The Bay Area is, undeniably, the shit; we have bomb-ass food, cool museums, an awesome bar scene — the list goes on. But the weather? Well, it leaves something to be desired (and I’m aware that I hold the minority opinion on this). Coming from the East, the toughest adjustment was accepting that we simply do not have a summer here. I mean a real, proper summer — one where you can wear shorts and a t-shirt late into the evening and eat popsicles without freezing your ass off. This simply does not happen.
And so began my search for cheap, away-from-Bay getaways. A couple weeks ago, a handful of us headed up north to Guerneville for a day on the Russian River. I wasn’t sure what to expect; I had actually never been swimming in a river before (the Atlantic Ocean was right there for 22 years). Let me tell you this: it was one of the best damn days of California summer…ever. It was a consistent 85 degrees well into the afternoon, the sun was blazing, and the water was the perfect, refreshing temperature. And you know what else? It was FREE (aside from all of the bare necessities).
Before you start your journey down the river, you’d be wise to eat a meal (you’re gonna be floatin’ for about three to four hours). For some really cheap, gritty grub, stop in at the concession stand on Johnson’s Beach. Get a cheeseburger for $2.50, a huge ice cream cone for $1.50, and a pint of draft beer for $3. Not your style? Pop into the Safeway right up the street for whatever else you could possibly want. Definitely grab a few snacks and a lot (or a little bit) of beer. No one cares what you do on that river — everyone drinks. Also, be sure to stash some plastic bags — you’ll need them to attach your cargo to the tube.
Now chances are you won’t have a tube, either. Well that’s just fine. Drop into one of the many mom and pop shops along River Road to pick one out. The prices ranged between $10 and $16 for a good, dependable tube, and the shop I went to even inflated it for me (or else that really would have been a bitch). Get one with handles or a rope. Again, you’ll need to attach your snacks, sips, and sunscreen to something.
Okay, it’s time to head upstream. Wherever you park your car, there are two things to consider. The first is that, even if you only want to start a mile from your end point, it will take you about two hours to float there. This river is very, very lazy. The other thing is to remember where you parked (duh). Our group made the mistake of not taking a good look around , and we overshot our end point by a mile. It’s no fun to be dripping wet without a towel or two nickels to rub together in the woods at 7p.m. Trust me.
And now, a few words of caution. If, for some reason, you have aqua socks (nerd!), wear them. The river is lined with rocks — many, small, sharp rocks — that will make your feet raw as hell after an hour or two. Plus, the sand will be blazing hot everywhere you go. And also, do not trust the vacationers. Every single person that we asked for directions along the beaches of the river had no clue what the hell they were talking about. They totally pointed us in the wrong direction over and over again, and I’m starting to think they did it on purpose. Assholes.
Float on, river rats, and I’ll see you in Guerneville.
Thanks to Arising Images for the pic.