Tuesday, May 29, 2007

KGGV Strawberry Festival -- Saturday June 2

KGGV 95.1 The Bridge, our local radio station, is hosting the 2nd Annual Strawberry Festival this Saturday, June 2nd from 12noon-6pm at the Guerneville Community Church on Armstrong Woods Road. ADMISSION IS FREE!

Join us for a day of music, food & fun for the whole family, featuring:
  • A chocolate fountain
  • Free games & activities for the kids
  • Raffle with fun & fabulous prizes
  • Strawberry King & Queen Contest (register in advance at Kings & Queens in Guerneville)
  • Best Strawberry Dessert Contest (bring in your berry favorite recipe)
  • Live Music ALL DAY LONG with: KGGV Jazz All-Stars; Midnight Sun; Jake Richmond Band; Happenstance; Tribal Groove with DJ Damien & Friends; & Sadie Damascus
Visit KGGV's Web site or call 869.1131 for more information.

Wake Up & Smell the Biodiesel

This morning, my husband & I heard our neighbor starting up his car, put down our cups of coffee & ran down the stairs in our pajamas so we could smell the exhaust. No, we're not THAT desperate for a high (ummmm ... ask us later when it's 8pm & our daughter's cranky but still won't settle down & go to sleep). You see, our neighbor finally traded in his ancient Honda for an equally ancient Mercedes retro-fitted for biodiesel & we were wondering if biodiesel lives up to the hype.

According to the National Biodiesel Board, "Biodiesel (mono alkyl esters) is a cleaner-burning diesel fuel made from natural, renewable sources such as vegetable oils." I have also heard that the exhaust smells like french fries. Actually, our neighbor's exhaust turned out to barely have any odor at all -- a good thing. Our neighbor is happy with the mileage he gets, as well as the gas prices -- at $3.05 per gallon as of yesterday, it costs a bit less than a tank full of regular & these costs definitely add up.

Biodiesel fuel is readily available to locals from Rotten Robbie's gas station on Mirabel Road in Forestville & can be used with little or no modification to vehicles which currently run on diesel fuel. If you currently use diesel fuel, help spread the word with a biodiesel bumper sticker.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Summer Family Fun in Rio Nido

If you're looking into family activities or summer vacation options, you simply MUST check out Rio Nido. Despite the rustic, unassuming appearance of our secluded, eccentric little enclave, Rio Nido truly is an amazing summer paradise for year-round & visiting families alike. First, I'll list the summer attractions & events. At the end of this post, I'll also provide a list of accommodations for folks who'd like to visit Rio Nido

My husband & I bought our home here three years ago & it's one of the BEST decisions we've ever made. We adore our cozy, beautiful, friendly community nestled in a canyon by the river amongst the redwoods, & our daughter thinks it's sheer paradise year-round ... but summers are a total blast around here. We have a public swimming pool, a nice & shady playground, weekend peewee mini-golf, & an assortment of fun public events throughout the summer. Here, parents & grandparents have places to go & things to do where they can kick back a little & relax, while being able to keep children in sight & know that they're safe & having an awful danged-lot of fun.

First of all, we have the Rio Nido Pool which is open Memorial Day through Labor Day from 11:30am-5:30pm for $6.00 per person (free for children under 2 years). Also, call for lower group rates if a bunch of you want to go. They also offer very reasonable weekly, monthly, & season memberships. There's also a diligent lifeguard; a wading pool for little ones; a small video arcade for the older set; a grassy picnic area; & a reasonably-priced snack bar which serves delicious, well-prepared burgers & sandwiches with fresh veggies, generously-slathered PB&J sandwiches on whole wheat or white bread for a mere $1.75, & an assortment ice-cream & popsicle treats for under $2.00 a pop. Oh ... & did I mention that there's also a real bar? Mmmm ... pina coladas. If you live in or are staying in a place here in the canyon, you don't even need to worry about driving home, because you can walk! The Rio Nido Pool & Roadhouse is located at 14540 Canyon 2 Road by the entrance from River Road & the Rio Nido Inn. Call 869.0821 for more information.

On weekend evenings, drop by the charming little Peewee Mini-Golf (located off of River Road between Rio Nido Road & Canyon Seven Road just before the picnic area). They're open Friday, Saturday & Sunday evenings from 5pm-8pm. For just 50 cents (!), they give you a putter & ball & let you play as long as you want.

When the kids need to get their ya-yas out, take them to the pretty, little, shaded playground at Bruno Farnocchia Memorial Park past the Post Office & (like almost everything else) between Rio Nido & Canyon 7 Roads. There are also picnic tables, a giant redwood stump which children find fascinating for climbing & hiding, & a winding path for beginning bicyclists & tricylclists.

