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A Birthday Surprise!


Yesterday (May 3) was my birthday (yay, birthdays!). Kevin told me on Friday that he had a surprise planned starting the next morning. He also told me to pack a bag for a couple days that included biking stuff and something  to wear to a nice dinner out, and to be dressed like I might be going on a hike (with shoes that could get muddy) — oh, and that we needed to leave the house by 4:30am. 


We had an opening night play to attend the night before (where we were shooting environment/audience shots before the show and during intermission for their brochure and publicity stuff) so as soon as bows were taken, we hightailed it home and went to bed by 11pm, because, um, 4am.

Alarm sounded, espresso was consumed, and off we went into the pre-dawn darkness.

We ended up at Sportsman Airpark in Newberg, Oregon at 5am and we were apparently a little early. Well let's see…we were at an airport, but not OUR airport. (It had occurred to me we might be flying somewhere with the bikes, but we'd need to be at the airport where we keep our plane, and we weren't.)

Kevin: Any guessses?

Me: Hmm. A glider ride? No, they don't do gliders here. A helicopter?

Kevin: Nope.

Me: A float plane?

Kevin: Do you see any water?

Me: (stumped)

At some point a few other cars trickled in, and eventually one of them pulled up next to us on my side, looking like they wanted to chat. We rolled down the window and the woman driving said "Is this the place for the balloon rides?"

Aha! A balloon! I didn't know they did that here either! Sweet! Apparently we were going to help set up the balloons, go up for a hot air balloon ride over the Willamette Valley, land, help take balloons down, and then finish with a champagne brunch there on the field. How fun!! And what a great surprise!!!

We waited with the other cars for another half hour or so. Seems the balloon people were a bit late. After a little while longer, the same woman who chatted with us before came walking over holding her phone, looking kinda pissed. We rolled down the window and she informed us that (1) she was impatient and had called the balloon people, (2) they apparently weren't going to fly today, (3) they were supposed to have called us all the night before to tell us (!!!) and had not, (4) it was her daughter's birthday present and they'd gotten up at 4am too. She gave us the number so we too could call too if we wanted, then she walked on over to the next car to continue the stream of bad news. 

Kevin called in and the balloon people were very nice and apologetic, but no, they weren't flying. They were very sorry no one had called to tell us the night before. 

Well, shoot. So there we were at 6am on a Saturday, at a little airfield in Newberg Oregon, with nothing to do until the 3pm check in time at the B&B Kevin had reserved for us in the Willamette Valley wine country.

I figured Kevin was far more disappointed and frustrated that I would be (I wasn't, actaully…it was a very sweet thing to plan) so I got out my iPhone and looked around at the map and found what looked like a park along a river with some trails. Great! We could get in an early morning hike (since we were dressed for it and all).


This is Joe Dancer Park in McMinnville. There's a nice trail along the river, as well as giganic well-manicured soccer fields and other sports facilities. The river trail is 1.5 miles each way so we did a nice 3 mile hike.



We stuck to the trail along the river, with one exception: the skate park! This place was gorgeous in the early morning light:


And here's Kevin shreddin' sans skateboard:


We finished our hike, looked for a breakfast spot (Yelp) and settled on the Crescent Cafe in downtown McMinnville — good food, made fresh from scratch (delicious breads and house-made sausage). 

Okay! Three-mile hike…check! Breakfast…check! Time…9am! Hmmm.

So guess what we did? We went down the street and had manicures and pedicures at Thumbs Up Nail Salon while we sat in massage chairs, watching The Incredible Hulk on a big screen television. After all that we still had a few hours to kill, so we decided to go over to the Airstream (in storage about 30 minutes away) to pick up Kevin's bike lock cable.

I was feeling pretty tired (I'm not the greatest on too little sleep) and so I thought (and said): "Hey, we could also…while we're at the Airstream…take a NAP!!" So that's exactly what we did. We got the bike lock cable, crawled into bed, and took a two hour nap (in the Airstream…in the storage garage). It was lovely!

Now we were rested and finally it was about time to head over to the Lobenhaus B&B! We arrived a little early (their office opens for check-in at 3pm) so we got out the iPad and sat in the car in the garden parking lot and watched the Kentucky Derby (via Slingbox and our cable box at home). Ahhh, technology! 


Lobenhaus is in Carlton, Oregon. It's a lovely bed & breakfast with 6 rooms and a vineyard on 28 acres. Our room has a deck overlooking Millican Creek and the woods, and the owners Joe & Shari Lobenstein are wonderful. Here's the view from our room (yes, it's raining, but look how GREEN!):

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We got all checked in and situated and decided we had enough time to do a little wine tasting before 5pm closing time for most wineries. We headed to The Eyrie Vineyards first, in McMinnville:


The tasting room was packed, and we liked the wine (we brought home two pinots). Next was Domenio IV Wines, not too far from Eyrie.


We loved the wines at Dominio IV, and came home with two bottles each of two different temperanillos and a pinot. Ryan (our pourer, and also the wine club guy) was pouring to a pretty full tasting room there as well. He was super helpful and gave a great amount of information about each wine to everyone. 5pm in the tasting room is usually a little…um…rowdy (or can be, anyway). We were some of the only patrons who hadn't been tasting wine all day. 🙂

We headed back to Lobenhaus to hang out a bit and shower, and then it was time for dinner. Kevin had a 7:45pm reservation for us at The Joel Palmer House.

From the Joel Palmer House website: "The Joel Palmer House is on the National as well as Oregon Historic Register. Joel Palmer was one of Oregon’s preeminent pioneers leaving Indiana in 1845 to make his long way west. As leader of one of three wagon trains headed for the Northwest, Palmer soon exhibited the leadership qualities for which he became famous.

Joel Palmer co-founded the town of Dayton in 1848 and built this home in 1857. It is said that it is named after the hometown of Chris Taylor, a close friend." 


View into the back door of the kitchen:


The service here is wonderful, and spot-on. It's formal and elegant, while at the same time being completely friendly and down-to-earth. We arrived early so our table wasn't ready (no big deal) but they apologized and brought us a glass of sparkling wine to sip while we waited, and we were seated about five minutes later at the same lovely table by the window where we dined the first time we visited. We opted again to do the "mushroom madness" tasting menu (so good!)

The sommelier showed us the wine list and pointed out a section called "Orphans" — these are wines where there is only one bottle left. The bottles on this list are crossed out by hand as they are ordered. Love this! We chose a 2008 Monks Gate pinot noir and it was delicious and went well with all of the courses (minus the palate cleanser of dueling gazpacho soups). This fabulous meal ended with an extra dessert of some kind of chocolate truffles, and they were good but what was far more interesting to me were the accompanying candy cap mushroom POP ROCKS (because I'm 12!) Mushroom-flavored pop rocks!! I need a jar of those.

Such a fun day!!