Casita Springs is an unincorporated area located in the Ojai Valley, North of Ventura and South of Oak View and Ojai. I was unable to find a population so I will guesstimate less than 500. According to the residents, it is warmer than Ventura, as the ocean breezes do not have the same cooling effect here. For my usual stats about climate, I will use nearby Oak View instead: Average January low = 36.7, average July high = 90, sunny days = 277, rainfall = 21.2 inches, snowfall = 0.1 inches.
The road from San Diego to Ventura is freeway. Maybe the signs say Interstate Highway, but, make no mistake, except for the patch of rugged scruff that is Fort Pendleton, this is ALL urban freeway, ALL jammed with traffic, ALL passing through connected large cities, and often stop and go. When Google maps say 4 hours, that is “without traffic”. Which would be never. The most interesting thing about the trip is that it passes through so many places that have names we have seen on TV and in the movies. And that sign on the hillside.
Our rental for the week is a cozy 35 foot RV parked on a flower farm, Love House Dahlias. Our neighbors are ducks, chickens, lizards, and Jackie the Horse. There are gardens of vegetables and flowers, even a working greenhouse where Ann and Andy work their magic with dahlias. The trees are tall and beautiful, the air is fresh and clean, the views of the valley and mountains are spectacular, the duck eggs an unexpected treat.
Our first foray into the area is to Ventura. This is a city of about 100,000, bookended by ocean and mountains. It has a compact, touristy downtown area with a plethora of great places to eat and drink. Lots of breweries. It also has a more suburban area to the Southeast with big box stores and malls. The Ventura Promenade runs along the coastline, overlooking a rocky shore. Big waves crash the rocks together for a very unusual sounding clatter.
Our next expedition is up the valley into Ojai. This a quaint little town with a pretty town square, nestled into a deep valley, swaddled with green mountains wearing little cloud hats. The shops are artsy and touristy. The local promo directory has menus and coupons. This is a great town for a casual stroll through the shops and galleries featuring things fun and funny, pretty and weird, practical and whimsical. There is a great variety of foods, beers, and wines to be had. Just past the downtown area is the Soule Park Golf Course, a beautifully landscapes course with spectacular views of the valley. Evil bunkers and undulating greens add to the enjoyment / frustration of playing this gem.
We took a day to do a scenic drive around the area. Santa Ana Road wraps around Lake Casitas. The lake has a big park on the North end for campers and RVs, but it is pay for play so we pass it by. The lake is a reservoir but it is down by 45% due to years of drought. From the park, the road winds along the Western side of the valley. It is spring here and the mountain sides are sprinkled with wild flowers of yellow and white and purple. We find spots where everything grows; deciduous trees, pines, palms, and cactus, all jumbled together.
Continuing down the valley, we come to Carpenteria, on the coast. This is another cute little California town. From the bustling farmers market you can see ocean to the South and Mountain to the North, framed by the tall palms that stand guard over the streets. After a brewery stop for a pint and some pretzels, we are back on the road, headed for Ventura. For all you America fans, yes, that is the Ventura Highway. Just can’t get more scenic than that.
Our last expedition was to Oxnard, just Southeast of Ventura. Oxnard is a big sprawling city, without much of a downtown. Mostly just generic suburb. The beach here is all sand and very wide. We admire the sand and surf and many boats in the marina, then head back. Along the way there is, of course, another brewery and what is probably the best barbecued ribs we have had since Texas.
We are loving the Southern California coast. The weather is mild, the air is fresh and tasty with a dash of salt, the ocean and mountain views are drop dead gorgeous, the vegetation is lush and abundant with incredible variety. But then there are all those taxes. And real estate is ridiculously expensive. And the freeways bulge with traffic like an old waitress’s varicose veins. But maybe next time around, we will stay a month instead of a week.
Next up: Oakhurst, California