Saturday, November 28, 2009

Travel Gear

My dad says the worst part of traveling is the other words, the hassle of transportation like airports, finding accessible transfers, etc.  It's even worse if equipment you have lets you down.  Traveling with the right gear makes the going a lot easier.  Here is a list of some of the stuff we've found that make things smoother along the way-with links to online sources.

My backpack - I use a JanSport Antics Series Driver 8 Wheeled Backpack . It has three large comparments, a smaller wallet-sized pocket, and a good size mesh pocket on the side that, as you can see from above, I use as a cup holder.  In the larger pocket, there is also a sleeve to hold a laptop.  This pack got me through college holding all my books, notebooks, supplies, audio gear, bathroom gear, and the occasional soda.  It is also on wheels and has a telescoping handle that turns it into a rolling suitcase for travel.  It also fits my Invacare Storm chair perfectly and easily fits into a plane's overhead compartment.  I've found this pack to be much superior to the packs that are supposedly made to fit wheelchairs.

Our camera - We actually use a couple of cameras, but this Canon PowerShot A590IS 8MP Digital Camera with 4x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom has just as good a picture as our larger Fuji Camera but in a pocket sized package.  With a 2GB SD chip, it can take over 1,000 high-quality pictures. We started using this camera on our France and Germany trip in September, check out the images from that report.

Urinal - OK, without getting into too many details, this is the best traveling urinal, at least for seated guys.  Works well in the seated position or laying down.  Has a great cap with good seal for storage, is easily dumped and cleaned and it will easily fit in a pocket on the backpack.  We have a for home and the other for the road.  It's pictured above with the female adapter but I couldn't tell you how good it works for girls, for guys, it's just about perfect.

Power converter - For foreign travel, you need to have this - make sure you don't just get an adapter, you need something that will actually convert the local voltage to 110 volts for your electronics and appliances.  The Power Line 0900-27 Global Power Travel Kit will do just that.  We run my mom's hair dryer, charge our cameras and iPods, and run our laptop with it.  For those with power wheelchairs and Lester chargers, the Lester Company does not recommend this for your chair and says you need to get a specialized dual voltage charger from them.  Not wanting to void my warranty, I have not tried this on my power chair.

That's it for now, if we think of anything else, we'll let you know.  (P.S. - if you buy through the links above, you will help this blog put some change into our pockets at no cost to you...thanks)  Have a happy holiday shopping season.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Road Food - Scottsdale

Spring Training in Arizona

Yes, Tim, Buckley's is a fine place to eat...and drink!  It's in a quiet but well connected location and, yes folks, you haven't had mac 'n cheese until you've had it the Buckley's way.
Besides eating today, we put up the lights for Christmas, installed Windows 7 on Tim's laptop, and finished the video editing for the Borrego trip.  Tomorrow, it's into Tim's studio for the audio.
For my pick, I'm going to Scottsdale.  We like to go there when the weather gets can get some unbelievable deals on hotel rooms.  It's hot, but they still have plenty of A/C and lot's of swimming pools.  Sometimes, we'll also head over for spring training to get up close and personal with the baseball players over there.
When in Scottsdale, I always need to eat at least one meal at the Coyote Grill in North Scottsdale at 7707 Bell Road.  It's menu is filled with Southwest specialties such as blue corn enchiladas, tamales, and cornmeal encrusted halibut.  One of the best things is to get their lavosh chips with the spicy habanero salsa as an appetizer with a delicious hand shaken margarita.  The perfect food for the Phoenix area.


