by Scott Casper
My wife and I were really looking forward to our Sonoma-Napa wine vacation; nine days of tasting some of the finest wines our country has to offer. We had our tickets to fly out of HIA on Tuesday, October 10 and get to Santa Rosa, California late that night. I could imagine walking past the huge figure of Snoopy going into the Charles M. Schulz Airport. He was the creator of the world-famous cartoon “Peanuts” and was the most famous resident in Santa Rosa’s history.
The morning before our flight I went online to see the day’s news. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. An extremely large wild fire came down the mountain and struck the north side of Santa Rosa. I said to my wife, “the airport and the Hilton where we were going to stay are on the north end of Santa Rosa.” Then, I saw the headlines for the next news story, “Hilton in Santa Rosa burns to the ground.” Whoa!! I read the story and it was the Wine Country Hilton. I was going to make a reservation there but changed my mind. We were staying at the Airport Hilton Garden Inn instead. But our hotel was only one mile from the one that was completely destroyed. The raging wild fire was out of control and ravaged much of northern Santa Rosa. The fire was fed by very dry terrain and strong winds gusting up to 50 MPH. Tens of thousands of residents evacuated and were literally running for their lives; some were not successful.
We left HIA, got to Charlotte for Phoenix and then on to Santa Rosa and lots of great winery tastings. Well, that was our plan but it didn’t happen. We got out to Phoenix with no problem. But our flight to Santa Rosa was cancelled. The Charles M. Schultz Airport was closed. It had no electricity, no water and heavy smoke covered its runway. It’s reopening was nowhere in sight. Our hotel in Santa Rosa was evacuated. We were spending an unplanned night in Phoenix. The next morning, we had to decide what to do.