Monday, May 30, 2011

Rockin' Rio Nido, May, 2011

Rockin’ Rio Nido -- a monthly column for the Sonoma County Gazette
By Elisabeth Parker and Elena Chronis.

RNHOA Memorial Day BBQ kicks off summer season

We love the Rio Nido Home Owners Association (RNHOA)’s summer events in their picnic area. The Memorial Day BBQ on Sunday, May 29th from 4-9 p.m. offers fun to kids and grown-ups alike. Enjoy a delicious chicken dinner, adult & kids’ beverages, bake sale desserts, kids’ talent show, mini-golf, music, dancing, marshmallow roast, and more! Also, look for the July 4th & Labor Day BBQs, pancake breakfasts, and Art Festival!

Friends of Rio Nido (FRN) elects bored members.

Oops, we meant to say BOARD members. Neighbors elected Kim Holliday, John Uniack, Jennifer Ostrom, Matt Malik, and Marsee Henon for FRN’s board of directors. Congratulations! No mud-slinging occurred because only five neighbors ran for the five available openings, which greatly reduced this election’s entertainment value.

Support the RNHOA’s Proposal for Rio Nido’s Canyon 2 Entrance!

Following Rio Nido’s flat rejection of Dennis Judd’s development plans for “downtown Rio Nido,” the RNHOA and local business owners presented an alternative proposal at the Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee (RRROC) meeting on April 21st. It requests funds for landscaping, public recreation areas, walkways, pocket parks, parking space, and legal protection from development,

Help jazz up our dingy fire hydrants!

The Friends of Rio Nido (FRN) Beautification Committee needs volunteers to paint our fire hydrants and stanchions (boundary poles) to enhance their appearance and visibility. If you’d like to help, drop by the Rio Nido Roadhouse’s parking lot on Saturday, May 21st at 9:00 a.m. with sloppy clothes and a paintbrush. First-comers get to wear those fabulous day-glow yellow and orange safety vests (until supplies run out)! Special thanks to Matt Malik for organizing, and Sweetwater Springs for supplying the paint.

Pet of the month.

Elena created this new monthly feature, because she KNOWS how we Rio Nidans totally LOVE our dogs, cats, and other critters. Please contact us about YOUR pet. For now, here’s Jesse James, Elena’s adorable, playful, and rambunctious rottweiller pup. LOVES: Nice people, play-mates, bones, rolls of toilet paper. HATES: Mean people and cages.

Rumor has it …

A filmmaker has contacted Kim Link and Brad Metzger about shooting scenes for a movie at the Roadhouse. Celebrity chef, “slow food”movement pioneer, and advocate for ecologically sustainable gardening and culinary education plans a visit to the Guerneville School in honor of its innovative garden, environmental education, and nutrition curriculum.

Elisabeth Parker Bids Rio Nido a fond farewell.

After six-and-a-half years in this magically beautiful enclave beneath the redwoods and whimsical gaze of the RNHOA Pee Wee Minigolf’s “Winky Moon,” Elisabeth and her family are packing up for San Jose, where her husband now works. Alas, paying a 2004 mortgage in a 2011 economy, and only seeing her husband on weekends, makes no sense. She has enjoyed working with her neighbors to improve this already wonderful community, and is proud of the progress we’ve made together. If you’re interested in running her Russian River Rattina blog and the Rio Nido Neighbors community email list, please email her before she leaves on June 1st.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Living on the Russian River

What I love about this community:
  • Folks are friendly and care about our communities & local issues. We support our schools even when we don't have children in our schools through fund raising and tax dollars; We help the hungry & homeless who live here; we care about local issues and attend meetings when we can; and when the chips are down, we come together and help one another.
  • Our schools totally kick butt: Despite drastic budget cuts, local parents can make good choices for their kids thanks to strong principals & administrators; experienced & committed teachers; a handful of devoted parents; & smart, dedicated students. The Guerneville School has earned the only California Distinguished School award in Sonoma County, due to its rigorous academics, & high STAR test scores. The Monte Rio School also enjoys strong test scores, but devotes more resources to the arts & holistic learning approaches for students. Either way, parents & kids win.
  • It's beautiful, so beautiful: When I drive home down River Road from my job in Rohnert Park, I breathe in the Eucalyptus groves with delight, & then sigh with immense pleasure upon being enfolded by our protective redwood groves.
  • It's laid-back: You don't have to pretend to be anything you're not here, you can just be who you are.
What I find hard about this community:
  • The HUGE gap between "friendliness" & genuine warmth: Folks are friendly here, but not necessarily warm. Being on friendly terms with neighbors is one thing. Feeling connected & having friendships with your neighbors is another thing all together. Folks who relocate here need to be fiercely independent.
  • High cost of living vs. lack of jobs: Why are the basic costs of living -- housing, food, property taxes, & energy -- so high around here, when local workers' earnings are so low? The costs of living here in Sonoma County are almost as high as those in the SF Bay area, yet employers pay half as much. If you relocate here, you need to be prepared for that.
But ... don't let what I said stop you. Pretty much all similarly desirable communities here in California will present you with the same obstacles if you wish to live here. Visiting is another thing altogether.

