Car crash changes lives of Cotati pair, surely for the better
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By Mira Brody  April 11, 2014 12:00 am

Last summer, after surviving a car crash initiated by a young distracted driver in the Napa Valley, Cotati residents Sunny and Al Lockwood were inspired to change their lives, starting with a 17-day cruise down to the Panama Canal.

“We’d just have the same conversation every morning about how mad and sore we were,” says Sunny of the aftermath of their crash, which totaled three cars. Police say the only reason everyone survived was because of the use of seatbelts. “At one point we were just sick of it and realized how lucky we were. We have all these things we want to do in life, so I got on a computer and booked a cruise leaving in October.”

From the trip spawned a book “Cruising Panama's Canal,” written mostly by Sunny, who has been writing for most of her life and has many published works in West Coast magazines such as Good Housekeeping, San Jose Mercury News and Sunday Digest. The book is a compilation of memoirs of their trip and has received much attention by its conversational tone and ease.

“I wanted it to be a really easy read,” Sunny said. “Sometimes you pick up a travel book and it’s so dense you have to take notes. I tired to make it really easy so you can skim through it and have a good time, yet learn what it’s like.”

Sunny and Al moved from Angel’s Camp permanently to Cotati just over a year ago and have since found it comfortable and the perfect balance of town and country. They have been married 14 years and are spending their anniversary this week up in Burney Falls.

Sunny is a member of the Redwood Writer’s Club of Sonoma County and plans to spend the rest of the summer publicizing her memoir before they leave again on a cruise to the Mediterranean. Al is a well-known photographer who has had work in galleries in Southern California.

“I truly believe that this is the year for traveling,” says Sunny. “Traveling to Panama has been a dream of my husband’s his whole life, and I had never really thought positive things about cruises when I was younger, but this cruise was amazing. It was just spectacular.”

This year also marks the 100-year anniversary of the canal’s opening, and Sunny notes how spectacular it was sailing through something whose technology has not changed much since it had opened. Her other memorable experience was an interview with the cruise’s executive chef, and how he handles keeping 1,900 people of varying tastes satisfied during a two-week cruise.

“You could be sitting at a red light waiting for it to change, and have some texting driver slam into you and kill you,” says Sunny, seriously. “We did this cruise and look what came of it: we wrote a book, inspiring others to go out and travel as well. Out of this book is coming a lot of people who are going to do fun stuff! It’s a wonderful ripple effect.”

The Lockwood’s offer, in their colorful and exciting memoir, the perfect balance of allowing for a cruise experience without leaving your chair, yet also inspiring enough to make you want to take one yourself at some point. From a horrifying crash that pushed them and their vehicle 20 feet into a busy intersection, leaving them carless and battered is shaped a wonderfully inspiriting memoir of recovery, excitement and travel. They will be featured at a book reading at Gaia's Garden in Santa Rosa April 26 and their book is also available on

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