Portland to Ojai

thin tree branches covered in ice

Look What We Found!

Ice covering everything in sight. It was gorgeous, and I had to get photos. These branches were at our first pit stop after leaving Portland early in the morning with temperatures in the teens, ice crunching under our tires, and Jim trying hard not to slide off the road. 

thin tree branches covered in ice

Some of the branches were on hedges. But many of them had fallen to the ground from high up in the trees. That allowed me to get close. So much ice: no wonder the trees couldn’t hold up all the branches. Even though it was freezing outside, there was no way I wasn’t going to get a few photos.

thin tree branches covered in ice

The whole time we’d been in Portland with rain, snow, and icy weather I hadn’t seen anything like this! I was looking forward to some warmer, southern California weather, but that was nowhere in sight. That must be further down the road – nothing warm around here. 

pine tree branches covered in ice

These two are my favorites! 

pine tree branch covered in ice

Turn on the Heat!

Once back in the car, we had to put the heater on high to thaw out a bit, but it was worth it! An hour or so after that stop, the sun came out, the roads were clear, and we didn’t see any more snow or ice. Goodbye winter snows, goodbye cold north winds, put away the winter coats, mufflers, and mittens, for a while anyway. 

Siskiyou Summit sign

Okay, we did see a bit more of winter as we climbed to the southern end of the State. The faraway mountain tops were covered in white. Also, at the Siskiyou Summit, we found some ice and had to stop: last chance for winter photos like these. Is this what cold temperatures do to water oozing out of the rocks?

mountain side with icicles

We’re Back in California!

We made the descent into California and didn’t take any photos until our approach to Mt. Shasta. Well, I tried to get them in a moving car which is so frustrating. Oh, well, – here’s Mt Shasta. We’ve driven past this monster mountain many, many times, but have never gotten any closer. It’s on my list now!

Mt Shasta covered with snow

We made it to Sacramento and spent the evening eating a delicious dinner and conversing with long-time friends (and Jim’s soon-to-be fellow in-laws) far into the night, forgetting about the early departure we had planned for the morning!

the sun peeking over the horizon

Ready for Day Two

Setting out for a long drive at 6:00 am after a late night is not enjoyable, but we managed after Jim got some hot coffee to help out.  

If you drive south on Interstate 5 from Sacramento to the Los Angeles area, it takes between five and six hours. We knew we could make it to our house sit in Ojai on time, but we wanted to get off the Interstate. We had done that drive so many times we started recognizing some of the long-haul truck drivers who take that route.

grass-covered rolling hills

Just south of Fresno, I found a back road, Hwy 33, that the map gods said would only be five minutes longer than following the usual route. It somewhat parallels the Interstate for a while, so we figured it would work. It would also take us into Ojai from the north which would bypass driving through Los Angeles and all the traffic. Sounds good, let’s give it a try!

A New Route!

We took the highlighted route west of Interstate 5. A small mountain range separates the two roads and that’s it. Once we began that part of the journey, we didn’t see much until the nut trees started up again. The previous day, we had seen many miles of various nut trees along the road. Okay, that’s a bit of an understatement!

pistachio trees in winter

On this road, they were simply everywhere. They just kept going and going as far as you could see in every direction, filling an entire valley. It was unbelievable to see these orchards run for miles and miles. It was winter, so we didn’t see any nuts or many leaves, for that matter, but I had to stop and get a photo of all the yellow leaves on the ground.

pistachio trees in winter

I thought they were pistachio trees, but I wasn’t certain. Soon enough, we figured it out. Maybe this sign had something to do with that! Okay, it’s not a family farm, it’s a massive industrial complex supporting an enormous business. Now we know!

main entrance for Wonderful pistachios company

What Next?

Even odder than all the trees, we suddenly started seeing oil derricks along the road. You could see hundreds at a time, all busy pumping crude oil headed for the nearby refinery. Then off it goes as gasoline for everyone driving on Highway 5, where we’d just been. So this is where it comes from, Whoa! 

area filled with oil drills/wells

That scenery stretched for 40 miles in the broad valley, seriously. It just went on and on and on; we couldn’t believe our eyes. The area is just east of the Carrizo Plain National Monument, which, given our schedule, we didn’t have time to visit. 

area filled with oil drills/wells

Whenever we’ve driven north on Interstate 5, we’ve always wondered what was on the other side of the hills. Now we all know – sand, nut trees, and oil derricks! 

Okay, I just looked it up – Wikipedia says the Midway-Sunset Oil Field is the second-largest oil field in the contiguous United States! See, we weren’t exaggerating.

area filled with oil drills/wells

As quickly as those derricks had come into view, they vanished in a flash as we reached the south end of the valley and began ascending into hills, small hills.

The oil fields are east of the brown area on the map. The hills start where the road curves. First, your start ascending at low altitudes, no big deal.

barren hills in Central California

A Change in Terrain

The hills were bare, with almost nothing but grass or low scrub brush. Seriously, look at these photos!

barren hills in Central California

Can we safely say this was relatively vacant territory, not a lot to see? Maybe it is a good spot for an oil refinery if there is such a place!

barren hills in Central California

Soon enough, we turned into another valley and vineyards greeted us. That was a surprise. They stretched up the hillsides, and we saw a few buildings that may have housed humans.

barren hills in Southern California

Ready, Set, Go!

Picture if you can, the road between the hills on the pictures above and below. Why? Because right before our eyes, that magical piece of the road turned into a drag strip, at least on this morning it did. Dozens of youngish men with their hot rods, in all shapes and sizes, racing two at a time right towards us. Yikes!

Luckily they were watching for travelers, saw us coming and slowed it all down to let us pass. Friendly enough for that, just enough.

low mountains in Southern California

More Mountains!

Maybe you don’t know it, but despite the images of beaches, movie studios, and vast agricultural valleys, California is mostly mountains. There are very few places in the state you can’t see mountains nearby. It’s a good thing too, even if it means most roads, other than interstates, are up-and-down, curvy, almost meandering.

barren hills in California

I muttered some comment about that and Jim looked at me – seriously. “You want straight and flat? I know just the place. I’ll take you back home to Kansas and it will change forever how you think of these mountain roads, I promise.” “Okay, I believe you. That won’t be necessary!”

Then the valley narrowed, and we entered Los Padres National Forest. Now, that road climbed way up! This video was from the highest point looking north over where we’d just driven.

We suddenly found ourselves among hills, rocks, trees, and a few streams, mostly dry. Steep drops and sharp curves. What a visual treat.

pine tree atop a small hill

The highest spot on the drive was around 5,000 ft. A few of the peaks were even higher. In total, we ascended 4,000 feet from the oil fields. It was more exciting and interesting than taking the Interstate, that’s for sure!

We wondered if we’d be able to see the ocean from so high, and we did, just in one little spot, still a long way to the west.

high vista of hills and a narrow valley

Okay, here is the smallest official Post Office we’ve seen! The people in Wheeler Springs must be overjoyed! Barely room for the stamps!

a very small post office

Thank goodness for our Camry as the front wheel drive kept us from sliding off the slippery roads. We were done with the rain and the snow, for a while anyway. Here we were back in Ojai, sunny and warm. Sounds great! We were ready for that.   

Main Street in Ojai

What’s Next – our time in Ojai

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