Rockin' Rio Nido, April, 2011

Rockin’ Rio Nido -- a monthly column for the Sonoma County Gazette
By Elisabeth Parker and Elena Chronis

April showers bring … lack of power.

As spring draws closer, Rio Nido bustles with all sorts of activity – some legal, some not. With all this jogging to get in swimsuit shape, while detouring around logging crews and storm-tossed redwood debris, who has time for reveling in the lush greenery and keeping an ear out for the chirping of baby birds? Especially since we’re still catching our breath from a mid-March storm and two-day power outage! Yet we definitely see signs of spring, as neighbors launch into spring cleaning mode. Seneca Rising and the rest of the organic veggie garden gang came out in full force for the annual Community Garden kick-off meeting on March 20th.

Champagne fountain grand opening

During the March 26th Friends of Rio Nido (FRN) meeting, Rio Nido Lodge owner Dennis Judd announced his plans to pay $1 million to Sweet Water Springs for installing a pipeline from Korbel to Rio Nido’s entrance for a champagne fountain. "We're excited about the restoration of this historic structure," exclaimed Sweet Water Springs General Manager Steve Mack. Not to be outdone, the Rio Nido HomeOwner's Association proclaimed their plans to build a chihuahua race track and giant redwood bungee jumping tower in the picnic area. "I look forward to taking the first jump!" RNHOA President Doug Misner exclaimed. The grand opening will be held when pigs fly … Happy April Fools Day, everyone!

St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans

Around 30 infuriated Rio Nidans – including home owners from hte city – attended the March 17th RRROC meeting at the Guerneville Veteran’s Hall to protest Dennis Judd’s proposed large-scale development in the front lot of Rio Nido. Not only did neighbors fear it would be big and ugly – we also worried about the lack of parking for the Roadhouse! Dennis withdrew the proposal via email shortly before the meeting.

The Twins are back … at Tavern McHughs

Les Jumelles recently closed, but we’ll soon see more of the eponymous twins, thanks to their mom and step dad’s new venture at the same location. Rio Nido residents Ben & Sherell McHugh are busily preparing for opening day at Tavern McHughs. El Molino High School students Amythist and Brianna (also from Rio Nido) will be pitching in to help. “We look forward to offering great quality food with fresh ingredients in a family atmosphere,” Ben enthuses.

In addition to lunch, dinner, and an amazing river view, the restaurant will offer a charming, old-fashioned ice cream parlour and video games for the kids. If all goes as planned, Tavern McHughs will open in April. Since Ben and Sherell claim to actually enjoy working with the County’s Permit Management and Resources Department, this may actually happen.

Featured personality: Erin Handy.

On March 9th, Erin – an up-beat, doe-eyed, late twenties-ish brunette with a pixie cut – and her quiet, pragmatic, and sandy-haired partner Suzy welcomed neighbors to their home for the Handy Harvest Club and Coop’s open house. While sipping wine and nibbling local artisanal cheeses, breads, and Erin’s signature pickled tomatoes, Erin and Suzy explained their upcoming projects. The co-op will start out as an informal, outdoor gathering of neighbors looking to trade fruits, vegetables, and home-made foods. The Harvest Club will operate more formally as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), offering weekly or monthly subscriptions to local produce selected from local growers. Keep an eye out for

Rio Nido Roadhouse hosts 3rd annual Easter Egg Hunt

Held on April 24th at 1:00 p.m., the hunt is open to kids of all ages, and will be followed by a marshmallow roast and Hot Chocolate. There will also be a Peep's diorama contest (to be judged at 2:30 p.m.). To enter, sign up at the Roadhouse. For more information call 707 869-0821.

Rockin' Rio Nido, March, 2011

Rockin' Rio Nido, Elena Chronis & Elisabeth Parker's monthly column for the Sonoma County Gazette.'s March 2011 issue.

Although it appears spring has sprung, Jack Frost has been doing a lotof nipping on our noses! Mother Nature has decided to play a little hooky wit hus. The rains have returned, but the cherry blossoms are in full bloom …go figure.

