Minnesota Dog Sledding Adventure
Although I have taken many trips that have excited me beyond the text of a book, there is one trip that I want to share that has been a dream of mine since my relatives in Minnesota took this trip back in the early part of the decade. In 2011, with the support of Wilderness Inquiry, an organization that specializes in trips across the globe and makes it possible for all people to travel, including those with disabilities, I flew out to Minneapolis, MN to visit my family and embark on a dog sled trip up north near the Canadian border.
Great Falls National Park
Great Falls National Park is an 800 acre jewel of a park, situated adjacent to the Potomac River and just 17 miles from the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. After passing a seemingly never-ending procession of estates that appear to spawn BMW, Mercedes and Lexus convertibles, you need to keep a sharp eye out for signs to the park. Using the directions to the park off of their web site is helpful, and a GPS is very useful. If you were just driving in the area, you wouldn't even know there was a National Park nearby.
Maui, Hawaii: Highs and Lows in the Valley Isle
Perhaps no place better represents the American ideal of a tropical escape than Hawaii. Volcanoes, waterfalls, black sand beaches, grass skirts, pineapple plantations; what could be more exotic and yet still as American as apple pie? Making the decision to travel to the 50th state then is an easy call, where the real decisions set in are over which island(s) to visit and what strength sun block you should bring along.
Miami Beach: City of Contrasts
Miami - the name conjures images of sandy beaches, models in thong bikinis, fast boats, hot nightclubs, and Don Johnson. Or, maybe you think: Salsa music, hand-rolled cigars, black beans and rice, and strong Cuban coffee. On the other hand, what could pop into your head is vintage cars, Art Deco hotels, New York retirees, and huge pastrami sandwiches. Strangely enough, Miami is all of these things and more, and believe it or not, these disparate elements come together to create one very attractive package.
Las Vegas: Handicapping Your Travel Bets
Waiting in the seats at the airport are the usual collection of colorful travelers. Two twenty-something women discuss their strategy for picking lucky numbers. Thick gold jewelry and an Armani suit adorn the James Gandolfini look alike who is reading the morning paper. An elderly couple whose entire wardrobe, from baseball caps to carry on bags, is furnished by Harrah's hotel are sorting through their hefty book of coupons. It is still an hour before we board the plane, but already the neon glow of Las Vegas shines behind everyone's eyes.
Weekend in NYC: A Small Bite of the Big Apple
Attempting to tour America's largest city in a single weekend is like dining at an all-you-can-eat buffet; unless you're prepared to make yourself incredibly sick, you simply can't try everything. However, you can still experience a wide array of what is available, and if you manage to choose carefully and pace yourself, you'll probably leave wanting to return and explore what you missed the last time.
Washington DC: Access with a Capital A
As a native of D.C. it is easy to overlook the wealth of sights and activities which Washington has to offer its visitors. The inspirational memorials, the huge array of museums, tours of the federal government, top quality theater, and the city's unique shopping and dining are often taken for granted by those of us who reside here. However, for those who are not Washingtonians, our city has the allure of political intrigue, the cosmopolitan energy of a major world center, and the beauty of a historic Southern town.
Loco-motion?: Traveling on Amtrak
"Riding the rails" is something that I had not done since the early 1960's. Taking the Amtrak from Phoenix, AZ, to Dallas, TX, this past Christmas was a big event for me.
Alcatraz: An Amazing San Francisco Escape
A few years back, I had the opportunity to visit Alcatraz Island in a wheelchair and would like to share the experience with you. I live in the east so the first part of the trip involved a plane ride. Let's spend a minute and go over what to expect if it's your first plane ride since your injury.
Fairbanks-Charleston: Crossing a Continent
The solitary figure far below paused to listen as the "Red-Eye" Delta jet passed, fading into the distance. This was the reason for enduring the severe cold night training "walks," the pain, and the difficulty. This was the promise of every dream come true. Soon enough, those months of preparation and years of disabled living would bear fruit. It would begin on a plane one pristine December night.
