How To Plan A First Sunday Drive
As I had started the FSD for Sacramento, due to the enthusiastic reception by Robert Schilling of the SFBA Section, I can offer you this simple “how to” in planning a drive. It is my hope that we continue having these, but they will only happen if others volunteer. I have come to believe that for one person to do this month after month is unrealistic, but if we have 12 people/year to host a monthly event as the SFBA Section does, it is very realistic. Other than a few people, we haven’t had any volunteers since my FSD “retirement”.
And yet I know you all enjoy them!
Over these 5 years, I have developed a system and a routine to bringing you a monthly drive. While my way certainly isn’t the only way, perhaps I can help you benefit from some of my mistakes, and what I have learned works.
A drive for me has some simple criteria. All roads have to be paved, and the drive should be from 2-2.5 hours before lunch. I have also learned that if we can have a rest stop about midway that is an added bonus, although some drives, like our Sutter Buttes drive a couple of months ago, make that very difficult. For that drive we would have spent another 45-60 minutes driving into Yuba City, and then departing back to our route.
For our area there are really 4 regions to consider for a drive. We have the Delta, the Valley, the foothills, and West towards the Napa Wine Country. I have tried to mix them up and rotate among regions each month.
Here is the process that I went through each month.
Look at a map!
This is where I always start. Of course we avoid freeways whenever possible – although we have used them to get from one leg to another (like a short drive on Hwy 20 at the Sutter Buttes drive).
I’ll have the basic route planned out with a destination before I ever get in the car for an exploratory drive. With a destination in mind, I will do a Google search to see what restaurants are at our destination. I will look at ratings, although you have to take a lot of those with a grain of salt.
Drive the route. I can’t over emphasize this. A road that looks good on the map may be less than stellar in real life. I can remember planning what I thought would be a nice drive around a reservoir. The AAA map showed what seemed to be a nice road, but when I drove it the pavement turned to gravel and then……I saw no trespassing signs. Keep your map in the car, and look for alternate routes. Or maybe you drove it before and think you know the way. The last drive I had a few months ago was to the Wise Winery on the outskirts of Auburn. It was a beautiful drive up the Garden Highway, east from Nicholas and up into the foothills. I must have driven it easily 5-6 times in the past.
I still drove it beforehand for this drive. In addition to a few turns that I had forgotten, a road was closed. So drive the route at least once before the run to get acquainted with it!
While I am driving the route, I pick random addresses along the way to provide a “bread crumb” trail when I plug the route into Google Maps (maps.google.com). Otherwise I have found when using Google Maps, trying to drag to the roads you want is like trying to herd cats. When making the map on Google, I save to a .pdf file which is what you get when I send you the email. First address is always the meeting point (usually a Starbucks) and last point is the restaurant.
You have mapped the route – it is a nice route – about 2-2.5 hours – now we find a place for lunch. Here too I have learned by some experience. For restaurant owners many find hosting a group such as ours a mixed blessing. I’ll tell you why in a moment.
You are in the restaurant, always ask for a manager. I had a nice drive planned out to Donner Lake, and we were to eat at the Rainbow Lodge at the Sierra Summit. I made arrangements with a waitress, she said everything would be fine, and I left. A few weeks later, I drove the route again, and stopped at the Rainbow just to make sure everything was still on.
The manager hadn’t even heard of us and said accommodating us on that Sunday would be impossible as they had booked a wedding party.
So imagine what would have happened had we showed up – all 30 of us, with no place to eat!
So ask for the manager, give them your name and number and it isn’t a bad idea to follow up by phone later to see if everything is OK.
OK, I was going to tell you why some restaurants don’t want our business – very few – but it is a legitimate concern.
You always have to tell the manager when you will be there (the date) – around 12-12:30, with a count of somewhere between 10 and 40! Oh, and everyone wants separate checks!
I tell them that I will give a count at 10:00 that morning (when we leave) and most are OK with that.
Now, as I mentioned, some restaurants would prefer not to have our business and for me that is fine. From our point of view it is a screening process and it has to work for both parties! There have also been a handful that say they want our business and then are completely unprepared when we come. The worst was in Columbia where we limited our choices to 3 (per the owner’s request), and when we arrived – within 5 minutes of my stated time) nobody was expecting us. It took us 2 hours to get served.
For those all you can say is that you tried, and note to self: Forget that place in the future!
I was also turned down by the owner of a wonderful restaurant at a Napa golf course and his logic was sound. He said with such an influx of people at one time service to his regular customers would suffer greatly.
It has to work for both us and the restauranteur and most are glad to have us – one owner even opened up her rustic restaurant for us on a Sunday outside Georgetown – I think a lot of you remember that drive!
Finally, some of you are concerned about making a mistake.
Someone in our group once jokingly said that “no drive is complete until I make a U-Turn!.
I thought it was pretty funny, and wasn’t “offended” in the least. It has happened very infrequently with me, but it has happened. That is why driving the course a week or so beforehand is so important. You memorize those turns – take notes if needed. Remember too you did the work for everyone’s enjoyment.
We are all out there to have fun, and occasional wrong turns are part of that fun.
Any questions just email me.
I have mentioned from time to time that I am glad to send any of you a DvD of my various drives in Google instructions. They are really a simple template to replicate. Of course, you should still drive the course and make arrangements with the restaurant at the end, but most of the work had been done.
I have so far received very few takers.
Having activities in the Club depends on you…
Rereading this for Benzworld I might add why I make the Google map. I convert it to an ascii file and send it as an attachment on the email list.
We always leave at 10AM. Meet about 9:30 for socializing.
It was a very successful program while I was doing it because of the work I put into the drives, and it was consistent. Consistency is important.