It's hot, it's dusty, it's crowded with teens exuding fumes from their stiffening hair products. There are barkers and bad deals and good deals and home hot tubs and foot massagers and sawdust-stuffed animals and real animals and vomit lying under the Zipper. There's racing and rodeo and Christian rock bands and big bands and bad bands and curly fries and tired ponies going around the ring. But there's something about the Sonoma County Fair and all of those cows and kids and free ice cream and floral displays and homemade quilts that makes me want to Get Married Immediately, have the wall-to-wall shag tacked down, tremble under a mortgage the size of Mt. Rushmore, and birth 35 soccer-playing babies all while backing a minivan through its blind spot into some ridiculously small VW at the Costco parking lot. But such odd longings, if admitted, would too terribly frighten the bachelor holding my hand as we walk through the dust and heat and exuded fumes of the carnival area with the first two of my planned 35, so I smile at the good deals, frown at the bad, and offer a kiss filled with secrets. Sonoma County Fair, mid-July, Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa; 545-4200. --G.G.
Best Place to Feel Like You Da Man (or Woman)
Want to dazzle your date? Take a walk through downtown Santa Rosa on a beautiful sunny weekend afternoon. Swing your arms wide and take in the vista of colorful storefronts and tidy brick-and-cobblestone paving. Stroll past the plethora of bookstores, put your arm around your date, and jingle the change in your pocket. Pretend this is your "back 40," in essence your very own city. Easy to believe since you'll be the only two visitors as far as the eye can see. Was it a sniper scare that cleared the streets? The Plague, perhaps? Those few souls scattered about Courthouse Square, sleeping on the benches, keep the city from looking utterly post-nuclear. A good thing, since no one is impressed by the master of a ghost town. --J.W.
Best Spot for a Romantic Serenade
According to Webster's Dictionary, the word serenade--the performance of a romantic song for the emotional benefit of the listener--is derived from the Old Latin word seranus, meaning serene. Serenity is then defined as peacefulness and tranquillity, sweet, atmospheric words that might also be used to describe Quinlan's Place. A charming, 2-year-old restaurant on the boulevard in downtown Cloverdale, Quinlan's not only offers marvelous food--a blend of French country and Mediterranean-influenced cuisine, by chef Susan Keith--but also is the only dining spot in the county where you are likely to be serenaded at your table by one of the owners (which brings this little vocabulary lesson full circle). Owned by Yvonne and Ken Quinlan-Pierce, Quinlan's adjoins a historic garden, from which butterflies frequently meander to interact with patrons relaxing on the outdoor patio (when the weather allows, of course). Within this magical setting, Ken has found a perfect venue for his fine singing voice and remarkable knowledge of contemporary love songs. "Whenever Ken senses the time is right," explains chef Keith, "he strolls through the restaurant, from table to table, singing whatever love songs seem appropriate." He has a special fondness for John Denver songs, "Regulars are always requesting him," she says. "they just love him--but he will do it without request, too. It's really very ..." Peaceful? Serene? "It's nice," Keith says. "There's nothing like being serenaded during a truly good meal." Quinlan's Place, 219 N. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale; 894-4788. --D.T.
Best Cheapo College Date
Romance seems to be dead, but it makes for a fun date to hike up to the guard observation deck at Spring Lake, pop the tabs off $1.19 cans of Bud, and lie back with your head on your date's shoulder and count shooting stars. If this gets boring (or after the Bud suds are gone), you can lean on the deck rail and look out across Spring Lake to the little twinkling lights of Santa Rosa. If you're ecologically correct, you'll bring those recyclable 24-oz. Bud cans with you as you run giddily back down the hill. And no matter that Budweiser causes a raging headache the morning after: Pharb, the hangover remedy, really does work! Spring Lake Regional Park (west entrance, Newanga Avenue off Summerfield Road; east entrance, Violetti Drive off Montgomery Drive), Santa Rosa; 539-8092. --S.L.
Best Place to Tie the Knot
Way back in the newly enlightened '60s, during Sonoma State University's very first years of operation--it moved to its current Rohnert Park location in 1966--the now venerable institution held a certain reputation. There were rumors of outlandish goings on--in and out the classroom. Some of them were true. That child psychology class that focused on playing with games and toys all day? True. That "class project"--also offered by the psychology department--in which students painted their bare behinds and then made pretty paper prints of them? True. But what about those other rumors, whispered tales about spontaneous co-ed, student-faculty skinny-dipping parties, once held frequently out at the pond? Sources close the matter insist that the fabled "naked nights" ... are also true. And the starting-off point of all this nocturnal moisture-seeking was usually "the island," a charming, grass-covered, bridge-accessed spot in the middle of the man-made, duck-occupied pond. Which brings us to our point: The island, alas, has not seen such soul-stirring shenanigans in many a year, but its historical significance--and close logistical proximity to kitchen facilities at the student center--have made it into a surprisingly popular spot for weddings. It's not all that surprising, we suppose. Surrounded by green, rolling, well-manicured lawns, the pond can be nothing short of breathtaking on a bright spring or summer day. A perfect spot for saying the old "I do's." Besides, you've got to be picking up plenty of positive juju by pledging your troth on the very same spot where your forebears once got all naked and frisky, right? May your wedding night be so much fun. The pond is at the north-central edge of the campus, just east of the art building and a mere stone's throw from the campus commons. SSU, 1801 East Cotati Ave., in Rohnert Park; 664-2880. --D.T.
Best Place to Relive the Good Parts of "Play Misty for Me"
Whether lovesick or carsick, the Timber Cove Inn--perched on a cliff on a corner of Highway 1's torturous climb to Sea Ranch and beyond--is the perfect place to down Dramamine and look at your sweetie with a Clint in your eye. Featuring a large Big Sur-ish totem pole outside the lodge, the inn is pure Carmel on the inside. An oversized stone fireplace warms sea-sprayed lovers while the dining area has those oversized picture windows looking out at wind-stunted pines that harken the cable-knit sweaters and long sideburns that made landlocked viewers long for the sexy glories of a Central Coast weekend while waiting for Jessica Walter's next crazed call. So cozy is this dining room that conversation must be made in hushed, bedtime voices while dining on salacious finger foods and sipping undesignated-driver martinis. Best of all, there are plenty of rooms available for those who wish to dally on the drive. Timber Cove Inn, 21780 N. Coast Hwy. 1, Jenner; 847-3231. --G.G.
Best Place to Suck Sand
The truth is that the best place to make love out of doors is at Abbott's Lagoon at the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. But its seawood lean-tos and great hidden dunes lie terribly in Marin County, and we can't concern ourselves with that in these pages. So we'll let you in on second best: Driving north on Highway 1, one passes several Sonoma Coast beaches, all with lovely and lyrical names. The last one before you reach Jenner's Goat Rock, however, is unnamed. We call it Cascade Beach because there is a distinctive rock facing the beach that is being millennially carved into a heavy-hipped ankhlike symbol. The water crashes through its center and cascades (get it?) like a waterfall down its face. Park in the dogleg off the road and scramble down the dirt path. Go south along the beach and see that there are several little dig-ins among the rocks where one can flirt with a misdemeanor exposure citation. Listen up, fellas, because this site is not grand for the full rollick, but rather is an excellent place to give and receive the Monica Treatment, regardless of gender. --G.G.
From the March 25-31, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
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