I didn't realize how much my dog Bobbi and I needed this mom-and-pup getaway to magical Ojai, California until our plane touched down at Los Angeles International Airport. But it started to sink in after grabbing my friend Brandon and his crazy chihuahua Leo at their terminal and picking up our ride: a sleek black GMC Canyon Denali. And after hitting the 101 freeway with the music pumping from the rugged luxury truck's kick-ass Bose sound system, I felt my stress begin to melt away. The last few months had been a hard hustle, trying to earn enough to feed and house myself and three dogs as a freelance travel writer, but now on the road with my friend in the passenger seat and our dogs safely secured -- and getting to know each other -- in the backseat it was quickly disappearing.
The sun is shining, the highway is miraculously traffic free and for the next 48 hours the four of us are going to be treated like celebrities at a hosted GMC Denali and Dogs media event with other travel bloggers and their pups. Note, as guests of GMC all travel expenses including airfare, meals and accommodations were taken care of by the company.
Bobbi was equally excited. As a trained service dog she accompanies me on lots of press trips and kind of considers herself a four-legged foodie and canine travel blogger. She even has an Instagram following (mainly, other ex street dogs from the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos that identify as “potcakes.”). Leo (who weighs about 6lbs) also maintains an Instagram but today seems more preoccupied with barking and growling ferociously at me any time I attempted to look his direction than checking his Insta stats.
It is about a two hour drive from LA to Ojai and catching up with another industry friend the drive flew by. Working from home is really isolating sometimes, so I really enjoy group press trips as they give me a chance to interact with my piers face-to-face. Talking is also pretty easy when you’re driving the Canyon Denali because anytime I started to drift out of my lane on the freeway, the vehicle alerted me with an audio beep and a visual dashboard display. Pretty nifty for someone used to driving her grandmothers 95 Ford Escort. Other awesome features included seats that heat or cool on demand, a wireless charging pad and the ability to connect to WiFi.
We got to our lodging destination, Caravan Outpost, in the early afternoon and I was stoked about our digs in an original Airstream. The entire ambiance of this glamping trailer park was just perfect for the desert setting and perfectly fit the press trip's rugged luxury theme. Basically between the sleek vehicles, the vintage airstreams, colorful Indian blankets and really, really good looking dogs you had social media gold.
Bobbi was in her an element. She was stoked to get into the GMC dog house for a picture and smile for as many takes as he asked for. And she greeted all the pupfluencers — Daisy, Charlie, Ford and Olivier — with her signature sniff and lick. Even Leo got out of his funk and jumped off the bed in our super retro chic Airstream to do a sniff around the property. Along with a little side growling at the guests.
Dinner was a feast for humans and dogs. Catered by White Sage Catering and served al fresco, the pups had the choice between chicken or rabbit. While us humans toasted new connections with California wine and a fabulous seafood boil. Afterwards we hung around the firepit and caught up on writing and life for a bit before bed. By 10pm everyone was exhausted and happy to climb into the Airstreams and fall into slumber next to our pups.
First thing on the agenda for our first full day in the Ojai area is dog yoga. Yep, you read that right. Dog yoga, it’s a real thing. We had a wonderful morning session with Ellen Bain of Peak Power Yoga & Wellness. And no, it’s not like goat yoga where the goats just randomly roam around and jump on top of you.
With dog yoga, it’s more structured. Kinda. Basically you do yoga and your dog chills and in between poses or sometimes during them your instructor recommends reaching out and hugging or kissing your pup. And if you are Bobbi you go and greet everyone else doing yoga and then practice a few of your favorite poses like “Seated Potcake” and the one where you roll on your bag and wiggle with joy… Pushing mom off the mat entirely. For someone with ADD, this is kind of my perfect yoga class though. I finish feeling relaxed.
Leo’s Lessons in Civility
After the dog yoga we were treated to a dog safety session — we learned a lot about ways to keep your pup safe in a vehicle — with the fabulous Samantha Johnson of Pack Life LA. In a crazy side-story, Sam is the trainer for Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, a cause which back in Colorado my dear dog rescue friend Mindy is passionate about.
Anyway, Mindy couldn’t speak highly enough about Sam, so when Brandon asked if I thought she could help with Leo’s anger issues, I said yes. Sam’s take was fascinating. She taught us a lot about what was going on in regards to Leo’s aggression and fear problems and gave Brandon some tips to work through with his partner back in New York City.
In the afternoon it is time to hit the beach. Just about a 45-minute drive from Ojai and only 6-miles from Santa Barbara, Lookout Point in Summerland is an awesome dog beach where the pups could really just cut loose and let their energy out. My Bobbi hails from Grand Bahama, where she spent her early years having puppies and living on the streets. After I adopted her in Colorado I took her to a few different lakes and rivers but she never wanted to get in.
So I was downright shocked when we went to Vancouver for work one year and she got super excited about seeing the Pacific Ocean. So much so she pulled the leash out of my hand and ran right in despite it being February. Turns out when she lived at the shelter that housed her for a year in the Bahamas she loved playing ball in the sea. I was really excited to bring her back to the beach on this trip. Driving down Highway 101 on the way to the beach we had the windows down — and the music cranked (of course!).
The minute Bobbi caught a sniff of the ocean, she cried with excitement. We parked and no sooner had I opened the door than Bobbi flew right out of the car. Brandon jumped out to grab her and I was about to follow when I heard a beeping sound. Turns out the GMC Canyon Denali was telling me I’d forgotten something in the backseat: Leo! More reserved, he had not moved. Rear Seat Reminder is a cool tech feature that works by monitoring the truck’s rear doors — if either is opened or closed within 10 minutes of the ignition being started, the feature activates once the truck is switched off. I was alerted to Leo’s presence with five audible chimes and a visual message on the display screen. Since Leo had still not really warmed up to my presence I called for Brandon to come grab his tiny, angry pup and we were off to the beach.
Summerland hosts a long wide stretch of golden sand meets Pacific Ocean waves and no sooner had we arrived and someone from the GMC team had tossed her a beloved tennis ball than Bobbi’s paws were off and running. She couldn’t get into the ocean fast enough. And I watched, a little misty eyed, I admit, as my former street dog turned anxiety service animal, got to just be a dog and play for an hour, chasing balls in the sea. Seeing Bobbi so happy is definitely one of the top memories I have of 2018.
Leaving the beach it was time for the dogs to get back to work. GMC had their photographer on the scene and Bobbi and Leo were more than happy to do a little post beach photoshoot in the back of our parked vehicle — note I would never ever advocate anyone ever transporting a dog in the open back cab of a pickup truck, but if the car is parked and you want to have a picnic — or an Instagram worthy photoshoot — then all the power to you! After the photographer got his content it was time to drive back to Ojai for a final dinner before departing out of Los Angeles the next morning.
Driving to the airport with Bobbi, I felt so relaxed and happy. This trip was exactly what we needed. A mom-and-pup mini-break to get us rejuvenated to finish out the rest of the year strong. And at just about a 2-hour flight from Denver, Los Angeles and the surrounding SoCal countryside is the perfect destination to do so!