Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rest in peace, Roman Alexandrovich Jones

April 20th, 4:00pm, Rio Nido, CA -- My daughter & I were enjoying a nice, late-afternoon dip at the Rio Nido Pool, when chaos suddenly erupted with shrill sirens & the deafening roar of helicopters circling overhead. The cheerful mood flattened because we all knew what it meant: The River has claimed another human soul.

Sure enough, an article appeared on SFGATE the next day: Russian River drowning victim identified. The 24-year-old man’s name was Roman Alexandrovich Jones (friends called him “RJ”), he lived in Monte Rio & worked at the Northwood Restaurant. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat’s article, obnoxiously headlined, Drowning victim was celebrating rebate check, said Mr. Jones had “had consumed large amounts of alcohol” that day.” Otherwise, it was generally sympathetic towards Mr. Jones & his parents in New Mexico, who had adopted him from one of those notorious Russian orphanages at age 9.

According to his parents, Mr. Roman’s rough early childhood & initial lack of English made it hard for him to adjust in school, & he sometimes seemed troubled. He up & moved here rather suddenly, stayed in touch only sporadically with his folks, & appears to have been somewhat lost & drifting (as so many of us are in our 20’s). Based on local gossip & comments made to the news articles, Mr. Roman seems to have been well-liked & to have a good reputation.

A friend of Mr. Jones', whose handle is justtoamuseu, wrote on the SFGATE Web site:

I personally knew "RJ", and he was a very clean-cut man. I did not know him to have any serious alchohol problem. I am very saddened by the whole event and intend on finding out through other friends what happened to him, I found this story very strange also, because there are conflicting versions of the accident. The press democrat stated in yesterday's paper that he was with a friend.... nothing was said about there being a pier, that I recall. He was very physically fit and intelligent, speaking four different languages. He will be deeply missed.

Although I didn’t know RJ Jones, I feel sad about this incident & offer my sincere condolences to his friends & family. The Russian River is so beautiful & nurturing in so many ways that we often forget how dangerous it can be. So now, I’ll go into my obnoxious blah-dee-blah lecture. As a mother, I feel that nagging is my role & privilege in life.


The Russian River is beautiful & the water is cool & refreshing. But it is also unpredictable, runs swiftly, & has weird little whirlpools, rip currents, & underwater debris which can catch even the most experienced & sober swimmer by surprise.

  • If you go swimming off a private dock, or one of our lovely, unofficial “secret beaches,” ALWAYS bring a “swimming buddy” along with you.
  • Also, scan the water beforehand so you can avoid those odd little ripples & whirling eddies, which can signify swift undercurrents (which can drag you down) &/or large debris (which can catch on you & keep you down).
  • I don’t recommend any serious swimming before July, because the water’s cold & can cause even good swimmers to cramp up.
  • Stay alert & keep an eye on things, even at the public beaches, because few of them have any lifeguards.
  • If you’re in a boat, ALWAYS wear a life vest & make sure everyone else does too.
  • If you have kids, you need to keep an eye on them at all times & keep them away from areas that look rough or where you can’t see the bottom.
  • If you’re drinking alcohol (or partaking in other inebriating substances), don’t go in, or at least stay in the shallows near the shore.
  • Be aware that when you – or your companions -- dial 911 from a cell phone, you get California Highway Patrol (not the local emergency responders). It often takes forever to get through & when you do, they’ll need to tell them where you are. This means that you need KEEP TRACK OF WHERE YOU ARE.
  • Consider taking courses in Water Safety, First Aid, & CPR. They’re offered frequently & inexpensively in most communities. Swimming lessons are also a good idea, for adults as well as kids.
  • PLEASE don’t let your children go to the River unsupervised, even if they know how to swim. At least wait until Parks & Recreation puts up the summer dams & go with your kids the first few times to scope out the water & tell them where they can & cannot go.
  • Those rope swings along our shores are awfully fun, but DON’T swing until you test the waters. Since we didn’t have much rainfall this year, the water is probably too shallow for jumping off the rope swings, any way.
  • If you take your kids to my favorite spot on the River side of Goat Rock Beach (facing the charming little town of Jenner), watch them like hawks! It’s fairly safe there (at least when Nibbles the elephant seal isn’t around), but the ocean is just a hop, skip & a jump away.
  • Speaking of the Pacific Ocean … although we do have some safe, “swimming beaches,” (like Doran Beach & Salmon Creek in Bodega Bay), it is generally NOT safe to swim or play tag with the waves around here -- & in most of coastal California. Our East Coast & European visitors REALLY don’t get it, because they’re used to the Atlantic Ocean, which has a long & shallow continental shelf. Out here, we don’t have that. The Pacific Ocean goes from knee-deep to WAY-deep in a matter of yards & can sweep you away or dash you against the rocks in no time flat. As for all those surfers gaily cavorting amongst the waves … they’re highly experienced in the water around here & even they’ll admit that they’re totally insane (as my surfer friend once explained, “If a surfer gets attacked by a shark, & it isn’t bad enough to go to the hospital, he’ll go back in.”
  • NEVER, NEVER jump off that danged Hacienda bridge! I know it’s tempting. But every single year, someone seems to die or become permanently maimed from doing this!
With all that said, the Russian River is beautiful & offers many opportunities for summer fun. And of course folks who like to fish, bird watch & otherwise enjoy nature will want to get away from the crowds. But please remember that Mother Nature runs this fabulous playground -- not Walt Disney. Out of the thousands of people who enjoy the River each summer, only a handful encounter mishaps. Nonetheless, every single one of these incidents greatly saddens me, & I pray we don't have any more of them.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