Our Rio Nido Home Owners' Association hosts a series of really fun events which are open to the public. All events are held in our large, public picnic area, which is located just off of River Road between Rio Nido Road & Canyon 7 Road. Membership is available to all property owners in the Canyon for only $15 per year. Associate memberships are available to renters for the same price. Please support our community.
  • Homeowner's Association Meeting -- Saturday May 26th: 10-12pm.
  • Memorial Day Chicken Barbecue -- Sunday May 27th: Grilled chicken, yummy beans, salads & rolls are served from 4pm-8pm. Adult plates are $8, kids plates are $4 (they give you LOTS of food). Baked goods, soft-drinks, wine & beer are also available for extremely reasonable prices. The band plays from 5pm-9pm & starts off with fun songs & games for the kids (Hokey Pokey, Chicken Dance, etc.) & then rocks out with some dance & swing tunes.
  • Independence Day Weekend -- Hot Dog, Hamburger Night -- Saturday June 30th: Food served from 5pm-8pm ($6 adult/$6 child). Music & dancing 5pm-9pm.
  • Pancake Breakfast -- Sunday July 15th: 9am-12noon. Adults $4, Kids, $2.
  • Pancake Breakfast -- Sunday August 12th: 9am-12noon. Adults $4, Kids, $2, followed by the Rio Nido Art Festival.
  • Rio Nido Art Festival -- Sunday August 12th: 10am-3pm. Come before 12noon for the yummy pancake breakfast. Enjoy artwork or purchase unique souvenirs by local artists. If you're a local artist or craftsperson & want to participate, we welcome you. Please contact Beverly at 869.8284 or Susan at 869.2538. The registration fee is a VERY reasonable $25 & may be open to negotiation. We've had excellent turn-out over the past three years.
  • General HOA Membership Meeting -- Saturday August 25th: 11am. Meeting is open to members & associate members. After 3 years of membership you can be on the board.
  • Labor Day Chicken Barbecue -- Sunday September 2nd: Food served from 4pm-7pm ($8 adult, $4 child). Music & dancing 5pm-9pm.

If you've got kids & live nearby or plan on visiting, please mark Rio Nido's Summer Potluck Marshmallow Roasts on your calendar!
  • Saturday June 23rd
  • Saturday July 7th
  • Saturday July 21st
  • Saturday August 4th
Hosted by our fabulous, friendly, community-oriented, & amazingly-organized neighbors Domenic & Suzanne, with sporadic help from other neighbors like us, these events are held evenings before dusk in the picnic area. I don't know the exact time when they start or end (even though we've attended these events) but you can pretty much count on things being in full swing between 6pm & 9pm.

Admission is free: Roaring campfire, marshmallow skewers, & kid's movies (shown after dark), & will be provided. Marshmallow's & s'more fixings (chocolate bars & graham crackers) will also be provided, but may run out.

Please bring: A food item & beverage to share, if you can; a second layer of clothes for everyone in your group (it gets cold at night); a towel or blanket for your kids to lie on while watching the movie; & some extra marshmallows & s'more fixin's if you happen to think of it. Cash donations are not required, but would be highly appreciated.


If you can find a place to stay here in the Canyon, you'll have even more fun because you'll be able to walk to all of our events, the pool, the park, etc.
  • Balalaika Vacation Homes: Spacious, newly& beautifully-constructed, 2br-2ba, vacation homes with decks & other amenities offered for $145-$245 per night (in-season -- prices are even better off-season). You can visit their Web site or contact them via phone at 707-869-8400, or via email info@balalaikaguesthomes.com
  • Rio Nido Inn: Alas, this gorgeous, tudor-constructed, & historic local landmark -- located right by the local swimming pool & in walking distance to other attractions & short driving or biking distance to others -- with its charmingly appointed rooms & beautiful antiques appears to be totally going to seed. Forget about continental breakfasts -- their kitchen was damaged by flooding & they haven't fixed it. Nor would you have a place in which to eat this fictitious breakfast, because the kitchen & dining areas are also in disrepair. The recent duct-taping of a cardboard box over a broken window pane does not bode well. Nonetheless, it's fairly comfy & extremely cheap. If that's your speed, bargain them down when they quote you a price. Their phone number is 707.869.4444.
  • D & G Equities: This is the big real estate management company here in Western Sonoma County, & they handle the lion's share of local vacation rentals -- & year-round rentals too. Give them a call at 707.869.9030.
  • Craig's List: Type in www.craigslist.org, select San Francisco Bay Area, then North Bay (Nbay) , then Vacation Rentals, then Russian River, & you'll find the best deals (alas, also the worst deals) on local rentals.
Please note that rental, home & vacation rental listings for Rio Nido are sometimes mixed up with Guerneville properties because our towns are adjacent & have overlapping boundaries.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Local Tenant Turns Rental Unit Into Pot Farm

It's only human for us to sometimes complain about our next-door neighbors. Then I read an article like "What happens when your rental property becomes a grow-op?" by Carol Lloyd for her 05.25.2007 installment of her weekly Surreal Estate column for the San Francisco Chronicle, I realize how danged LUCKY I am!

