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Memories that Linger at the Rio Nido Lodge

That old adage about talking walls feels very apropos as I walk around the historic Rio Nido Lodge. If these walls could talk, maybe they’d tell me how an English Tudor-style building ended up on the banks of the Russian River, or how droves of vacationers in bowler hats and Studebakers once snapped their pictures beneath the redwood trees out back when this tiny town was a resort wonderland.

But these aren’t quite the stories I’d be interested in. Because if these walls could talk, I’d bet they could also growl like Janis Joplin, croon like Bing Crosby, and jam like Carlos Santana — and that, I’d like to hear.

The town of Rio Nido and its lodge have seen all these performers pass through over the years: Bands would play shows at the local amphitheatre or dance hall for Rio Nido’s summer crowds; some would stay the night at the lodge afterwards.

“Jerry Garcia would often stay in the cottage around back,” said Brett Gibbs, the lodge’s current owner.

But the lodge’s history goes back much further than the days of the Dead. Gibbs and his wife, Yulia, have been busy bringing the nearly 100-year-old lodge up to date since buying the place in the summer of 2013: They’ve refurnished the bedrooms with salvaged and recycled materials. They’ve converted the old restaurant downstairs into a cozy dining room where they serve guests eggs, pecan-wood bacon, and homemade jams every morning.

They’re setting up a marketplace to save guests a trip to the supermarket, and they’ve leased a part of the lodge to the Pegasus Theater Company, where visitors can see productions of Driving Miss Daisy or Rio Nido: the Musical at night.

But despite all the changes, the “rustic” feel of the place remains.

And so, for the record, does everything that cemented Rio Nido’s reputation as a vacation hot spot so many years ago. Bands still play outdoor shows just steps from the lodge at the Rio Nido Roadhouse. The same redwoods in Gibbs’ collection of old black-and-white photos still tower above the inn. The Russian River still draws fun-lovers in the summer and the nearby vineyards bring them back in the fall and winter.

And now that the Gibbses are restoring the Rio Nido Lodge, no doubt the walls will have tales to tell for years to come.

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