You know you're a River Rat when ...

You know you're a River Rat (or Rattina) when

  1. Your daughter wants to do her nails, clothes, & make-up just like the guy at the coffee shop.
  2. Your neighbor always has an extra two-by-four when you really need one.
  3. Your other neighbor has offered to do your astrological chart.
  4. Shopping trips to Safeway often become major social events.
  5. Your children can readily identify poison oak by age 3.
  6. Septic systems are a highly appropriate & exciting topic for conversation.
  7. You have a chicken coop in your back yard.
  8. You frequently come home to blinking digital clocks. Thank you, PG&E!
  9. When a giant redwood grows too close to your house, you do the sensible thing & remodel your home to accommodate the redwood tree.
  10. Summer family walks take hours because the kids keep stopping to pick blackberries, plums, & apricots growing along the side of the road.
  11. You have a favorite “secret beach” somewhere along the River.
  12. You actually KNOW what all those “NO LOW FLOW” signs mean, & it seriously matters to you.
  13. You really miss the Halloween pumpkin festival at the farm on Westside Road (which has become yet another winery).
  14. Speaking of wineries, you helped BUILD them, & now their wine is too danged expensive for you to drink.
  15. You have a lovely hobby vineyard in your back yard, behind the chicken coop & the old, rusty camper.
  16. Or, you grow other things in your back yard.
  17. You’ve lived here for 10 years & your older neighbors still refer to you as “the new people down the road.”
  18. You can't tailgate the annoyingly slow driver in front of you, because she waits tables at your favorite restaurant.
  19. You have a KGGV FM bumper sticker on your car.
  20. You care deeply about water quality in the River, but still sometimes wind up pee-ing in the River.

Got any new ones? I’d love to read them. Please post your ideas in the COMMENTS section. Also, feel free to email this to your friends, but PLEASE include a link to my blog!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Summer happenings in Rio Nido

Summer is coming & Rio Nido has a lively assortment of fun, family-oriented events & other things to do throughout the summer. Unless otherwise indicated, the happenings listed below take place in our picnic area, between Rio Nido & Canyon Seven roads, which run (somewhat) straight from River Road. The Rio Nido Homeowners’ Association (RNHA) hosts these events & welcomes everyone to join in the fun, whether you’re living in the area or just visiting. I also encourage locals to join RNHA & have more information below.

For those of you who’ve never heard of Rio Nido, we’re an eclectic, rural, small-town enclave tucked into a series of canyons along the Russian River & sheltered by our abundant & beautiful redwood trees. The name is Spanish for “River’s Nest.” We have a strong sense of community, perhaps because we don’t get mail delivery & hence frequently gather at our local post office, where we almost always hear about local happenings & gossip first. Patty the Post Mistress sells tea & cappuccino along with postage stamps, has written a riveting occult-thriller novel (Raven: the Praying Bird,) & can also provide you with a complete astrological chart for $15. She’s amazing.

We’re located 2 miles east of Guerneville (the largest town in our area), just a mile or two West of the famed Korbel Winery, off of River Road.


