Friday, July 2, 2010

Vacation Day 11: Ventura Highway

The main destination for the family today was Magic Mountain.  I wasn't looking forward to Magic Mountain because at this point in my life, these rides just throw my neck out and frankly, they scare the crap out of me.  I had the perfect (and legitimate) excuse to duck out of Magic Mountain with my pulled calf muscle causing some pain, especially with an all day walk around Magic Mountain.

My alternative was to take a drive by myself and do some exploring.  The added incentive was to drive my brother-in-law's Subaru WRX, equipped with some special sticky racing tires.  For most of my driving life I had driven nothing but stick shift, except for the last ten years.  I reacquainted myself with manual shifting by making a drive around the neighborhood, gassing up, and stopping at Starbucks to get a latte for the road.  Like an old glove, it comes back.  Running up and down through the gears is such a joyful driving experience, especially in a responsive car.

I hopped on 101 north with Ventura as my first destination.  Growing up and living in southern California for 35 years, I had never really visited Ventura.  Ventura was always the place you passed through on the way to Santa Barbara, Solvang, and other points north.  But there was history there and a mission I had never visited.  I've been attempting to visit all the old missions in California.  Mission San Buenaventura was on my list to check off.

This being a Wednesday, there was plenty of available parking in downtown Ventura.  Mission San Buenaventura was my first stop on my limited walking tour.  This mission (founded 1782) was the ninth of the 21 missions founded in California, the ninth and last founded during the lifetime of Father Junipero Serra, and one of six that he dedicated.  The mission and related buildings are still owned by the Catholic Church and it still functions as a church and school.  I paid a two dollar donation, picked up a brochure, and went on a self-guided walking tour.  The garden is filled with flowers and exquisitely maintained.  I was startled by a padre who emerged right behind me from the door of their private residence as I was taking pictures.  I wasn't sure what to say, not being Catholic and not particularly enamored with organized religion, I just said "Beautiful place you have here" for which he thanked me.  I walked through the church and sat for a moment praying for the safety of my family at Magic Mountain and a speedy healing of my sprung calf muscle.  Weird, because I never do stuff like that.

My next stop on the walk was Palermo Coffee where I picked up a latte and a brownie.  I always shoot for the local coffee places instead of Starbucks.

A few notable buildings seen downtown were the beaux-arts Ventura City Hall, formerly the Ventura County Courthouse, built in 1912. 

The beaux-arts Bank of Italy building built in 1924.

And the Renaissance revival First National Bank Building built in 1926.

There was much more to see in Ventura, but I had to hit the road and see a few more places.  I drove up the coast to Carpenteria.  I made a couple quick stops overlooking the beaches along the way.  In the cliffs north of Ventura, there is an angular unconformity.  One of the principles of geology is that sedimentary layers are originally laid down horizontally.  Later tectonic forces may tilt and fold the layers.  A period of erosion may occur and then further deposition may occur after that over the tilted layers.  That is the story seen in this photo.

Carpenteria marked my furthest northern point.  I made an about face there and set the GPS for Ojai.  I am careful to obey speed limits (maybe five over) and I genuinely enjoy relaxed, easy driving.  However, when a big Suburban was kissing my tail, I downshifted and wound the WRX through the twisty mountain road and left the lumbering beast behind.  Whoa!  I was having some fun.

I passed Lake Casitas and stopped at a country store advertising the best beef jerky in the world.  I picked up a drink and some beef jerky and I was off again. 

Somewhere along the way I dropped into the valley of the Santa Clara River and through the small town of Santa Paula.  The valley has somehow maintained its agricultural character amid sprawling southern California and probably hasn't changed much for the last 50 years or more. 

I took a few side roads, criss-crossing the valley to see what I could stumble upon.  I found an old church, which turned out to be the Bardsdale United Methodist Church built in 1898 in the carpenter Gothic style, a beautiful old building, well preserved and maintained, and still a functioning church.

I wound up and over another range of hills that folks from the Midwest would call mountains.  Soon I was back again in Simi Valley.  I made one last stop at the Reagan Library, already closed but the grounds were still open.  Never my favorite president (Iran-Contragate, union buster, etc.) but we survived him and he wasn't that bad, really.  RIP Ronny!

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