Destination: Finger Lakes Region, New York

Do you dream about a summer weekend on a wine trail, driving with the top down in the countryside under the sunshine, past rolling hills, forests, and burbling brooks? Stopping in tasting rooms in cool stone wineries? Passing through little towns of yesteryear with Main Streets? You don't have to go all the way to Napa for that. You can fly there in about 4 hours -- to the Finger Lakes Region in New York State. Wineries have been in this area since the 1800s. Finger Lakes wineries are known for their Rieslings. That's Deb's favorite wine, and while we've had plenty of German Rieslings, Finger Lakes Rieslings are hard to find in the Chicago area. So we decided to fly to New York's Riesling Country.

A major benefit of flying GA to Finger Lakes? No TSA liquid restriction! No worries about packing glass bottles in check-in baggage and no UPS/Fed Ex shipping costs. Just remember the 200 lb baggage weight limit in the Arrow! Some good bottles are definitely coming back with us. Pilot Parth will be the designated driver in New York, so he can indulge back home.

Many guides suggest careful advance planning: While you can criss-cross all over Napa and Sonoma, the long lakes in the Finger Lakes Region make driving around more challenging. It can take longer to drive than it appears on the map, so choose your "hub town" carefully, depending on what you want to do and where you want to go. And of course, where you fly in!

There are numerous airports throughout the Finger Lakes so you could stay anywhere. We originally chose the town of Penn Yan on Keuka Lake as our "hub" due to its proximity to several things: an airport, major wine attractions, places to stay on a lakefront, central location among the lakes. And incidentally, Penn Yan Aero is there.

But, weather is always a factor and we didn't really know until now that we will likely be able to fly. But nearly everywhere is booked for the 4th of July weekend now! Furthermore, many accommodations are in B&Bs which are charming, unique and one of our favorite ways to travel, but they also have restrictive cancellation policies. For good reason. At this point, we made a reservation at a B&B due to it actually having a room available, and hope the rest of our plans will unfold OK and we'll show up to check in. Instead of Penn Yan, we'll stay in Watkins Glen at the bottom tip of Seneca Lake, which is halfway between Penn Yan and Ithaca, giving us another airport choice in Ithaca

Things to do: So, this post focuses on some key places to go and things to do near Keuka Lake, Seneca Lake, and Canandaigua Lake:

Other stuff to do:

  • In the Air (of course!) -- A lot of aviation adventure here. Visit the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, the National Soaring Museum, and the Wings of Eagles Discovery Center.
  • On & In the Water -- Canoe, kayak, windsurf, sailboard, raft, tube, waterski, snorkel, go fishing ... any way you can hang out around the water, you can find it in the Finger Lakes.
  • On the Land -- Hike, bike, rock climb, golf, play tennis, go horseback riding. Or just sit in an Adirondack chair enjoying the sunset over a lake.

Where to stay: Deb stays in plenty of Marriotts, Sheratons, Hiltons and Omnis for work travel. The Hilton Serenity Bed is nice, but it's also nice to go less corporate. So for vacations, we usually stay at B&B's or smaller independent places. Here are a few sources to find B&Bs, hotels, resorts and even campgrounds:

More trip planning resources:

$100 Pizza Destination: Galena

Galena is a picturesque town on the Mississippi with a rich history going back to the Civil War and lead mining days in the 1800’s. While the drive is beautiful with curving roads and unfolding views from rocky bluffs, the 3 hour ride makes for a long day trip. But in less than 1 hour we flew to Galena for lunch and some window-shopping on Saturday.


Foster Field (7A4), 15 miles from Galena is the closest - private but open to the public. The ground transportation number on the website was obsolete, so with a quick call to the FBO, we got the number for Grampa’s Taxi, who quoted $40-$50 one way to Galena.

We then called Jet Center at Dubuque Regional Airport (KDBQ). And with density altitude approaching 3,000 ft, KDBQ turned out to be ideal. The Dubuque Jet Center was able to reserve a Pontiac G5 for $15.99 for “half-day rate”, no overnight with Avis! (Be aware that if you drive less than 75 miles, be sure to show your gas fill-up receipt to avoid a $10 fuel charge.) If you’re a preferred member, just give them the Wizard id, that’s all they need to set you up. Giving your N-number helps; they’ll also hear you on the radio coming in. It couldn’t be easier. To the KDBQ Jet Center, great job guys!