Honolulu, Oahu: The Gathering Place
Oahu, Hawaii, the name of the island may not be as familiar as its major city, Honolulu. However, there is no separating Oahu from its popularized images of gorgeous beaches with breathtaking sunsets, Diamond Head crater, or its bustling city on a small island in the Pacific. Whatever you visualize when you hear Honolulu, let me paint a clearer picture of the island for you.
Tucson, AZ: A Snowbird Rolls into the Desert
"What the heck is that noise? Raccoons mating? What time is it anyway?" "That ‘noise', is the alarm. The time is 3:15. A.M.." "Please, kill me now." "Hey buddy, you're the one that wanted to be in Tucson by noon." And so began our ten-day whirlwind trip to Tucson, Arizona.
Friends Landing: The Accessible Outdoors
When David Hamilton, a Trout Unlimited board member, wanted to help a close friend who was having a time accepting life in a wheelchair, he thought about what he could do to help. He began making plans for a recreational facility that people with disabilities could enjoy; where they could access aqua-culture and fish enhancement projects in the beauty of the Northwest outdoors of Washington State. He set about to make his dream happen.
Wichita to Seattle: Two for the Road
A wedding invitation heralded a milestone event in the lives of our treasured friends in Seattle, Washington; only half a continent away from Wichita, Kansas. How did two adults, one a T-6 paraplegic, accomplish that trip with the least expense and the most fun? Well, like topsy we let the trip grow and unfold along the way.
Silver Lake, Florida: A Kayakers Weekend
Greg, my boyfriend, came by after work on Friday, and I knew we were going camping AND kyaking when I saw everything loaded on the Jeep. We had talked earlier about seeing each other perhaps that evening. Next thing I knew I was packing "to go somewhere," but Greg wanted the destination to be a complete mystery. An hour later I was dumping my Siamese - Apollo- food and saying farewell as I was zooming out the door - in my power chair this time! Greg strapped it down to the frame of the pop-up camper's trailer and off we were: 2 kayaks, 1 bike, 1 power chair, and a camper.
St. John U.S. Virgin Islands: Paradise (Lost?)
The end of another year lurks just over the horizon as Jack Frost begins to tighten his grey, icy grip around the next three months of your life. Are you going to be satisfied digging in and braving the cold, dreary winter while you scuttle along between home and work? Of course not. What you really want is some time in the sun - a warm, sandy beach with blue skies, azure waters, palm trees and a cool rum drink. For those of you who believe that paradise exists only as a state of mind, think again; I've discovered at least one incarnation in the Caribbean island of St. John.
Puerto Rico: A View of Dorado Beach Resort
With numerous direct flights from the East Coast, a relatively modern infrastructure and all the beauty of other "more exotic" Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico is an ideal choice for vacationers, disabled or otherwise.
Munich and Vienna: Bavarian Bliss
When thinking about a trip to Europe most Americans overlook Munich, Germany in favor of Florence, Paris, or London. Whether it is lingering ill feelings about World War II or the misperception that Munich lacks the beauty, culture, history, and cuisine of other European locales, too few people choose to vacation in Bavaria. The same is largely true of Vienna, Austria, despite its having been the center of European culture in the late nineteenth-century. For whatever reason, Americans simply don't often consider traveling to this region. Let me be the first to tell you--they are making a huge mistake!
Britain: Accessible Sights in Jolly Old England
Following is an appraisal of some of the major tours of England's most important historic sites from the point of their disabled access.
Singapore and Australia: Easy Riding Down Under
Singapore was warm, sometimes wet, clean, beautiful and personally hospitable, but not very wheelchair friendly. We visited the Jurong Bird Park, the Zoo, the Night Safari, Boat Quay, the business district, Orchard Road, Chinatown, Little India, and Sentoza Island. Australia is an entirely different kettle of fish for a disabled person, and is by far the most wheelchair accessible country we have visited to date (USA and UK, wake up guys! you're lagging behind). No matter where you go, from the smallest country town, to the largest of the cities you will find ramps, accessible toilets, and accessible transport. Don't get me wrong, it's not wheelchair paradise, but it is a pleasure to travel in.
