Years ago, my parents took trips to Guerneville, Calif., from their home in Hollywood. They had friends who owned Johnson’s Lodge, which is smack dab on the banks of the Russian River. Every winter, the river flooded and the lodge, a tall, rather rickety affair, got a bath. Each spring, the cabins had to be hosed down and freshened up.
The owner, Milton, a good-natured man, also owned a trucking company and mishaps were always happening to his trucks out on the remote highway. Milton was used to “doing things the hard way”, but had the tenacity and optimism to keep going. He was only five feet six inches tall, and didn’t know the meaning of a bad day. Johnson’s Lodge was his investment for the future and his way of eventually getting off the road. Milton and my dad were good friends; each wiz-bang businessmen, and bonded together like glue.
Long about mid-June, Milton would call and invite us up to Guerneville for three weeks over the Fourth of July holiday. My dad loved going because he could relax, yet still be busy. Milton allowed him to take over the beach refreshment stand, and Dad would handle the money, while his helper would grill hamburgers, serve drinks, and dip ice cream cones. They also had a fleet of canoes and inner tubes to go paddling around in on the river. Dad loved talking to everyone, so it was like play to him, not work, and Milton had someone he could trust handling the money. It was an idyllic arrangement
Then it happened. Back in Hollywood, during the off-season, Milton and his family came over to our house for dinner. After dinner, Milton excused himself and went to the bathroom. When he came out, he was waving a Johnson’s Lodge hand towel, feigning outrage. Dad, on the hand, was uncharacteristically quiet. It’s a story we’ve told a million times.
Those days are now all past. Milton has passed away and his wife moved to Sea Ranch and lived in a nature community up the coast from Guerneville. My mom and dad are gone, but Orllyene and I, our three kids, six grandkids, and seven great grandkids are still keeping an eye on each other.
After all this reminiscing, the idea of seeing Guerneville and cruising the back road past the Armstrong grove of redwoods to the ocean sounds extremely appealing. After all, I have a Lexus (2005 model, but still trustworthy) and a new set of tires, so why not? The California-Oregon Coast highway is not unfamiliar to Orllyene and me. On one of our trips, we were motor homing with another couple and happened on the village of Yachats, Oregon. We pulled off the road onto a wide-open grassy bluff and bedded down. We could look out to sea for miles and simultaneously hear the surf rolling and crashing just a few feet away. And, I’m not making this up, but just a few yards away on the highway, was a bakery and they’d just taken some cherry pies out of the oven. Well of course we got one, put out some beach chairs, and gluttonized it on the spot.
Bon voyage, amigosRon Walker can be reached at email@example.com