After taking the ferry from San Francisco, I got ashore in Vallejo and was instructed by Anna, (the fearless leader for my time in Lodi as well as the Marketing/Media Relations Manager for the Lodi Winegrape Commission), to walk a quarter of a mile north to meet up with her at a neighboring marina. After I figured out with direction North was, I headed over and within a few minutes I was being lead onto a beautiful 40-some foot motorized yacht.
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but my expectations were not as grand as this. The boat had a beautiful deck and a spacious interior, music blasting, fridges full of beer and wine, and even a chef aboard! I figured they must have been expecting someone else, but they seemed happy enough when I arrived, so we started the engines and headed into the delta. As soon as we started moving, Ruben (the chef) and Adi (his wife and an aspiring childrens book author) started bringing up a variety of appetizers. After sleeping in a partially-reclining train seat the night before, it was fun to suddenly be thrust into glamorous yacht life. Everyone got a chance to steer for a little bit- in between eating the various courses that Ruben kept bringing up from the kitchen.
After a few hours we reached Lodi and bid the boat a fond farewell. We were meeting up with Joel and his agricultural helicopter next, but we couldn't see him at first. We waved down two kids who were driving around on an electric golf cart and asked them if they could drive us around to help look for the helicopter.
After checking out a few possible locations we finally found the aircraft parked in a nearby field. Before I met Joel, I never even knew that agricultural helicopters existed. Apparently, they plant seeds and spread plant treatment just like a crop duster. Joel took us up and gave us a tour of the Lodi area as well as the crops they grow there. After having seen it from the water, it was incredible to see the same areas from a bird's eye view.
And there wasn't a dull moment inside that helicopter- Joel started showing off with some loop-dee-loops and dives. I thought he was just trying to make us sick, but apparently it's all part of the job. They have to spread some of these seeds from just a few feet over the ground, and do quick turns and pull-ups to avoid obstacles and move over to the next row without missing a spot. We came in for a landing at Jessie's Grove, and were greeted by a dozen great people from the winery. They've been growing grapes there since the 1860s and it's all stayed in the family.
Next up, we were off on a horse-drawn wagonette (provided by Deena Kirby and All Seasons Carriage Company) to George Cecchetti and Karen Chandler's for dinner and festivities.
I thought the arrival at Jessie's Grove was impressive, but there must have been over forty people waiting for us at when the wagonette rolled in. Dinner was being prepared- many of the dishes featuring the George and Karen's own olive oil that they grow and sell. It was amazing to meet so many people enthused about the Un-Road Trip. I was up talking with some really interesting people until nearly 1AM, when I figured I better call it a night since I had to be up the next morning at 5:30AM.
Day three probably was not the most carbon conscious day with the yacht and helicopter, but I want to be thorough with the my research of diverse vehicles. And the next day I wasn't going to be use a drop of gasoline.
Brian and Greg met me in the morning of day four to ride bikes back to Jessie's Grove so we could get there in time for a live shot with Bethany Crouch from Sacramento's Fox 40. Then we were off with Deena and the wagonette to head over to the Molekumne River, where we were getting on a Duffy Boat.
It's an electric boat made by the same people who built the jungle cruise at Disneyland. It's especially great for spotting animals on the river, since the electric motor doesn't startle them like a gas engine would. After riding up the river for half an hour, we met up with Joseph and Mary (yes, their real names) who own Sierra Adventures Outfitters. It's a great backpacking/camping/outdoors store in downtown Lodi and also lead tours on the river. They brought up kayaks for us to take upstream to Heritage Oak Winery. They brought an especially cool kayak for me called a Hobie.
In addition to a paddle, it also has foot pedals. It's almost like riding a horizontal elliptical machine. The current was barely noticeable as we started up the river, and I was really speeding along thanks to those pedals.
After about two hours, we stopped on the bank for a snack. It also gave Anna a chance to dry off after an unexpected swimming excursion. When we got back in our kayaks, the current had become significantly swifter. The pedaling wasn't as easy as before, and there were a lot more snags and logs in the water to avoid. I ended up getting into a tussle with a tree which filled my kayak with twigs and leaves during a particularly fast-moving stretch of the river. I was almost ready to ask for a tow and see if that Duffy boat could come back, but Mary kept assuring it that it was "just after the next bend." After a little more than an hour of pedaling we finally reached our destination and I was beat.
After collapsing for a few minutes and downing a bottle of water, we started on the short distance to Heritage Oak Winery. Everyone else went in a car, but Kirk from the Stockton Record came along for the walk. Tom and Carmella Hoffman were hosting me for the night at their winery, and I got settled in my room and relaxed for a bit before dinner. It was another fancy affair that night, with about a dozen people. We sat outside watching dozens of hummingbirds flitting around as the sun set over the vineyard. I sat with Mary and Joseph from Sierra Adventure Outfitters and heard about all the amazing work they've done to keep the Molekumne River clean and welcoming to non-motorized boats. They're also working on starting a new tour where you can kayak from winery to winery.
Thankfully, it was an earlier night than the one before and I was asleep by 11PM. I woke up at 5:30AM again to do another live-shot with Bethany. This time we were getting on motorcycles, (ridden by Fred and Bob), to get to the Lodi Train Station for my morning train. Although I recently got my motorcycle endorsement, this was my first time riding on a public road. I was riding behind Fred, who had an impressive Harley complete with helmets that had a PA system so we could communicate and he could pipe in music. Racing down the street, listening to classic rock, watching the vineyards fly by- it was a fun ride.
Bethany rode the train with me to Stockton, and the Fox 40 Mobile News Studio, (aka satellite truck), met us there. After spending two days together, our last liveshot was a little bittersweet. After saying goodbye to Bethany and Dan, (the Fox 40 cameraman), I got ready to board the ACE Communter train to Fremont and leave Lodi Wine Country behind.
Next up- San Francisco.