Tales from the Road: Ojai Rancho Inn
…like moths to a flame.
I had just hung up the phone with my boyfriend, crying “I can’t do this,” hanging on his every word as he assured me that I could, in fact, do it. After I smudged my Instagrammable room at the Ojai Rancho Inn with Palo Santo holy wood, spread out my yoga mat on the floor and put on the New Age playlist he made me for my adventure, it was clear my self soothing tactics weren’t working — I needed him. Text simply wouldn’t cut it and his handsome face appeared on the phone “David Calling…” as I read the words “Do you want to talk?” in his text efforts to help calm me down. Like a bandaid or a shot of tequila, it worked only for a minute and I decided that a shower could wash away the rest of my anxiety. I hopped in, lathered up with the hipster body wash provided by my hipster hotel, rubbing my arms, legs and chest with a certain intensity, repeating “I’ve got you girl” and channeling the light of God to shine through with all my might. With the warm water pouring over me, the current wave of fear subsided…until I couldn’t turn the shower off. What the fuck? Did I break it? Is this seriously happening right now?
I quickly toweled off and threw on my sundress and some Uggs and took my wet hair ass to the office lobby where Sheila, the golden soul who welcomed me to Ojai when I arrived just a few hours ago, jumped to help. She was a vision when I first met her, whether she seemed to emanate her true self or because I was so desperate to see someone who was expecting me is to be determined. But now, she became my sister in the crusade to fix the shower dial which seemed to definitely be off its tracks. As we both finagled with it, the room was filling with steam. She apologized profusely and I assured her it was all good while rejoicing on the inside that someone was with me. Thank you God. She called the maintenance man and suggested moving me next door. No biggie, I can hang. The steam was kinda groovy. It was warm and things were happening in here. A new room would be cold and empty. When finally it seemed that this shower snafu might not be fixed for hours, until morning even, I knew it was time to take her gracious offer — which just so happened to include an in-room jacuzzi upgrade.
As she helped me gather my things and carry them next door, I realized that I was not alone. Sheila was here. Sheila is 48-years-old, born and raised in the Ojai Valley. She was a psychiatric nurse and had been married twice, tending to fall for men who are a little crazy (…the irony is not lost on her). She believes in the Sacred Union of love between two people which intrigued me deeply. In her rugged sweater, sun-kissed golden blonde hair and worn in jeans, I knew if I lived here we would be friends. But her best friend is Antonio who manages the hotel. They’re neighbors too. He’s a generous, kind soul who you can just tell has a good head on his shoulders. He just moved to Ojai from Idaho and is tasked with opening the Joshua Tree Shelter Social Club property in July. He was genuinely interested as I told him my life story over tea one morning as he sat behind the welcome desk, urging me not to leave when a guest would come in and need his attention. One such guest was Rhoda, an 87-year-old woman from South Africa by way of San Diego who was traveling with her nieces. She was the second person I met in Ojai and became somewhat of an anxiety spirit animal to me with her red lipstick, open heart and maternal presence. Her late husband was a surgeon and her son was the fourth best tennis player in the world in 1978. She moved to America to be closer to her children and their children. She adores it here. She was very intrigued in me (and vice versa) as we sat in the window nook enjoying our hot beverages together. When she asked if I had a profession or was a housewife I said neither. When talk turned to my struggles starting a family she suggested that I trick my boyfriend into having a baby. Oh, Rhoda. The times have changed my dear. Plus, that is what I would currently call a regression.
After two nights, three smudging rituals, a broken shower which turned into an epic jacuzzi situation, I was ready to hit the road again. When I made my way to the lobby to check out, I was met with smiles and well wishes from Antonio and a proposition from Rhoda. “You must come with us, we’re going to Ventura today.” Sorry, I can’t. I am going to Joshua Tree next. “What’s in Joshua Tree?” she asked. I don’t know. But I need to go find out. We exchanged numbers and I promised her I would come have lunch on her patio in San Diego someday soon.