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Friday, May 29, 2015

Getting Unstuck In Lodi

Not even wanting to take advantage of the hotel’s meager breakfast bar, we share a McDonald’s breakfast next door with one of the area’s homeless gentlemen before picking up the pieces of our broken trip.

It’d been a bad night of sleep at an overpriced and cleanliness challenged hotel way outside of our destination of Lodi along a barren stretch of Interstate 5 at the intersection of highway 12. Realizing that we couldn’t make a vacation of what is essentially a truck stop, and not a very good one either, we promptly cancelled the rest of our stay (see our previous report for the details).

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Now, it’s Memorial Day weekend and we have no place to stay in Lodi. I quickly get out the laptop and take advantage of the local WiFi and start looking. Everyplace I check in Lodi is booked up.

I remember a few years ago, we stayed at a nice all-suites hotel in Rancho Cordova, just east of nearby Sacramento. I find the hotel, now a Hyatt House hotel, and they have a reasonably priced room that I can cancel as late as 4pm that day without penalty.

I book it to have a guaranteed nice place to sleep if we are unable to find a hotel up in Amador County’s gold and wine country, where we are headed to today.

Just south of Lodi along Highway 88, is the town of Lockeford. This pleasant little village is home to Lockeford Meat Company, which is world-famous for their sausage. Since Monday will be a holiday, this will be our only chance to stop to pick up some chorizo, Okie sausages, jalapeno sausages, and…their claim to fame…the smoked Dakota bratwursts.

I’ll need to stop at a nearby Rite Aid to get a cheap ice chest and keep these chilled for a couple of days.

Letty likes to browse at the pawn shop at the corner and I don’t mind visiting with the friendly folks of Lockeford Jewelry and Loan, who are also very accommodating and understanding of wheelchair user’s needs. It doesn’t look accessible but there’s a ramp around the back where you also get to see the treasures in the back room.

Sausaged up, we continue on up to Highway 49 and go straight to Plymouth and the Shenandoah Valley, our go-to wine country experience.

We’ve gone here many times, and it’s still a great place to taste and buy wines, especially the big red that our state is known for, Zinfandel.

Sipping some reds at Shenandoah Vineyards helps guide us to the perfect mixed case. We get a pasta buffet at Villa Toscano along with a case of old vine zin and another case of pinot grigio. 

A drive to the nearby Shenandoah Inn reveals two very nice accessible rooms with wine country views to die for. Unfortunately, they do not have availability on Saturday night, which is right in the middle of our stay.

Our trip to Lodi has become a weekend in the capital.

Still, we came to see Lodi and Lodi we will see. The rest of Amador’s wineries will wait until tomorrow; we’re headed down the hill.

After checking into the Hyatt, and making sure the room is good (it is), we head south on Sunrise Boulevard for a scenic, back road way into Lodi that skips the capital and saves us about 10 miles.

Downtown Lodi has undergone quite a renaissance. About a dozen local wineries from the Lodi AVA have tasting rooms here. Restaurants and watering holes ranging from funky dives to gourmet, white tablecloth dining rooms dot the landscape. Live music comes out from everywhere.

We’d come to hear some music at one of the tasting rooms but the extreme decibels blow us back out the door. Instead, we head across the street to Ollie’s Pub…one of the afore mentioned dives…which is next to Field Family Wines. We could avail ourselves of the live music from Field’s, while watching the A’s and Giants playing on big TVs, drinking a cold brew, and getting to know some of the locals…some more sober than others.

A stroll around downtown tells us that the latest Fast and Furious sequel is a big hit at the local multiplex and you can meet a lot of girls sitting on the bench outside of the Take 27 bar when they come out for a smoke break…hey, Tim’s still single!

For dinner, it’s the Lodi Beer Company at the other end of downtown where we have what Letty claims is the best mac ‘n cheese she’s ever had. Tim has a burger and I get the French dip. Both are good, as is some of their signature brew made in the center-room brewery sitting about 10 feet away from our table.

It’s dark when we leave on this Friday night but the area is far from sleepy. The sidewalks are crowded with daters, teens, and people just enjoying the music wafting out of every other bar.

Since it’s been a long day after a close to sleepless night, we make our way back up to the Hyatt to rest up for the rest of our trip to Lodi, which has now become a weekend in Sacramento.

Stay tuned.

Copyright 2013 – Darryl Musick

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