There was an error in this gadget

Friday, December 30, 2011

Best of 2011: Accessible Destination of the Year


We had nine destinations across four states and one foreign destination. Of those, there was no "perfect" wheelchair accessible location but Denver, Colorado came the closest with very good access.


Great food, great beer, wonderful sports opportunities, wheelchair accessible hiking, amusement parks, zoos, and some of the biggest mountains in America.




The one "ding" we hit Denver with is the artificially low wheelchair capacity of their light rail system but we took the power chair and did not have any problems with it.


So, without further ado, please click the link below to visit our pick for the wheelchair destination of the year, Denver, Colorado...


Denver Report


You should also check out our Year in Review.


We'll be taking a few days off to celebrate and recuperate for the New Year.  Happy New Year from the Musick family and The World on Wheels.  We'll see you after the ball drops in Times Square.


-Darryl

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011: Baseball Stadiums


This year we added two new stadiums to our growing list as we work on visiting every Major League ballpark.  One Major League stadium and one minor league park...

Coors Field - Denver, Colorado. It was a cold (38 degrees), wet day for a ballgame int the mile high city.


Recreation Park - Visalia, California. A ballpark designed by Rube Goldberg.

-Darryl

Monday, December 26, 2011

Best of 2011 - Cocktail Hours



2011 saw us tackle some new, on location happy hours. Click the links below to see them...




DENVER - May found us in the mile-high city where we had a massive pub crawl. Beer, beer, and more beer is the theme of this trip...with a little wine, sherry, and tequila thrown in for good measure.


Denver Pub Crawl - Part 1


Denver Pub Crawl - Part 2



PASO ROBLES - June found us on California's central coast sipping delicious wine and tasting some local brews...


Paso Robles Wine Tasting


Paso Robles Beer Tasting



ANAHEIM - October found us closer to home, down the street from the Magic Kingdom celebrating Oktoberfest...


Oktoberfest at the Phoenix Club



DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Finally, November found us on the beach in Punta Cana taking advantage of the all-you-can-drink bars there...


Dominican Republic Resort Drink Tour


Cheers!


-Darryl

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from The World on Wheels!

From our family to yours, we wish you a healthy and happy holiday season!


Here is a special holiday Cocktail Hour we filmed last night for your pleasure...




Cheers!


-Darryl

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best of 2011 - Food

Followers of this page know we like good food on the road.  Here is the best we found over the last year...



We didn't get to make a dedicated trip to Bakersfield this year but made sure we routed ourselves through there when we could.  Our trips to Paso Robles, Tulare, and Monterey all included stops here...both coming and going...for one reason and one reason only.

Our absolute favorite restaurant right now is still the awesome Los Tacos de Huicho in Bakersfield.  Tender slabs of pork, stacked up on a vertical spit with a big, sweet onion on top, slowly rotate and cook to provide the best al pastor tacos you've ever had.  At 99 cents, what a bargain too!  Tim also says they make some of the best fries he's ever had.  My wife says the fish tacos are to die for while I'll always get a couple of tacos de tripas to go with my al pastor.

All of us also love the sopes, thick bowls of masa served with meat, beans, cheese and cream. Served plain, you finish it off with their awesome salsa bar featuring their delectable, creamy, and spicy guacamole salsa. 

Huicho's celebrated their 15th anniversary this year and have expanded...buying out their next door neighbor to get a nice, large parking lot while the old lot is being turned into a new dining room and patio.


In Tucson, the sopapillas at Rosa's is one of the best desserts we had this year. Big, fluffy pillows of fried dough, drizzled with honey and cinnamon with whipped cream on the side.  Don't take our word for it, ask Willie Nelson...it's his favorite spot to eat while here too.


On the north side of Tucson, BK Tacos...in addition to having great tacos...has their version of what we call "ghetto dogs" back home in L.A.  The Sonoran dog is a hot dog, wrapped in bacon, covered with beans, salsa, and cheese.  Tim gives this creation a big thumbs up.


In Denver, with all the beer and great food that city has to offer, it was this creamy penne with gorgonzola, bacon, and asparagus that was served as a cheap happy hour dish at the Cheeky Monk. Unbelievably good food washed down with some very good Belgian brews. Only $5.99 during the afternoon happy hour here.


