Friday, December 28, 2012

Best of 2012 - Tourist Attraction


Mike would probably blow three times the limit if he were to be pulled over. Staggering, bleary eyed, pint of beer in his hand, somehow he gets it out...

"You know who has the best job in the WORLD? YEAST!! All they do is eat, poop, and have sex..over and over and over and over..." - all done with tons of body language.




Yes, it's not for the kids but it is the funnest tour you'll soon take. It's the great, funny, educational, and fun brewery tour at Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery.

At the north end of the Milwaukee Riverwalk, the modest brick building awaits. It's $7 for the tour, which includes tokens for 4 beers.

After paying, you'll be told to go to the adjacent beer hall (or garden, depending on the day and weather), and cash in your first token on your choice of brews.

Lightly lubed, your tour guide will come and collect you and have you top off your glass before you start. Your filled pint will be your constant companion.




As the tour progresses, you'll learn the process of beer making from your inebriated guide.  You'll soon be in the same state, so gloss over that point.  The history of this small brewery will be explained. Answer a trivia question or help the guide with a task and you'll earn another token.



A bar halfway through the tour makes sure your glass stays full and you'll recreate the opening scene of "Laverne and Shirley" at the bottling line.

You'll laugh until you cry...then you'll stumble over to the bar to cash in the rest of your trips. 

Don't drive...walk, take a taxi, or public transportation...but make sure you take the Lakefront Brewery tour.  You will thank me, trust me.

Darryl
Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Best of 2012 - Food


Since Los Tacos de Huicho in Bakersfield is still the best place we know of, we're going to make them ineligible for the "Best of" honors here at The World on Wheels and let them become the first member of our Hall of Fame.  Yes. They are that good. Make it a point to stop there whenever you're in Bakersfield.



Moving on, we had plenty of other food highlights this year.  Best overall restaurant we went to would have to be the wonderful restaurant my friend Peter Francis Battaglia recommended to me, Cafe Benelux in the great city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.



Anchoring the Third Ward, across the street from the Milwaukee Public Market, this meshing of European low-country inspired dishes, served with a literal bible of great beers, made us want to come back again and again.  Just not enough time in this world to fully explore their menus and deli but we'll certainly try. Favorite dish...the Pannenkoeken.



I love a good burger and the best burger I've ever had is right here at home. It's not cheap at $16, with $1 extra for bacon or cheese, but it is supremely delicious and comes with multi-million dollar views.



The Nelson's Burger, named after the restaurant that serves it, is a big 1/3 pound patty topped with arugula, red onions, black bean mayo, and sweet pickle chips. It's all served with fries.  I also like to add bacon and bleu cheese, which brings the price up to $18 but it's such a good burger and I'm eating it outdoors, next to a warm firepit, on top of a cliff looking out over the Pacific Ocean. Doesn't get any better than this.



Almost as good but at just a little over half the price are the burgers at Eureka! with around a half dozen locations around California. Our local location is in Claremont and the burgers are nothing short of fantastic. My favorite is the one pictured above, the Cowboy Burger served with onion straws, bacon, and an in-house made beer barbecue sauce - priced at $10.95. They also have an extensive selection of locally sourced microbrews on tap.



The best pizza continues to be Joey's Red Devil in La Verne, California. It's so good, we put it on the cover of our book, Golden State Eating: Nine Tales of California Food Destinations. Come on by and let the Monaco family show you how good it can be...don't forget to ask for the secret Roland's Sauce too.



Let's finish up with dessert...also in Claremont is Crepes de Paris, next door to the previously mentioned Eureka!, which makes the best crepes I've had. My favorite is the Dulce de Leche beauty, pictured above, soaked with warm caramel with some Chantilly cream on the side.

Darryl
Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 21, 2012

Best of 2012 - Hotel


Hilton, Marriott, Drury, Microtel, Radisson...so many chains out there, and most will be ok for wheelchair users but we must give our props again to the Drury Inn chain for consistency and so much value for travelers of all stripes.

Accessible rooms are easy to book online and trained desk agents are eager to put your mind at ease if you have any concerns.  Call before arrival and they'll make sure you are in the room you want to be in.




Freebies are plentiful. Breakfast, dinner, popcorn, soft drinks, cocktail hour, phone calls, Internet...the list goes on and on. You will definitely get your money's worth here at this Midwest based chain.

We particularly like their flagship destination near the Gateway Arch in St. Louis for impeccable rooms, beautiful lobby, and prime downtown location.


Image by DruryIT used with permission
under CC Y-SA 3.0 license

Drury Inns is our hotel chain of the year.

Our independent hotel is much harder to choose. We stayed at two magnificent hotels this year. Both had great, accessible rooms...bookable online, beautiful facilities, outstanding dining and drinking, good locations, and top notch staff members.



