Napa Valley

We had a visit from some old friends recently. We took the opportunity to visit Napa Valley together.

San Francisco

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On our way to Napa we spent a few hours in San Francisco, checking out some of the steep streets like Lombard and Filbert just near by.


Of course we had to ride a cable car. Which is a cool way to see a lot of the city in a hurry.


Traffic up to Napa was dreadful - in part due to an Indy car race at Sonoma.

Churchill Manor


My wife Bin organized our accommodation at Churchill Manor in Napa. It is a lovely old mansion in beautiful condition.

Wine tasting

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We visited a few wineries, and finished with a wonderful tour at Robert Mondavi - organized for us by a friend of Steve's. It was very interesting.

Some wineries we visited just to take pictures, others to taste the wines.



At 03:20 (2014/08/24) I was woken by a noise like freight train running through our room! That was followed by several seconds of very violent shaking (up and down it seemed) and finally the whole house started moving back and forth for several more seconds during which the furniture fell all about. We were very lucky to not be badly hurt - Bin has a very nasty bruise on her thigh so I assume something landed on her.

It was a 6.0 quake centered only a few miles away - the largest quake in Northern California in 25 years.

As soon as the shaking stopped we hunted about for cell phones so we could TXT our girls who were home alone. Luckily I keep a small flash light in my pocket as the electricity was out. We were mostly packed already since we had planned an early departure so we grabbed a bag each and got outside.

The beautiful mansion handled the quake very well, but the furniture was all thrown about and a lot of antiques were ruined. Plaster came down in some rooms. One of the chimneys had partially collapsed internally - a solid pile of bricks where the fireplace used to be.

Since none of the rooms were habitable, and after-shocks likely; we all sat outside until dawn at 06:30. We spent much of that time trying to reach our kids to no avail. Needless to say that was a concern, but we eventually learned they had not felt a thing.

When it finally got light enough to be able to spot hazards, we hit the road to make sure our friends got to SFO in time to make their flight home.

We didn't take any photos of the aftermath, since it seem insensitive to the owners and we didn't know how long it might take to reach SFO.

Update: My wife heard from the owners - they spent all day Sunday cleaning up and were back in business the next day!


The barrel room at right at Robert Mondavi we were told exists purely for the photo-op ;-) and the private tasting rooms which we got to use. The pink coloring on the barrels is a distinctive trait.

The following day on the news we saw a jumbled pile of these same barrels. It would have been dreadful if anyone were in the vacinity when these things were careening about.


Smart phones

It is amazing how useful smart phones are in a situation like this.

When thousands of people all want to get a message out at the same time, SMS messages are far more effective than phone calls due to their limited network consumption.

Within minutes of getting outside, the phone addicts were able to report the magnitude and locality of the quake. Absent that info we would have no way of knowing if our kids might have experienced it even worse than we did.

The smart phone also meant we had GPS navigation for the way home - handy in case our planned route was impassable. As it turned out we had a very smooth run all the way to SFO and home. /* imagine something very witty here */