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Sonoma Valley locations feature prominently in new guidebook

Like pretty much everyone, travel writer Yvonne Michie Horn had big plans for 2020 before the coronavirus hit. A lifelong adventurer and world traveler, she had a full trip out of the country planned that had to be completely jettisoned due to the pandemic.

Yet like many around the globe, Horn had to roll with the punches and find a way to keep moving forward with her career and passions.

Luckily for her, the publishers at St. Louis-based Reedy Press were interested in her pitch for “100 Things to Do in Sonoma County Before You Die,” and Horn was off to the socially-distanced races.

Speaking from her home in Oakmont, Horn relayed the story of her canceled trip but quickly noted how she saw some good fortune shining on her. Horn said, “After my trip was canceled, I was delighted to hear the Reedy Press and their guidebook series had a gap and they wondered if I would be willing to do the ‘100 Things to Do in Sonoma County Before You Die’ book.”

She added, “So I signed a contract for them at end of June with a Nov. 1 deadline, but finished ahead of time at the end of September.”

As is evident from the title, Horn’s book takes readers all over Sonoma County to many popular locales, but also highlights several hidden gems. Chapters cover food and drink, music and entertainment, sports and recreation, culture and history, and shopping and fashion.

Sonoma Valley itself is well represented in the book with 18 entries, and not all of them are wine-related. Local highlights include Transcendence Theatre Company, Quarryhill Botanical Gardens (now known as Sonoma Botanical Gardens), Hanson of Sonoma distillery, El Molino Central and TrainTown. Sonoma also makes the grade in several addendums to each topic where there are many choices like golf courses, distilleries, breweries, community theaters and horseback riding opportunities.

While covering a county as large as Sonoma might seem daunting, Horn was readily equipped ‒ saying that, as a travel and garden writer, “I’ve written about Sonoma County over the years so I went back to my files and started there.”

Horn explained that the Reedy Press “100” series looks for writers to include entries in five categories. Thus, the challenge for Horn, a third-generation, lifelong Sonoma County resident, was to decide what to include. “Ideally you want to get 20 [entries] in each chapter, or 18 or so,” said Horn. “That gave me some direction and also forced me to not put in something I wanted to because it didn’t fit the order of the book.”

Indeed, “100 Things to Do in Sonoma County Before You Die” is very diverse, and nearly every city in Sonoma County has a shoutout. This all begs the obvious question, was there anything that Horn was forced to excise from the book due to the fairly strict outline?

Horn admitted, “In September when I was winding things up, I did a recount and realized a horrible thing. Instead of 100 places I had 104! I had to decide which of my wonderful babies wouldn’t get in.” Like any good travel writer and lover of their home turf, Horn declined to mention what didn’t make the cut.

Horn says she’s visited each entry in the book but said there’s two things she simply would not do, even though they’re in the book. “I will not catch my own dinner on a deep-sea fishing charter, and I also won’t do the zip-line,” she laughed, referring to the Sonoma County Canopy tour based out of Occidental. But it is in the book under “Sports and Recreation.”

In addition to lively commentary about each location, “100 Things to Do in Sonoma County Before You Die” also features an easy-to-read section of “Suggested Itineraries” in the back of the book. Sections like “Family Fun,” “Take to the Trails” and “Famous Folk” make it easier to plan specific trips, and there’s also a breakdown of locations by city. There’s also an intriguing list of restaurants and eateries in the suddenly burgeoning Guerneville food scene.

“100 Things to Do in Sonoma County Before You Die” is available online as well as at all local bookstores. Horn will be doing a virtual event via Copperfield’s Books on Thursday, April 29 at 7 p.m. Information can be found at copperfieldsbooks.com.

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