In Paso Robles, another city not short on good food or wine, it was the breakfast at the Springside Restaurant that we remember the most. Perfectly cooked omeletts, served with fluffy pancakes started our days off with a delicious and filling meal.


Over the hill from Paso, the Superior Dairy Company in Hanford serves monstrous sized ice cream treats across the street from the beautiful town plaza. A single scoop here would be a large sundae at other ice cream parlors, but behold the SOS...the masterpiece of balance and taste...their signature banana split.


In Pacific Grove...the pretty little town on the end of the Monterey Peninsula in California...we had dinner at one of the best restaurants in the state, Passionfish. Known for serving outstanding sustainable seafood, land lubbers will also like their meat and poultry dishes. Reservations are essential here, the dining room is always full because in addition to serving some of the best food you'll ever have, their policy is to charge a very reasonable price for it.  Outstanding food at prices you'll not believe.

There you have it, the most memorable food we saw on our travels during 2011.  You might also want to check out some of the best food in our home base of Los Angeles in our report and video called Three Meals a Day, All Across L.A.

Now, we're just looking forward to what we'll taste in 2012!

-Darryl
Copyright 2011 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 19, 2011

Best of 2011 - Hotel


This year, picking a hotel chain to honor was tough. In the end, it came down to who offered the most peace of mind to wheelchair travelers before arrival. Our independent hotel pick was much easier.

We loved the unbelievable, top notch service of the Riu hotel. When arriving at the front desk, the agent would tell us "if you are unhappy, let us know. We want you to be happy. If you're unhappy, that is not good for anyone...we will do whatever it takes to make you happy."

I know, sounds like just some PR puffery to get you on your way, but we came to find out they really mean it and take it seriously. Our less than perfect first night was quickly forgotten by all the management did to make sure they made up for any deficiencies starting with a great room upgrade through reserved spots of honor at the pool, and even the towel sculptures they left in the room.

This was our most enjoyable stay this year but they Riu reservation system makes getting an accessible room hard. They will block an accessible room for you, but you must call the hotel manager directly and there is no toll-free number to do so, meaning an expensive international call. We must give Riu our honorable mention but the difficulty imposed in making an accessible reservation just keeps them from the top spot.

On the other hand, Marriott hotels keep stepping up to the plate in welcoming wheelchair travelers. With a variety of handicapped accessible rooms in premium locations on their properties, the brand shows that it knows that special needs travelers don't want to be stuck in the back of the hotel next to the laundry room.

The facilities, such as counters and dining areas, are thought out for accessibility and built accordingly. For all travelers, service by the staff is friendly and professional.

Reservations for accessible rooms are a breeze on their website with room descriptions and accessibility options right on the online reservation form. Accessible rooms are guaranteed when booking this way.

From the standard Marriott, to the casual Courtyard, the comfortable Springhill Suites, to the luxurious JW Marriott, the hotels of the Marriott brand continue to be the standard for understanding the wheelchair travelers' needs, not to mention they have one of the best loyalty programs around.

Marriott is our hotel chain of the year.


Our independent hotel choice is not in the heart of any big tourist area, though it is within an easy drive of such popular places as Sequoia National Park. I do recommend you spend a day or two here to slow down and live a slice of rural America.

Charter Inn and Suites is in the San Joaquin Valley town of Tulare in California. It is right off of the main highway, highway 99, and is pretty central to everything.

The suites here are huge. Roll-in showers are available and even the non-accessible units are big enough for a chair and, if you can use a bathtub, might even be preferable to you. There's a pool and spa, breakfast is served daily, cocktails during weekday evenings, and there's even a lending library for books and videos. Wifi is free and strong.

The staff here is wonderful and the rooms are pretty spectacular for the location.

This is easily the best hotel along highway 99 and is pretty affordable to boot.

Charter Inn and Suites in Tulare, California is our pick for the independent hotel of the year.

-Darryl

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Best of 2011 - Airline


This year is almost a no-brainer...we only flew on two airlines, AirTran and Southwest. Both good, and both will be the same airline soon...Southwest bought AirTran in 2011 and is in the process of making AirTran part of the Southwest family so, for the third year in a row...


