After almost six weeks on the road it’s good to be home. We traveled 10,387 miles through 23 states and discovered tons of cool accessible lodgings, sites and activities, that I look forward to sharing with my readers. It was a very successful road trip. That said, as with any adventure, it was dotted with highs and lows. With that in mind, here are a few of my ups and downs from our Summer 2014 cross country road trip.
Best Cultural Experience
I was totally blown away by the cultural scene in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. They have scads of free museums, a great sculpture walk, lots of sidewalk dining downtown, and no shortage of theaters and cultural events. This, I did not expect!
Place I Will Revisit
Although we just got a chance to drive through it, I was really captivated by the French River area in Ontario. The scenery was beautiful and I’d love to check it out in depth. I think the fall would be absolutely beautiful in this area, and there are scads of provincial parks to explore. Definitely on my to-do list.
Most Comfortable Bed
I just kind of melted into my pillow-top bed at the Red Hook Inn in upstate New York. It was the perfect combination of a long day and a very comfortable bed!
This one is easy – the cool mobius shawl I picked up from my weaver friend Chris Gustin at Homestead Weaving in Brown County, Indiana. It’s just perfect.
Best Adult Beverage
A Rhombus IPA that I had at a little roadhouse just outside Teton Village, Wyoming. It was fresh, hoppy and very flavorful – just the way I like it.
Most Unique Culinary Experience
Mark Overson suggested the Delta Diner to me, as he loved it and it is wheelchair-accessible. It’s located on County Road H, about a half-hour from his cabin in Cable, Wisconsin. I wasn’t sure we would find it because it wasn’t on my GPS, but I figured even if we didn’t it would be a beautiful drive. But the travel Gods were looking down on us favorably, and we found it and had a great breakfast. It’s an old diner, and we sat at the counter. The twist is that they have some upscale food; in fact we had Pedro’s Benedict, which was eggs Benedict served on a soft cornbread and topped with chipotle sauce. Yummy. And I didn’t leave feeling overstuffed. And there was a lady in a wheelchair who rolled in while I was eating and she had no problems getting to the accessible table, and even navigating to the accessible bathroom. It’s small, but they did make it accessible. The staff is also very friendly.
Place I Wish I Could Keep Secret
A charming little group cabin in the Berkshires. I will cover it in my book because it is so cool, but for now I will keep it to myself. I totally enjoyed my brief stay there.
What I Forgot
The great truth of travel is that you will always forget something; you just hope that whatever you leave behind is easily replaceable. On this trip I did pretty well, as the only thing that I forgot was a Michigan map (I always carry back-ups for my GPS). Thankfully it was one of those items that was easy to replace!
A Swing and a Miss
Sometimes things are not as they are represented on the internet; and that’s pretty much why we check them out. Such was the case with a dated resort we visited. It was very accessible, but it was also run-down. The internet photos were probably from 30 years ago, when it was new. Add in some poor housekeeping practices (mouse turds on the dining room table) and general disrepair (the hand-held shower was held in place with packing tape) and it just didn’t make the cut. Sometimes there is just no way we can cover a property; but thankfully those times are few and far between.
Left Me Scratching My Head
I really didn’t understand how anyone could use the accessible street parking in New Hope, Pennsylvania. The space is standard sized, and there is an entryway that goes down into a restaurant, right where the ramp would deploy. There just isn’t any room to get out of your vehicle. The only thing accessible about the space is that it’s painted blue.
My favorite views were those of the Gunnison River from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado. We had to pass on it last time around because of the sequester, so I’m glad we managed to fit it in this time. A definite must-see if you are in the area.
Best Roadside Attraction
I loved the world’s largest twine ball (made by multiple people) in Cawker City, Kansas. I even got to wind some twine on it, and I now have a t-shirt that says I’m an official twine winder. This site should not be confused with the twine ball in Darwin, Minnesota though. That’s the one that is officially recognized by Guinness, as it was wound by one person.
Best Nature Experience
It’s a toss-up here. One day I saw a bald eagle teaching his juvenile charges how to eat road kill along a Minnesota country road, and then got a very close look at dad when we happened upon the trio. Another day, I witnessed a beaver cutting down a tree in rural Pennsylvania. Both were great nature moments.
Near Leech Lake, Minnesota – “Leeches for Sale, Cheap”. I’m fairly positive that I wouldn’t swim in that lake! A close second was a sign I spotted on I-90 in South Dakota, “Dick’s Toe Service”.
Much Better Than Expected
I wasn’t expecting much at Parc d’Oka just outside of Montreal, but the accessible tent cabin (called a Huttopia) was wonderful. It was very roomy and had a camp stove (complete with propane) set up on the porch. Inside there was a large dining table and a tent-within-a-tent that had four accessible sleeping platforms with mattresses. It was actually very comfortable. And the Adirondack chairs outside were an added bonus. The park itself had a nice beach area with lots of accessible toys for loan (beach wheelchair, hippocamp), and an accessible trail through the forest alongside the beach. I think this is the Canadian version of a yurt, and I totally love it. Although like I said, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.
Could Have Done Without
The over zealous customs agents at the Canadian border near Saranac Lake were a bit much. They were kind of bored, and when we rolled up, the one in charge said “We don’t get many people from California at our remote outpost here.” So he decided to do a full car search. And since he had a trainee, this was the primo experience for him – possible nabbing a few drug smugglers from the Golden State. But alas, we had nothing, so after they rearranged the contents of our car, we went merrily along our way. The trainee almost dropped his gun in my car though, and that was somewhat entertaining, but I did manage to stifle the laugh. All in all, I really could have done without the delay.
A great night with Charles and my BFF from High School, Karen, at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. Good music, old friends and great vibes – what more could you want?
Most Unforgettable Character
I don’t even know his name, so I’ll just call him the wild rice guy. We met him when we stopped in this hole-in-the-wall roadside store to buy some wild rice in Wisconsin. He gave us lots of tips about cooking wild rice (you can do it in the oven overnight), and told us about how he used to go out and harvest it in his younger days. And his dog Sheba, was very friendly. I think I’ll always remember him whenever I cook wild rice!
Coolest Accessible Find
A property that was made accessible because the owner (an avid snowmobiler) kept meeting disabled snowmobilers. Because of that, she decided to make her Wildlife Refuge Cabins as inclusive as possible. Today her South Range, Michigan property is very accessible, and it’s a good year-round choice for wheelers and slow walkers.
And last, but not least…
My Favorite Accessible Property
Since the main focus of this trip was to find accessible properties to include in my next book – Resting Easy in the US; Unique Lodging Options for Wheelers and Slow Walkers – it’s only fitting to end this post with my favorite accessible property that I discovered on this trip. That’s really a hard call because there were just so many, but I think I’ll have to go with Watersong Woods in Logan, Ohio. They have two accessible cabins, and we stayed in Melody, which had a nice little kitchen, a great bathroom with a roll-in shower and a lovely back deck. It was pretty secluded, as the other cabin was located down the road, which is one of the reasons I really loved it. In fact I was very tempted to stay another night when the owner told me she had an opening; but alas, I had more accessible properties to visit. But I will return to Watersong Woods, as not only is it a cool little cabin, but I absolutely love the Hocking Hills area. I think a visit to see the fall colors is in my future!