Pre-spring cleaning

Speaking of winter rain … instead of raining cats and dogs, it often rains shabby furniture and other junk herein Rio Nido. Neighbors took up a collection so Fred Beeler could haul the mildewed mattresses and other items piled along the back of Rio Nido Road to the dump. Beautification Committee members also contacted the Roads Department, which promptly removed the collections of soggy sofas and old tires from the ravine at the base of Canyon Four. Once again, we can enjoy our sylvan scenery.

Help keep Rio Nido beautiful!

Schedule a FREE bulky waste pick-up. Northbay Corporation customers can have large items removed up to four times a year, free of charge. Call Jill at 585-5263.• To report random trash, call(877) 565-DUMP and the Roads Department at 565-5101.• To report illegal dumping in progress, call the Sheriff at 869-0202or 565-2121.• To remove old vehicles from your property – free of charge and the usual DMV paper work, contact Dale Hawley at 565-2153.• To report abandoned vehicles on public property and roadways, cal lCalifornia Highway Patrol (CHP) at 588-1400.

Friends of Rio Nido (FRN—formerly known as the Task Force)

Bright new road signs keep appearing, courtesy of the County, so folks no longer get lost in our canyons. Matt Malik reports that the folks at Sweetwater Springs have agreed to power wash our fire hydrants and provide paint, so volunteers can paint them a cheery school bus yellow.

Jennifer Ostrom and Doug Misner are working with Mike Lockwood from Northbay Corporation to plan our annual spring clean-up for late April or early May. Due to major funding cuts, we’ll need volunteers more than ever. Our slow-but-sure efforts towards creating a 501 c(3) non-profit continue. Candidates for FRN’s Board submitted their applications, and wewill soon take a vote. Find out more at our next meeting on March 26th, 11 am at the Roadhouse.

Featured personality

Where can you go for the latest local gossip, a cup of cappuccino, your complete astrological chart, and perhaps even to pick up your mail? The Rio Nido Post Office, of course. Our friendly and multi-talented postmistress, Patty Roland James, has seen many positive changes in Rio Nido since she started in 1987 – including redevelopment-funded construction of the new Post Office and Fire Station.

Patty also organizes our annual summer Arts Festival with BeverlyMisner. She enthuses, “Rio Nido has a lot of special and interesting people and a close community.”

Patty writes engaging occult novels set in the area, including Something Wicked in theLand of Picatrix and Raven: The Praying Bird, and also has a collection of shorts tories, Weird River Tales, underway. Visit her Web site at, Aquila Ink, at

Winter comfort food

Seems that every restaurant we’ve dined at is serving Mac ‘n’ Cheese …the ultimate comfort food for these chilly winter days and nights! Ourfavorite recipe is guaranteed to put asmile on your face:

Ingredients: 1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup; 3/4 c. milk; 1 tsp. mustard; 1/8 tsp. pepper;6 oz. (1 1/2c.) elbow macaroni cooked and drained; 2 c. shreddedcheese; (cheddar, monterey jack oramerican);1 c. french fried onions orcrushed potato chips

Instructions: In 1 1/2 quart casserole, combine soup, milk, mustard and pepper. Stir in macaroni and 1 1/2cup cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes until bubbly and stir. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and top with either french fried onions or crushed chips. Bake 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Yields 6 servings. Kids love this recipe!

Rockin' Rio Nido, February, 2011

By Elena Chronis & Elisabeth Parker. This column appears in the Sonoma County Gazette on a monthly basis.

New beginnings

With the new year underway andl onger, sunnier days approaching, wefeel the stirrings of spring fever and new beginnings. Our Task Force has renamed itself Friends of Rio Nido, and meets on Feb. 5, 11:00 a.m. at the Roadhouse. For those who don’tcelebrate Valentine’s Day, February also marks the beginning of Girl Scout Cookie Season! Our local Girl Scout Troop #10480 is taking orders. To get your cookies, contact Elisabeth or visit their booth at Safeway on weekend afternoons at the end of February through the end of March.

Balalaika Guest Homes,the ultimate ‘Stay-cation’

You’ve probably noticed these eye-catching vacation homes on Canyon Seven Road across the street from our Pee Wee Mini Golf. If you need roomy and affordable accommodations for friends and family from out of town, these townhouses fit the bill. With three bedrooms, two bathrooms, well-equipped kitchen, living room, and charming decks overlooking our bucolic enclave, Balalaika Guest Homes are also ideal for entertaining.

Our friends recently rented one of these town homes, and found it to be chock full of modern amenities, including: WiFi, granite counters in the kitchen, dishwasher, designer furnishings, a large flat screen TV, and two luxurious bathrooms. One of the tubs even has two shower heads – ideal for couples on Valentine’s weekend!

