Guerneville, CA


California Highway 116 runs through the small unincorporated town of Guerneville in Sonoma County--a 90 minute drive north of San Francisco (without traffic; easily over 2 hours otherwise).

A sign without periods in the Safeway parking lot tells the history of the place...



Today, this is a popular summer resort area for people in the Bay Area, especially the gays. The Russian River winds through Guerneville on its way from the mountains above Mendocino, and south to Jenner, where it empties into the Pacific Ocean. The downtown has a few bars, some restaurants, and several small art galleries, antique stores, and thrift shops. The vineyards grow Pinot and Chardonnay. The Bohemian Grove is here.

I don't know when the gays started flocking to Guerneville, or what it was like before they did, but up until 1990, I always thought of this as redneck territory.

My mom said she was going up here to visit a lesbian friend from nursing school and I was all, "Lesbians?! Up there?!" and she was all, "Get a clue; it's totally gay up there!"

After that, it seemed like everyone I knew was heading off to the "Rush Riv" for one gay-themed summer festival or another.

It's autumn now and the summer gays are gone.


We have a friend whose dad owns a rental cabin on the river. She has second dibs on the cabin when it's empty, which is often during the fall and winter. We're just here for a couple days.

The mornings begin with my favorite of all vacation breakfasts, pie and coffee.


I've been reading this book on and off for several weeks.


The mornings are slow. I lay outside and read while Guy watches a movie.


Chapter 8 was very good, but it's a little hard to concentrate with all this peace and quiet.


Sequoia sempervirens. No one calls it that in ordinary conversation but me. It's coast redwood, the tallest tree species on earth. A relict from another time.






A little walk?

The cabin is right on the river.


The Bohemian Grove is in the woods on the other side.


(Southern exposure; the sun is in my eyes.)

The river floods its banks during winter rains, so the dock gets pulled up for the season.


It's not all vacation rentals and summer homes. Some people live here all year round.





As a rule, redwood forests mean deep shade on the forest floor. But the sun is low on the horizon this time of year, and the forest has been thinned for residential development. Front yard gardens are a mix of things. I see lots of flowerless rhododendrons. But also Salvia leucantha, some roses, and lots of mostly-spent bedding annuals for part-shade like impatients and begonias.

It's a little depressing to see an environment like this so bereft of native plant species besides the trees. What's missing? Perfectly carefree garden plants with year-round interest such as Giant chain fern (Woodwardia fimbriata), sword fern (Polystichum minitum), evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), Salal (Gaultheria shallon), currants and gooseberries (Ribes sp.), Vine Maple (Acer circinatum, not native this far south, but it would still be nice to see), coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica), tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflorus), Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana) tiger lily (Lilium pardalinum, well those might be here and be dormant, but I doubt it)...

What's here in nauseating abundance is Algerian Ivy, Hedera canariensis. It sickens me to see it climbing redwood trees and I want to take my pruners and cut it off at the base of every tree I see.


(It's been pruned off these trees; other pictures I took were too blurry to use.)

The architecture and design is all over the place.





It's past noon before we go in to town for some real food.



After breakfast, we mosey around.


These two pictures, above and below, tell you a lot about the Guerneville milieu.





This store, in case you haven't figured it out, would be the one-stop-shop for all your female impersonation needs.





I like to think that at least some of my readers actually do dress like this from time to time. You know who you are.



A fabulous night of liquor and lip-syncing await you!

Or just get dressed up for Ugly Betty at the Rainbow Cattle Co.



Moving on...



I had a hemp shirt once. I think it shrank in the drier or something.




I don't know what that says.


I must say, the chocolate seems like an afterthought at Hemp & Chocolat.


I do enjoy a good truffle.

In other stores...


the Christmas vibe is upon us.


This is my first encounter with the spirit of Christmas(-shopping) in 2007. I can't say it feels all that bad.


I see lots of stocking stuffers.







If I was a chick, or just wanted to dress like one, I'd wear stuff like this.


Tonier fare in a few shops.



I wonder how the kittens are doing.


The neighbor S will visit them tonight for dinner and play time.

These jellyfish glass things are in all the finer crafty stores now. I do like them, but we have nowhere to feature such an objet d'art at the house of whoreticulture.



And I like these very inexpensive baskets made out of dried grasses. But I didn't buy one.



Julie, I rang the gong for you.

Somehow, I forgot to bring socks with me on this trip, so I was glad to see this fishing tackle store had boot socks for sale.