Once again, these events are hosted between Rio Nido Road & Canyon Seven Road (off of River Road) in the main picnic area, except for the golf tournament. Once you turn in, we're hard to miss. If you live in Rio Nido, PLEASE consider joining our neighborhood association (informaiton provided below):

  • Memorial Day Chicken Barbecue, Sunday May 25th: Food: 4pm-7pm ($8.00 adult, $5.00 child). Music & dancing: 5pm-9pm
  • Fourth of July Hot Dog & Hamburger Barbecue, Saturday July 5th: Food: 5pm-8pm $5.00 per plate; Music & Dancing: 5pm-9pm
  • Rio Nido Cleanup Day: Saturday July 12th: Join us at the Rio Nido BBQ area & bring gloves & a paper bag. I still need to get the time & details from Cleanup Committee Chair, Domenic Farnocchia, but I’ll keep you posted.
  • Pancake Breakfast: Sunday July 20th: Breakfast 9am-12noon. Adults $6.00, Child $3.00
  • Rio Nido Homeowners Golf Tournament, Saturday August 9th: Northwood Golf Club, starting at 9am. 2-player Better Ball format (no handicap). $80 per player. Includes: 18 holes, cart & BBQ at Rio Nido BBQ area after game. To sign up, list the names & addresses of the players, include a check payable to the Rio Nido Homeowners Association, & snail mail to RNHA P.O. Box #A, Rio Nido, CA. For more information, contact Troy Held at troymheld at yahoo dot com (this is not formatted as a link because I don’t want the poor guy to get automatically-generated spam)
  • Pancake Breakfast & Art Festival, Sunday August 17th: Breakfast 9am-12noon. Adults; $6.00, Child $3.00; Rio Nido Art Festival 10am-3pm
  • Rio Nido Homeowners Association (RNHA) General Membership Meeting, Saturday August 30th at 11am.
  • Labor Day Chicken Barbecue, Sunday August 31st: Food: 4pm-7pm ($8.00 adult, $5.00 child). Music & dancing: 5pm-9pm
  • MARSHMALLOW ROASTS THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER on Saturday June 21st, July 12th, July 26th, & August 10th: For good, wholesome family fun, join our gracious hosts, Domenic & Suzanne Farnocchia for roasting marshmallows by a roaring campfire, followed by a rated G movie (maybe PG, if they’re feeling kind of wild).
  • RIO NIDO MINI GOLF – OPEN WEEKEND EVENINGS Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend: Our mini golf course isn’t as fancy as the one on Drake Road near downtown Guerneville (which is wonderful & seems well on its way towards becoming designated as an historical landmark), but it’s fun, charmingly designed, is in walking distance for folks who live or vacation in the neighborhood, it costs only .50 cents per play, & it’s RNHA member Susie Markham’s labor of love. The kids adore it – plus, it keeps them occupied & somewhat corralled during our events. There’s even a small rec-room with kids’ games & inexpensive candy, chips & sodas for sale.
  • RIO NIDO ROADHOUSE POOL, RESTAURANT, BAR, & MUSIC all summer long: Thanks to the new owners, Leanne & Brad, we still have our fun, cool, & fabulous local pool & snack bar, which are open to the public. They also run a bar & restaurant with good food for reasonable prices, & host an eclectic assortment of melodic & danceable bands on Saturday nights for a modest $5.00 per adult (kids are free) in their attractive, enclosed picnic area.
  • Cool, shady playground: We also have a lovely little playground & picnic area with a circular path for scooters, roller skates, & bicycles/tricycles, which goes over a charming little bridge for our seasonal creek. It’s located a couple of “blocks” north of our picnic area, post office & fire station.

IF YOU’RE A VISITOR OR NEWCOMER: Bring along some extra cash to the holiday events, because you may want to buy a Rio Nido T-Shirt or Sweat shirt with a picture of our winking moon; purchase a yummy dessert from the baked goods table; treat your kids to minigolf; or wet your whistle with some beer, wine, or a mixed drink. You’ll also need an extra layer, because it gets cool here at night. If you have kids & feel nostalgic for the sort of fun, small-town summers you enjoyed as a child, Rio Nido is definitely the place to go – especially during summer holidays.

