These sandhill cranes are so close to Flag City RV Resort you can see the lights of the park
As I mentioned before, we have passed through Lodi repeatedly over the years. Most everyone, at least the older ones among us, remembers the old Credence Clearwater Revival song, Stuck in Lodi Again. I thought it might be fun to research what John Fogerty thought when he wrote the song. There are a couple of versions. The simplest is that he remembered Lodi from trips where his father took them camping at Lodi Lake, a place he hated. Another time he said he hoped his career wouldn’t get stuck in small nowhere towns like Lodi. Either way, Lodi was a nowhere place in central California, about 30 miles south of Sacramento. I even got stuck in Lodi once with a guy I was crazy about, on a first date, late at night when his car broke down, and we shared our first kiss on the winding road from Sutter Creek to Lodi. I have loved dancing to that song ever since.
Even though I lived in Sacramento for a time, I still didn’t know Lodi as an actual destination. Not until Mo and I read the fancy brochures in the main office at Flag City RV Resort did we realize just how famous Lodi is in the world of wine, and especially the Old Vine Zinfandels that we both like.
For this trip, Lodi was our southernmost extent in the excellent wine state of California. We planned three nights and two days, thinking that we could visit a few wineries. When Mo received the shiny brochure from the Lodi Visitor Information Center, we perused the glossy ads. Finally, we decided on two wineries that might give us a taste of some good wine without too much hassle or a required reservation.
Mo also decided that it would be good to do something other than drink wine and found a couple of local wildlife reserves to visit. When we mentioned our plans to friends Sue and Randy, they were full of superb suggestions for us.
Settling into our site at Flag City RV Resort on Wednesday evening, we were delighted to see fabulous weather predicted for the next several days. Sunshine and wine? What could be better?
One of Mo’s choices, before we left home, was to visit the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve, also called the Eisenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve. We had no clue that the timing of our arrival at the Reserve was crucial. Sue and Randy regaled us with tales of thousands of sandhill cranes flying in just at sunset to fill the ponds with the huge, noisy birds. They stressed that if we waited until after sunset, it would be too late, and if we were too early, there would be no birds to see.
After we got settled, we drove a few short miles north of the park to the Reserve. We saw a few parked cars near the sign north of the ponds. A few cranes were gathered, feeding and making garbled crane sounds. I love that sound! I walked toward an entrance gate where a sign notified people that the Reserve required a paid pass to enter. I asked a couple of people settling in at the benches if we needed an access pass to walk on the other side of the gate. Yup, sure enough.
I am sure that the view from outside the gate wasn’t much different from the view from those benches.
We waited about half an hour before seeing swoops of cranes flying in the distance, and they were wondrous against the darkening sunset skies. A few landed in the ponds nearby but many more traveled farther west toward distant ponds.
Mo and I decided to drive a bit west along the old farm road and found more cranes resting in ponds, with only a few flying in to land. Randy and Sue said they had seen thousands flying and landing in the ponds earlier in the season. We missed the big fly-in but still got to see Sandhill Cranes.
We slept in a bit the following day, took Mattie for a couple of walks, and had a tasty breakfast at home. Our goal for the day was to explore at least two wineries in Lodi, and the first choice was the most distant, the Bokish Vineyard and Winery, about 10 miles east of town.
The sun was shining, the outdoor tables were bright red, with umbrellas that could open for shade. We laughed when attempting to sit in the extremely low chairs. I wasn’t sure I would ever get up again! Mo waited outside with Mattie while I went inside the tasting room. Bokish Vineyard specializes in Spanish wines and as a lover of Verdujo wines. I was anxious to try them out. The Applegate Valley near where we live is famous for tempranillo grapes, and there were several blends and estate wines made with tempranillo grapes at Bokish.
I bought a single flight, but the steward was quite busy with wine club members buying many flights for six people at a table. After tasting a couple of wines in the flight, I said, “Never Mind. Just let me buy a glass of your Tempranillo blend for my friend and a bottle of the Verdujo for us to take with us.” I think I missed the last two choices of my flight, but it didn’t matter. It was more fun to go back outside and sit in the sun with Mo and the dog.
The Bokish Winery was close to the tiny town of Lockeford, the location of Lockeford Sausage. Friends Sue and Randy told us about this historic meat market famous for wonderful sausages. We took a little side trip on the way to the next winery to check out the store. Mo parked along the busy road while I stood in line with several people in the tiny store. The choices were amazing, and I left with some linguisa, some kielbasa, and their famous fair sausages.
When I mentioned to the Bokish steward that we were visiting Lodi to taste Old Vine Zinfandels, he told me about another nearby winery that we would not have chosen on our own. The Klinker Brick Winery was small and comfortable, an incredibly charming place to sit and order some of the best wines we tasted during our visit. I learned about estate wines made from a single variety of grape from a single vineyard.
