The Traveling Steve's

Birthday week: Steve UNO turns 55!


Well, I turned the double nickel this week; another year older and another birthday out of town for work. I actually had a very good week away as I worked in rural Central Pennsylvania, not far from the Pennsylvania Dutch Country and Hershey Park. But more on that in a moment.

My birthday week actually started last weekend when Steve (DOS) and I had a local overnight staycation at the Westin Hotel in Lake Mary, FL.

One of our favorite local restaurants, Fishbones (not to be confused with the Bonefish chain) is walking distance to the hotel, so it makes for a fun night out, a mini Stay-Cation.

 I needed a night’s stay at a Starwood property to keep my points from expiring, so that was as good a reason as any to stay the night. I used to stay at Starwood’s a fair bit, but haven’t much in the last years as I prefer the Hyatt chain, although Starwood properties are very good as well.  We checked into the Westin at 3pm, and received a standard room, but on the “Starwood level”, even though I no longer have status with Starwood.

I didn’t take any photos of the room which is unusual, but the Westin beds really do live up to their name as “the Heavenly bed”.  While not a huge room it was nicely equipped and comfortable for one night.

We walked across the street from the Westin to Fishbone’s Restaurant around 5:30pm to meet our friends Ben and Tom for dinner.

Fishbone’s has a great Happy Hour from 4 – 6:30pm in the bar and outdoor patio area. The appetizers are half price as well as most drinks, and it’s a lively place during this time.

We got there slightly before Ben and Tom, and selected a seat in the outdoor patio area as the inside bar area was full. 

Fortunately Ben and Tom found a table inside when they arrived so we closed our tab and moved indoors,  enjoying the comfortable air conditioned bar area table for an hour or so, before heading to our table in the dining room.  Even with the outdoor fans and covered patio, it was still Florida hot, hot, hot!  Our inside table was much more comfortable!  We had a mix of appetizers, including Blue chips, Stone Crabs, Chicken tenders etc, along with our brewskis.

Our dinner reservations were for 7pm, and I took a couple photos of the lobby, bar, sushi bar and food display case area before we were seated for dinner.

We had a nice dinner, seated in the large back dining area. Tom must have told the restaurant it was my birthday (DOS says he didn’t) as I had a card waiting for me when we sat down.

We had a complimentary amuse bouche while we waited for our wine and dinner order.

DOS and I split an AHI tuna entree as an appetizer, which was good, but perhaps a tad bit to done as we like it more rare.

We shared a bottle of Chardonnay and later a nice Cabernet Sauvignon with the table, which paired nicely with our food.  For the entree I had the Prime Rib, while DOS had a New York Strip steak, with Tom getting his usual double pork chops, and Ben a beef skewer.

 After dinner, we ordered a couple slices of cake for dessert, and my slice of carrot cake was decorated with Happy Birthday lettering on the plate.  I blew out the single candle and shared the cake with the table.

Our Saturday night stay-cation was a wonderful night out with friends, as well as a nice pre-birthday celebration of what was to come over the next ‘birthday week’

Changing gears, on Monday morning, I had an appointment with the dermatologist, and other than a few places she zapped on my head and chest, nothing serious. She did tell me to wear a cap more though, not so subtly implying I was getting bald on top and it’s not good for the sun.

I then took a cab to the airport as DOS had already gone back to Sarasota, and I didn’t want to leave my car at the airport all week, as we were going away next weekend to the Villages, with me taking a shuttle bus from the Orlando airport to there.  I noted the continuing renovation and construction at Orlando (MCO) Airport, and it doesn’t look pretty.  

Maybe when they are eventually done it will look nice, but it’s been going on for months and it makes an especially summer travel season feel even more crowded; not to mention an eyesore for passengers.

 Of course Murphy’s Law was following me today, and I left in the middle of tropical depression Emily. My flight and many more were delayed or canceled for most of the late morning and early afternoon. When the storm finally let up, I headed to Charlotte for my (very delayed) connecting flight to Harrisburg. My connecting flight from Charlotte to Harrisburg had a major mechanical issue, and after they kept changing the time every 15 minutes, I figured it was not going to go, especially when I saw a pilot go up to the gate agent and said it was some type of computer board problem; not an easy fix. I switched my flight to a later flight, and arrived at Harrisburg by 10:30pm. Fortunately my luggage made it there with me.