Road Food - Seattle

Buckley's in Seattle

It's Thanksgiving and we're feasting.  For us, this is not a day to travel...too crowded and too hectic.  We're staying in and my mom is making her famous lemon garlic chicken with a homemade carrot cake.  Tomorrow, I'll be doing the narration for our next video and we'll be heading down south to see what trouble we can find. 
Since it's a feast day, my dad and I were talking about our favorite places to eat in different cities.  One of the highlights of any trip is finding unique and good places to eat.
Today, I want to talk about my favorite place to eat in Seattle.  That would be Buckley’s pub in the Queen Anne neighborhood, at 232 1st Avenue, on the corner of Thomas Street just a couple of blocks from the Space Needle.
They have a killer macaroni and cheese that has bacon mixed in with it. Anything with bacon in it makes it taste good. Go for happy hour and you can get a good deal on one of the many microbrews they have on tap. Buckley’s is also near a very good Homewood Suites that has excellent accessible transportation connections to the heart of Seatlle.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Travel Tunes - Week 4

The Anza Borrego trip report is being finished up, just editing the video and recording narration.  With a long weekend coming up, I should be able to post then.  In the meantime...

This week's song is from JT...James Taylor.  It's "Mexico", which provides the almost perfect sense of being along a Mexican beach.  Seemed perfect for this week's revisit of our old Puerto Vallarta days.  It's as good of a Mexican beach song as Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville" is the perfect embodyment of a Baja lost weekend.

The thing that amazes me is that, at the time of this song's creation, JT had never been to Mexico.  I hope he has by now.

James Taylor - Mexico

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Travel Tunes - Week 3

This week, we get the Led out.  There's a couple of Led Zeppelin tunes I like for traveling.  One time, I was taking a drive through a windy little country road, between Tehachapi and Lake Isabella in California when Kashmir came on.  At the time, I thought that was just the greatest piece of music for that road.
Lately, however, when I listen to it on a road trip, speeding down a boring interstate, I notice mostly that it's repetitious as hell, so that won't do for this week's travel tune.
What does make the grade this week is the splendid Going to California.  Although, the California of this song mostly exists only in the imagination, I can see where someone would like to hop on the next plane to the coast after listening to this song.
Performed live at London's Earl's Court in 1977, this clip captures the song almost perfectly.  Also worth noting is a very good cover by the band Train, who obviously are very influenced by Zep.  See their version here.
So, now, back to Earl's Court and Going to California:


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Our Next Trip

Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
We're currently driving south towards the desert for a quick Veteran's Day getaway.  We'll  be posting this trip report up soon.


Travel Tunes - Week 2

This week we are in the desert at Borrego Springs, putting together another trip for you.  A little desert travel music is in order here.

Back in the 70's in high school, I was pretty much a head banger.  The harder the rock the better, disco sucked, and country and western was just sh!t-kicker music.  Then one late night I was laying in bed listening to the "world famous" KROQ, who broadcast a lot of punk and new wave in those days from a suite on top of the Pasadena Hilton, a famously chemically-enhanced DJ by the name of Jimmy Rabbit put on a song that peeled off layers of musical bias from my mind.  I learned that, not only was there good country & western songs out there...much of it as hard and brutal as the best rock I'd listened too...but eventually came to the realization that there is no such thing as a bad genre of music.  Every form has its gems...and its trash...but I will now listen to anything once before making any judgements.

Anyway, back to that song.  Carolina Dreams is the album it's found on and it's by the Marshall Tucker Band from South Carolina.  Consisting of just 7 songs, there's not a throwaway track to be found.  The big hit off of this album was "Heard it in a Love Song."  But my song is the 5th track on the album, Desert Skies.   

Telling the tale of the perfect day, riding through the desert, this song captures perfectly the feeling of sitting by a campfire, watching the stars overhead.  Listen for the three solos in the heart of the song.  Good here, but on the original it was a fiddle solo by Charlie Daniels ("The Devil Went Down to Georgia"), a smooth sax solo by Jerry Eubanks, and a guitar solo by the late, great, Toy Caldwell.

Not only is this the best desert travel song ever produced (IMHO), it is the best cowboy song,  my list of music...the best song ever recorded.  It has a permanent place on my travel mix and is my only request for my funeral someday in the very far future (I hope).

Below is a live version from 1991 which gives you a great feel for the flavor of the song but you need to get the original recording from the Carolina Dreams album for the full effect.  Enjoy...

