This is a guide and a preview to upcoming articles I’ll be publishing, on Northern California through the eyes of a New Yorker, with an inclination to see things from a model aeronautic perspective. It is similar to my model-aeronautic take on Ogunquit and its bipolar beach. Here I’ll examine various Napa Valley and Sonoma vineyards on their applicability to flying, while accompanied by my brother’s family. I’ll show you where to find legitimate flying fields manned by AMA chartered clubs, as well as secret flying places that fanatics frequent. We toured San Francisco, Golden Gate Park, Half Moon Bay, Point Lobos, Fort Ord Dunes State Park and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Useful pictures are uploaded to Wikimedia, for illustrations on various relevant Wikipedia articles, continuing my series of Wiki Vacations (from here and there). Some pictures here link to their full-resolution images on Wikimedia, as I only upload pictures up to 2048-pixels-wide to WordPress.
There are vineyards everywhere, soon after one drives past the Golden Gate Bridge northward. Yeah, it is the wine country.
There are plenty of open fields to fly model planes. But it appears that all these beautiful lands are already claimed. We took a gondola ride up the hill to check out the Sterling Vineyards. Perhaps I would have better luck finding a place to fly on a hill – I thought. They did not even pretend to serve us decent wine for wine tasting, after having ripped us off with ridiculously expensive tickets to the gondola ride. But I have to admit that the view was spectacular. The same can’t be said of the wine.
You could fly a small glider from the roof of the building where the last wine was served. Perhaps tip the bartender first.
Some wineries are not conducive to model airplane flying. This one offers wine tasting in a dungeon under a medieval castle. But I really liked their Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay Reserve.
Stone arcade? Check. Massive wooden doors with metal rivets? Check. Castello di Amorosa does appear to be a genuine castle.
Now our program returns to wineries where you can actually fly a model plane. Artesa Vineyards is situated atop a hill, offering an exceptional view all around. Everyone is inside, busy with their wine tasting. No one will care that you fly a lightweight glider out here.
We stopped by the Ledson Winery & Vineyards.
Ryan and I flew a micro quad at St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, in the back where outdoor wine tasting took place. I liked their 2014 Meritage, Anthem, Sonoma County. The 2014 Cab, Lagomarsino Vineyard, was also great.
AMA Chartered Clubs
There are plenty of AMA flying fields in the wine country. Start with the West Coast RC Flyers, right in the heart of Napa Valley.
Next we visit the beautiful flying field of the Peninsula Channel Commanders, at Half Moon Bay.
Unofficial Flying Places
There are plenty of “unofficial” flying places around. The dirt jumps at the Beach Park appears to be a popular flying site among local modelers. Or at least that was what I read online.
I walked all over the place, but found no evidence of even a makeshift runway. That said, this expanse of landfill at Foster City is clearly suitable for model flying.
One could also fly a glider behind a local school which shall remain unnamed.
Here is another secret location behind yet another local school.
Now, the good stuff. If you want to know the best place to fly a glider around Monterey Bay, look no further. Ford Ord Dunes is the answer.
Just a word of caution. Use common sense when flying around people. As I mentioned in Droning at and around Ogunquit, safety must come first. There is a reason I only packed a lightweight and severely-underpowered sailplane. It uses a cell phone vibration motor, and is less dangerous than a battery-powered mini fan.
This place was a former Army post in the past. It was used as field-artillery target range. Now it is a state park. I trust that they have cleared all unexploded ordnance.
Yet another excellent location for slope soaring is found around Ritz-Carlton at Half Moon Bay.
Birds. They were everywhere, too.
A model aeronautically-inclined article can’t leave out the birds. They were everywhere.
I even spotted a penguin by the Santa Rosa Creek.
OK. Just kidding. It did look like a penguin. But it turned out to be a Black-crowned Night Heron.
There were, of course, seagulls everywhere, too.
Western gull is part of the Larus genus which is famous for housing a dozen types of gulls, forming a ring species that spans the globe around the arctic.
Curiously, we found a mouse just a few steps away from the Common Starling.
Now, here is one ancient, now extinct (or is it?) relative of extant birds.
Being a Tourist
As a tourist from the East Coast, I couldn’t resist taking some touristy pictures.
We had to stop by one of the famous Din Tai Fung restaurants. They really ought to let me eat for free there – I uploaded this picture featured on the Wikipedia article in 2009.
Here is an uncommon tourist activity. We went into a local hobby store to buy an UMX Radian, but ended up racing RC cars indoors instead.
We drove around looking at famous places. That’s just what tourists do. There are already a few million pictures of these iconic places online. But it doesn’t hurt to add a few more to the global collection.
The truth is that while there are thousands of quality pictures of these places online, few people take the extra effort to upload them to Wikimedia and use them in Wikipedia articles.
Then there is the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Golden Gate Park was grand, but not suitable for flying.
We lingered for a good 20 minutes listening to these street musicians.
On the way to Half Moon Bay, we discovered a few shops selling marvelous metal sculptures. These are a few samples.
The kids made clay sculptures at home that night. Note the bright red T. rex.
Everyone also learned to make stop motion animations with their smartphone.
Point Lobos would also be a great place to fly planes.
Watch out for the trees, however.
At times you are in the woods. Then the vista opens up, and you are looking at the ocean.
Back in the woods.
Now the ocean again.
Sunset at the rock formations alongside the South Shore Trail was magnificent.
Some rock formations look eerily alive… or dead. These are known as mimetoliths.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
We never miss an opportunity to visit a local aquarium, in our travels.
Well. That’s it. This article turned into a ridiculously long gallery of pictures, as usual.
Go forth and fly (or travel) responsibly. Also, try not to make garbage while flying (or traveling).