On its face, Ojai’s Caravan Outpost might seem like a millennial conceit, born sometime in the past couple years from a boho-chic Pinterest moodboard. It’s an exercise in clever design, a converted parking lot that shows almost no sign of its former life. Instead, there is rockscape, Instagram-ready Airstreams arranged in a shiny semicircle, and a jungle’s worth of broadleaf tropical foliage. Surprisingly, though, this place has roots deeper than the city itself.
“I’m eighth generation Ojaian,” said Mikey Lopez, who was the Outpost’s first employee, said from inside the lobby, which is a sort-of hipster garage filled with Pharrell hats, old Donna Summer records, and reclaimed boots. He’s genial and unshakably positive, the kind of host you dream of when you’re staying at a bed & breakfast. He’s part groundskeeper, part housekeeper, part front desk man, but he’s mostly a symbol of the Caravan Outpost’s desire to integrate with the small, local community. “One brother [in my family] got this land, and the other got Simi Valley,” Lopez said with pride.
The plot that made it all the way down the Lopez lineage is perfectly located, adjacent to downtown Ojai but not quite in it. There is a nature trail behind the Outpost so one can walk the half-mile into the quaint heart of town, where they will find art galleries, succulent shops, and restaurants that boast handmade pasta and sulfite-free wines.
Caravan Outpost is not camping, but it does carry some of the same charms, like evening fires, open air, and of course, travel trailers. The Tommy Bahama Special Edition Airstream Travel Trailer was my home for the weekend, and like all the others in the lot, it’s made of perfect gleaming aluminum. The Bahama is 28 feet long and generously adorned in tropical kitsch, offering a queen bed, a bathroom with a shower, a stainless steel range and microwave, a dinette, and, naturally, a record player (though that last one was an Outpost-exclusive touch). Light floods into the trailer generously, thanks to panoramic windows that wrap around the bedroom and kitchen, along with numerous portholes in the ceiling. The headlining feature is the massive rear hatch that opens near the kitchen, allowing breezes to flow through the trailer. Essentially, these are french doors for camping. Appropriately, this is a beautifully refined touch in a typically primitive environment.
Call the Caravan Outpost “glamping” if you want, but I don’t mind. I will be in my palm-tree decorated Airstream, drinking local organic red wine, mulling just how soon I can actually retire.
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