There are also tons of festivals throughout our area throughout the summer & a lively fireworks show on July 4th weekend in downtown Guerneville. For events listings, visit the Russian River Chamber of Commerce in downtown Guerneville or check their Web site at . If you want to stay here in Rio Nido, consider a vacation rental through Balaika Guest Homes or D&G Equities. These folks are reliable & have a good selection of rentals in this area.

IF YOU LIVE HERE - Please support the RNHA – Become a member: Do you live, work, or own property in Rio Nido or on Rio Nido Road (which is basically in Rio Nido, despite the Guerneville zip code)? If so, PLEASE join the RNHA. All you need to join is $15, a membership form with your contact information (RNHA has them at the booth at all the major events), & a pulse. Your yearly membership dues will help support all these events; maintenance of our picnic area (which is available year-round) & mini golf course. You will also periodically receive an RNHA newsletter with local news & upcoming events (it seems to come out about four times per year). Despite the organization’s name, renters are also welcome to join. For more information & sign-up forms, please visit the RNHA table at one of our holiday events, or write to: Rio Nido Homeowners’ Association, PO Box A, Rio Nido, CA 95471.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Voters give thumbs-down to Measure G

According to the Sonoma County's Registrar of Voters page, Measure G was voted down 58.8% to 41.2%. Measure G was a complicated proposal for an immediate tax increase to provide much-needed funds for the Russian River Fire Protection District, with authority provided for further raising taxes in the future. I suspect that this authorization clause was responsible for Measure G getting voted down.

However, out of 3,090 registered voters, only 1,320 people actually cast their ballots. With a special election turnout of less than 50%, the "NO" vote doesn't exactly qualify as a resounding public mandate.

I wonder why so few people voted on a measure which has such a potentially huge effect on our safety as well as our wallets, & can only venture the following guesses:
  • Special elections generally have lower turn-outs than general elections;

  • The wording & proposed tax structure for Measure G was confusing for many people -- even folks who actually follow these things in the news, attend meetings, & slog through the documents.

  • An awful lot of people can't afford the additional taxes &/or object to giving RRFPD carte blanche for ultimately quadrupling the levy per risk unit, but simply didn't have the heart to physically cast a ballot against our fire fighters.
Personally, I would have voted Yes, if Measure G had simply requested the $20 per risk unit RRFPD currently needs -- which would have been twice the $10 per risk unit we're paying now. A single family home is assessed at 4 risk units (or a total of $40 per year); businesses are assigned much higher numbers of units (starting with 8 units just for a freaking PARKING LOT). Measure G would have given RRFPD authorization to quadruple the tax amount up to $80 per unit without any further votes or public accountability. That's $160 per year for a single-family home & can amount to thousands of dollars per year for some of our local businesses & non-profits.

Ultimately, we River Rats & Rattinas WILL need to raise our taxes in order to adequately provide infrastructure & public services (including our fire department, law enforcement, schools, parks & recreation, social services, health services, etc.). But first, we seriously need to work on developing our local economy so that folks have enough money to afford these necessary tax increases.

I'm sorry, RRFPD, but you can't squeeze blood from a stone. Most of us are struggling to pay for gas, catch up on this winter's electric & propane bills, afford the increasing cost of buying groceries, & keep up with the ridiculously high level of property taxes we currently pay to the County. These are all baseline expenses which don't allow much wiggle room. Man, we all could seriously use a RAISE.

For more information about Measure G & related links, please read my previous post, No on Measure G!.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Splash into summer at the Rio Nido Roadhouse Pool

Pool at the Rio Nido Road House
14540 Canyon Two Rd, Guerneville, CA 95471
Hours: 11:30am-5:30pm
Life guards on duty

Daily passes $6.00 per peson -- call for group rates 10-day punch card $50.00. Or save money with season passes. For prices & other information, visit their Web site at

Summer’s almost here & the Rio Nido Pool opens on Saturday May 17th, the week before Memorial Day weekend. If you didn’t visit the pool last summer & haven’t dropped by the Rio Nido Roadhouse recently, you really need to check it out. The new owners, Leanne & Brad, have made some major changes since buying the place from Dee & Midge last summer, & are finally bringing the restaurant, pool, & performance stage up to its full potential (no offense to Dee & Midge – I love them & think they did a great job – they were just ready to retire & could only do so much).

The place looks a LOT nicer now, since Leanne & Brad have fixed things up & brightened up the buildings with a cheerful, fresh coat of paint. They also have these lovely, comfy Adirondack chairs in the picnic area. Leanne & Brad have also made huge improvements to the menu in their restaurant & serve up delicious & inexpensive dinners, appetizers, & Sunday brunch year round. They also host a wonderful series of fun & danceable bands on Saturday nights.

