On Monday, Nov. 26, the Reporter had one of the rare glimpses behind the curtain that make us feel fortunate to be members of the media. Sometimes we take it for granted, but the occasion gave us more than a look at a fascinating slice of modern life. It gave us a broader understanding of this county.

As part of a visit to her constituency in Ventura County, Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) toured the Port of Hueneme to discuss Congressional efforts to enhance security at ports throughout the United States. A group of local reporters was invited along for the tour and the visit gave us a first hand look at some of the high-tech security measures taking shape at the port and the day to day operations of a major seaport.

While the mobile communications trailer with its radios and computer controlled security cameras spanning the entire port was interesting from a techie perspective, it and other elements of the tour were by far not as fascinating to the Reporter as the simple presence of the port in the county. Driving through the cute, somewhat ignored, neighborhood immediately outside the port’s gates and seeing up close the massive container ships we only occasionally see on the horizon reminded us of the sheer variety of assets we have in this county.

For those who may not be aware, the commercial port next to the naval base is the only deepwater port between Los Angeles and San Francisco, a major destination for automobile and fruit imports and one of the most important seaports for the nation’s citrus exports. According to the port’s Web site, more than $7 billion worth of goods move through the port each year. That commerce translates to more than $650 million for the county’s economy annually and it’s responsible for thousands of jobs.

In our disparate communities it’s easy to forget not only the major engines of our economy, but also how many interesting corners of the county exist. Port Hueneme and the nearby neighborhoods of South Oxnard, for example, suffer rather negative reputations. But the fear of crime and gang hysteria obscure the pleasant neighborhood feel on many of the streets surrounding the port. Granted, public safety must still be a priority, and much still needs to be done to encourage economic revitalization in this area with the same fervor that has been seen in places like North Oxnard, Downtown Ventura and Old Town Camarillo.

Too often, it’s easy to create our own interpretations of Ventura County (or any place we live) based on those areas we see on a regular basis. For some, the entire world revolves around The Lakes in Thousand Oaks and trips along Highway 23 to friends’ houses in Moorpark. For others, life centers on hiking in the Los Padres forest and lunches on the shady streets of Ojai. Others still don’t stray far from the waves — to them the only landmarks in the county are C Street, the Strand, Rincon, the Point and South Jetty.

Imagine, though, if those stuck in a rut at the same routine hitting bars in Downtown took an afternoon to explore the Santa Monica Mountains, or if playgoers at the Thousand Oaks Civic Center decided instead to find dinner at a taqueria on Oxnard Boulevard.

These are but a tiny few of the unique experiences that this county has to offer. If more people took the time and effort to get out of their element, they might find a diverse region truly worth protecting.

They don’t even have to be journalists to see it all.