My work week in Pennsylvania was a busy but enjoyable week.  While I worked during the day, I did manage to visit a couple different restaurants and wineries during the week after work.  Tuesday night I went to the Blue Bird Inn, which was quite a happening place out in the middle of the country there in Cornwall, PA (near Lebanon, PA).

  From their website, “the home was originally built in 1859, and fully renovated in 2009.”  They have a lively bar in this pub-like atmosphere, yet their were many families with kids as well in the restaurant. The food was high quality, and there was a huge selection of drafts on tap.  I had a nice Salmon dinner there and really enjoyed it.

 On Wednesday (my actual birthday), after work, I stopped by a new and small winery on the way back to my hotel, called Royal Oaks Vineyard and Winery.  They don’t have a web page yet as they just opened in June, but they do have a Facebook page.  I tried a sampling of their mostly berry-type wines, and they were quite refreshing with the hot summer heat.

Although I couldn’t carry wine home in my carry-on luggage, I did buy a couple glasses for our collection. I had a nice chat with the server and another patron visiting the winery.  

They have a nice large backyard with garden and seating area, along with a small vineyard on the side of the house.  An unusual and decorative (yet practical) series of potted plantings were actually tall strawberry plants arranged in a tall pole-like structure, with holes in the side for the plants to grow, be picked and watered.  It reminded me of the hydroponic displays you see at the Living with the Land exhibit at Disney World’s EPCOT park.

I wish the Royal Oaks winery well, and thank you for such an enjoyable visit. Pennsylvania has quite a few wineries in the Central Pennsylvania region, and even has a wine trail map to keep up with them.  I would like to plan a weekend tour with DOS sometime up this way, especially in the Fall when the leaves are turning.  Many of the wineries such as Royal Oaks have entertainment venues as well, with live music on certain nights, or weekends.

I had my official birthday dinner alone at the Divine Swine Barbecue restaurant next door to the hotel.  I had eaten there last week, and as one of the few places to eat in this rural area, it was very good.  

Sitting on an outdoor picnic bench under the covered roof, I enjoyed my brisket and breswki.  My sister Jenni called while I was eating, so I had someone to ‘dine with’; even though it was remotely from Maryland.

I finished up my work on Thursday, and switched hotels, going to the Holiday Inn near Harrisburg Airport, as I had an early flight on Friday morning. Along the way, I stopped at the Vineyards of Hershey to see the brewery which was closed last week when I was there.  The winery is right near the airport, and the brewery is on the same property so it was quite convenient. There is also a large Doggie Daycare place next door, and they have a huge outdoor pool the dogs can swim in.  I watched them a bit before heading down the path to the brewery.

I wrote about the Winery and Brewery at Hershey in my last post, and now wanted to see the brewery on the same property, as the brewery is only open Thursday to Sunday’s. The brewery has a large indoor seating venue, and they were having live music later that night at 8pm.  

I just wanted a small beer sampler, and enjoyed that sitting outdoors on the deck overlooking the property and the highway 183 in the distance.  I really liked the small 4 ounce tasting glasses, and bought a set of four to take home.

I checked into the Holiday Inn Hotel by Harrisburg airport, and had had a quick overnight stay there.  The room was ok, although the view wasn’t the happiest, overlooking a cemetery.

I had dinner at the restaurant inside the hotel, and then packed it up for the night. In the morning I returned the rental car at the Harrisburg airport (onsite which saves a lot of time), and then checked in for my 8am flight to Charlotte, connecting to Orlando.  I arrived back into Orlando in the mid afternoon and had a quick lunch at Chick Filet in the Orlando Airport food court.  I then took my pre-arranged and paid for shuttle from MCO Airport to the Villages to meet up with DOS for our weekend birthday stay.  The Village shuttle is quite convenient, and at $35 quite reasonably priced too.  Next stop, next post . . . our annual birthday trip to The Villages! 

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