Southwest Airlines wins our airline of the year cudos.


Consistency, on-time performance, no hidden fees, friendly and helpful staff, comfort, good prices, and good equipment handling are longtime hallmarks of this year's Airline of the Year - Southwest Airlines.


Southwest is also a good friend of wheelchair travelers. Very good with preboarding, identifying needs, and helping out whenever they can. This year's trip to Denver we were taking our 300+ pound power chair. It's always a little hair-raising when you travel with a power chair because you don't know if a clumsy baggage handler is going to break it.


I told the gate attendant that I'd like to show here where exactly to pick up the chair. She had me wait a minute and brought up the supervisor of the tarmac handlers who paid close attention to what I was telling him, asked good questions about the handling and weight of the chair, and pulled the ground staff together to explain what I had told him...and made sure he had four guys available to pick up the chair and treat it gently.


Southwest has clean planes, friendly cabin staff, the best baggage handlers when it came to loading our chair, free checked luggage, free snacks - on the longer flights even approaching a light meal, free use of pillows and blankets, no delays, and low prices.


The only knock I can think of is that there is no assigned seating on Southwest and it can be a free-for-all to find a seat. Get there early if you don't qualify for pre-boarding to get one of the first boarding passed - Southwest has three tiers, A, B, and C, and are handed out first-come, first-served. A boards first, B second, and C last.




Congratulations to Southwest for being consistently (there's that word again) the best airline we've flown.


While you're here, you may want to see our Year In Review for 2011.


-Darryl

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

YEAR IN REVIEW - 2011


It's been another busy year here at The World on Wheels. It's true we had some different goals at the beginning of the year but other work issues crept in and made us wonder if we'd even get out of the house.

Luckily, some things fell into place, others fell through...opening up new opportunities, and some wishes were fulfilled. 

Here are the new, and revisited, destinations we got to in 2011...


Yuma, Arizona - We started the year in this riverfront city in the southwest corner of the state.  Long a crossroads, Yuma sits up next to California and Mexico. A lot of history has happened here but the city is pretty overlooked by most travelers.  For us, it kicked off the entire year's worth of journeys.

Yuma, Arizona - 2011


Tucson, Arizona -  Coming here was supposed to be a warm getaway from a chilly wintertime Southern California and our first extended trip.  Didn't quite work out that way as we had freezing weather and even snow in this southwestern desert town.

Tucson, Arizona  - Part 1

Tucson, Arizona - Part 2


It was then a few months exploring our home surroundings of Southern California with a string of new reports and videos showcasing our home base...which is a big tourist magnet in itself.

Three Meals a Day, All Across L.A. - A video tour of three of our favorite L.A. restaurants accompanied by a report and list of several of our all time favorite places to eat here.

California's Hidden Wine Country explores the most endangered wine producing area of this great wine state. Just a handful of vintners stick it out against urban expansion in this historic area.

Pasadena, California - Several travel writers seemed to discover the Crown City, home of the Tournament of Roses, this year.  This is truly in my neighborhood so here is my take on the "other" city just north of Los Angeles proper.

L.A.'s Other Pier, Redondo Beach - Tim's favorite beach location makes for a great day along the water.

Southern California's Best Beaches - We're locals...want to know the best places along the ocean? Here are our picks.


In May, we realized a long-held goal...the only trip we had planned to take this year that actually came to fruition as we had envisioned.  A trip to the Napa Valley of Beer, Denver, so we could experience it in all it's boozy splendor and take in a baseball game at a new-to-us stadium.

Denver, Colorado - Part 1

Denver, Colorado - Part 2

Denver, Colorado - Part 3


Colorado Springs, Colorado - While we're in the neighborhood, why not extend it a little bit to Denver's southern neighbor, full of natural beauty and tall peaks.


June found Letty and I by ourselves for a few days while Tim was at camp. We spent it wine tasting among the elephant seals and watching calf roping in beautiful Paso Robles on California's Central Coast.

Paso Robles, California - Part 1

Paso Robles, California - Part 2

Paso Robles, California - Part 3


America's Breadbasket - When we retrieved Tim from Camp...who had to leave a day early due to sickness...our next adventure took us to another off-the-beaten track destination in California's Central Valley.


