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In Search of Local Art

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An intriguing artists' collaborative, Downtown Sol, sits at 3rd and C Streets in Oxnard. On display is the work of Mexican, Indian, Peruvian and many local artists, including jewelry, dolls, rebozos, paintings, sculptures, blankets, embroidery, and oil candles made by owner Marisa Lopez. Although handcrafted, it's surprisingly affordable. 

Lopez frequently hears patrons comment that they had no idea it was there.


Visit the Reagan Library? Some Democrats won't, others will.

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The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library may be the biggest tourist attraction in the (805) region, but some area democrats refuse to go. I recently heard from a reader who said that for political reasons, she has never and would never set foot there.

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So I called Democratic Party of Ventura County Chairman David Atkins to get his take.

He prefaced his comments by saying that his organization doesn't have an official position on the Reagan Library. But he said he's visited the library and enjoyed it.

"I'm a fan of American history and presidential libraries generally speaking," he said. "I think they're fantastic places to see. I would recommend that everyone visit as many presidential libraries as they can."

In his opinion, the nation's shrines to presidents tend to display bias for the president being celebrated. That said, nothing in particular offended him when he visited Reagan's.

I think it's too bad politics keep some folks away. There's so much 1980s history there, including a piece of the Berlin Wall. They bring in fascinating temporary exhibits, and visitors can walk through Air Force One, see a replica of the Oval Office, and learn about the U.S. Secret Service's history. Besides all of that, the architecture is stunning, and so are the views overlooking Simi Valley.

Off the Beaten Path: Shopping in Ventura

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The Wharf, a western-inspired cluster of stores tucked away on Front Street in Ventura, has been around for more than 50 years selling a massive inventory of cowboy belts, boots, hats, jewelry and clothing for ranchers and heavy lifters who need steel-toed footwear. Its feed store sells baby chicks, equine and other animal supplies, and its gift shop offers an assortment of Ventura-centric items.

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The Wharf draws large crowds to its periodic sales and I went to one over the weekend with a friend. He has lived here most of his life and -- to my surprise -- had never been. He said he wouldn't have guessed it was there. Its location is somewhat obscure, away from downtown near the railroad tracks.

It's destination shopping.

Where Ships Meet Shore

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Empty containers are loaded onto a Del Monte ship at the Port of Hueneme. The facility, which in its early decades focused on offshore oil, was designated a U.S. port of entry in 1992. TROY HARVEY/THE STAR

Taking a tour of the Port of Hueneme is, in the words of port spokesman Will Berg: "The best kept secret in the county."

This is a great deal for frugal travelers. Just call the port and Berg will arrange a free tour to accommodate any size group. The outings are geared toward education and Berg peppers the trek with statistics and historical information. The port is more than 75 years old and is a major economic engine in the area.

Wear walking shoes and bring a jacket because the weather is unpredictable near the waterfront. It's also a good idea to check the vessel schedule so you arrive on a day when cargo is being unloaded. Imported bananas and vehicles are the port's bread and butter.

The tours are recommended for children in the third grade and up.

FlightCar Comes to LAX: Park Free By Renting to Strangers

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FlightCar has announced that its car sharing option is now available to LAX travelers.

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If you're OK with a stranger driving your car while you're out of town then the San Francisco-based company will set you up with free airport parking, a car wash and an opportunity to earn between 5 and 20 cents per mile, depending on the age and luxuriousness of your vehicle. And FlightCar's free town-car shuttle will take you to the terminal. Smoking is not allowed in your vehicle and renters who break that rule are charged a $1,000 cleaning fee.

FlightCar says they provide liability insurance up to $1 million, but I'd still check with my insurance carrier to be sure my policy extends to car sharing.

Three teenagers (two in Boston and one in San Francisco) founded FlightCar last year. Their press material says they're recent Harvard, Princeton and MIT dropouts. It also touts their celebrity backers: Ashton Kutcher and Ryan Seacrest. They're bringing the service to LA after already launching it at airports in San Francisco and Boston.  

