Archive | June, 2012

Currently Reading: “22 Accessible Road Trips”

18 Jun

On the subject of accessible travel, Candy Harrington is an expert.

The author of many books, including “Barrier-Free Travel; A Nuts & Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers,” and the founding editor of “Emerging Horizons,” a quarterly online magazine, Candy says, “My goal is to describe access so travelers can make appropriate choices ….”

I recently had an opportunity to acquire Candy’s newest book, “22 Accessible Road Trips,” and she clearly meets her goal. I have already highlighted many of her great suggestions!

I particularly love the format of the book. Divided into four geographic regions — Pacific States, Mountain States, Central States and Eastern States – Candy has described several accessible – and scenic – trips in each.

Each route is a separate chapter with sections filled with valuable suggestions and important details.

For example, in the “Along the Way” section, she encourages travelers with disabilities to get an America the Beautiful Access Pass, which is good for free admission to national parks and monuments. (page 5)

Another example: In writing about the Columbia River Gorge [part of the Washington Wine Country section in the Pacific States region], she says,

“For a look at one of the most spectacular scenic wonders on this loop, take exit 35 off Interstate 84, and continue west on Highway 30 to Multnomah Falls. This 620-foot waterfall is the second tallest year-round waterfall in the nation, and the showpiece of the Columbia River Gorge.”

She goes on to say, “A word of warning though – the signs to Multnomah Falls direct visitors to exit 31, which leads to a remote parking lot. For best access take exit 35, so you can park directly in front of the falls. … Additionally, try and hit this top attraction as early in the day as possible, to avoid the crowds.” (page 40)

Immensely helpful advice.

In the “Timing” section she notes when the weather is amenable for driving:

[Speaking of the Pacific Northwest] “This is definitely a summer trip. Depending on the severity of the winter, the road through … Crater Lake National Park may not open ‘til June.” (page 30)

and

[Speaking of the Mid-Atlantic area] “Spring and fall are the best seasons to drive this route, as the scenery is magnificent. The fragrant dogwoods put on a good show in the spring, and the fall colors are simply stunning.” (pages 298-299)

… as well as when you might encounter large crowds:

“Try to avoid spring break though, as it’s especially crowded in Williamsburg at that time. This is not a winter trip, as some of the attractions are closed, and you’ll definitely run into snow.” (page 299)

and

“… if you don’t like crowds, avoid Albuquerque during the first week of October, as visitors flock to the very popular Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.” (page 71)

From my own experience, this is a very important consideration; fewer people generally means greater access for someone in a wheelchair.

In the “Don’t Miss It” section of each route, Candy not only shares her suggestions about special events or attractions …

“Although it’s hard to pick out highlights along this [The Rockies and Beyond] route, Garden of the Gods … consistently tops my must-see list ….” (page 97)

… but also some of the nuts-and-bolts details like where to park for a great view, whether loaner wheelchairs are available, etc., and other good-to-know information:

‘It should be noted that the [Breitenbush, Oregon] hot springs are clothing optional; … if you’re shy this probably isn’t the place for you.” (page 30)

As you can see from these quotes, Candy has thoroughly done her research, saving disabled travelers hours (or days) of work in planning a road trip.

In addition, at the conclusion of each chapter she has included a list of websites, phone numbers and other helpful resources pertaining to that route.

Candy’s husband, Charles Pannell, is her traveling companion as well as the book’s photographer, providing many black-and-white photos for each section.

The book is informative rather than anecdotal, yet it was descriptive enough to arouse my curiosity and inspire me to consider future road trips that Carrieanna might enjoy.

I highly recommend “22 Accessible Road Trips” as part of any traveler’s library!

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Chips and Salsa – and More – for a Good Cause!

15 Jun

Let me start by saying that I LOVE Mexican food!

In fact, if I were on death row – Heaven forbid! – and had to choose my “last meal,” it would be nachos!

(My mother was born in Chuichupa, Chihuahua, Mexico; perhaps that’s why?!)

Anyhow, set a bowl of chips and salsa within my reach and it will soon become an empty bowl. So when Carrieanna told me of a fundraiser for MSQLP, to be held at Jose’s Mexican Bar and Grill in Monterey, I quickly said “Yes; I’ll be there!”

I am always happy to support the MS Quality of Life Project. MSQLP provides tangible services, like “sponsoring” — translation: “paying for” — swimming (a very helpful therapy for people with MS) at the Monterey Sports Center, as well as emotional and moral service, advocating for and educating individuals with Multiple Sclerosis,  with the goal that they enjoy a good quality of life.

Andrea Dowdall, MSW MEd and Board President, and her staff – most of whom are volunteers – work very hard to make life a little bit easier for the local MS population.* And they do it with grace, sincerity and big smiles!

On a more personal level, MSQLP has always been very supportive of Carrieanna, especially in recent years, in her schoolwork and the challenges she has met and conquered along the way.

And Carrieanna is a great support to MSQLP. She currently serves on the MSQLP Board of Directors and she is greatly appreciated!

Tammy Jennings, another MSQLP Board member, arranged for Jose’s  to donate 15% of all transactions from 3 until 11 p.m. on Monday, June 11th.

Jose’s is an easy walk and roll from Carrieanna’s house. For drivers, there’s a parking garage across the street, as well as plenty of metered parking.

