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Daytrippin' in Ojai (or What Not to Do This Weekend)

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Something possessed us to hop in the car and to cruise on up to the little town of Ojaito spend a sunny afternoon. We needed a little getaway -- you know how it is when things get a little hectic in the city and a new landscape on loan is just what's needed to give yourself a break and recharge the old batteries. So out came the map of California (well, okay, we downloaded a PDF from the state's website to save the unfold-fold hassle) and we hatched a plan. Remembering lore about Ojai's majestically quaint beauty, thriving arts scene, and reputation for eclecticism, we thought the hour-and-a-half trip would be just the right thing for us. We had delusions of roadside produce stands offering cornucopias of local agricultural products for sale. We had visions of ourselves strolling along the historical main drag, eager to part with hard-earned cash on any sort of local art, antiques, or goodies to take home. We thought about the beautiful nature, the tasty food we could have, the plentiful homages to famed resident Beatrice Wood...

We were wrong.

Along one of the curving, rural roads we opted to take we saw a produce stand. "Oh, we won't stop now," we rationalized. "We're on our way up, and there's sure to be plenty more like that one. We'll catch one on the way down." That was our first mistake.

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We pulled into Ojai from a sort of back way approach, so it took us a moment to realize we were actually there. We'd set our car's GPS to send us to the Ojai City Hall, because our first stop was the City Hall's grounds, where the Ojai Community Demonstration Garden is located. This LAist loves gardens, gardening, and the kind of altruistic spirit it takes for folks to band together voluntarily to maintain a public garden devoted to organic methods and education. The gardens were nice -- a bit haphazard to navigate, chock full of buzzing bees getting their lunch on, and populated with friendly people offering enthusiastic greetings. After taking a stroll and a whole bunch of photos, as is our usual m.o. in such situations, it was time to head off to the main drag to get our sight-seeing on.

The main drag in Ojai is Ojai Street, which boasts the town's famous tower, the playhouse that houses the annual playwright's festival (performances are August 8-13 this year), the string of shops called the Arcade, and the lovely Libbey Park. It didn't take long to make our way up and then back down the street, stopping to admire spots along the way. In the Ojai Roasting Co. coffee house on one end we discovered that Ojai is populated with friendly burnouts (aka homeless people who say "excuse me!") and surly teens (aka coffee house staff who say "uhhhhh, hmmmm, let me ask what that means," when you order a pound of house blend coffee and ask for it ground for a cone filter). The boutiques and shops were the usual melee of antiques, pricey doo-dads, and crap. The small town vibe was eminent, as even at crosswalks and corners residents greeted each other by name, whilst side-stepping to avoid crashing into families of tourists with cameras slung across chests and kids riding their dad's shoulders.


Our next major mistake was opting for a high-tea style luncheon at Tottenham Court. It looked so cute on the web, and seemed to get great reviews. Our "Secret Garden" tea was disastrously disgusting: Stale finger sandwiches, rock-hard scones, and the pasta salad special that was described as "tortellini and broccoli" turned out to be bowtie pasta with peppers. We asked for a side of their Devonshire Cream and were brought a dish of butter; it took two waitresses to figure out it wasn't Devonshire Cream after all (we're secretly hoping they didn't realize we knew it was butter because we stuck our citified finger in it and tasted it before handing it back to them, where we presume they just set it right back down until it could go back into circulation). An obliging fellow tinkled out showtunes and classic-rock hits of the seventies at the diners' request; we wanted to like it, but couldn't quite get behind having to hear Elton John and Beach Boys hits while we sipped PG Tips. We didn't linger long...

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Still on the hunt for killer fruits and veggies, we tracked down the local veg-heads and hippies off the beaten path at the Farmer and Cook Market; too bad we weren't hungry for anything from their organic salad bar, and too bad we were still convinced we'd hit the motherlode at some roadside stand. Speaking of stands, we decided at this point to blow the Ojai pop stand and to head south to Ventura to round out the day. Clearly it wasn't going to happen for us.

We left Ojai having seen nothing about Beatrice Wood, having parted with almost no cash, with a stomach ache thanks to crappy food, and no need whatsoever to return.

And that produce stand? Never saw another one...