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Friday, June 17, 2016

Living in a Touristy Area

Sonoma and nearby Napa Counties get lots of visitors. Napa Valley is a world-famous tourist destination, but Sonoma gets its fair share of guests. It's nothing like Hawaii where there are eight million visitors a year in a state with a population of less than one-and-a-half million!

So what is it like to live in an area often full of visitors enjoying themselves?

There are lots of slow drivers. Highway 12 through Sonoma Valley has a 55 mph speed limit most of the way. The last time I did that was either early morning before any wineries were open or after the dinner hour. In the morning there's that sweet spot between the end of rush hour and the beginning of tasters arriving. You also have to watch for folks turning suddenly when someone in the car probably says something like, "Oh, there's another winery!"  Even when turn signals come on and the vehicle slows that doesn't mean they'll turn once the driver realizes it's just a private drive through some vineyards.

Visitors love to bike on roads through the vineyards. It's a beautiful way to take in the scenery, but some of those back roads are a little narrow. Part of driving those secondary roads around here is keeping your eyes out for bicycles over the next hill or around the next bend.
It's a little narrow

Eating Out
There are a lot of restaurants, but they're often full. Many of us have a few special places not so well known to visitors meaning we can actually get a seat on Saturday night.
One of my favorite Santa Rosa restaurants for decades!
Think I'm going to tell you about it?  :)

Touristy Towns
Healdsburg and Sonoma are the main cutesy towns that draw lots of people and I mean lots. The locals try to stay away on weekends. Want to find a parking place in Healdsburg on a holiday weekend? Ha ha. Still, that's better than the person trying to make a left turn onto Highway 29 in Napa Valley on a weekend!

House Guests
You have lots of visitors. We've had lots of family members, some not understanding why we go to the house first after picking them up at the airport when the wineries are still open. We've had Europeans my son met in New Zealand come by for a few days. I'm used to being a tour guide. I know my route to the Pacific coast and back with what stops we'll make along the way. With some folks the first stop is the Russian River Brewery.

Couple guys from Europe in town
long enough for a stop at
the Russian River Brewery

We're Famous
When we travel everyone seems to know about where we're from and smile. Of course, next door Napa Valley is so much more famous and occasionally someone visiting here in Sonoma County will say they are in Napa. I guess I get the confusion because if it's in California and there's wineries it must be Napa Valley! It's okay, I'm used to it.

See, we're different. It's the left lane 
for Sonoma, the right for Napa

Everybody Wants to Move Here
People get jealous of the hills, ocean and vineyards. Also, a few times when we've had a nice, warm February day when it's about 80 degrees and they'll ask, "Well, what's in like in the summer?" And I say, "About the same."
Yes, there are wineries everywhere
And, yeah, it's usually sunny

People stop and ask you to take photos of them. That's fine, but I wonder how many people have snapshots with me in the background. I may have intentionally photo-bombed a couple people when I wasn't taking a picture for them. Just because.

Tour Guide
Part of being a tour guide and seeing lots of visitors means they expect you've done everything they may want to experience. Well, I haven't been to every restaurant, I don't know the names of all the wineries, and I haven't zip-lined through the Redwoods (and never will). It can be kinda embarrassing when I don't even know about a newish restaurant in Healdsburg when it's apparently been written up in the NY Times or somewhere and people ask me about eating there.

It's All Good
Okay, so there are some good things about living in a tourist destination. We do have tons of excellent restaurants, hundreds of wineries, dozens of breweries, scenery, nice weather, and nice people. We never go thirsty or hungry.

The end to another lousy day in Sonoma County