I cannot go without socks at night because my feet get cold. I have big feet, so that means a big part of my body is cold, and that means I catch a cold. And that would suck.


Are you bored yet?

Here I am looking at cards.


October 18 was my birthday.

I'm getting old.


What a lovely garden.


There's a little bit of garden interest downtown too.





This is probably the best use of Lamium maculatum I've ever seen. People plant it with impatients and pansies and I think that's crazy.


I would like to have this wreath of bay leaves. I love bay leaves. California has a native bay, Umbellularia californica. Its fragrance is stronger than the Mediterranean Laurus nobilis and I'm always reading it gives some some people headaches. Not me. I like the California one much better.


Big tits, and what's the nose?


There's a flea market in the Safeway parking lot, and a woman is selling rooted cuttings from her garden.


She had some nice stuff, but her prices were too high. She wanted $10 for six-inch yellow-flowering abutilon in a 4-inch pot, and even more for a small double purple Datura. I didn't tell her that or try to haggle with her. I wonder if that could ever be me--selling cuttings and seed-grown plants at flea markets in semi-weird, semi-rural California supermarket parking lots. It doesn't sound so crazy, but I think I would rather be gardening.


Anonymous said...

It's always great to follow you around on one of your tours - definitely one of my favorite blog stops.

chuck b. said...

Thank you!

Laurene said...

Was wondering where you went for a few days... I was thinking that maybe you had some damage from the earthquake.

chuck b. said...

No, no earthquake damage thankfully. It was a real shaker tho'. I was on the 7th floor of a building downtown and I definitely felt it. Guy was home and said the kitties ran for cover. Good kitties!

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, Chuck! So you're an October baby too.

Those redwood trees make the houses beneath them look like dollhouses. They are absolutely massive looking in that context. How weird it would be to have your front yard devoted entirely to a single tree trunk.

Christopher C. NC said...

I'm out of the loop for sure. There was an earthquake?

My, you have had some major events rolled into your birthday. Good that you could get away for a bit.

They must have some very svelte Drag Queens in redneck territory. Those dresses look rather thin. Or was there one of those magic balms for Drag Queens like for becoming Swedish or Canadian?

Wonderful tour of Guerneville. Let's see when did I first know "The Gays" flocked there? I don't remember, I'm getting too old.

Anonymous said...

Great post Chuck! Those store items are hilarious.

Now, if you need to get in the Christmas spirit early, all you have to do is come to our house. We are fully decorated. We have to start early because we do so much (trees in every room) and we have a big party and our house was on a tour last year. This is all Michael's obsession. I'd post pics but I'll wait until it gets closer to the holiday.

These gay friendly towns are just amazing to this Alabama gay boy. I think I'd really enjoy living in a town like this one - not too big or crowded and quiet. On the other hand, I'd really love being in the woods like Chris at Outside Clyde.

JvA said...

Great post! The photos of the pie/coffee and tourist trinkets almost made me feel like I was on vacation.

Thanks for ringing the gong for me, Chuck!

lisa said...

Fun post! I think the poster read "Go forth and live as art", but I'm not 100%. So you're a scorpio too...I knew I liked you for more than one reason! Are those real jellyfish encased in glass? They're really cool, as are those baskets...I'd have spent plenty shopping there! Looks like a nice getaway...happy belated Birthday! (Don't worry about old, bet I'm older ;-)

chuck b. said...

Actually I'm a Libra. But we can still get along, right?

Tira said...

Thanks for this witty and fun post. Last year we did a weekend in rural Sonoma, it was much more staid than this, but I just love the creativity and expressiveness of the SF/Sonoma area.

LostRoses said...

Chuck, as always, you make me laugh! Loved your travelogue.

lisa said...

Oh Chuck...we can so absolutely get along....you know? :)

susy zelaya said...

Chuck you're a genius and great guest here at the river, come back soon! I Love kitties, I love Guerneville. I'm hetero and I search for Love online, as the males here would ruin my clothes and make me jealous. The Sisters are the saving grace at the river, they bring us community, before they got here, AIDS and the Bohemians messed everything up. Children who grow up here stay here all their lives. I've lived here since 1984 and everytime I try to leave, the trees call me home. See you at the gym!

susy zelaya said...

I wonder why you didn't photograph the mural I painted at Main Street Station? While I painted the wall, Robert Redford stopped by! He said he really liked my work!

sundar said...

I go back to my Alpine Peaks restaurant i feel i was very far from this tensionless world

Anonymous said...

Hi Chuck,
My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
I was looking for blogs about Guerneville to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
Hope to hear from you :)