Ethopia in a Wheelchair
Just before the wooden poles arrived, I had one of those moments when you realise that things are so NOT in control that there's no point in worrying any more. We were in northern Ethiopia, attempting to get to the legendary Blue Nile Falls, which were first 'discovered' by Scottish explorer James Bruce in 1770 and are still so far off the tourist trail that they're practically not on any trail - certainly not any trail navigable by wheelchair.
In June this year I set off on one of those trips that you dread before you go, love while you're away, and spend the rest of your life wondering why you didn't stay longer. Dread? Well, as a T3 paraplegic who's been around a bit, I know too well that the promised 'accessible' or 'disabled' facilities in overseas countries, are often nothing of the kind, and finding out just what those facilities offer is often impossible. This time, though, the trip was to South Africa-the New South Africa-ten years after Nelson Mandela and his black majority government came to power.
Sun City / Pilansberg, South Africa
The contrast between the stark, arid bushveld surrounding Sun City and the lush green golfing greens and secluded gardens is extreme. Nothing serves to demonstrate the transforming capabilities of water more clearly. Step out of your 4x4 in the bush and the air is dry, the light sharp. Open your Palace room door onto the gardens and the breeze is cool, the sound of bubbling water soothing.
Climbing Kilimanjaro: An African Odessey
I had lived in Ethiopia for three years and had traveled extensively in that country. Now I wanted to see other parts of the African continent. Ever since I was young in Minnesota, far from any ocean, I had wanted to take a sea voyage. Perhaps it started when I read Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl, who described being alone on his raft surrounded by sparkling water below an azure sky. I might have liked the romantic notion of taking off on a raft, but the closest I could come to that would be a journey by cargo ship.
Egypt: Wheelchair SCUBA Diving
As an exotic dive/travel destination it would be difficult to outdo Egypt, especially when part of the journey includes actually touching the Great Pyramid, marveling at the centuries-old wall paintings in the Valley of the Kings tomb of Ramesses IV, and riding a camel to "The Oasis" - a dive site that's like a rare sapphire set in the shimmering desert sands.
Australia & New Zealand: Oz & Middle Earth
Tourism is big in New Zealand, far bigger than their government is prepared to acknowledge. In some towns the tourists outnumber the locals, and the only business is lodging, food and souvenirs. The whole of Europe, the UK and Japan appear to be touring NZ. Lots of campervans and hire cars, and a fair number of people cycling, which is really the hard way of seeing the country. Access for the disabled traveller is very good, with lodging available in all price ranges, accessible camp sites & parks, wheelchair taxi's kneeling buses, lots of ramps, boardwalks, accessible public toilets, etc.
Celebrity's Summit to the Western Caribbean
For years, cruising has been an immensely popular vacation choice for people with disabilities. The opportunity to see the world without having to make a plethora of travel arrangements or constantly worrying about finding accessible lodging and activities makes for a wonderfully convenient, stress- free trip.
Alaskan Cruise: One Gimp's Story
Alaska for a gimp!! And, an old gimp at that. Yes, why not? Before I became an amputee, on peritoneal dialysis (no machines) and a member of the zipper club (triple by-pass) with a pacemaker, I dreamed of the Alaska Cruises. Not just those "love boat" fancy cruises, but a real adventure. On the small ship inland cruise lines, where you have no more than 100 passengers on the ship, wonderful meals, and an opportunity to meet all the passengers. I wanted to see up close and personal, polar bears, seals, dolphins, and a whale or two. I wanted to come home with eight rolls of film, mostly of glaciers.
To Hell and Back: CostaRomantica
Well, I can truly say we've been to Hell and back. Although it was absolutely great. Does that make sense? No? Well, let me explain. This was our sixth cruise, but the first with Costa Cruise Lines on their very nice ship, the CostaRomantica. We were scheduled to go on their western itinerary to Key West, FL; Playa del Carmen or Cozumel; Grand Cayman; and Jamaica. We had been to them all before, but knew there was plenty more for us to see.