Our favorite feature, however, was the giant redwood growing straight through a specially-designed hole in the deck! It’s never too early to start planning for summer – or even President’s Day weekend! Prices start at $99 per night. For more information, call 707-318-3175 or visit the Web site at Or read the rave reviews from happytravelers on

O’Connell Properties

After staying at Balaika, your guests may never want to leave Rio Nido … in which case, you can send them to realtors Mary O’Connell, David Shalar, David Clary, and Tony and Misty Humphreys at O’Connell Properties (707-887-2884or

With all the planned improvements for Rio Nido and real estate prices lower than ever, this is a great time to buy here.

Have you checked out their darling little real estate office at the entrance to Rio Nido off of River Road? It looks like little elves live there. Rumor has it, the charming cottage was built around 1920. San Francisco expatriate Mike Shalar originally purchased the building as a billboard, recognizing the value of the location alone.

He meets people from all over the Bay Area who recognize this unique landmark.

O’Connell Properties specializes in properties all over the Bay Area. Back in the day, this property belonged to a man named Fred Froelich, and functioned as a weighing station for passing truck drivers. The house was also an easy walk to the railroad which ran along River Road and transported summer tourists back in Rio Nido’s glory days.

Laura Mueller, Rio Nido’s radio personality

Speaking of local history, fellow Rio Nidan Laura Mueller has been hosting a weekly radio talk show for the past three years. Titled, “Anecdotal Evidence,” Laura’s show features interviews, personal stories from as early as the1930’s, and fascinating tidbits aboutthe Russian River’s colorful and entertaining history. Tune in Saturdays at 11:00 am. to 95.1 KGGV FM, our local radio station. If you can’t get a signal, provides live audio-streaming.

RRROC-ing Rio Nido

Rio Nido resident and community organizer Kim Holliday officially began her term as a member of the Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee (RRROC) at the Jan.20 meeting held at the Guerneville Veterans Hall. Following a meeting with Redevelopment Manager John Haig and members of the Rio Nido Redevelopment Task Group, Kim shared that priorities for Rio Nido are: Safe crossing to the bus stop on River Road; securing public beach access; and; basic infrastructure and beautification improvements.

Support Kim and participate in the process! RRROC meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month at 6:00 p.m. and alternate between the Veterans Hall and the Monte Rio Community Center.

Rockin' Rio Nido, January 2011

Rockin’ Rio Nido

By Elisabeth Parker & Elena Chronis
For the Sonoma County Gazette’s January, 2011 Issue

‘Tis the season... still

The winter days may be cold, dark and dreary, but the festive holiday lights make us feel warm and cheery.We’re glad so many of our neighbors choose to generously maintain their seasonal displays well past the New Year.

Rio Nido’s street signs also look shiny and bright, thanks to Matt Malik,Jennifer Ostrom, Ingrid Emming, Fred Beeler, and Larry Tocmakidis. We came along for the ride, and enjoyed whizzing about Rio Nido on the back of Fred’s pick-up truck with our scrub brushes, Simple Green, and day-glow orange safety vests.

Raves from The Bohemian

An unexpected holiday gift came toRio Nido’s neighbors and many fans, when we opened up the Dec. 1 2010 issue of the North Bay Bohemian and read David Templeton’s heartening article, “Russian River Revival.”

The article recounts people’s fond memories from the ’40s and discusses many of the positive things happening in our community. We only wish that Mr. Templeton had asked us for a more recent photo of the Rio Nido Lodge than the one he ran with the article. As you can see from the photo your columnists have so thoughtfully inserted above, the Lodge looks much better now that Dennis Judd has reinstalled some of the windows and made some other repairs. Boarded-up windows are so-o-o 2009.

Okay, well, it still doesn’t look so great, but it’s still a huge improvement over what it looked like before. If you havent read the article, visit

Centennial Celebration

On Sunday Dec. 19, neighbors gathered at the Rio Nido Roadhouse to celebrate Rio Nido’s 100th birthday. Despite the winter rains, everyone enjoyed tasty burgers, hot dogs,and delicious potluck dishes, while the kids roasted marshmallows. At 4:00pm, folks headed over to the Rio Nido Lodge for dessert, a ginger brea dhouse contest, and a special visit from Santa Claus.

Thank you Dennis Judd, Brad Metzger, Kim Link, Marsee Henon, Clare Harris, Efren Carrillo, the Russian River Historical Society, Pegasus Theater, 95.1 KGGV FM(especially Laura Mueller’s historical radio show “Anecdotal Evidence” which airs on Saturdays at 12:00pm), the Guerneville 5&10, and others for making this event a big success.

Got news? Email Elisabeth Parker andElena Chronis at