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Longtime Sonoma resident writes an adventurous memoir

When he wasn’t detonating underground nuclear weapons in Nevada, Peter Schroeder might have been found hanging 10. Or hopping freight trains, or impersonating a priest. He hitchhiked around Europe, meditated in ashrams, and attracted the attention of the Yugoslavian navy while pleasure sailing on the Adriatic Sea.

Schroeder has lived a very big life, toggling between a steady march up the corporate ladder and wildly divergent far-flung adventures. When confronted with a deadly bone marrow cancer as a young man, he did what anyone with a good story might do: he began writing it down as a living history for his children to remind them of the father they might otherwise forget.

Four hundred and sixty-five pages later, “The Rock Shall Dance” is Schroeder’s time capsule, a comprehensive chronology of a remarkable life.

Diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1980, Schroeder was told he had 24 months to live. He was 39 years old and had four kids under 10. “I was going to die before my kids grew up,” Schroeder said in a press release announcing publication of his book. “I wanted them to know my life story.”

That story spanned some of the seminal moments in American history, for which Schroeder had a front row seat: nuclear weapons testing in the Nevada desert, anti-war protests on the Stanford University campus, the spiritual seduction of a community of seekers who fell under the spell of Indian mystic Osho Rajneesh.

His experiences were bold and oftentimes dangerous, a fact that gave Schroeder pause. “I held it back,” he said of the book he originally wanted to write for his children. “Because many activities I pursued were dangerous, I didn’t want my children to risk trying these same crazy things themselves. If they tasted the freedom, fun and joy that comes with these adventures, I feared they might abandon their education.”

The children grew up, and the book found its ending, but not the one Schroeder’s doctors had predicted. He battled the cancer and continued his life, working as a travel writer after a career in weapons testing and international business.

Schroeder, who lives part-time in Sonoma, is an old-timer’s old timer, and remembers Sonoma before wine was the main game. When he first arrived, there were only 25 wineries in the entire county. Today, he and his wife, both freelance journalists, own a syrah vineyard and boutique winery themselves.

And on a special bit of real estate on the family bookshelf now? A page turner containing the memoirs of an adventurous man. “I have sought to experience as much variety in life as possible,” he said. “To an onlooker, such an unusual life seems illogical, disjointed, and chaotic. But to me, every step has been logical, connected and true to ongoing personal forces.”

Contact Kate Williams at kate.williams@sonomanews.com.

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