Is the Romance Really Dead?

by Nancy Bestor
Hmmmm…..I remember when Bob and I were dating. Flowers were given for no reason at all. Dinners were eaten out at nice big city restaurants.  Picnics at sunset were planned under the Golden Gate Bridge. And surprise adventures, to places like Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs in Calistoga, were taken for a massage and mud bath. Driving through Calistoga last weekend, on our way to a family reunion on the Russian River, I couldn’t help but wax nostalgic as I told my teenage daughters “yes, your Dad and I were fun and romantic once.” I’m not sure they believed me…..

We passed through beautiful Calistoga to spend a long 4th of July weekend on the Russian River, in Monte Rio, California.  It was my parents 50th wedding anniversary, and our extended family of ten got together to celebrate this milestone and enjoy each other’s company. I booked a house for the whole clan to share right on the river through a private owner via (Vacation Rentals By Owner). It was another successful VRBO rental, proving to me yet again that you don’t need a middle man when renting a vacation home. The house was as advertised, the price was right, we spent an extra $49 for VRBO’s “Carefree Rental Guarantee” and everything worked according to plan.

The Russian River is yet another beautiful corner of Northern California. Monte Rio is just a 15 minute drive from the Pacific Ocean and lovely Goat Rock Beach, where we spent a couple of lazy afternoons. Monte Rio is also close to lots more cute towns that make for great days trips, including Sebastopol, Occidental and Guerneville. Our vacation home came with kayaks and canoes for paddling on the Russian River, and there were lots of small town 4th of July festivities in the area that weekend, including a river boat show, a fireworks display, and a water curtain show, where members of the fire department pump water over the bridge and then light the “water curtain” with different colors and images. Hokey? Yes. Fun? Yes!

We did a fair bit of exploring around the towns in the area. In Sebastopol I shopped for used cowboy boots at Saddles to Boots. This is a store for real cowboys, and their used boot selection is quite large. We also stopped for deliciously fresh rosemary bread and sticky buns at Wild Flour Bread (, a wood fired, brick oven bakery in Freestone. We took a lovely drive in swanky St. Helena (twice, since I was lucky enough to get us lost!), with its stunning wineries and restaurants, but missed out on an opportunity to eat hamburgers and drink milk shakes at the wildly popular Gotts Roadside food stand ( Bob and I also enjoyed an early morning round of golf at the gorgeous Alister MacKenzie (of Augusta National and Cypress Point fame) designed nine-hole Northwood Golf Club ( in Monte Rio. The last time Bob played there he was 13 years old. I won’t tell you how long ago that was.

On our way out of town we stopped in Calistoga, where Bob bought me coffee and a muffin. It was so romantic.