Hazy sun warmed the restless and the resting alike Monday as Ventura County residents stomped up Rocky Peak's ragged trails, cooled out at Rancho Simi Community Park's shady picnic grounds and otherwise reveled in taking the day off.
With an 8-year-old son at his feet and a 3-year-old daughter sprawled in his lap, Phil Tieman of Simi Valley took the day off to watch his 11-year-old son take swimming lessons at the Rancho Simi pool.
"I enjoy getting a chance to see things my kids do that I don't normally get the chance to see," said Tieman, glad to have the day off from his insurance work. His only plans for the day, he added, are "this and puttering around the house."
Because the Fourth of July fell on a Sunday this year, many employers declared Monday a holiday. That gave otherwise hard-working county residents a license to do whatever they set their minds and bodies to.
While some relaxed with family and friends, barbecuing in the back yard or playing catch in public parks, others answered the call of the wild, clambering around Ventura County's rocky terrain or cruising through the ocean off the wind-cooled coast.
Alan Kiburtz of Simi Valley gingerly piloted his mountain bike down a rutted trail after a hard ride to the summit of Rocky Peak, near the county line east of Simi Valley.
"It's a tough climb, it's pretty challenging," said Kiburtz, a corporate pilot, resting gloved hands on his handlebars. Considering how he would spend the rest of the day, he added a little glumly, "It's a company holiday, but I've got to work anyway."
Over in Rancho Simi Community Park, nearly 20 members of the Dones family laid out a picnic feast.
Whole watermelons sat cooling in one of the man-made streams, while Flordeliza Dones uncovered a bowl of chicken \o7 adobo \f7 and her son, Robert Dones, turned glazed ribs over a barbecue's glimmering coals.
"I'm just relaxing right now after being away from home for four years," said Robert Dones, now between a tour of duty with the Navy and plans for medical school. "Ever since I got out, every day's a day off."
"Yesterday we didn't have enough time to enjoy the day off because we went to church in the morning and got home in the afternoon, so we decided to celebrate July the 4th today," his father, Bert Dones, said. "We're a very close family. . . . We're going to stay here till about 7 o'clock and have fun--eat, play."
Capacity crowds had thinned out somewhat at Lake Casitas Recreation Area, but at least 1,000 people remained there Monday while hanging onto the tail end of the holiday weekend, Ranger Tim Lawson said.
Among them, Charles and Mattie McCall of Los Angeles enjoyed the relative calm with a pair of lakeside lawn chairs and fishing poles.
"We came here because it's close to home and there's plenty of fish--and they sell beer," Charles McCall, a retired aircraft mechanic, said.
"I love to fish," said his wife. "It's relaxing."
While the air was hot around the lake, temperatures stayed cooler at San Buenaventura State Beach, where thousands came to swim and surf in the 68-degree waters of the Pacific.
"The waves are great today," said Stephanie Presbrey of Ventura, a special education aide who hit the surf after her husband and daughter went off with friends for the morning.
"It's great today," agreed Gus Stenzel, a Camarillo business owner. "We've been starving for good waves for a week now."
Stenzel, who emerged from the water with daughter Amanda, 6, said the waves were almost too much for the younger surfers.
"When we were going out, I had to hold her head down on the board so the waves didn't snap her neck," he said.
The rest of the family had been camping at Faria Beach for the long weekend. They said they didn't mind the foggy days that preceded the holiday, but were disappointed to learn there were no fireworks in Ventura to celebrate the holiday.
"We didn't know it had been canceled," Renee Stenzel said of Ventura's traditional dawn display, which was cut out of this year's strapped city budget.
But people take their enjoyment where they can find it. Sometime during the night or early morning, someone cut the lock securing a gate that had been keeping people off the Ventura Pier during renovation, lifeguard Curtis Lee Price said.
"We looked up and there were about 100 people out there walking around and some people fishing off the end," he said. Because the pier is under construction there are no guardrails, but there were no injuries, he said.
"Someone just took it upon himself to open the pier." he said.
But while thousands swam and boated in the county's waters, biked and hiked up its craggy trails and otherwise worked hard at having fun, many more had plenty of fun by simply not working.
Stretched out by Lake Sherwood, sipping a soda and listening to a friend's band music that wafted out of his VW Microbus, Dave Emery of Thousand Oaks pondered his future.