If you'd like to give it a try, the lot is at 9020 Bellanca Ave., Los Angeles 90045.

Hidden Camarillo: The Bird Museum

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But for the giant bird's nest framing one of the archways in a nondescript office park in Camarillo, you might never know that one of the world's largest bird collections is tucked away there.

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Camarillo's little-advertised Bird Museum has two million eggs, 60,000 bird specimens and 20,000 nests, according to Collections Manager René Corado.

Roughly 1,000 birds are sent to them every year. Many die when they strike windows, towers and cars. Others are killed by cats, oil spills and other hazards, Corado says.

Visitors can get close looks at the snowy owl, bald eagle, condor, scissor-tailed flycatcher, Great Blue Heron, red-tailed hawk, and thousands of other birds in the collection. Extinct species are also on display. 

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The museum has been in Camarillo since 1992 and operates as part of the nonprofit Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, which also runs a research and education institution dedicated to bird conservation.

Public tours are conducted at 3 p.m. on the last Friday of every month (except in November and December). Call at least one day in advance to schedule: (805) 388-9944. Each tour is limited to a maximum of 20 people. Adults are $5. Kids under age 7 are free, and so are foundation members. 

In Moopark, Authentic Mexican Food With a Side of Love

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Since changing locations in 2011 to a spot near Moorpark High School, word has it that
Taqueria Jalisco has grown popular with the locals.

Taqueria3.jpgI was lured to Taqueria Jalisco by a friend who lives in Moorpark. She mentioned its growing popularity since it moved to its current location three years ago.

Owner Jorge Ochoa runs the place with his wife, two sons and two daughters. Online reviews say Taqueria Jalisco serves affordable, straight-up authentic Mexican food, and that's what I found there. Asked what he considers his most popular dish, Ochoa replied: "I sell a lot of tacos and burritos."

The eatery is a favorite of area teenagers who come from Moopark High School, which is located across the street.  Ochoa
pointed to a young boy and said he'd just given him $1 for bus fare, adding that when kids don't have money, they still get food. He said he serves at least 100 teens daily.

"On my biggest day I served 200," he said.

Ochoa has been in business for 17 years and owns three Taqueria Jalisco restaurants. They are located at:Taqueria2.jpg

4275 Tierra Rejada Road

Moorpark, CA

(805) 530-1111

1742 E Los Angeles Ave,

Simi Valley, CA 93065

(805) 583-8833

4415 Alamo St.

Simi Valley, CA 93063

805) 526-0447


The Perils and Wonders of California's Largest Island

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Passengers arrive at Santa Cruz Island. PHOTO: Stephanie Hoops

The National Park Service calls a visit to Santa Cruz Island "an exercise in preparation and self-reliance." If you want conveniences, go to Catalina Island. This is California in the raw. Water is available at one of the harbors, but that's it. There's no food to buy. There's no gear for sale. You're on your own. And the terrain is rugged. A ranger warned us to stay at least six feet from cliff edges. She said that if you fall they'll conduct a recovery, "never a rescue."


In 2009 a 49-year-old Orange County man died on Santa Cruz Island, having suffered heat stroke during a hike on a 94-degree October day. Park rangers said they told his party they didn't have enough water for their 14-mile hike (they each had about two liters and were told they needed twice as much).

Despite the island's challenges, it is a wonderful place to visit. The views are spectacular and comparable to what you'll see in Hawaii. Campers needn't worry about large predators like bears and mountain lions because there aren't any on the island. And tourists get a chance to see California's landscape as it was hundreds of years ago, unspoiled and rugged.

Other things to do on Santa Cruz include fishing, wildflower gazing, bird watching, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming and diving. Just be sure to educate yourself before you go:

National Park Service

The Nature Conservancy


Dolphins Steal the Show

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On an Island Packers cruise Saturday, passengers came hoping to catch sight of migrating gray whales. They settled for a few fleeting glimpses of blowhole spray off in the distance, but got an unexpected surprise as the boat neared shore on the trip back from Santa Cruz Island.

