A little after 5 p.m. on Friday, a woman in an older Toyota station wagon was stalled in a line of traffic at the intersection of Highway 12 and West Napa Street.
The light was red, there were cars behind her, but no one in front of her, and a motorcycle rider, in full leathers and a full-face helmet – his bright red bike parked on the edge of the traffic island – was shoving on the back of her car for all his might. It wouldn’t budge. The temperature was in the 80s and inside that leather suit it must have felt like 100. Twice he went up to the driver and conferred, presumably to ensure the vehicle wasn’t in park or had the brake on.
Twice he was stymied. The car wouldn’t budge.
Finally, just as the light turned green, allowing eastbound traffic onto West Napa, something gave, the car was freed, and the motorcyclist single-handedly pushed the stalled Toyota all the way through the intersection and into the adjacent Staples parking lot.
It was, perhaps, a modest-sized rescue, but no less a noble one, and it did not appear that anyone got the rider’s name. He deserves our thanks, not just for coming to the aid of someone in distress, but because his action reminded everyone watching what is special about Sonoma. Rarely a month goes by without a reader reporting a similar experience.
A slightly more complex rescue was orchestrated the very next night when, just before the intermission in the middle of the Transcendence Theatre Company’s joyous production, “Dancing Through Life,” the lights went out and the sound died.
Gabrielle Ruiz, microphone in hand, was about to launch into, “I Got Rhythm,” when the plug was pulled and the winery ruins at Jack London State Historic Park were plunged into darkness. Nine-hundred people sat expectantly waiting to see what sort of transcendent solution would emerge.
At that moment no one knew the problem was not a simple fuse or extension chord disconnection. In fact, a grass fire on nearby Hill Road resulted in a tree falling on a powerline. Lanterns and flashlights were deployed, intermission was called early, and then suddenly the theatrical area was illuminated by a Glen Ellen fire truck carrying a bank of floodlights.
The firefighters, in protective attendance, repositioned the truck, which was already on site, and half the problem was solved. But power was still needed for the sound system and the band.
Enter Mike Benziger, of Benziger Family Winery, who saw the power go off at his nearby home and asked if anything was needed. Turns out there was only enough gasoline on hand to get the generators started. Mike provided two full gas cans to fuel the generators to power the band and the sound system.
Pat Stevens, operations manager for the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association and Jack London State Park ran for the VMNHA generator and delivered it to Transcendence staff, all of whom orchestrated a systems recovery at lightning speed. By the end of the 15-minute intermission, everything but the theatrical spots was working and the second half of the show went off without a hitch. It was an extraordinary, collaborative rescue, a community effort, as it were, and it put a little extra glow on an already incandescent evening.
And it was further confirmation of what Conde Nast Traveller readers already know – Sonoma is one of the 10 friendliest cities in America.