Skip to main content

California Vacation 2011 - Part Four

The amazing vacation weather continued on the Wednesday morning of our trip.  Bright blue skies greeted us as we walked out of the hotel to cross the street to breakfast.  It was back to the Barking Dog for a to-go breakfast.  The goal was to make it up to the Sterling winery by mid-morning for the aerial tram ride to the top of the hill.  Our route had us driving over the hills on Trinity Road to the northeast toward St. Helena.  Candice and I mentioned several times on the trip how we wanted to steer clear of the bigger towns and visit small town America.  The winding road over to the Napa valley gave us amazing views of the scenery near small town America!

Napa valley is surrounded by green hills and more wineries as far as the eyes could see.  Is there a way to get a better view of the valley?  An airplane ride would sure to it!  There is another way, as well.  Find your way to the hilltop Sterling Vineyards via their aerial tram!   The commanding white stucco building on the hilltop offers amazing views down the valley and up towards the 4,300 foot tall Mount St. Helena.  We wandered around on the self guided tour and sampled their wines.  The tram ride, tour and tasting are worth the money and effort to visit Sterling.

Tram ride up

View from the aerial tram


Tram ride down

As it approached lunch time we asked for some suggestions from the local at Sterling and they gave as many choices on the high end of the price scale but we decided just to find the closest place we could off the highway near St. Helena.  What we found was Gott's Roadside.  A fun walk up, outside diner that looked to be out of the movies.  Good burgers, sweet potato fries and a milkshake.  Good fuel for more sightseeing!

The town of St. Helena is picture perfect.  Are we sure there are not movie cameras following us around?  This main street and its shops, again, looks just like a movie set.  My one antique store find was vintage aviation travel stickers to add to my old suitcases at home to make them look like I have traveled the world.
St. Helena
Next on the touring was the winery called V. Sattui.  The grounds are covered in lush greenery and flowers.  The buildings are rustic and stone faced with an old world look.  They have a great wine tasting room, gift shop and deli bar.  We escaped the warm afternoon sunshine by visiting the underground wine cellar.

Cellar at V. Sattui

The tour continued on to two more wineries.  We stopped in at Rubicon (another Coppola owned estate) and Robert Mondavi.  Both stops were just for picture taking and a short walk through.  We kept the pace slow and took a few pictures of the scenic views and unique architecture.
Entrance to Rubicon
Robert Mondavi
Our family friends, the Sampson's, that we stayed with on day one, recommended that we make it to dinner at Mustards Grill in Napa.  That place was worth the stop.  Outstanding food.

To wind down the day we drove through the town of Napa to see what the town had to offer.  It has fudge to offer!  The Vintage Sweet Shoppe must have been calling out to us.  The fudge was just the dessert we needed after a day of touring!

The sun was casting longer shadows over the hills as we made the drive back to Sonoma on highway 12/121.  Another fun, full day.  One more full day to come.


Popular posts from this blog

Howard 500

The Mighty Howard 500 was a conversion from a Lockheed twin that makes a ramp presence like very few airplanes today.  If you were to see a Howard 500 on a ramp full of Challengers, Gulfstreams and Falcons... which do you think YOU would be drawn to?  Watch the video above and tell me you wouldn't skip the others and walk around the Howard!  Thanks to collector Toni Phillippi in Minnesota there are now two preserved Howard 500's in flying condition.  I first saw the Howard 500 at Oshkosh and walked by it several times a day for the week that I was there.  The powerful twin just draws you in.  If I were assembling a dream fleet of airplanes for my personal collection, A Howard 500 would be my traveling machine!  The video above shows that Mr. Phillippi flies his Howard's all over the country and even went to great lengths to return one from Europe to the United States.

For more on Mr. Phillippi's aircraft visit his web site -

For more on Lockheed…

Ford TriMotor - Two TriMotors For Sale

It is a cold and icy day here in North Texas.  So that has me looking over aircraft for sale around the country.  The internet sure makes dream airplane shopping fun.  All your dream airplanes right on your screen!

Two of the coolest listings I found are on and if I were to buy a time machine back to the 1920s I would snag one of the Ford TriMotors!

N9610 and N9645 are Ford Trimotor's that have been restored to flyable condition. N9610 is base in Minnesota with the Golden Wings Flying Museum.  N9645 is base in Oregon with the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.  Both look outstanding!

Below are my photos of N9645 when I visited the Evergreen collection back in 2007.

Which one should I pick?  Maybe I should just snag them both!

Great Lakes Biplane For Sale

When a unique airplane comes up for sale and deserves a good home... I just have to spread the word... Dan

Exceptional 1977 Great Lakes 2T-1A-2 offered for sale.  The Great Lakes is a wonderful biplane and is a very capable entry into moderate level aerobatics, that is also fun to fly low and slow with the wind on your face.  It will do everything a Stearman does, but fits in a t-hangar and only burns 10gph.  It can easily be rolled in and out of the hangar with one person.
This offering is N3823F, serial number 791, aircraft total time approx. 2050hr, annual Inspection May 2013, Engine-Lyc. AEIO-360-B1G6, approx. 40hrs SMOH by Buldoc 2009, Prop-Hartzell HC-C2YK-4F, Overhauled by Maxwell 2009, Factory new in 2000. Completely disassembled and restored in 2009-2010. Reassembled with all new hardware. Fuselage completely stripped, inspected, and refinished. Wings completely disassembled, inspected, replaced one wood spar (small end crack).  All fabric replaced with Ceconite.…