It was surrounded by a large pod of playful dolphins.

They put on a "dolphin ballet," said Gloria Olsen, a visitor from Minnesota. Her son, Mike Olsen, captured some of it on video:

Petting Goats

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A pygmy goat looks for attention at Underwood Family Farms in Somis.

With all the visitors they see every day you'd think the pygmy goats at Underwood Family Farms would yawn at the sight of yet another approaching human, but they always seem genuinely glad to see you. They're probably just hoping you'll pop a coin in their food machine and drop them some kibble. But that's OK. Their warm greetings are one of the reasons to stop at the popular attraction.


Sheep, alpaca and other creatures also populate an animal center that children enjoy. Educational tours and special events are a regular part of the Underwood Family Farms experience.

The farm has roots dating back to 1867, when the Underwood family first began growing crops in the Ventura County valleys. The family still owns the business and you can buy their fresh produce and specialty items in their market, or pick-your-own seasonal crops.

Underwood Family Farms has locations in Somis and Moorpark.

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Ocean Meetings with Whales

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A newborn gray whale calf, delivered just hours before in the cold waters of Big Sur in Monterey, Calif.
(PHOTO: contributed by Phillip Colla Natural History Photography

Capt. Dan Ryder says he never uses the word "awesome" -- except when describing what it's like to come up alongside a whale.

"It's awesome the way these things move. And when they make eye contact with you --" Ryder stops short and sighs. "They are definitely taking a look at you."

Ryder is a licensed U.S. Coast Guard Captain with 40 years of sailing experience. His operation -- Sail Channel Islands -- offers luxury charter trips leaving from the Ventura and Channel Islands Harbors. He admits, however, that his excursions probably aren't the best if goal is to spot a whale.

"The whales and me just come together by chance," he says, pointing out that your best bet is to try one of the larger outfits, such as the Condor Express out of Santa Barbara or Island Packers out of Ventura.

The migrating Pacific gray whales have left food-rich arctic waters and are now swimming south to Baja Calif., where they will mate and nurse their young. There are still a few remaining humpbacks to see as well, Ryder says. Blue whales haven't been spotted in a long time and it's unclear why that is.

"Some orcas have been spotted," he says. "They've been seen moving around the islands looking for small mammals to eat."

Several companies offer whale-watching trips daily through April. Here are a few leaving from harbors in Ventura, Oxnard and Santa Barbara:

Island Packers

Channel Islands Sportfishing Center 

Condor Express 

Santa Barbara Sailing Center

Hunting for fossils, rocks and minerals

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Jim Brace-Thompson, spokesman for the Ventura Gem & Mineral Society, stands near a collection of woolly mammoth tusks. The society is nearly 70 years old and welcomes new members. PHOTO by Scott Blaine.

If you have a passion for rocks, crystals, minerals and searching the earth for signs of prehistoric life, the Ventura Gem & Mineral Society would like to get to know you. The group meets regularly on property rented from the county park system and spokesman Jim Brace-Thompson recently gave me a tour of the place, which is on North Creek Road, across the street from Camp Comfort in Ojai.

They have several buildings with rooms for sawing, polishing, grinding and studying.


You can sit in the office and look at field guides that tell you where you can legally hunt for rocks. There's also a museum filled with intriguing finds like woolly mammoth tusks and teeth, dinosaur bones and rare gem stones, much of which was found in the area.

"We'd love to get more kids involved," Brace-Thompson said.

The society has been around for nearly 70 years. Its first meeting was on Dec. 27, 1944 when a group of local teenagers got together in a rumpus room to start a rock club.

Today the club has between 75 and 100 members on a given year.

During my Saturday tour there were about a dozen people who came to saw fossils, dig through rock piles, polish gem stones and discuss their hobby.

