Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sonoma Road Trip: Bohemian Rhapsody

     The Bohemian Highway is a 10 mile scenic drive connecting Highway 12 with Highway 116 in Sonoma Valley. If you're not planning to drive all the way to Bodega Bay on the coast, this is your route north.
     From Hwy 12, turn right onto The Bohemian Highway, where you'll immediately come to tiny town of Freestone. Don't blink or you'll miss it. First up on the right will be Freestone Winery (at the corner of El Camino Bodega, 707/ 974-1010), where there's a guest center and tasting room offering Pinot Noir and Chardonnay pours.
     Onward, the Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary (209 Bohemian Hwy., 707/823-8231) is located on the right side of the highway. If you're traveling through the nippy Sonoma fog, this is a good pit stop. Book their signature cedar enzyme bath and collapse into a warm bed of softly ground evergreens, known for boosting metabolism and circulation.
     Continue on to Monte Rio, which lies at the intersection of the Bohemian Highway and Highway 116. You’ll pass Bohemian Grove, a 2700 acre Redwood forest where one of the most important annual events in the world takes place.
     It's the ultimate VIP boys' club. You can't buy your way in, and you probably won't be invited.  Bohemian Grove, an annual two-week camp in the redwood forests near Monte Rio, attracts some very elite and surprising campers for male bonding, bizarre rituals, and serious political and business discussions. Every July, the guys meet, wearing Halloween appropriate costumes, to conduct secret meetings and indulge in male fantasy behavior. Staff members are sworn to secrecy and People magazine isn't allowed.
     The very private Bohemian Club has been in existence for almost 150 years and boasts members from the upper echelons of the business and political world.  All Republican presidents since 1923, a few Democratic presidents, and many cabinet members have all been members of the Club. Corporate CEO's, including leaders of the Federal Reserve, major financial institutions, military contractors, and the national media have representatives in the highest levels of the organization.  There are even a few entertainment celebrities that belong to the group.  Big names, such as George Bush, Sr., George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Henry Kissinger, Walter Cronkite, Colin Powell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, William F. Buckley, David Rockefeller, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld have been Bohemian Club members and attendees of the Bohemian Grove summer camp.
     What exactly happens at this summer getaway? There's the bizarre ritual of the Cremation of Care ceremony where the boys dress up in red robes and hoods around a giant Owl statue that is voiced by none other than the late Walter Cronkite.  It's a ceremony that symbolizes the secrecy of the meeting and that everyone is free to do as they like during the two weeks without fear of getting caught.
     There's also serious networking and important negotiations taking place among these powerful guys. Supposedly, The Manhattan Project was discussed and enacted at the Grove in 1942 - ever hear of the Atomic Bomb?
    For the rest of us, the quaint little hamlet of Monte Rio is a family-friendly vacation destination in itself. The main attraction is the Russian River, where Monte Rio Beach offers a children’s swimming area, canoe and kayak rentals, and old fashion concession stand. There's even a dog-friendly section of the beach for your 'River Rover'. In summer months, the river is gentle and warm. There's a big celebration, the Monte Rio Water Carnival, held over the fourth of July, where a 'water -curtain' of the US flag flows from the bridge, followed by fireworks.
    At Monte Rio, you connect to Hwy 116 - go west to the coast, east to Guerneville and Forestville.

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