Marshall Tucker Band - Desert Skies

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bavaria, Germany - September 2009: Final Chapter

St. Peter's Cemetary, Salzburg Austria
We're heading down to the wire as we have another bountiful breakfast at the Vi Vadi Italian restaurant, which just happens to be attached to our nice Vi Vadi Hotel in Munich.

Watch the Video for this Trip

Well fed and rested up, we head over to the Haupbanhof for our next adventure. We’re off for a day trip to Salzburg, Austria…home of Mozart and, perhaps better known as, the setting for the movie The Sound of Music.

The Train to Salzburg

The long train is at a far platform outside. Two cars, one at each end, are designated for wheelchairs. The closer one smells like the bathroom is leaking so we make the long trek to the other end where it is much nicer. It’s a 70 minute, very scenic ride.

We purchase Salzburg Card at the Tourist Information office at the Salzburg Haupbanhof. This gets us admission to most sites along with rides on the public transportation. It’s a short bus ride from there to the old city. A note: most of the buses are accessible but no driver we saw would move a muscle to help.

Salzburg Cathedral

After the ride, we make our way to the Mozart Plaza near the main cathedral, which has a ramp for accessibility. Inside is a huge sanctuary filled with priceless artwork with four organs surrounding the altar. As Mozart was the organist here for two years, his fingers have graced those keys. A brass baptismal near the entrance is where the baby Wolfgang Amadeus was baptized.

Behind the cathedral is a large fountain that turns out to be a horse wash. Like today’s car washes, except horsemen would use it to wash their steeds. A ramp leads in to make it easy for the horse. Just up the alley is an accessible funicular that takes you to the Hohensalzburg, a great 900 year-old fortress on top of the hill. A large terrace here grants you superb views of the city below. This, and an adjacent restaurant, are all that is accessible here. Many stairs lead into the castle itself.

The Horsewash

Back at the bottom, around the corner and up another alley is St. Peter’s cemetery, an absolutely gorgeous burial ground with a monastery built into the hillside. This is where the Von Trapp family hid from the Nazis in the movie, although it was actually a set built to look like this cemetery. In one of the niches on the hillside is buried Mozart’s sister. Out the other end of the cemetery is the Felsenreitschule Theater, famous in the movie as the place where Captain Von Trapp sang Edelweiss. Tours are available but usually you cannot see the interior. A market dominates the next street before you get to the Getreiedegasse, the main shopping street.

Before you go on, there is an accessible restroom in the marketplace, ask one of the workers in the restaurant next door for the key. The last thing we see here is Mozart’s birthplace, which is not accessible. Back across the river is Mozart’s family house that is accessible but by the time we got here, we only had 15 minutes to see inside before closing. That’s ok because it was very hot in there.

On the way back to the station, we see Mirabelle gardens where the movie Maria Von Trapp taught the children how to sing…think “doe, a deer…a female deer…”

It’s a quick bus ride from here back to the station and then back to Munich.
In the morning, I pick up a station wagon from the Hertz desk at the Haupbanhof. The destination for today is Neuschwanstein, King Ludwig II’s fairy tale castle near the border of Austria. Think of Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland, it was modeled after this castle.

Tours for the disabled are offered at closing time (6pm) every Wednesday. Advance reservations are a must and the disabled guest gets a 1 Euro discount and an attendant goes along for free. Any extra people need to take the regular tour.

Since we have all day to get there, we hit the autobahn trying to make it to Lichtenstein for lunch. Once outside of the city, the speed limits stop and we try to make a cruising speed of 100 miles per hour. Like back home, however, there is always some knucklehead that wants to jump in front of you in the left lane going fifty.

We do get a bit lost trying to find the right road to Vaduz and end up in a small town in Switzerland instead. We have a picnic lunch there before doubling back to Schwangau, home of Nueschwanstein.