Annual memberships run $20 for singles, $30 for couples, $17 for full-time college students and are free for those under the age of 18 who come with paying adults. For more information contact Brace-Thompson at (805) 659-3577 or info@VGMS.org.

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A woolly mammoth tooth kept at the Ventura Gem & Mineral Society's museum.

Take a turn on F Street

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Looking for something to put you in the holiday spirit? Grab some hot cocoa and take an evening stroll down Christmas Tree Lane in Oxnard. I heard about it from a local, who said: "You've got to see F Street's show." You'll find it in the Henry T. Oxnard National Historic District, which is known for its fun neighborhood activities, like Halloween displays and Autumn Historic Home Tours.

Christmas Tree Lane began in the early 1990s and an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 people visit during its run in December.

Prepare to be dazzled at this heart-warming, family-friendly event. You'll see a panoply of ornaments, trimmings, a Christmas tree train, mangers and, of course, the lights. I was impressed to hear that the homeowners provide all of the decorations and pay for the electricity themselves. The city supplies increased traffic control (we saw police on bicycles), portable restrooms and garbage cans.

6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Dec. 8-25 Location: F and G Streets at Palm Drive

Call (805) 385-7545 for more information.


Is that snow?

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"Snow" settles on trash receptacles in downtown Ventura on Dec. 7. The imitation snowfall was created using bubbles.

In January of 1949, snow covered Ventura County when -- for one day -- two inches were recorded at Point Mugu and the end of the Ventura Pier.

In 1989, a light snow fell in the eastern part of Simi Valley. 

Between 35-40 inches fall annually on Mount Pinos, and dustings occur once or twice a year on the Topa Topa Mountains and north of Ojai in Rose and Lockwood valleys.

Otherwise, don't expect to experience a real snow storm in Ventura County during this time of year. But do expect to see plenty of the pseudo-stuff at events like the 4th Annual Ventura Winter Wine Walk. Even though it's not real, it's still fun when it starts to blow.


Glamping in Santa Paula

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A "Glamour Tent" at Ventura Ranch. PHOTO: Contributed by Ventura Ranch KOA

The 75-acre Ventura Ranch KOA in Santa Paula is a great place to give luxury camping a try. You'll find yourself surrounded by fragrant lemon orchards, roaming wild peacocks and miles of nature trails. There's also a jumping pillow, a pedal car racetrack, two zip lines, a climbing wall and a soon-to-open swimming pool.

And I hear congratulations are in order for owners Scott Cory and Steven Bitter, winners of Kampgrounds of America's 2014 Rising Star Award. The prize is decreed upon campground owners who exhibit the traits of seasoned campground professionals even though they have fewer than five years in KOA North America's 486-campground system.

"This award is so well deserved by Scott and Steve," said KOA President Pat Hittmeier. "They are constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to what campers will see next. They've taken what was a campground in disrepair and turned it into a thriving business."

For more information call (805) 933-3200.

Step into a Ventura sunset

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Splendor of ended day floating and filling me... -- Walt Whitman

Witness a winter sunset from the beaches of Ventura and it's easy to see why twilight captured the attention of great artists like van Gogh and Monet.


(PHOTOS: Scott Blaine)




Where walnuts talk and walls listen

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ReaganSpyGirls425.jpgTo track someone during the Cold War, the East German secret police - the STASI - sprayed female German Shepherd hormones on the target's doormat or tires. Male German Shepherds would then track the scent after the person unknowingly left a trail all over the city.

