person, and spend a little time chatting with my old friend.



Catching up over a late breakfast, or lunch if you're Tim, at a very good Golden Egg restaurant patio overlooking the adjacent boat harbor, we decided that we'd make the most of the rest of our day.

Saying our goodbyes to Jim, we head over to nearby Somis. It's a little town just northeast of Camarillo.  

Last year, we got a tour of the Sriracha sauce factory at Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale, California. That's the end of the line for production of this very popular hot sauce.



The beginning of the line is in Moorpark at Underwood Farms where special jalapenos are grown for the sauce. Here in nearby Somis is another branch of Underwood Farms.



While not the mothership, this smaller farm is still well worth a visit.  Out back are pens for chickens, alpacas, and sheep.



A large goat pen allows feeding of the pigmy goats but, unfortunately, no petting.  Stairs and elevated walkways let these natural climbers to what they do best.

Picnics can be eaten in the area set up in a persimmon and orange grove. In fall, a corn maze and pumpkin patch beckons the small set.



Of course, there's also the farm store with an excellent selection of fresh produce. We buy some incredible strawberries to munch on through the day and head out.

Back on the Ventura Freeway, we head through the road's namesake to the north end of town where we turn up highway 33 for the short drive up the mountain to the lovely little town of Ojai.

Along the way, we pass through Casitas Springs, which has a sign saying "the home of Johnny Cash." Cash did buy a trailer park here for his parents and built a house up on the hill but this was his dark, drug filled days where he was out on the road 250 days a year.

First wife Vivian and daughter Rosanne spent more time here than he did.

Ojai is just a right turn away a few minutes later. Sitting at the bottom of the Sespe Range, home of the rejuvenated population of California Condors, Ojai is now a town of tony B and B's, expensive restaurants, and spas.



I remember there is a parking lot one block north of the main drag, behind the shops that line Ojai Avenue in the heart of town, and head back there to find a prime spot in the little plaza hidden back there.

Decent, accessible public restrooms are there along with a myriad assortment of shops, restaurants, and one of the last remaining independent department stores, Rains.

We stroll through the passageways, Tim and I usually waiting outside while Letty browses the goods within the shops, before ending up at Rains .  

We're about done here but just have one last thing to do, eat. It's about 4:30 and the restaurant we were originally going to eat at, Azu, doesn't serve dinner until 5:30.



I remembered an Italian place we walked by earlier with a happy hour sign in the window. Going back, we find Osteria Monte Grappa. It's a dollar off beer, two off of wine, and three off of their wood-fired pizzas.



We decide to give it a try.



Turns out that the only food they serve at happy hour is the pizza so Tim and I share their inferno pizza...pepperoni, olives, and a spicey tomato sauce...while Letty enjoys a pizza Margherita.



It is very, very good.

Stomach's sated, it's an easy and relaxed drive back down the hill.  Shoulda took that left turn at Thousand Oaks, though, because the traffic back in the San Fernando Valley was a nightmare.

Lucky, we had some great relaxation to help get us through.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
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