Archive | November, 2012

Get Ready, Get Packed, Go!

30 Nov Carry-on luggage: Nylon bag, soft-sided suitcase
Carry-on luggage: Nylon bag, soft-sided suitcase

Carry-on luggage

It’s the end of November: One week after Thanksgiving; three and a half weeks before Christmas.

The “Holiday Season.” A time when people frequently choose to visit family and friends. Or they decide to do just the opposite: Take a vacation and “get away from it / them all!”

Either way, travel – most often by car or airplane — is involved. And that, of course, means packing.

I have traveled often enough to have a fairly good packing list in my head (which, of course, I commit to paper so I am less likely to forget something!) And I prefer not to check luggage, so my list is fairly basic: Passport, toiletries, one extra pair of shoes, clothes that coordinate and can be layered, et cetera, et cetera. A carefully-packed carry-on suitcase and laptop bag, and I’m ready to go!

It’s quite different when I travel with Carrieanna. Whether we are driving to Oregon, flying to Arizona, or “crossing the pond” to get to Europe, she needs to take more “stuff” in order to be comfortable while traveling.

I have asked her (and a few other friends who are “disabled” travelers) to share their travel tips and special needs. Here are some suggestions:

Before you go:

  • First, make a list of what you need to take, and make sure you have packed and can cross everything off that list. While this may seem like an obvious suggestion, it’s especially important for people who have memory problems (very common in people with M.S.).
  • Some items that might be included in checked luggage are: Incontinence supplies, bed protector, noise-reduction aids, bath chair and screwdriver. (While you can usually request a bath chair in American hotels, we found that we had to take our own when we traveled to Holland.)
  • Have a printed list of all prescription medications, and keep the list with the meds. (If you are going to include prescriptions in both your checked luggage and your carry-on, have two copies.) It’s probably also a good idea to include the name and phone number of your primary care physician and any specialists (i.e., neurologist) on the list.
  • Unless you plan to rely on taxis throughout your trip, be sure to take your handicap parking placard.

At the airport:

  • Do not check in online. If you need to change your seat to one closer to the lavatory, on an aisle, in bulkhead, etc., making your request in person increases the likelihood that you can get what you need.
  • Carrieanna has learned that wheelchair users don’t wait in the regular line to check in. She goes through the First Class line (and so does her traveling companion).
  • Although I just take carry-on luggage, and Carrieanna can wheel herself, we still have too much stuff for the two of us to manage alone. So we ask for skycap assistance, and we take cash in order to properly thank our assistant. (Some accept the tip; others do not. Either way, we are prepared.)
  • It’s also important to let the skycap know how many people are in our party, so no one gets left behind.
  • Specifically ask someone (your traveling companion or the skycap) to keep tabs on personal items (shoes, backpack) and assistive devices (cane, walker, etc.) that must go through the TSA X-ray process. Because wheelchair users are individually screened, knowing that someone is keeping track of and collecting personal items helps reduce Carrieanna’s pre-flight stress.
  • Carrieanna has found that being one of the last people to board the plane means less time sitting. (And she lets the airline personnel at the gate know this, so they don’t insist that she pre-board.)
  • Once she is on the plane, her foldable wheelchair is stowed with the checked luggage. We have learned that folding and securing the wheelchair with a luggage strap somewhat decreases the likelihood that it will be damaged in the cargo area.

One last suggestion: If you are traveling out of the country, do a little research to see how that country handles accessibility issues like wheelchair rental and repair, availability of bath chairs in hotels, etc.  For instance, a recent post on Accessible New Zealand Tours‘ Facebook page provided a list of suggestions.  (See Monday, 11-26-12.)

These are just a few tips we have learned.

If you require special assistance, or travel with someone who does, what tips can YOU share? We’d love to read your comments!

Ready to fly

Carrieanna and traveling companions; Schipol Airport (Amsterdam)


It’s Sinterklaas!

18 Nov

Boat parade; Sinterklaas; Amsterdam, NL

On a Sunday in the middle of November, St. Nicholas, known as Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, arrives in Amsterdam.

In 2008 (November 16th), I was there to witness this colorful event! As my sweetheart and I were walking to Hortus Botanicus (Amsterdam’s amazing botanical garden) …

“We noticed children dressed up in caps of satin, with blackened faces; …”

Waiting for Sinterklaas. Amsterdam, NL

“Today is the day Sinterklaas arrives in town along the Amstel River. We hear the boats’ horns and the crowd’s cheers as he appears!”