Although I don’t like or understand the restrictions set in place for disabled visitors, one benefit is that disabled visitors are the only people allowed to drive their car up to the castle. We park within 10 feet of the meeting place for the disabled tour. Since three of us cannot go on that tour, the ticket office down below books us on the last mainstream tour of the day. My mom, finding out that there are over 300 stairs on the tour, volunteers to go on the step-free tour with Tim.

We wait in the castle courtyard for our appointed time, while Tim and my mom wait by the car. Finally, our tour group is called and in we go.


Ludwig worked on this castle for two decades, bankrupting his country’s treasury in doing so. He had finished 6 rooms inside before he was declared insane and deposed. The next day, the former king and his psychiatrist were found floating face down in a lake. A few days after his death, the castle was opened to tourists and has been one of the top attractions in Bavaria ever since.

The half hour tour takes you through those six rooms. Imagine our surprise, after climbing all those stairs, to see Tim and my mom with their group in the first room.

Each room is lavish. The throne room has a golden brass chandelier with inlaid Bavarian glass jewels with an empty spot for the throne that was never delivered. A theater/ballroom leads to a faux cave, complete with stalagmites and stalagtites. In the king’s bedroom, a porcelain swan faucet pours water from a spring 150 feet up the mountainside.

The two tours are identical, with the exception that the normal tour also gets to see the kitchen and is routed through two(!) gift shops on the way out.

We get a bit lost on the way back and end up back in Munich well after dark.
Since we have the car till the end of the trip, the next day is another day trip, this time to the northern Italian town of Bolzano for lunch and to see Otzi.

It’s around a two hour drive on the autobahn...which turns into the autostrada in Italy...over the Brenner pass through the alps. Into the center of Bolzano, we turn into an underground car park and make our way to the central plaza where we dine on pasta, pizza, and shrimp.

A couple of blocks away is the Archaeological Museum and the home of Otzi. Back in 1991, a couple were hiking in the nearby mountains and saw a body at the edge of a melting glacier. The authorities were called, because it looked like an avalanche victim was uncovered by the spring thaw. The body was taken to the local examiner where it was discovered that this was actually a 5,300 year old body.

Today, the museum focuses on different types of mummies, with its main attraction being that 5,300 year old found in the mountains...Otzi.

There are many human and animal remains on display here with various types of mummification methods. It is completely wheelchair accessible and there is even an in-floor lift that raises you and your chair up so you can see into the vault where Otzi’s body is stored. If this all sounds a bit morbid, it’s not. It’s just another very interesting museum that lacks any sense of the macabre at all.

One more drive back to Munich, and one more chance to get lost, which we do when the autobahn ends and I can’t find a sign pointing us back to our neighborhood. A Best Western hotel is nearby and the desk clerk helpfully points me in the right direction.

Our last day is spent wandering again around the center of Munich, taking in the surfers and naked people of the Englisher Garden; spending another lunch hour in the beer garden of the Viktualienmarkt; seeing the devil’s footprint in the Frauenkirche (Munich’s cathedral and tallest building); the puppets of the Glockenspiel, and of course, having one more lingering dinner under the chestnut trees of the Augustinerkellar beer garden before going home.

Copyright 2009 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Travel Tunes - Week 1

The next segment of our France and Bavaria post will be up tomorrow, and I promise this part won't be all fun and games. Until then, enjoy this week's travel tune...Joe Cocker gets a letter from his baby and can't wait to get home.


Joe Cocker - "The Letter"

Monday, November 2, 2009

Welcome Back!

Yes, it's been awhile.  The World on Wheels web site has been on hiatus and was recently killed completely by Yahoo!  But, we're back in blog form and are back on the road.  Why the layoff?  Well, Tim went to college and all the money went with him.

Now out of school with a freshly minted bachelor's degree, we're back to traveling and will be posting on our trips again soon.  Also, we will be bringing over some of our older stories from the old web site as time allows.  Watch for this content to be added soon, along with other thoughts and stories from our daily lives.

Please stay tuned, we are working on a trip report right now that covers our most recent trip to Europe.