Our purchase of choice was the Marissa, a beautiful wine made from 94-year-old vines. Our server was a delightful woman with a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. She served us al carte snacks of cheese, crackers, and salami to go with our wine. By the time we enjoyed these two wineries, it was time for us to return home.
Traveling what we thought was the main street into Lodi, we attempted to find the lovely Lodi mission arch. Mo was driving, and I was navigating but to no avail. Finally, we stopped a young woman crossing a downtown street, asking the location of the arch. Oops. She looked at me as if I were foolish and pointed to her left. The arch was less than 500 feet from where we sat at the stoplight. The history of the old arch is fun to read about if you care to take the time.
We did not need dinner after our wine and afternoon snacks and settled in with one of the best inventions we have found for traveling. We don’t carry a satellite for tv. The parks sometimes have cable, but we are so spoiled with recording most of what we watch that the interminable ads drive us nuts. The choices aren’t that great either. We have a smart TV and could link up our phone hotspot to the TV to watch Netflix or Amazon Prime, but that uses up data even with our unlimited plan. Instead, I fire up Amazon on my phone, turn on the screen sharing on the phone and the TV, and Wa La~~good shows to watch without using up data. For some reason, Verizon will let us use as much data as we wish as long as it isn’t through the hotspot.
We planned the next day to explore wildlife reserves. Rising with the sun, I made coffee for the road, and we drove 11 miles north to the Consumnes River Preserve to find birds. The Preserve is very close to I-5, and as many times as we have traveled south on that highway, I never realized how close we were to a great destination.
The gate was supposed to be open at eight AM on weekdays, but a handwritten sign said that time might be variable. We parked in an area north of the wetlands and walked the paved pathways toward the ponds. Wooden walks were interspersed along the wetlands to allow better access. There were many ducks of several varieties, but I am not a very good duck identifier without a bird book in hand.
We then parked outside the closed entry gate to the Visitor Center, where we found a QR code with maps and information for each stop along the trails. There were even fewer birds along the wetlands near the main river channel. However, it was a delightful walk, and a few other walkers were enjoying the trail by the time we left.
Back home for breakfast, we next headed toward town for another day of explorations. Lodi Lake was our first destination. We were somewhat disappointed when we found the lake, dry as a bone except for a tiny area where a few birds huddled near the puddle of water.
I am glad that we didn’t plan to kayak the lake! We walked around, a bit disconcerted when we saw the signs saying No Dogs On the Lawn. What good is a park where dogs can’t play? This was the part of the day that was designed specifically for Mattie!
We walked the roads a bit, checked out the campground, and marveled at the boat ramp to nothing. I couldn’t figure out what white bird species were huddled by the little bit of water until I zoomed in on the photo. They were American white pelicans, one of our favorites from the Klamath Basin where we once lived.
After our lake exploration, we traveled north of town to another winery we chose from the brochure. The ad for Viaggo Vineyards and Winery was particularly glossy. The entry gate was impressive, and once inside, the long stone pathway was lined with plants and sculptures.
Mo settled into a table, and I entered the large, overly impressive tasting room. The room was opulent beyond description, and the person serving the wine wasn’t particularly welcoming. I ordered a single flight with plans to get another glass of something for Mo and buy a bottle of choice.
I have to say the wines were awful. I walked around and checked out the grounds, where the main house was a McMansion of grandiose proportions. I decided that this winery was a pet project of someone with way too much money and very little knowledge of wine.
I learned later that Viaggo Winery was considered a “venue” for weddings more than a place for excellent wine. While we were sitting at our table, a large group of chatty and giggly young women arrived, and the wine steward was all over welcoming them to the property. To him, I am pretty sure two old ladies ordering a single wine flight were chopped liver.
After a disappointing day visiting Lodi Lake and Viaggo Winery, we returned to the MoHo. I still wanted to see the Michael David Winery, (even if you haven’t bothered to click on the links, don’t miss this one ) just a few short blocks east of the RV Park. We discovered that visiting wineries could be very limited by timing. Most of the wineries we visited were open from noon to five on weekdays and often closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
We settled at the outdoor tasting bar at Michael David just 15 minutes before the last tasting. The wine steward offered us a menu, but I was disappointed that several wines were types we weren’t interested in tasting. I told him we were in Lodi to experience Old Vine Zins, and he said under his breath, “I am not supposed to do this, but what the heck.” He poured a glass of one of the zins for Mo and a glass of the best zin they had for me at the cost of two tastings. He was fun, the grounds were beautiful, and by the time we finished our wine, both of us were feeling quite content about the ending of the day.
Our exploratory visit to Lodi ended on a good note. Considering that we drank the equivalent of two glasses of wine each day, I don’t think we overdid. We bought three bottles of wine, not the least bit excessive. Maybe that last bottle of Old Vine Zin from an estate vineyard at Michael David was a bit extravagant, and we will save that one for a celebration of something fabulous.