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Out in the Willamette Valley Saturday, August 23, 2008

Alison Ginn reads a placard Aug. 21 at the Evergreen Aviation Museum. The museum in McMinnville, Ore., is home to the HK-1 Flying Boat, better known as the Spruce Goose.

On the second full day of my parents' visit, the weather was better and it was time to head out into the Willamette Valley. I've driven past the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville several times but never been inside, so that was on the agenda. And if you're out in McMinnville, how can you go home without stopping at a winery? But first, the airplanes:

Back in 1942 the Hughes Aircraft Co. set about designing an airplane to transport troops and materiel out of the reach of German U-Boats. The bulk of the HK-1, later re-designated as the H-4, was built of wood (mostly birch, not spruce) to minimize the use of critical war materials like aluminum. It had capacity for 750 troops or two tanks.

However, it takes a long time to create a plane that exceeds all existing aircraft in just about every way, and the war was over by the time the prototype was finished in 1947. The H-4 made just one short test flight—about one mile at an altitude of about 70 feet—piloted by Howard Hughes himself.

More than sixty years later the Spruce Goose remains the largest wooden aircraft ever built. With a wingspan of 97.5 m (319 feet, 11 inches), it still holds the record in that category as well.

The Spruce Goose has been at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Ore., since 1993. The museum's collection includes numerous aircraft and replicas from before the Wright brothers' first flight to modern fighter jets. The museum opened a new building in June to house its space collection. They hope to acquire one of the space shuttles when they are retired in the next few years.

[left] Grape vines stretch over the hills around the Sokol Blosser winery in Dundee, Ore.
[below] Peter Ginn looks for photo opportunities Aug. 21 at the Sokol Blosser winery.

After looking at the airplanes for a couple of hours, it was off to the Dundee Bistro for lunch. Then to the wine tasting.

We didn't really go hardcore on that part; none of us are connoisseurs, so just two stops—Sokol Blosser followed by August Cellars. Needless to say, we walked away with several bottles of Oregon's finest.

[left] August Cellars in Newberg, Ore., is home to multiple wineries, but also produces Pinot Noir and other varietals under their own label.