According to Lloyd's column, Villa Grande resident Kyla Brooks (who is also a realtor & marriage/family counselor) has discovered that a former tenant had turned one her of her rental units into a pot farm & has totally trashed the place in the process! Luckily for her, the tenant was arrested & her contractor husband was able to do what would have been over $25K in repairs. Since decent, reasonable landlords like Ms. Brooks are few & far between, I think it's sad that her tenant abused her property. Irresponsible tenants make things harder for the responsible ones.

I can't wait for next week's Surreal Estate column, "When homes become meth labs"!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Jungle Is My Neighbor's Freakin' Playground ... Augh!

Some unknown but insightful individual once declared, "It's a jungle out there!" Even here in our cozy little tree-house perched jauntily on the side of a canyon & sheltered from the world by our staunch troop of leafy, redwood sentinels, I often have those crazy days in which I find myself agreeing vehemently with this statement.

My family & most of the folks I know around here struggle to get by, make ends meet, keep a roof over our heads, & provide adequate care for ourselves, children, &/or elderly parents. Most of the time, we manage to scrape by. But despite our best efforts, some of us -- like all of those working families with kids living out of their cars -- fall through the cracks. Things seemed especially hard for people during the winter of 2005-2006. Aside from all of the flood damage, a spiritual pestilence seemed to hang in the air like a thick black cloud & anything that could go wrong for anyone did. Perhaps Mercury was in retrograde? I know that one of my readers (I believe I now have three or four of them) is into astrology & hope she leaves a comment.

Yep, it's definitely a jungle out there. Unless you happen to be my next door neighbor, for whom my jungle is her playground. She's a perky, impeccably-groomed, hot-shot realtor from Oakland with a teensy little yappy foof dog the size of a large rodent, which she carries around in a special designer purse. Last spring, she flounced in & bought the one-bedroom cabin next door as her little vacation trinket for about $300K. Since an equivalent home in the Bay area sells for over $500K, this place probably seemed like an irresistible bargain for her.

Oh yeah, did I mention that the flight of stairs leading to the house are so high & so steep (I've never actually counted, but our house is at the same level & has 42 stairs) that she had to hire out a freaking CRANE to hoist her JACUZZI onto her back porch! For all of us hicks who happened to be around at the time, this was probably the most exciting thing we had seen all spring!

She came & stayed with her sulky pre-teen daughter, foof dog, & crew-cutted "partner" a couple times & then proceeded to rent the place out for exorbitant rates as a vacation cabin to a nice couple with three cute little kids who happened to own a San Francisco club called the Power Exchange. Since my blog is G-rated, I cannot even mention what happens in this club. Suffice it to say that their clientele like to "swing" & I'm not talking about the retro-dance craze which was popular in the mid-90's (sigh, I sure do miss Lee Press-On & the Nails) whose concerts we attended back in our urban-hipster phase).

My husband, roommate & neighbors couldn't stand them because they argued a lot & drove a car emblazoned with explicit artwork, "S*X MACHINE" in HUGE letters, & the URL, phone number & street address of their ... um ... establishment. Personally, I kind of liked them. They were friendly & chatty, my daughter liked playing with their kids, & the grandmother was hilarious & tons o' fun.

Unfortunately, our summer neighbors broke up & vacated the rental, leaving poor foof-dawg lady in the lurch. But luckily for us, she wound up renting the place out to a really nice young local couple for reasonable local rent. I assume that she was unable to find any more high-paying city slicker tenants at the time. The new neighbors are friendly, interesting, really nice to our daughter, & the guy's a musician with good taste in tunes so we get to enjoy free serenades when he practices on their porch.

Alas, the advent of summer is lighting up the dollar signs in Oaktown foof-dog lady's eyes again & our nice neighbors have to leave. Luckily for them, they've found a really nice, cheaper place nearby. She now has the local property management company, D&G Equities, handling her property. Maybe this'll bring better tenants.

I wonder what new neighbors the summer will bring? Perhaps some hedonist rave-masters attracted by the wild acoustics & heavy party-potential of our little canyon. Or a terrorist hoping to support his clandestine activities with his home-made meth lab. Or maybe a crazy-in-love couple whose cries of passion fill the night. Woo hoo! I can't wait!