Monterey, California - Yes, we've been to Monterey plenty of times and have reported on it here too. This time, we get to know some lesser known parts of the peninsula, go for some wheelchair-acessible hikes, and even spend a day at the fair.

Monterey, California - Part 1

Monterey, California - Part 2


Laughlin, Nevada - this little gambling mecca on the Colorado River has not been on our radar for several years but a chance to see Vince Gill in concert brings us out to this desert oasis.

Laughlin - Part 1

Laughlin - Part 2

Route 66 - an out-of-the way detour on our way home provides fodder for a video and photo essay of one of the world's most historic and beloved roads.


The Dominican Republic - A yearning for a warm, tropical beach vacation started us on the road to this trip. Trying to find a wheelchair accessible beach led us to the DR. Our biggest trip of the year yielded a lot of information, pictures, video, and...most importantly...fun!

As of this writing, we only have one trip in the planning stages for next year but I'm sure many more opportunities will come along, after all, we'd only hoped to go on three trips last year but ended up with nine trips plus five new articles on our home area.

We hope you've enjoyed the trip this year and will continue to come along as we find some new adventures next year.

-Darryl
Copyright 2011 - Darryl Musick
All rights Reserved

Monday, December 12, 2011

THE DOMINICAN INDEX


We say goodbye for now to all things Dominican Republic today with this last post. What a great trip it has been!


Here is our complete Dominican Saga, listed in this index below.


If you've missed anything, it's down below.




REPORTS


Dominican Republic Trip Report, Part 1


Dominican Republic Trip Report, Part 2


Getting a Proper Room for a Wheelchair - Our first night shenanigans and how we fixed it.


Wheelchair Features in Punta Cana and the Riu Palace Resort - What you'll find and how to get around in a wheelchair when you arrive in Punta Cana.




COCKTAIL HOURS


The Bavaro - A new drink created by Tim and I on location using the liquor dispensers and mini bar from our room.


Dominican Resort Drink Tour - A drinking tour of the resort using our all-inclusive access to the bars.


The Blue Coral - Tim and I recreate this drink we discovered while on the trip when we get back home.




PHOTO ESSAY


The View from the Window Seat - A photographic journey taken by my wife at 40,000 feet as we make our way to the Caribbean

Thursday, December 1, 2011

TRAVEL TALES - Getting a Room That Will Work With Your Wheelchair


Traveling with a wheelchair poses many logistical barriers to overcome. One of the biggest is getting a proper room to sleep in.  The needs can be different for every traveler.  Some absolutely need a roll-in shower, for instance. We can get by with a tub and a shower chair as long as there's enough space to lift Tim through.

Watch the Video!


In the U.S. and developed countries such as you'd find in Europe, this is getting easier. Third World countries are still quite an adventure...the boundaries of the ADA have long since been crossed.

Before we get into the actual report of our trip to the Dominican Republic, I'd like to share this little room adventure with you.




First, out of around 20 resorts contacted, only one...the Riu Palace Punta Cana...would guarantee an accessible room for us. Others would just say "make the reservation and we'll see what's available when you get here." 

Next, we give our travel agent our specifications. While a roll-in shower would be nice, it is not absolutely necessary for us. More important is step-free access to, and within the room with doors wide enough to fit a standard wheelchair through.  It's this second part that many people we contact just don't get and can cause problems.

We don't want a roll-in shower if it's the worst room in the hotel.

The maid left this for us on our bed. Yeah, I know what it looks like but I think she was going for a heart.

On arrival, the hotel did indeed have a room with a roll-in reserved for us.  The room itself was actually pretty nice, two double beds pushed together to make a super-sized king bed, a sitting area with a sofa (not a sofabed as we'd learn to our dismay), a nice little patio, great mini bar with four bottle liquor dispenser.



There were a few minor problems right away...no place for Tim to sleep, no remote for the TV, a barely hanging shower curtain, and a very loose toilet seat.

Complaints to the management secured us an extra bed (not a rollaway, an actual third bed), and a new TV and remote. The toilet seat and curtain were not fixed.