So, you might be wondering … why should anyone pay to use a pool, when we can swim in the Russian River for free? My husband, daughter, & I often DO enjoy hanging out at Johnson’s Beach & other little beaches along the River. But when you have kids, it’s REALLY nice to go somewhere with a shallow pool for the little ones, an enclosed picnic/play area, & -- most of all – a LIFEGUARD so we can relax our vigilance a bit. It also helps to now that there will always be other kids around for our daughter to play with.

The lifeguards (I hope Mara & Christine are coming back this year) are also truly wonderful with the kids. They help them learn how to swim, organize water games, & also provide huge buckets of soap bubbles & an assortment of exotic wands for the kids to enjoy when they aren’t swimming. The snack bar is also a wonderful thing for days when you don’t feel like going home & making lunch – in addition to the typical hot dogs & ice cream, they also serve good sandwiches topped with a generous serving of fresh vegetables.

For others who say that Ives Pool in Sebastopol is warmer & cheaper (Ives IS really nice), I say that (a) the Rio Nido Pool is closer by; (b) for the price of $6.00 daily admission (or the season pass, which is a better value if you plan to come more frequently), you & your kids can hang out at the pool all day – not just during a particular 2-hour time slot; & (c) if you walk or drive by the pool every day, the incessant pleading of your children to go to the pool gets awfully hard to resist.

For stay-at-home parents/caregivers, a season pass for the Rio Nido Pool is an excellent value. Particularly if your child loves water & isn’t ready for summer camp; if you simply can’t afford summer camp for all of your kids; or if you have a hard time finding things to do which keep your toddler & older child(ren) happy at the same time (the older kids can play in the pool under the life guard’s supervision, while you play with the little one in the shallow pool) It’s a relief to know that you always have somewhere reliably fun to go during the day.

Local music scene: Dancing with Dgiin

Imagine Dire Strait’s Mark Knoffler’s deep, rasping vocals overlaying a colorful tapestry of eclectic musical influences interwoven with dense patterns of lilting reggae, funk & Cajun guitar grooves; propulsive world-music bass & drum rhythms; & accented with a bright shimmering thread of effervescent Dixie-land tenor sax, & you’ll have some idea of what Sonoma County’s up-and-coming sensation, Dgiin (pronounced like “gin”), sounds like. My friend even noticed that a couple of songs vaguely reminded her of a klesmer ensemble she had heard recently.

Dgiin winningly describes their music as “French Gypsy Funk,” which seems to be fairly apt. Gabe, the lead singer/guitarist grew up in France, where the music scene is richly influenced by its former colonies in North & West Africa. The core band also consists of Jimmy “the Inch” (I REALLY don’t want to know where that nickname came from … any relation to Hedwig?) on Sax; Chrisdgiin Le Dieph (the only one with a last name) on bass; & Paget on drums. Their sound is also enhanced by a revolving ensemble of musical guests (when we saw them, they had a talented Bongo player with them).

My husband, daughter & I saw Dgiin at the Rio Nido Roadhouse last Saturday (May 10th), because we’d heard good things about them & also because their gig started at the uncommonly early hour of 6pm (yeah, we’re boring breeders & we really don’t get out much). For the very reasonable cover charge of $5.00 & the price of a yummy & inexpensive dinner & a couple of drinks (luckily, we live within walking distance), we all had a fabulous evening.

The place was jam-packed, but it didn’t feel crowded because Dgiin played on an outdoor stage, the temperature was mild, & there was plenty of seating. Not that many people were actually sitting down – they were too busy dancing. Several other families had also brought their kids, who happily ran around, danced, & played in the entirely safe, visible & enclosed outdoor space while the adults dined, chatted & enjoyed the music. The only drawback: We stayed out till the unheard-of hour of 10pm & woke up too late to make it to church the next day.

Tips for folks with little kids who want to catch Dgiin & other musical acts at the Rio Nido Road House en famille: They don’t charge cover for the kids; Young & picky eaters may not like appreciate the delicious, gourmet pizzas, but you can request a plain one with cheese; Dress the kids in play-clothes because they’ll be running around; bring mosquito repellent; & Bring another layer – it gets cool in the evenings