Monday, January 29, 2007

Did I say I'm terrified of fire?

The Highlands Resort--from the road
Guerneville California
Taken 1/29/07

Sur le pont d’Avignon,

L’on y danse, l’on y danse,

Sur le pont d’Avignon

L’on y danse tout en ronde.

And the evening and the morning were the first day, well, actually night. Friday I made a last minute decision to get away for the weekend. The Russian River town of Guerneville was a pleasant little mom&pop resort community when I was growing up. In fact, my own mom & pop even considered buying property there in the mid 1960s. They found many dilapidated cabins for sale at exorbitant prices and in the end choose to put their money elsewhere. By the time I came out in the late 70s, Guerneville was in the process of transforming itself into the premier gay resort town on the West Coast. Boy was I angry my folks had decided against buying.

Anyway, on Friday, feeling more and more trapped in Smith River, I knew that I had to do something. The town is almost exactly half way between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, and Portland has been my city of choice for the past ten years. In fact, I haven’t even been to San Francisco since my thirty-year high school reunion in November, 1997. Cities, no less than people, are living beings and grow and change just as the people living in them do. I know where to go and how to have fun in Portland. At this point I feel I don’t know San Francisco at all. I did feel, however, that if I drove the 350 miles to Portland for a mini-vacation, I’d want to continue on the next 550 miles to Missoula rather than returning to Smith River. As I still have unfinished business in California, that was not an option.

So… San Francisco it is. But wait—what about checking out Guerneville. I haven’t been there since 1973 when there weren’t rainbow flags flying everywhere. Get out the Damron’s guide, look up “Russian River” and see what jumps out at you. Between the gay travel guide and some online searching I found that the Highlands Resort offered a Winter Special whereby if you pay for two nights, you can stay the third for free. I’d heard of the Highlands Resort along with two or three other gay owned resorts in the area, and since the on-line availability guide indicated that they had a couple of rooms still open, I called to confirm. I might even be able to take Gypsy as they have some cabins that are “pet friendly.” Calling the resort I spoke with Holly, who was very accommodating, but alas, the pet friendly rooms are taken for at least one of the three days I’d be staying.

Door and two windows of the Redwood Suite
Highlands Resort, Guerneville California
Taken 1/29/07

Plan B. Call Bear and see if he would be willing, on such short notice, to house and dog sit. This may be dependent on getting his computer on line using my wireless network. Friday was thus spent in a state of hurry up and wait as I was waiting for UPS to deliver the 400mm lens for the D80, the Post Office to deliver the leather jock strap (yes, indeed!) I ordered through e-Bay, and for Bear to come over to see if he had internet access at my place. Neither the Post Office nor UPS delivered, but Bear arrived, laptop in hand, around 2 pm to find me in quite a state. I was very concerned that “my” room at the Highlands was going to be taken at any minute, and we still had to check out Bear’s ability to connect.

His computer found my router immediately, and connected nicely with that, but could get no internet connection. Since the internet provider is Charter Communications, I called and explained the situation. Yes we knew the service was working. We already had one computer on line. We were trying to get a second on line. After ten minutes of getting nowhere—it’s Charter’s position that they provide service to a single computer. Period. Beyond that you’re on your own—the Charter rep gave me the toll-free number to call Belkin, the maker of my router. This seemed pointless to me as we were having no trouble connecting with the router, but as Charter wasn’t willing to do anything else, we had no choice.

Long and short, the fellow at Belkin was very pleasant, but not at all helpful, and it took fully half an hour to get to the point where Bear and I gave up. Bear could see that I was getting more and more frantic, and he graciously told me to make the reservation. He could run home to check his e-mail.

Back on the phone with Holly again, and I still had a choice of two non-pet-friendly rooms. Well, actually, she didn’t speak of either of them as a “room.” There was a cabin available where I would have a bed-sitting room and a separate full kitchen, or there was the Redwood Suite, which had a microwave, sink and what Holly called a “wet bar.” Feeling that being a single man, I didn’t need a full kitchen for my weekend getaway, I chose the Redwood Suite, gave her the appropriate numbers on my plastic, and reserved the room.

Bear left, I grabbed the new tele/zoom/macro lens, and headed out to Point St. George for some photography practice, as I noted in yesterday’s blog. Then on to see The Queen and finally back home to edit the photos and write the blog “England’s Rose.” As I was finishing up submitting the blog, I suddenly felt extremely ill. Head felt like it was in a vice, chest felt full to the point of exploding, and an attack of vertigo kept me in my office chair, unable to get up. When I did move, it was slowly and uncertainly, wondering where I would be when the vomiting started. Not a good way to feel the night before a long drive.

View from the hot tub
Highlands Resort, Guerneville California
Taken 1/29/07

The bed kept spinning all night, and I woke several times wondering if I should call and cancel the reservation. When I finally did get up, I was still feeling woozy—not at all up to par. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt this bad. I went ahead and fixed breakfast—bacon and hard-boiled eggs as I wondered if too much carbohydrate on Friday had unbalanced my system. Still feeling as if vomiting was immanent, I walked into the bathroom and proceeded to lose the breakfast I’d just finished. That, at least, relieved the pressure on my chest, but my head still felt as if someone had put an ever-tightening metal band around it. As long as I moved slowly and made no sudden movements, I could get around, so rather than cancel the reservation, I packed my goody bag, my kit bag, my camera bag, my book bag, my computer case, and as an afterthought, some clothes.

Bear showed up around 9 am, by which time I had my stuff ready to put in the car, and so, saying good-bye to Gypsy and a heartfelt thanks to Bear, the Volvo and I hit the road.

Driving south was uneventful—just one quick stop in Crescent City for the ATM and another at Costco in Eureka for gas. A stop in Garberville got me lunch off the breakfast menu, most of which I was able to eat—and keep down. Getting back on 101, I stopped for a hitch-hiker who, in other clothes, could pass for Santa Claus. White hair, beard, belly—the whole nine yards, except for his two bags and guitar. How can you pass up a chance to travel with Santa Claus, especially when he’s carrying a guitar that’s held together with duct tape?

Santa rode with me all the way to Guerneville and we had a fascinating conversation about literature, the state of the world, the need for peace and understanding, and how he had advised the King of Nepal to accept a constitutional monarchy. I also heard how he’d counseled Muslims in Indonesia to love Jews, and how he had mentored Orthodox rabbis in Israel to accept the Palestinians. I didn’t say that Santa was all there mentally, now, did I. But who knows, he may have actually done everything he said.

The Heater in the Redwood Suite
Highlands Resort, Guerneville California
Taken 1/29/07

Once in Guerneville, having dropped Santa off on the road to Jenner by the Sea, I quickly found the Highlands Resort, met Holly, and checked into my room—the Redwood Suite. The suite is charming and romantic, more than large enough for me. Having slept in my parents’ full-sized bed for the past year, the king at the resort looks large enough to host a small party. The room is heated by a gas fireplace which can really put out the heat. It can also be disconcerting to wake in the middle of the night to see flames in the corner of the room. Did I tell you I was terrified of fire?

After a leisurely soak in the hot tub, and a delicious steak dinner at the River Inn Grill, I returned to the resort to watch Harold and Maude in the resort’s common room. It’s been a good thirty years since I last saw the movie, and it was great fun seeing the San Francisco Bay Area the way it was when I was growing up. Following the movie, I returned to the hot tub which I shared with three other men, including one originally from Avignon, France. He told me he’d never been on the bridge there, and that he felt the song was silly. Les bons messieurs font comme ça. Oh well. Back to bed, and the evening and the morning was the first night.

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