That's just one of the many intriguing bits of information on display (of course with an aged bottle of dog hormones) at Spy: The Secret World of Espionage,  the Reagan Library's two-floor exhibit, which runs through March 9. SpyIDs150.jpg

Look closely, because nothing is as it appears as you take in the nearly 300 documents and spy gadgets used by the CIA, KGB, FBI, and National Reconnaissance Office. Many of the items are drawn from the collection of spy book author H. Keith Melton, the largest private collector of spy memorabilia in the world. They range from a remote-controlled robotic catfish used to explore unmanned underwater vehicles, to secret cameras hidden in ashtrays and attached to pigeons, a coin containing a poisoned needle, and a hollowed-out walnut carrying a tiny paper message. You'll also see the fake script from Argo and some of the other things used in 1979 to promote a nonexistent movie in an effort to rescue six Americans from Iran.

The extensive exhibit transports you into the clandestine world of yesterday, and leaves you wondering about the level of sophistication that must exist today.

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Ojai Valley living

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This holiday season get a taste of life in the Ojai Valley with an exclusive peek inside four gorgeous homes.

The Holiday Home Look In takes place Nov. 16 and 17, compliments of the Ojai Festivals Women's Committee.

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This 12-year-old ranch house was redesigned to display the owner's significant collection of pre-Columbian ceramics, Amazonian feather work and historic tribal textiles and sculptures. (PHOTO: Fred Rothenberg)


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The exterior porch of the Carper House, which features beautiful stone work and spacious living. (PHOTO: Fred Rothenberg)

Unwind at Meditation Mount

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It's hard to imagine coming away from a visit to Meditation Mount without a sense of inner calm. You'll find this spiritual sanctuary at the end of Reeves Road, high on a hill overlooking Ojai. 


Walk the paths in the garden and you may encounter deer and rabbits that seem to have no fear of visitors. Boulders and benches are engraved with compassionate sentiments that invite you to relax and enjoy the silence and tranquility.

Meditation Mount was built in 1971, the inspiration of founder Florence Garrigue, a New Yorker interested in promoting meditation. If you're interested, attend one of the daily or monthly full-moon meditations.


A visit to Boccali's pumpkin patch

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Pumpkins. They are the perfect harbinger of fall. Ringed by hay stacks and children, beyond the oak-covered lawn at the Boccali Ranch Pumpkin Patch, we had 20 minutes to kill before our pizza was ready. (We came for pumpkins but with the inviting smell of Boccali's robust pizza sauce wafting through the air quickly realized that it would be impossible to leave without a hand-tossed pizza too).


There in the Ojai Valley with the mountains in view, we walked amidst the corn stalks and navigated the hay maze. We watched the tractor pull happy families past a pseudo-graveyard. We tasted wines and chatted up the lady working the Boccali Vineyards & Winery stand.

And by the time our pizza was ready we still hadn't found a pumpkin to grace our porch. We will be back.


5 must-do stops in Ventura County

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View from Anacapa Island, about 11 miles off the coast of Ventura County. Anacapa is part of the Channel Islands chain and Island Packers will take you there.

Island Packers boat trips. Island Packers' sightseeing tours have been around for 45 years. They'll take you to all five islands in the Channel Islands National Park via a fleet of three catamarans. They cruise with an eye for wildlife and you never know when you'll spot sea lions, whales, dolphins and even sharks.

The Ronald Reagan Library & Museum. Regardless of your politics, this place is worth seeing. The views are breathtaking from atop a hill overlooking Southern California. The love affair between Ronald and Nancy Reagan is captured beautifully in the photos on display in the museum, as is the history of the 1980s. A giant piece of the Berlin Wall is on display, and Reagan is buried here. Visitors can walk through Air Force One, the Boeing 707 Reagan used exclusively during his years in office from 1981-1989. It took a major effort to get it in place, but the entire plane is now parked inside the library's pavilion.

Mrs. Olson's Coffee Hut. Expect to stand in line for a hearty breakfast at this popular Oxnard beachside restaurant. It has been around since 1974 and has been listed among the best breakfast spots in America by a number of publications.

Surfers' Point at Seaside Park. The stretch of sand near C Street in Ventura is known as Surfer's Point and is one of California's premier surfing spots. To get there, walk along the city's beachside promenade and when you're closing in on the fairgrounds, look for surfers along the inner coastline.