Boats on the canal in Sinterklaas parade; Amsterdam, NL

Thus begins “Sinterklaas Season” when Sinterklaas and his helpers travel around the country, visiting hospitals, schools, shops, restaurants, and even homes during the three weeks before the main Sinterklaas celebration. Sint and his Piets seem to be everywhere at once, asking about children’s behavior and listening through chimneys. The children leave their shoes out with carrots and hay for the horse. In exchange the Piets put candy or a small gift in the shoes to be found in the morning.

(Text in italics is from St. Nicholas Center website.)

Arrival of Sinterklaas; Amsterdam, NL(Children throwing candy to the boats)

Although we did not actually witness the arrival of  Sinterklaas [we had entered the botanical gardens by the time he arrived], we enjoyed seeing the nautical celebrants!

Arrival of Sinterklaas; Amsterdam, NL


Happy beginning of the Holidays!

Apple Pie, et cetera

8 Nov

Although autumnal weather has not yet arrived in Sacramento – it’s been in the upper 70s / low 80s this first week of November – it’s a Hess pre-holiday tradition to drive to Apple Hill and purchase a buttermilk apple pie for Thanksgiving. So Carrieanna and I headed for the hills on Monday.

Our first stop was Abel’s Apple Acres, a four generation family ranch which includes a bake shop, candy counter, apple pantry, gift store and picnic areas.

Carrieanna had her heart set on a warmed apple dumpling, with a side of milk, for lunch. Abel’s was crowded, and she waited in line for at least ten minutes before reaching the order window.

Unfortunately, the attendant at the order window was unwilling to heat the dumpling. “We’re too busy,” she said brusquely.

She also claimed they had no milk to sell. Fortunately there’s a little burger shack (Terri’s Country Cuisine and BBQ) on the deck outside, where I was able to purchase a small container of milk.

Carrieanna said the dumpling was good, although she was disappointed that it wasn’t warm.

After lunch, we rolled through the shopping section.

Although most of the craft tents were closed, Carrieanna did find an unusual gift: A wood spirit.

Penelope & Stephen Wescott – Wood Spirits and Art

Wood spirits are said to be lords of the forest and all natural things. Seeing one is quite lucky. A forest will stand strong and healthy as long as the wood spirit keeps order. They bring good luck, happiness and health to those with a pure heart. Put your wood spirit in a place of honor in the home. Give him a name; talk to him. Enjoy! (Penelope & Stephen Wescott – Wood Spirits and Art, 530-721-1453)

Ready to move on, I loaded the foldable wheelchair in the trunk and we drove east a mile or so, stopping at Boa Vista Orchards in search of honey crisp apples. (We were told that type of apple is available in early September, and only for a few weeks. Note to self: Come much earlier next year.)

However, we did notice an unusual wheelchair-accessible picnic table. We had never seen this table configuration before; Carrieanna thought it was a great idea!

Boa Vista Orchards, Placerville, CA

Our next stop was High Hill Ranch, probably one of the more popular spots in Apple Hill with its bake shops, craft tents and fishing pond. (We were told that it was shoulder-to-shoulder crowded over the weekend.  Fortunately for us, there were very few visitors while we were there.)

The “mobility impaired” parking was paved and near a clean and accessible restroom. (One small perk about being in a wheelchair: No need to use the Porta-Potty when there’s a brick-and-mortar building available!)

Parking and restrooms for Mobility Impaired patrons

In the craft alley at High Hill,  Carrieanna found another unusual gift, a Sea Kelp Basket. Although there is a “no sketching or photographing of crafts” policy at High Hill, which we honored, I took these photos after we got home.

Sea Kelp Basket

Sea Kelp Baskets, created by Tami Cookson, Creations from the Sea, 530-558-0433.  (All basket materials – Bull or Ribbon Kelp, seaweed and shells – have been gathered along the beaches of Northern California’s Coast)

Finished with our shopping, we stopped at the Cider Shake Shop [<~~~ try saying that three times quickly!].

They were out of Apple Beer, so we had tiny tastes of apple wines (desert and spiced) before heading back down the hill toward Sacramento.

A visit to Apple Hill is a fun day trip, especially during the week when the shops (and the roads) are not crowded. Next year, we’ll probably go earlier (for the honey crisp apples) and also later (for the cooler temperatures).

For this year, however, we are well-stocked with two holiday pies in the freezer and lots of unique gifts ready for Christmas. We are satisfied!

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