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Free time options for going it alone

  • 3/13/2011: D1:
    PC: Bear Republic Brewery in Healdsburg, Mar. 3, 2011.

Let's say you're ridin' solo. It could be for the weekend, or for the rest of your life. Either way, it's OK ... until the time comes to plan a getaway.

Do you like to chat with strangers over a beer, or would you rather head out on the highway with your i-Pod blasting? Perhaps you prefer something in between, where interaction is optional. Here are a few ideas for all three:

Those looking for like-minded souls can connect with a hiking, wine, or music club aimed at their age range. Websites like meetup.com offer lots of North Bay adventures.

Raconteurs who enjoy kibitzing can stop by a brewpub such as Bear Republic in Healdsburg or Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa, or a wine bar such as Willi's Wine Bar in Santa Rosa. Start with the bartender, then find some good talkers in the crowd.

Seeking solitude in nature? Sonoma County has its own version of Walden Pond at the Riverfront Regional Park on Eastside Road in Healdsburg. Or hike up to Bullfrog Pond in the rugged Austin Creek State Recreation Area.

If you want to be alone among the vines, take a drive to the end of Rockpile Road, offering stunning views of Lake Sonoma and surrounding hills. Need to cool your jets at the coast? Load up some tunes and head out on Skaggs Springs Road to Stewart's Point.

Starbucks pioneered the concept of the "third space" between work and home, a community area that's comfortable and accessible to all. In Sonoma County, you can chill out at the Healdsburg Plaza or in downtown Petaluma, then head to a dark movie theater with a bag of popcorn.

The local flavor is particularly vibrant at farmers markets, or stop by a local barbershop or salon for some gossip and a trim.

And don't forget to bring a book. Tim Zahner of the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau suggests Jonathan Franzen's "How to Be Alone: Essays" and Umberto Eco's "How to Travel with a Salmon & Other Essays."

— Diane Peterson


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