Snapper Jack's Taco Shack - In my opinion, some of the best fish tacos in the county cannot be found near the beach. If you've been turned off by too-small, too-soggy fish tacos, you have to try Snapper Jack's. They'll make you a believer.

Camping at Pismo Beach

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Smack dab between San Francisco and Los Angeles in southern San Luis Obispo County is Pismo Beach, a.k.a. the "clam capitol of the world."

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We didn't go for the clams, having read that they're in short supply. You need a license to dig for the little mollusks and there's a limit to how many you can legally take. Apparently, they've been depleted by decades of harvesting.

We went to see the dunes, and they were impressive.

In late September we arrived amid an Indian summer heat wave. We stayed at the Oceano Campground, a state park located off of Highway 1, not far from an Amtrak station. While the days were hot, the evenings were chilly and from our tent we could hear the roar of the ocean all night long.


During the afternoon, ducks and monarch butterflies populate the surrounding lagoons and it's a short walk to access the beach, where horses and vehicles traverse the shoreline. We climbed and hiked the dunes and found it isn't easy because they're blanketed in sand that's as fine as baby powder.

If the government shutdown locked you out of your favorite national park, try one of the state's. Oceano's 82 sites are extremely well- maintained, and have hot showers and individual water spigots. For more information call 1-800-444-7275.


Tour Ventura City Hall online

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VenturaCityHall.jpgVentura's most photographed building is its city hall, which is now 100 years old. It's a stunning Italian Carrara marble structure that overlooks downtown from elevated property at the end of California Street.

Want to know more about the face carvings, bronze doors, architecture and other details of the place? Check out the amazing virtual tour put together by the Ventura County Star's digital experts. Scroll over the photos and discover more: TOUR

Andersen's pea soup and Danish culture in Buellton

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It's nearly impossible not to see the billboards announcing Andersen's from Highway 101 just north of Santa Barbara. The Buellton restaurant was founded in 1924 and bills itself as "home of the world famous split pea soup."


The restaurant has the same old village charm as Solvang, which makes sense since the area was founded by Danish settlers. It's full of baked goods, historical information and gift shops, including one dedicated to Christmas. The soup is vegetarian, but they'll add pork if you ask.


The restaurant was originally called "Andersen's Electric Cafe," in honor of the founder's new electric stove. It's en route to Hearst Castle at San Simeon and in the heyday of Hearst's newspaper empire journalists would hang out at Andersen's, including the celebrated newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane and O.O. McIntyre, who was a famous columnist during the 1920s and 30s.

What are those things?

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When I take visitors for a drive along Highway 101, they'll often ask me about the mammoth oil platforms dotting the coastline between Ventura and San Luis Obispo Counties.

Nathan Alley gets asked about them too.

"I have had people visiting from out-of-town who say: 'Ew that's gross. Why do you have that out there?'" says Alley, a staff attorney with The Environmental Defense Center.

But Alley admits that locals get used to seeing them and - after awhile - they tend to blend in with the scenery.

"I think the more you travel up and down the coast the less noticeable they become," he says.

There are 20 platforms located off the shores of Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, many installed more than 40 years ago, according to The Environmental Defense Center.

The oil and gas is shipped via pipeline to processing facilities before it goes off to market.

In 1969 one of the platforms near Santa Barbara spilled more than three million gallons of oil into the ocean and blackened the coast from Point Conception to Ventura County.

Referred to as the "oil spill heard around the world," it raised the ire of environmentalists and is credited with giving birth to the modern environmental movement and the first Earth Day celebration, according to The Environmental Defense Center, which was established after the 1969 spill. 

The Santa Barbara nonprofit has documented the rich history of opposition to the platform drilling.


Joyce La Mers: 'Joys of Travel'

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As long as you are traveling
Traveling Light.jpg     There's nothing you can do
To combat curse or crisis,
     Though you might cause a few.