We strolled in at 6:30 p.m., and the place was already packed with many MSQLP recipients and their families, as well as other diners.

After many friends greeted Carrieanna, we went out to the back patio to chat while waiting for a table to become available.

Overlooking the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail, the patio was a lovely, quiet place to relax and enjoy the evening until the cooler weather, and a large empty table, nudged us inside.

As we were seated, the last of three musicians, Juan Sanchez, began playing his guitar and singing Spanish songs. His performance was great, and the crowd praised him frequently with their applause!

With margaritas and aqua fresca aloft, we toasted the success of this fundraiser.

Relaxing with chips, hot salsa and our beverages, we pondered the menu. There were so many tempting options; we finally decided on a vegetarian tostada (for me) and the taco and enchilada plate for Carrieanna.

The food was delicious, with ample portions. Of note: The refried beans are cooked with oil rather than lard. (Vegetarian-friendly AND tasty!)

The flan must have been delicious as well, because it was gone by the time we inquired at 8:00 p.m. Another time ….

We asked our waitress if Jose’s was always so busy on a Monday night, and she said “No.” The large crowd kept the staff very busy, but they were always pleasant and friendly.

During the evening many people asked if they could make a cash donation to MSQLP and, of course, that answer is a grateful “yes!”  In fact, you can donate online by going here and clicking on “Donate” button on the lower left-hand side of the page.

Thank you!

*MSQLP serves Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties.

(MSQLP also has an online newsletter. The May 2007 edition is all about travel; I’ll be referencing it in a future blog post.)

Monterey Bay Coastal Trail

7 Jun

I live in Sacramento, known for politicians, tomatoes, and hot weather.

And while I love living here, I am always glad when I have an opportunity to drive to Monterey and visit my stepdaughter, Carrieanna.

Not only is Monterey cooler than Sacramento (which is very important to Carrieanna, as heat exacerbates her MS), but it is also abundant with flora, fauna and beautiful scenery!

Naked ladies, lilies …

Pelicans, loons and seagulls …

stunning sunrises, boat reflections … for an amateur photographer like me, the list goes on and on!

And because I enjoy walking, I often spend my mornings – camera in hand – walking along the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail, which is very wheelchair friendly, and a wonderful way to enjoy the Monterey waterfront.

Although the 18-mile trail runs from Castroville to Pacific Grove, I generally spend my time walking between Lovers Point (Pacific Grove)

and the commercial wharf (just a little north of Fisherman’s Wharf).

Many favorite tourist attractions are easily accessed from the trail. Cannery Row, with its abundance of shops, restaurants and hotels, is one block toward the bay, running parallel to the trail.

At the end of Cannery Row is the Monterey Bay Aquarium — a favorite destination for children of all ages!

On a weekday morning, the coastal trail is fairly quiet: Joggers and cyclists, people walking their dogs, and, very occasionally, a group of people pedaling a surrey (a canopied quadricycle – possibly more work than they bargained for!)

I enjoy listening to the sounds of the bay as I walk: The waves breaking on the rocks, the squawk of seagulls, the occasional barking of seals.

Shortly after walking past the Aquarium, I enter Pacific Grove.

A familiar pungent scent tells me that I am near the little cove where Harbor Seals hang out and sun themselves. And have babies.

Springtime is pupping season, and visitors are encouraged to enjoy the bay view without disturbing the new babies and their mamas.

During my recent visit a portion of Ocean View Boulevard, adjacent to the pupping area, was being repaired. To minimize the disturbance to the new seal families, the fence was covered with tarp-like material – with a small section left open so visitors could see the seals.

The fence and viewing area is a little way off the Coastal Trail, but with a little assistance from a companion (or using her motorized wheelchair), I’m sure Carrieanna could get close enough to see the seals.

Walking toward Lovers Point, I am reminded of the first time I walked this trail. It was April of 2006, and I was part of Team Carrieannamals, joining Carrieanna and many of her friends as we supported the annual MS Walk.

The trail is wide enough to accommodate the crowd which, naturally, includes people using wheelchairs, walkers, canes and other types of assistive devices.

The trail has also been used by the local MS Quality of Life Project for their annual Walk and Roll fundraiser.

Although the Coastal Trail continues on to Asilomar State Beach and, further, to the famous 17-Mile Drive, I generally only go as far as Lovers Point.

I sometimes walk the Coastal Trail  in the opposite direction, heading toward Fisherman’s Wharf, another favorite tourist attraction.

Not only is the trail user-friendly for people on foot, on bicycles, or in a wheelchair, but benches can also be found along the way for those who want to sit and enjoy the view.

Although Fisherman’s Wharf has many shops and restaurants,

I generally bypass it and walk past the Marina,

on my way to the commercial wharf .

I especially enjoy visiting this wharf in the morning, when the fish companies are doing business – and the pelicans stand in line to get their fair share!

The sea lions also hope for a handout!

While there are not many restaurants on this wharf, a little diner called  LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle always seems to be busy during breakfast time!

While my walk generally ends at this wharf, the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail does continue northeast, going through Seaside, Fort Ord, Marina and on to Castroville.

Perhaps on a future visit to Monterey, I’ll head that direction …..

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