Russian River Valley News

Russian River Valley News
From HOME to Tourist Attraction
By Vesta Copestakes
May 2024

May is a transition month for those of us who live along the Russian River, especially along River Road and Hwy 116. Our home that has been mostly us who live here year-round becomes “invaded” by tourists. This is the time to enjoy the last days of going to the grocery store when we visit friends and neighbors we run into while we shop. The last of walking paths where we stop to talk to people we know along the way. The last hike of the season on trails that are mostly void of people, and the last time to know that getting a seat at a local restaurant is easy. 

Yes, we know that the economy of our home is heavily dependent upon visitors, but that’s for those who own businesses. For the rest of us it feels like we lose the privacy of our precious communities to people we don’t know. It gets crowded everywhere. Parking becomes a challenge, and the decibel level of traffic on our roads rises as well as increases by hours a day. We breathe a sigh of surrender in May while we get ready for the onslaught. We won’t have relief until fall.

But that’s the price of living in paradise. Of course people want to come here! Why wouldn’t they? We are always in a state of amazement and gratitude that we get to live here! Come on! The weather is ideal. OK, it can get rough on occasion but is mostly perfect! The scenery wherever we go is spectacular. We have parks along the river, parks and trails in the hills and valleys, and parks along the coast. Pretty soon those parking lots will be filled and the walking trails will have hikers from across the planet enjoying what we are privileged to experience all year. It’s time to share our home.

Today I had the pleasure of taking a dear friend on a Joy Ride to the coast for crab and a salad at Café Aquatica which sits right on the estuary in Jenner. We had to wait in line to place our order and seating was getting challenging so while one found us a table, the other placed the order. Someone mentioned how busy it was so the woman beyond the counter said, “Yes, it’s practice for summer. This is spring break.” 

Some of us tuck into our neighborhoods and avoid going out over weekends. All our favorite haunts are crowded. We’re so spoiled we can just wait until winter to go back out again. But if we do, we miss out on some of the best weather for enjoying what sets us apart from other tourist destinations. 

Go early or late to your favorite restaurant but don’t avoid it entirely. Same can be said for grocery shopping, or shopping in general. Don’t abandon our local businesses just because they are swamped with strangers. We want them to make money over the summer so they are here to serve us all winter. They can get pretty stressed so seeing a familiar face with a smile and neighborly chat can bring a respite moment to calm their anxiety of having to deal with intense business and customer expectations. These business people are our neighbors, and yes, we want them to thrive. 

If you are new to living in a tourist destination, it takes time to adjust to higher traffic, people who are lost, foreign languages, and scarce parking spots even in front of our own homes. You will adjust over time and you will relax into knowing this paradise will be all ours again within a few short months. Try to be generous of heart and patient of mind knowing that what we have all year long is a privilege few experience. We are the lucky ones. We LIVE here!

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This column has been reprinted with the permission of Neighbors of the Russian River Valley.*

* River Valley News column will be published in the April 2024 Neighbors of the Russian River Valley (Best Version Media), a monthly magazine distributed to neighbors in the Russian River Valley. Reprinted with permission. For more info, go to their Facebook page, here.

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