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We Love It!

[whitespace] short picture description Golden years: The Dimitrioffs, sharing a kiss, above, prove that being in love doesn't just happen to young folks--it endures.

Benham Studio Gallery

'Best of' local romance--
love, Sonoma County style

LOVERS COME FROM near and far to experience the fairy-tale beauty of Sonoma County. Watch them walk, full of wonder, through Armstrong Woods, where the towering redwoods beckon like a sacred open-air cathedral. Or see them share a simple picnic of crusty bread, Jack cheese, and spicy zinfandel wine, purchased from local merchants and enjoyed amid the white ducks and sunshine in Sonoma's historic plaza. Watch them wend their way through the romantic wineries scattered all around the region, from the scenic mountains to the sparkling ocean. See these lovelorn sweethearts as they marvel at breathtaking scenery, gorgeous sunsets, and magical cricket-chirping nights. Or observe them strolling arm in arm and starry-eyed through a farmers' market at dusk, intoxicated by the sights, smells, and each other's company. Yes, lovers come from near and far to this captivating destination, this Eden called Sonoma County. But wait, isn't that you we spy partaking of these sensory romantic pleasures right here in your own backyard? You, who hails from Graton or Guerneville or Glen Ellen? Yup, you smirk, it sure is.

Best Subterranean Romantic Walk

Wait for dry weather. Acquire love object. Proceed to the 700 block of G Street of Petaluma. Face west in the direction of the Jack W. Cavanaugh Jr. Recreation Center. Pause. Affirm that you and love object are unseen. Turn left 90 degrees. Regard assemblage of brush and thickets. Assure love object that Section 11.36.050 of the Petaluma Muni Code outlawing passage through a drainage tunnel is only passively enforced. Discern pathway through brush. Proceed. Turn left 90 degrees. Regard mouth of large drainage tunnel. Recite canto III of Dante's Inferno: "All hope abandon, ye who enter here." Pause while love object is impressed. Kiss. Proceed into tunnel. Exit tunnel on the banks of the Petaluma River at First Street. Kiss again.

Best Place to Meet a Blind Date

There is no place better to meet a person you've never seen before than a place where he or she cannot be confused with anyone else. At the Church of One Tree at Juilliard Park in Santa Rosa, there never is anyone else, so confusion is virtually impossible. The church, believe it or not, is the home of the offbeat memorial to one-time Santa Rosa resident and "Believe It or Not" newspaper columnist Robert Ripley. It functions as a kind of museum of oddities and weirdness sought after by the single-minded collector of creepy facts and artifacts. The attractively designed, somewhat Gothic church is, as the name implies, built entirely from the wood of a single tree. The county's least populated tourist attraction, it stands across the street from the second-least populated spot, the grounds and former home of renowned botanist Luther Burbank. Beautifully planted with roses and rare flowers, the Burbank gardens are the perfect place for a get-to-know-you walk with your brand-new date. Ripley Museum Church of One Tree, 492 Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa; 524-5233. Burbank Home and Gardens, corner of Santa Rosa and Sonoma avenues; 524-5445.

Best Unlikely Spot for Romance

The North Bay Area has, among its many delights, no shortage of romantic spots to which enamored lovers can escape for a weekend of smooching and intimate revelry. Cloverdale is not often mentioned as one of them. Out on the far-flung northern edge of the county, the tiny town-that-time-passed-by is, of late, known mainly for the fact that the freeway that once detoured down Main Street now whooshes cars right past without so much as a chance to blink. Therein dwells the romance of Cloverdale: What better place to get away from it all than a town where nobody goes? It is icing on the cake that the sun-baked burg happens to be situated among gorgeous rolling hills and abundantly fertile agricultural scenery. Lake Sonoma lies a scant few miles away; Cloverdale Kayak and Canoe will rent a recreational flotation device and even deliver it to the lake for you. Wineries stand waiting nearby, and restaurant-rich Healdsburg is only a 12-minute drive away. For lodgings, there is the oh-so-romantic Shelford House, a bed and breakfast efficiently and warmly run by Bill and Lou Ann Brenock. With views of early morning hot-air balloons hovering over the surrounding vineyards, the rambling Victorian has cozy, comfortable rooms and a relaxed atmosphere that easily sets the mood for the most pleasurable cuddling that any two paramours could ever imagine. Cloverdale Kayak & Canoe, 1148 S. Cloverdale Blvd.; 894-3078. Shelford House, 29955 River Road, Cloverdale; 894-5956.

Best Place for an Indecent Proposal

I knew a guy once who said something I never forgot. "I was dating a woman," he said, "and when I knew I really liked her, knew I wanted to move the relationship to a more intimate level, I took her out to dinner and popped the question, 'Would you be my lover?'" Nothing new there; the sexual dance has been commenced in eateries for as long as food was served warm by competent professionals to customers who wanted to get naked together. What was novel about my friend's approach was his choice of restaurant. "Denny's," he explained, "is so plastic, artificial, and grotesquely lighted that she could never accuse me afterwards of bamboozling her into bed with tricks and mere scene-setting. If she said yes, it could only be because she meant yes." He denied that Denny's famous low-priced Grand Slam entrées added any subliminal sexual urging. For would-be local lovers, let it be noted that there are three locations to choose from: one in Petaluma (4986 Petaluma Blvd. N.) and two in Santa Rosa (115 Baker Ave. and 1000 Steele Lane). So how did it go with my friend's proposition? She said yes. "In fact, we didn't even wait around for our omelets to arrive," he added. "We couldn't wait to get back to my place."

Best Place to Feed an Undying Love

Love is timeless. Love is forever. For those romantic souls with a poetic bent--and those with just a touch of the macabre--the ultimate spot for a romantic picnic of cold lobster, French bread, and chilled champagne is the local cemetery. Not only is it quiet and peaceful, but burial grounds are almost always beautiful, with abundant lawns and inspiring sentiments carved in stone all around you. We suggest the Santa Rosa Memorial Park in Windsor. Being on hallowed ground, of course, you must behave respectfully. Other than that, feel free to spread your blanket, feed your undying love, and drink a healthy toast to eternity. Santa Rosa Memorial Park, Shiloh and Windsor roads, Windsor; 542-1580.

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From the March 26-April 1, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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