Adventures fuel author's appetite for 'Great Escapes'

by Judith Kahn

For the adventurous soul who loves to travel but is disillusioned about its escalating cost, Laura Del Rosso's book "Great Escapes: Northern California" is the book that should be on your bookshelf.

As the price of fuel and airfare continue to escalate, Del Rosso's book is most timely. She describes the book not as a comprehensive guide to the region, but rather a book that offers people "an assortment of possibilities."

"This book is a guidebook for people who love to explore all the best about where they live," she said.

"Great Escapes" features well-known places, such as Yosemite and Napa Valley, as well as places in Northern California that are not as well frequented, including Downieville, the Northern Sonoma Coast and Lake Basin. The 30 destinations featured in the book are within a four-hour drive from the Bay Area. All destinations offer affordable escapes and allow a person to take a break from the hectic pace of city life. Some are located in historic towns that date back to 1862.

For each destination she clearly and briefly gives its historic background and suggestions for hotels and places to eat. Del Rosso includes information about the availability of horseback riding, canoeing or kayaking and tells about short walksin many of the areas.

The hotels selected for each destination were chosen on the basis of their charm, uniqueness, historical significance or good value. The eating establishments mentioned in the book include casual places for a quick bite and those that are known for fine dining. Her objective, she said, is to give people affordable places to travel near home that would offer them a slower pace so they can feel like they have really gotten away.

"I thought it would be fun to write about places that you don't need to get on an airplane to see," Del Rosso said.

She tried to cover a little bit of everything in Northern California. Two chapters in the book feature interesting places to visit right here in San Francisco.

Del Rosso is a lifelong resident of Northern California who grew up on the coast on her father's artichoke farm. She has lived in San Francisco for more then 25 years and now calls the Richmond District her home.

Del Rosso loves to travel, often taking off with friends on days trips.

"There is so much to see on the coast. For example, its mountains and wine country areas."

She is "amazed" at how many people who live here and have traveled all over Europe have yet to visit Big Sur or Yosemite. Some of her favorite places are in Plumas County, including Lake Basin, where there are a couple of old lodges and beautiful trails around an alpine lake. She also enjoys going to Gold Country towns, including Downieville, Amador City and Volcano.

The St. George Hotel in Volcano dates back to 1862, "a funky old place where you wish the walls could talk."

Del Rosso is a veteran traveler who started by going to Italy at the age of five. She said her grandparents were there and her parents took her to visit.

Currently, Del Rosso spends 30 to 60 days out of the year traveling and still tries to get to Italy once a year Her interest in journalism began in high school writing for a school magazine. She attributes her interest in writing to a terrific teacher, Mr. Paccini, who encouraged her to go into journalism.

After high school, she attended Skyline College and entered a journalism program. Under the direction of another teacher, Sam Goldman, her interest in journalism grew and she graduated with a degree from San Jose State University.

For several years she was a general assignment reporter for newspapers in Northern California and eventually became a feature editor for Travel Age West. Four years later, she became the bureau chief for Travel Weekly.

She is currently an award-wining freelance writer and a contributing editor for Travel Weekly. During life's travels, she has earned the American Travel Writers Silver Lowell Thomas Award for a travel news /investigative journalism magazine and written for such publications as the Boston Herald. She has also contributed chapters to industry best sellers, including Frommer's "Honeymoons in Mexico" and Fodor's "San Francisco."

Concerning travel tips, she stressed the importance of doing research about a destination in advance and advised travelers, if possible, to take Monday off and to stay Sunday night if possible. There are two distinct advantages to doing this, she said, avoiding traffic congestion and staying at hotels and bed and breakfast inns that often have lower rates on Sunday through Thursday nights.

Another advantage is that the small towns and resorts have less people during this time. Places like Napa and Sonoma wine areas tend to be crowded during the weekends so the experience tends to be less relaxing during this time.

She also pointed out that the spring and fall are fine times to explore Northern California. During these months, prices are lower, the hills are green, the poppies are in bloom and temperatures are cooler.

Because of the escalating coast of fuel, an increase in air fares, and people's time constraints, the manner in which people travel has changed. They are traveling long distances less frequently and air travel is becoming less frequent. People are choosing to travel closer to home and taking shorter vacations.

"Few people take more than a week at a time anymore," she said.

For more information, go to Del Rosso's Web sites at lauradelrosso.com or www.greatescapesnorcal.com.