The sign says it as you drive into Carlton, Oregon, population 2,180 as of the 2019 census. “Carlton, A Great Little Town,” destination of my May 14th play date.

My first surprise was how many vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms are in between Lake Oswego and Carlton. Oregon has become big wine country, yet – not having driven this exact route before – I was a bit shocked!

My second, how easily I found free public parking! I walked around for about an hour looking at shops, houses, the different styles of architecture, and flowers and blooming trees. Many people were out on their front decks as it was a sunny day of 72 degrees F.  

There were so many good restaurants on the “main drag”, but I went with simple, choosing a chicken bacon ranch salad to go from the Carlton Coffee Company. While walking earlier, I’d asked a boy, about 13, if there was a park, and he pointed me in the right direction. I took my salad, Cheetos, and bottle of water to the park and ate my lunch on a picnic table under the shade of a 100-year-old Blue Atlas Cedar tree. The salad was yummy. A slight breeze was blowing. I later stuck my head back into the coffee shop to ask if the dressing was house-made. The woman said it came from a seasoning packet they mixed with buttermilk and a bit of mayo. I told her how delicious it was, and she said, “I owe you! I forgot to add the cheese. You were out the door before I remembered!” I assured her the salad was wonderful without the cheese.

Unfortunately, the Carlton Bakery was completely out of macaroons; otherwise I would have picked up a small bag full to bring home and share with George.

The Rough Cut Soap Co. was my favorite “retail therapy” destination. I loved this shop and walked out with a bar of grapefruit and basil soap, a pair of earrings, and a gift for someone I won’t mention because she might read this blog!

And…I couldn’t leave Carlton without stopping in at one of the tasting rooms and getting a bottle of wine to bring home. I had just two small tastes at as I was – after all – driving. $30 is more than I normally spend for a bottle of wine, certainly not $100, and both were delicious. I bought the Child’s Play pinot noir from the winemaker himself, who has been in the industry for 30 years. This reminded me of when I met Jerry Lohr, one of my father’s best childhood friends, at the tasting room in San Jose, California.

It was a fun play date in Carlton and was good to get out of the rut and go somewhere new.

And after it was over and I’d had my wine with the pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy and steamed broccoli I’d made for dinner, I realized what my soul really wanted on my play date was somewhere I could be alone in nature.  

I’ll do that next time. Soon. And if you need a fun play date in a great little town, spend some time in Carlton, Oregon!

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Lake Oswego’s Transformational Voice® Teacher (Transformational Voice® is a registered trademark of Transformational Voice® Training Institute, LLC, and Linda Brice.)