Major problems arose the first night. The location of our room was way, way in the back of the hotel...about as far away from the beach and pool as you could get. It was also right next door to another room that the staff were using as storage and right around the corner from the main work room of housekeeping.  It was noisy all night long but they did quiet down a bit after I went outside and asked them to keep it down.

The next morning, I took my bloodshot eyes along with Tim and Letty to the front desk to complain. We were moved to a much nicer room, albeit without the roll-in shower, with step free access in a quieter, nicer location.

To their credit, management at the Riu were very accommodating in making us happy and after the move we had a very, very good time.

Looking back, if we had needed to keep the roll-in room, I'm sure that they would have taken care of all our concerns but on the first day when we didn't know how well they respond to complaints, we had no idea if they would or wouldn't.  Since we could do without it, it was time to make that move.


Just one of the many adventures that await you as a wheelchair traveler...remember to always pack your sense of humor and be willing to roll with the punches.  You'll have a great time.

-Darryl
Copyright 2011 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

PHOTO ESSAY: The View from the Window Seat


I'm an aisle seat guy. Letty likes to curl up by the window. It works for us. 
(Scroll down for more...)





Sometimes she brings her camera down from the overhead and starts snapping away.  Here are some pictures we took on our most recent flight.




Looking down on the Bahamas.




The shuttle assembly building and launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida.




Somewhere over one of the hundreds of islands of the Bahamas.




Turks and Caicos.




Descending over the Dominican Republic.




On the tarmac at Punta Cana International Airport, Dominican Republic.




...and one last shot over Florida, looking at the sunset heading into Atlanta.


All pictures taken by Letty Musick.
Copyright 2011 - Letty Musick
All Rights Reserved.


-Darryl

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

CLASSIC TRIP - Laughlin, Nevada 2000


While you wait for Part 2 of our new Laughlin trip, let's take a trip back in the Wayback Machine to see this trip we took back in Y2K...





Down in the southern tip of Nevada is a surreal strip of landscape called Laughlin. Coming over the desert from nearby Needles where your scenery consists of sand and sun-baked scrub bushes, suddenly the Colorado River emerges and soon after that the neon-lighted row of casinos can easily think you are suffering from a heat-induced hallucination.

Although the summer temps here can easily climb into the high 120's, this is no sweat dream. Nevada's newest boom town exists to siphon of travelers of interstate 40 and those who are tired of Las Vegas' assault on the senses.

First a very brief history lesson. For years a basic bait shack & small village across the way from Bullhead City, AZ, Laughlin took hold when it's namesake, Don Laughlin, built the Riverside resort complete with free ferry rides over the river to his new casino. Soon others followed and now it's a very busy little stretch of activity.

What sets Laughlin apart from its larger sister to the north is that there is a lot more to do here than gamble and watch Disney-esque pirate battles or man-made volcanoes. Here you can actually get out and enjoy that which nature has willingly provided, mostly on the west's lifeblood, the Colorado River.

Most people arrive in Laughlin after a long drive from California or Arizona on Interstate 40 (just drive to Needles and head north from there or cut up highway 95 on the Arizona side of the river), but there is actually an international airport over on the Arizona side of the river offering scheduled service. Okay, it is a dinky airport, but it's long runway was actually used by a 747 to get that international certification.

In Laughlin, there is a plethora of accomodations to choose from. Here's our quick observations of the hotels:

The Good

Harrah's is the best we've tried, but unusually hard to get reservations at on a weekend. One of only two in Laughlin that actually have a sandy beach on the river. Also has a no-smoking casino. Unfortunately, their web page is very lacking.
Harrah's is one of only two local hotels that actually have a beach.

The Tropicana Express is also top-notch. Not actually on the river, it's across the street. Railroad themed with free train rides around the parking lot. Laughlin's best buffet and best Italian restaurant are also here. Highly recommended.

The Avi Resort is the other hotel that actually has a sandy beach. Actually located a few miles south of Laughlin and owned by the local Indian tribe. A more low key atmosphere with a friendly staff, good casino, and lots of ancillary activities.

All the above have accessible accomodations. The Avi also has very affordable suites with in-room spas.