You'll fly past Galena and over the Mississippi River on your way in, but with the zippy shut-down to check-in time, and car parked right at the FBO entrance it's only a 30-minute drive to a parking spot in Galena.


Highlights of our few hours in town for lunch:

  • Old stone farmhouses on the drive to town.
  • Lunch at Cannova's Pizzeria at 247 N. Main St. It's a small place at the far edge of Main St. strip. Popular, go between lunch and dinner times to get a seat.
  • New antique shop across the street from Cannova's. While chatting, Parth discovered he knows the shopkeeper's brother -- small world!
  • Vintaj Earth at 214 N. Main St. for unique burnished brass and stone jewelry. Wear these, and people will ask, where did you get that?
  • Ink and Stamp with Sue at 112 S. Main St. where you can turn a $1 photo into a $10 photo (not-so-untrue scrapbooking joke). PS ... there's a comfortable couch for the men in the back of the store.


We had to leave Galena to beat the setting sun ...


Good-bye KDBQ ...

But on past trips to Galena we've visited:

  • Chocolat' for really unusual chocolates, plus tried 'n true flavors.
  • Galena Cellars Winery for tastings before you buy bottles.
  • Great American Popcorn Company must be good, there were so many people outside the door this time, we couldn't get in.
  • Poopsies because this place will make you laugh.
  • Fried Green Tomatoes for lunch or dinner in an historic building in the middle of town.
  • Stop at the ice cream shop on Main St for a cool-down on a hot day. Yesterday it was almost 90 degrees and sunny, and every 4th person was walking down the street with an ice cream cone!

There's a lot more to do than eat and shop. Lots of outdoor family activities. Historic B&Bs to stay overnight. Many historical sites because Galena was a boomtown in the 1800s and many structures still stand. If not for an unfortunate siting that routed the Mississippi waterway too far from Galena, this town could have grown to be what Chicago is today. Instead it's a nice getaway from the city and suburbs, with food, shopping, arts, the outdoors.

Some web sites for Galena trip planning:

So You Want to Fly a Complex Aircraft?

By Guest Blogger: Joe Standley, CFII
Anyone that wants to get into bigger or faster planes, either for a career or just for fun will eventually need a complex endorsement. Think commercial or CFI ratings, or perhaps stepping up to a multi engine – most certainly these aircraft have retractable gear and a constant speed prop. Starting with an aircraft such as the Arrow is a perfect stepping stone.

There are now three levers instead of two…the throttle which controls manifold pressure, the prop lever which controls RPM and the angle of the propeller and lastly there’s the mixture control. You’ll also have a gear lever, additional system lights and alerts and more (see inset picture).

The total amount of time required for the complex endorsement depends on the individual but I’ve seen it usually completed between 5-10 hours. Insurance companies typically want at least 125 hours as PIC and a Private pilot license with at least 5 hours in the same make and model aircraft.

On the ground, we’ll review aircraft systems, including the propeller and landing gear and how they operate, along with performance charts, power settings, etc.

Since pilots stepping up to complex aircraft have not had to think about gear until now, gear up landings present a major risk but certainly are avoidable.

My personal focus and the majority of the flight training I do, is on emergency procedures and preventive measures. We’ll simulate various emergencies, both in and out of the pattern, making sure that you “fly the plane” first, and immediately follow through with the correct actions to ensure a successful outcome.

You’ll walk away with an endorsement in your logbook feeling that you’ve actually learned something new and valuable…it’s not just going through the same old boring checkout procedures. You will definitely feel a sense of accomplishment and pride! You will be the master of the plane, controlling it with minimal effort and able to handle just about any emergency that may come your way.

Intrigued? Submit your comments or questions to this article and I will post a reply, or call me at (815) 558-7033 if you’d like more information. You can also stop by Blue Skies and I’ll be glad to schedule a time to answer your questions on how to get started.
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