LVK to PRB: Getaway to ‘The Pass of the Oaks’ [The Flying Gourmet]

Jim Jellison - The Flying Gourmet

Paso Robles, CAEl Paso de Robles, CA

A good friend of mine has a son who is a vintner, wow; I wish I had a relative in the wine business!
I actually knew the son before I met and became friends with his parents. He was the vintner at a local Livermore winery before they were bought out by a large corporation and began making bulk wine. So, the vintner moved to a small winery in the Paso Robles area and began making wine in a smaller boutique fashion, which better utilizes his talent. The vintner, Tom, is our personal connection to the Paso area.

Paso is about 200 miles by car and about 130 miles direct route by aircraft. The way I flew it, it was about 140 miles and about 1 hour 20 minutes flight time. The direct route from Livermore would take me over some pretty rough terrain and if that single engine should give up, the ghost the chances of walking away from a force landing would not be in my favor. There is an old saying “there are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots.” Well, let’s just say that I’m old and leave it at that!

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Livermore to Sacramento: Aviator’s Restaurant [The Flying Gourmet]

Jim Jellison - The Flying Gourmet

Aviator's Restaurant SacramentoAviator’s Restaurant
6151 Freeport Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95822
(916) 424-1728
Aviator's Restaurant-Catering on Urbanspoon

Over the years I have flown to almost every restaurant within about two hours flying time from the Livermore airport. Some might ask why? Well, as a pilot I have to “legally” fly every ninety days and make three takeoffs and landings to “legally” take passengers. Since I’m retired and love to fly I find this requirement no great hardship, but it is nice to have a destination for flight planning purposes. The regulations also state that as a private pilot I cannot take any money in exchange for the flight, but it is nice to get a free meal (the passenger pays) and have someone to share it with.

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A Flight to the North Bay to Try Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar [The Flying Gourmet]

Jim Jellison - The Flying Gourmet

Willi's Seafood & Raw BarWilli’s Seafood & Raw Bar
403 Healdsburg Ave
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 433-9191
Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar on Urbanspoon

The flight from Livermore to Healdsburg isn’t very far (about 77 nautical miles) and in a Cessna 172 it’s about an hour. That’s taking into account a climb to 4,500 feet and a decent at the destination. The wind in Livermore was blowing from the East which meant that I would need to do a 180 degree turn to the west to get on a course of 303 degrees for Healdsburg.

Once the control tower cleared me to make a left turn across the departure end of runway 7 left I changed radio frequency to NORCAL (Northern California Air Traffic Control) departure. NORCAL assigned a discreet squawk on my transponder, which identified me on their radar, and I was in the system.

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A Flight for a Sandwich at The Jack Douglass Saloon in Columbia [The Flying Gourmet]

Jim Jellison - The Flying Gourmet

Jack Douglass SaloonJack Douglass Saloon
22718 Main St
Columbia CA 95310
(209) 533-4176
Jack Douglass Saloon on Urbanspoon

It was a sunny but brisk day after Christmas and the main street was bustling with visitors. Children were panning for gold, the Blacksmith’s forge was roaring, a gentleman played guitar for tips and the locals were dressed in their period garb.

A friend of mine and I flew up to Columbia the other day, for him it was his first flight in a small aircraft and for me, it was an investigative trip to see if the hotel had reopened. Years ago the City Hotel was a wonderful place to have dinner. In fact, it was top on my list of places to go for dinner. Their house salad was a Caesar assembled at your table, the specialty of the house was chateaubriand for two and dessert was a soufflé, chocolate or lemon. Those were the days; it brings a tear to my eye to now see the place closed and vacant.

I have been cruising up to Columbia, CA by light aircraft for the last 37 years. It is a nice comfortable flight, about an hour, and the airstrip is long and well maintained. Over the years I have seen businesses come and go but the Jack Douglass Saloon has endured. The Jack Douglass Saloon was established in 1857 by John Douglass and is one of the oldest saloons in the west. Currently it is about the only place to get a light lunch on the main street. They normally have a nice selection of sandwiches and salads. Unfortunately, the day we visited, they were out of both roast beef and turkey. But, I made due with black forest ham and my friend with pastrami. The sandwiches were grilled (Panini style) and came with tomato, onion, lettuce and a dill pickle with your choice of cheese, at a very reasonable price.

The interior is rustic with wooden floors, tables, chairs and a large bar that runs the length of the room. A deer head is the center attraction above the bar and off to one side there are a collection of rattlesnake hides, locally grown. The snake hides are a reminder to watch your step while walking through the woods to and from the airport!

If you have never visited Columbia and you are interested in California history, it is well worth the trip. Besides a history lesson, the children will find and opportunity to ride in a horse drawn stage coach, pan for gold, visit a one room school house and enjoy some handmade candy.

The Flying Gourmet’s Best of 2014

Jim Jellison - The Flying Gourmet

At the end of the year it is nice to take time, look back at 2014, and savor some of the good things that we have experienced. It has been a big year in aviation for me, learning a new aircraft, flying with a new company and meeting a lot of new people. It has been a very positive experience and I’m proud of myself for being able to take on this challenge, which isn’t easy when you get older.

I had been flying with Ahart Aviation Services since 1985, been through four owners and over the years got to fly some brand new aircraft. When their business folded, several months back, I had already made the jump across the field to Attitude Aviation. I was very happy to see that my old friend, Piper Arrow N169JP, had made the jump with me. With my new association I have been able to increase my skill level as a pilot (Attitude is demanding), qualify on a new aircraft (Citabria) and sharpen my skills on aircraft I have been flying for years (Cessna and Piper).

Two Niner Diner

Now, on to Places to eat that I have visited during the year. For best breakfast I’m going to have to say the Two Niner Diner, at the Petaluma Airport. With their aviation décor, great service and the signature coffee cake, that is included with each breakfast, you can’t go wrong!

LaSalette SonomaThe best lunch is going to have to be LaSalette in Sonoma. With their piri piri seasoning and Portuguese dishes they have created an intriguing menu that will excite and delight any palate.

Hangar BBQ - Merced, CAThe best dinner is a hard choice between the casual beach setting with finger licking good ribs of the Hangar BBQ at the Merced airport and the family style Italian dinner at Teresa’s Place in Jackson. You will have to decide for yourself depending on your individual craving.