Your mail won't be delivered,
     The grass need not be mowed,
Your creditors can't find you
     No matter what they're owed.

Whatever road you travel
     Is free from guilt and sin.
You're in a magic bubble,
     And no one has a pin.

-- Oxnard poet Joyce La Mers

Fall escape to the Apple Farm Inn

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Fall is prime off-peak travel season on the Central Coast and area hotel prices drop between 25 and 35 percent, according to Judy Van Dyke, owner of Camarillo Travel

One place Van Dyke recommends is the Apple Farm Inn in San Luis Obispo.



The Millhouse at the Apple Farm is an exact replica of an old working grist mill from the turn of the century (PHOTO: Contributed by the Apple Farm)

Located just off Highway 101, the Apple Farm is a Victorian-style boutique hotel with a country bakery and restaurant that features farm-to-table cuisine. On the grounds surrounding the Inn you'll find the millhouse, a working watermill that harnesses power from San Luis Creek to make apple cider.


The Apple Farm Inn in San Luis Obispo (PHOTO: Contributed by the Apple Farm)

"Every room at our hotel is decorated individually and they all have gas fireplaces to cozy up to," said Apple Farm spokeswoman Christen Goldie. "Our guests love the little extras we provide from the glass of wine at check-in and the hot cider and cookies in the lobby to our daily guest wine reception and the wooden apple innkeeper's gift they get to take home. The Apple Farm really is a home away from home here on the Central Coast."

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 A king-specialty room at the Apple Farm Inn in San Luis Obispo (PHOTO: Contributed by the Apple Farm)

A short drive north on Highway One will take you to Hearst Castle and the dazzling Big Sur shoreline.

If you'd like to go, check out these special fall deals Goldie sent:

Fall special

Nifty fifty special

Thanksgiving package

Coffee at Serra Cross Park

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On Sunday morning we took our coffee up to Serra Cross Park at Grant Park overlooking Ventura. If you've never been, I urge you to go. The views are spectacular.

While we were there, we saw three deer, a few early-morning exercisers and a man playing  flute in the brush.


The moon over the Serra Cross. The wooden landmark was placed on the hillside to guide travelers soon after Father Junipero Serra founded the San Buenaventura Mission in 1782. The cross has been replaced over the years and the current one has been there since 1941.The park is a popular one for weddings. More info

Access is from Poli Street on Brakey Road, which hugs Ventura City Hall. Follow the green sign to "Grant Park." Map 

Historical Ventura County

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CamarilloRanch.jpgThe Camarillo Ranch House, built in 1892, is owned by the City of Camarillo and operated by the non profit Camarillo Ranch Foundation. (PHOTO: Contributed by the Camarillo Ranch)

Looking for Ventura County's historical landmarks? Ventura County Star Staff Writer Teresa Rochester created a fabulous map that's a terrific place to get started. If you need more info about any of the places you'd like to visit, shoot me an email and I'll get it for you.

Scroll over the darts for addresses and websites: Historical Landmarks Map

6 sports bars I'd recommend to a friend

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Rookees.jpgIt seems like whenever I have visitors in from out-of-state I'm always asked where they can watch such-and-such game. Here are six places I'd recommend:

  • Rookees - 419 E. Main St., Ventura, CA 93001. Phone (805) 648-6862. Rookees is a great sports bar in Downtown Ventura. It's almost never crowded, they have plenty of TVs, they'll supply your table with a speaker box so you can hear your particular game, and the staff is nice about changing channels.
  • Cronies Sports Grill - 370 N. Lantana St., Camarillo, CA 93010. Phone (805) 482-5900. Don't expect a dark corner or fancy amenities at Cronies. It's simple, family-friendly and known for its giant beers served in goblet-style glasses. Cronies also has locations in Newbury Park and Ventura, but my personal favorite is the one in Camarillo.
  • Brendan's Irish Pub & Restaurant - 1755 E. Daily Drive, Camarillo, CA 93010. Phone (805) 383-4100. Brendan's is also in Camarillo and is perfect if you're looking for something upscale. The atmosphere is dark with wood paneling, and comfortable booths and tables. Locals go there to play darts and enjoy top-shelf whiskey. Brendan's also has locations in Newbury Park and Agoura Hills.
  • Sunset Terrace Restaurant & Lounge - 235 N. Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360. Phone (805) 497-4847. This is actually my friend's favorite sports bar. He lives nearby and goes all the time. They have plenty of big-screen TVs, reasonably-priced drinks and good bar food.
  • Giorgio's Pizza & Subs - 914 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, CA 93023. Phone number not listed. Giorgio's has a super friendly vibe. Also, it's in a great location, right on the main drag downtown.
  • BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse - 461 W. Esplanade Drive, Oxnard, CA 93030. Phone (805) 485-1124. BJ's is easy to get to from Highway 101, so if you don't know your way around Ventura County, this spot is a safe bet.

Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail

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When I went to the Piedra Blanca Trailhead I wasn't prepared for the heat. If you're going, bring plenty of water and do it during a cool season because the sun reflects off that white stone. Also, wear shoes with good grips because the rocks are slick and the hiking can get challenging. We went in June and it was a scorcher.

That said, it's worth the trip to see the towering sandstone formations emerge from the landscape. They're actually 65-million-year-old fossilized sand dunes and the Chumash Indians saw this as a spiritual place, according to this story from 1992: "Ethereal Piedra Blanca a Link to Sorcerers Past : Outdoors: Monolith held to be a Chumash Indian spiritual refuge"


To get there, drive to the Piedra Blanca Trailhead at the end of Rose Valley Road. Cross Sespe Creek's wide streambed and take the trail to the left. After 0.4 miles turn right at the junction and that will bring you through the mammoth white rock formations. The Piedra Blanca Camp will appear after between 2-3 miles. Twin Fork Camp is a half mile further and has water most of the year. The trail to the Pine Mountain Lodge Camp is another 3 miles and is quite steep in places, but well worth the visit.

An Adventure Pass is required to park at the Piedra Blanca Trailhead or to recreate in the Rose Valley Recreation Area. For more information check out the Los Padres National Forest site.

Beer drinking in the SYV

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I hear that beer tasting is growing in popularity in the Santa Ynez Valley, the 805's bastion of wine. Undeniably, wine tasting amid the vines and apple trees is spectacular fun after a quick stop for a gourmet sandwich at Los Olivos Grocery's small country store. But it's nice to know beer aficionados can find their chilled amber brews, stouts and malt liquors too.

Beer.jpg I'm looking forward to Solvang's first ever Oktoberfest (Bruegala festival) Oct. 19. Tracy Farhad, executive director of the Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau says a craft beer movement has sprouted legs in the region with new breweries and tasting venues in Buellton, Ballard, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez and Solvang. 

Here's a craft beer trail map:

About Stephanie

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Stephanie Hoops covers business for the Star. She has been a journalist since 2001 and has been with The Star since 2004.

Prior to working for newspapers she practiced law in the Detroit area where she grew up. She maintains a license with the Michigan Bar. Since graduating from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, her work has been recognized for outstanding journalistic achievement.

Among her awards are three from the California Newspaper Publishers Association, an Associated Press Business Writing Award, a New York Times Co. Chairman's Award for breaking news, and a first place business writing award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.
Welcome to the Tour805 travel blog, operated by Ventura County Star Business Writer Stephanie Hoops.

The tourism-fueled leisure and hospitality sector is growing stronger in the beautiful Central Pacific Coast region of Southern California.

As new groups organize to market the area's resources, share in leisure ideas from a resident's perspective.

Reach Stephanie online in the comments, via email at shoops@vcstar.com, or on Twitter: @Tour805.