The Bad

We cannot recommend the Riverside or the Edgewater. There was nothing to enjoy at either one.  All the above have accessible accomodations.

The Unknown

Other hotels here include the Flamingo, the Golden Nugget, and the Colorado Belle. We have not stayed at any of these and have no opinion either way.

Our trip to Laughlin...actually this is a mosaic of many trips...begins with our drive to the desert spot. The quickest way for us is via Interstates 15 and 40 from L.A. If we have time, sometimes we'll dip off of the freeway for the interesting detour route 66 takes through Amboy. If you like desert scenery, you'll love this detour with it's remnants of highway life, old vacation cabin ruins, and the Amboy Crater. If not, stick with the freeway.

At Needles, we take the Laughlin turnoff and head north another 20 miles to our destination.

Tired after a long drive, we have a little snack...maybe a drink...and retire. The next morning, we'll get down to the buffet and gorge on the second thing casinos are known for...lots of cheap food! This will fortify us for most of the day.

Next, we drive back to Needles and head to the east side of town to the very lovely Park Moabi Regional Park where we meet with Vaughan at the Park Moabi Marina. Here we pick up a patio boat for the day...you can also rent ski boats or fishing skiffs...and head south on the river.


Tim takes a turn at the helm.

We head that direction because of the beautiful and unspoiled scenery of the Topock Gorge, a 17 mile stretch of wilderness that is accessible only via boat. We ready for this trip...we have an ice chest full of beer and soda and enough sandwiches to rescue the Donner Party.

I might also say that this trip was in August and the days temperature reached 128 degrees - no that is not a typo.

The heat posed no problem...except for getting back in the car later...because we're on the river. Get hot? Pull over and jump in the water! We followed these tried and true steps all the way through our 2 hour navigation of the Gorge.

At the other end is Lake Havasu and a quick journey takes you over to the crowded little channel that winds under the London Bridge. Here, if you can find a spot, you can beach your craft, jump into the water, and have a drink at the bar overlooking the whole scene.

As the sun drops towards the horizon, we head back through the gorge marveling at the show the lengthening shadows create on the surrounding cliffs. This is the time of the day that many of the local animals come out to feed. We see eagles, herons, rabbits, and coyotes chasing rabbits as we slowly head north.

The graceful arch of the Interstate 40 bridge that connects California to Arizona signals that we have arrived back in civilization and we turn in our boat. The cost was $110 for half a day of cruising ($180 for a full day), plus $40 more for fuel and oil.

We head back to our digs at the Ramada Express and have a wonderful Italian dinner followed by a train ride around their huge parking lot (the train is accessible via a ramp and has three accessible station stops around the property).

That night, classic movies are being shown in the hotels auditorium and we end it by relaxing in the pool & spa that are shaped like a locomotive...everything here has a railroad motif from the "berths" (rooms) to the "station" (checkin) and especially the wonderful model trains sprinkled throughout the casino. Also here is a top-notch model train shop.

The next day we take to driving around the surrounding area. We stop at Oatman, an old mining town on an old, narrow stretch of route 66 that has gone from mining town to ghost town to hippie town to tourist mecca today. Wild burros, decendants of those abandonded by miners, roam the town freely. Mine shafts surround it and some can even be explored by the adventurous. About half of the towns shops and boardwalks can be negotiated by wheelers.


There are many mine shafts to explore in Oatman but you'll never know what you'll find inside.

Oatman's fun, if a bit touristy, but Tim is bothered by the noise generated from the mock gunfight put on. It's also a rather small place and can be thoroughly covered in a couple of hours.
We head over to Kingman, a pretty little railroad town about 40 miles east, and have a nice steak dinner at the local Golden Corral.

Then, it's back to Laughlin where we take a quick look at the outlet mall next door to our hotel and decide there's not much there and head back to watch another movie and relax in the pool.
Our last morning there, we have breakfast and slowly get ready to head home. Have we forgot anything? Oh, yeah...they have a casino here!

The wife and I take turns dropping some money into machines and onto tables (someone has to stay with Tim, kids alone in casino arcades are not a good idea after what Strohmeyer did) and even come out $40 ahead before we check out and drive home.

-Darryl
Copyright 2000 - Darryl Musick