Plan B for the Win, Again

Note: This post was written on a hard day—the day after another mass shooting in Colorado. We were at the shopping center where it happened just a week before, enjoying Sweet Cow ice cream. Many people we love live in Boulder. Life is precious, tomorrow is not guaranteed. Take care of each other.

We were in California for Spring Break, having a low key (distanced and masked from others) getaway and seeing some of our favorite sights and people. Maureen wrote about a bit of the journey here. We also stopped at Death Valley National Park on our way into California. It was hot, and “cool,” and had some really touristed areas, which made me remember what I don’t like about national parks.

Badwater Basin and Artists Palette

We also passed through Trona, California, the site of a “dry lake” from which John Searles began mining borax in the late 19th century. Long a company town built around the production of borax, potash, and soda ash, Trona is still home to Searles Valley Minerals, Inc. Based on the vehicles we saw, some plant employees do quite well, though they do sacrifice some convenience living this far from—well, much of anything.

Despite the crowds at Death Valley, or perhaps because I yearned to escape them, I decided we should go to Santa Cruz Island, part of Channel Islands National Park. Neither of us had made it there, despite Maureen living here for years and me visiting many times. So I booked two spots on an Island Packers boat for Monday morning, leaving at 10 and returning from the island at 4. When I booked, the agent warned me that the forecast predicted potentially rough seas and the trip could be cancelled. We prepped our gear Sunday night for two one-hour boat trips and five hours on an island with no food or water available. (The boat does offer food and “both types” of beverages.) Alas, I checked my email upon waking to find that the trip was indeed cancelled. Though the morning would be decent, the afternoon seas would make it hard to retrieve everyone safely from the island.

Enter Plan B. If we learned anything from long-term travel, it was how to pivot when your plans go awry, which happens far more often than we like to believe. On our “possible” to-do list for this Spring Break trip were Ojai, hiking, and birding. I checked the Google for options and learned that Ojai has a Preserve—Ojai Meadows Preserve. It was recommended that one go early for optimal bird sightings, so we popped up, showered, ate breakfast, and headed for the car. It did not take long to drive to Ojai, and we found the preserve easily, though the parking—between the bike and traffic lanes—was interesting. We walked for easily a couple of hours, adding birds to our app-based lists as we went. We were thrilled to see several scrub jays, an oriole, an Anna’s hummingbird, scads of vultures, acorn woodpeckers, kingbirds, bluebirds, and thrashers. And many rabbits.

And the scenery was spectacular.

Ojai Meadows

After we hiked and birded, we drove to the little coffee shop we’d seen on the way in. It was called Coffee Connection and was run by a man who was originally from Carlisle (in the UK, not Ohio or Kentucky). Maureen had an Americano with heavy cream (such a treat when shops have real cream) and we were both relieved to find facilities (pun intended).

Next we drove into Ojai, but we didn’t stop. Window (or other) shopping is just much less appealing in the COVID-era. We decided to head towards Santa Paula and then into Ventura. As we drove, we investigated picnicking options and settled on Marina Park in Ventura. We were surprised to find that the park did not charge for entrance or parking, so we gathered up our lunch fixings and found a table overlooking the ocean. It was very breezy and difficult to see the islands, so the cancellation of the day’s intended adventure made more sense. It was nice to have a picnic outside of the car though!

Marina Park and Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center
in Ventura Harbor

The visitor center for Channel Islands National Park was just across the harbor (though you of course can’t get there directly, see map) so we decided to check that out and stamp our Parks Passport for the aborted journey. The visitor center is mostly open to the outdoors, so it felt pretty safe to check it out. And the staff was very welcoming. Outside, there’s a garden with native plants and fun animal art.

As we walked back to the car, we spotted this great blue heron. We saw it fly off with a twig (?) then Maureen spotted it in a nearby tree. With another heron! Bird-nanza!

There’s another heron up there too, you’ll just have to trust me on that.

We were a bit aimless by this point, but drove around Ventura and then back to our hotel. We had planned to have dinner in Ventura after the island trip, but we returned from Plan B too early. Instead, we wandered into downtown Carpinteria and settled on Teddy’s by the Sea. It was the most crowded establishment we saw and after we sat down we realized why—it was Happy Hour!

We enjoyed the drinks and fish as well as the stroll through neighborhoods on the way back. Never underestimate Plan B.

Happy Hour on Plan B day.

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