Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Three Days off the Grid
There’s an ancient joke about the newlyweds who show up at a motel on their wedding night and ask for a room, but are told that the only one left is the honeymoon suite. Ecstatic, they take it, and as they’re checking out the following morning, the bride asks the motel owner what makes the honeymoon suite different from the other rooms.
Scratching his head, he replies, “Well, it’s the only one where the TV set is broken.”
Half a century ago, that was the extent of the unplugged world. Today there are so many things you have to get rid of to get to that state that it seems almost impossible. Nevertheless, there are a handful of places where one can make the attempt, and over the first weekend in January, Linda and I went up to Jenner, on the rugged coast north of San Francisco, to visit one of them: River’s End inn and restaurant.
The Pay Phone Was Necessary
Jenner is a beautiful town of a little more than a hundred people, located at the mouth of the Russian River. River’s End advertises the unplugged experience, and whether it’s intentional or they’re just too cheap to put in the equipment, it’s no joke. We stayed in one of the cabins, which was clean, spacious, well heated and well furnished.
But it wasn’t well connected. There was no phone, no TV, no wi-fi, and no 3-G cell phone reception — at least for our carrier. There was an honest to God pay phone in the parking lot by the restaurant, and it was by no means decorative. If you needed to make a restaurant reservation, you either used that pay phone or drove 13 miles to the nearest town where you could get a signal on the phone.
On the other hand, who needs a TV when you can look out your window at a to-die-for view of the river emptying into the ocean. In this year of drought in California, we drew three straight sunny days, and the sunsets, taking place directly in our view path, were breathtaking.
Unfortunately, Linda had a bit of work to do for a class she teaches, so she spent a couple of afternoons on that. Being a mystery writer, I read a couple of short novels in the genre, Andrea Camilleri’s The Track of Sand and John Dickson Carr’s Poison in Jest.
Still, I found myself missing the cell phone and Internet after a while. I am far from being a compulsive user; in fact my usage is almost entirely purpose-driven. I go to the web to look up specific information, or to use email, which is the lifeline of my business. All I wanted was to do a quick check once during the day to make sure I wasn’t missing anything really big, which I wasn’t. But it was a lot of effort to get to a place where I could have the five minutes of time online that I needed.
And while it was nice to know that I wasn’t going to be interrupted by an annoying phone call, it was also annoying not to be able to call our son, Nick, who had just reported to his new posting with the Army at Fort Campbell. Saturday night we drove around the nearby town of Guerneville, looking for a place with a strong enough signal to make that call. We finally found it in the Safeway parking lot.
Despite the bother, I’d do it again, only plan a little better and head into it knowing what to expect. Three days of serenity is worth a bit of inconvenience.