It is just impossible to choose between the two so this year we have co-winners. First, The Ambassador Hotel in Milwaukee is an art deco masterpiece at Marquette University. The large, accessible room featured a big, very comfortable king size bed with a queen size sofabed. Large bathroom, foyer equipped with wet bar and fridge, large flat screen TV, good wifi, with large windows and great views. The only knocks I have are the manually operated, historic elevator doors (tough on those with weak hand strength) and a shuttle that would take you anywhere, anytime, but not wheelchair accessible.



The second co-winner is the fantastically beautiful Mission Inn in Riverside, California. The name's appropriate at this circa 1870 hotel because it looks like a huge mission, maybe more like a castle. There are hidden passageways, nook, crannies, deep round rotundas, fountained courtyards, and rooms as big as a small house.

Our junior suite had two separate rooms with a king size bed and large sofabed, two flat screen tvs, a walk-in closet, robes, and a semi private patio.Several restaurants and watering holes are on the premises, along with an award-winning cupcake bakery. Spa and a large pool with handicapped lift.

It's not cheap but it is worth every penny.

While you're here, you should take a look at our Year in Review - 2012.

Darryl
Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Best of 2012 - Airline


To tell the truth, air travel gets tougher everyday. Luggage fees, premium seat location fees, security nightmares at the airport, underpaid cranky staff on the plane, and on and on.

We find ourselves flying less and less. It's not hard to see why, especially traveling with a wheelchair when you're a complete afterthought.



Fortunately, there are a few carriers out there who still do a good job and for the fourth year in a row (talk about consistency) 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. 

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.

I know we sound like a broken record, but we really haven't flow anyone else that even approaches how nice it is to fly Southwest and, yes, we have flown plenty of other carriers.  Just wish they'd fly to more places I want to go.

You might also want to check our our Year in Review - 2012 while you're here.

Darryl
Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012...The Year in Review.



It didn’t seem as busy here in 2012 as it was in 2011 but we actually hit more destinations this year than last, though most found us staying with our state’s borders. Be sure to click the links in each paragraph to see the stories.


The beginning of the year found us experimenting with some speedy videos. First, a high-speed bike ride along the San Gabriel Riverbed near Azusa. Bike Ride Along the San Gabriel River.


Next, while on the road near the Central Coast, we found the perfect California driving road. Thrill Ride on Highway 41.


That drive over highway 41 put is in our next destination, the heart and soul of the Central Coast, San Luis Obispo.


Just a few miles away, it was Bug Bunny’s favorite destination and one of ours too. Pismo and Avila Beach.


Next it was the start of a long, long road trip up the backside of California. Highway 395 Road Trip.


One of my favorite parts of the state is our historic Gold Rush Country. We started off with a trip to see some old friends at the fantastic Restful Nest Inn in Mariposa. California Gold Rush Towns: Mariposa.


You know what very popular and exciting destination is close to Mariposa? Yosemite National Park.


While we’re in the area, we would be remiss if we didn’t visit the fading gold mining town just over those hills. California Ghost Town:Hornitos.


People still can’t get over what I consider to be the great, undiscovered, and budget friendly weekend getaway town just over the mountains from L.A.  Here are some more great finds there…The Great Bakersfield Food Tour.


This year’s baseball trip took us to the funnest destination we would encounter this year, unexpectedly too. Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


After Milwaukee, it’s a day’s drive to our next baseball stop which also includes great scenery and a river cruise. Minneapolis,Minnesota.


Our next few adventures don’t take us very far at all from our home base near Los Angeles. In fact, a half hour train ride will put you in the heart of the West Coast Ivy League…Claremont.


The last trip we took was just a few minutes farther away, the historic citrus farming city where we got to see a great concert, climb a mountain, and fend off zombies. Riverside, California.


We also published our first guide in the fall, an e-book available at Amazon.com, highlighting some of the best food and drink destinations in California. It’s called Golden State Eating: Nine Tales ofCalifornia Food Destinations. You can download a copy at that link, have a great California travel guide, and help support this blog’s mission…all in one fell swoop!


Each year, we also produce a big foodie video. This year, it was more of a drink video where we found our favorite margaritas and convinced their creators to come on camera and give away their secrets. It was incorporated into the first chapter of our book but I’ll let you watch it here too. It’s Southern California’s Top Three Margaritas.


Back on the baseball front, we added 3 new stadiums…2 Major League venues and our first college park…which brings up our total to 23 out of 30.  We also updated all of our stadium reviews to incorporate changes made from the previous season. Remember, no one has more wheelchair accessible baseball stadium information than The World on Wheels. Check out these new additions…




We’ve also shared with you 52 Cocktail Hours (our weekly Happy Hour videos, aired each Sunday), several useful Travel Tips columns, and some new Transit Reports. 

We already have two trips planned for 2013 but beyond that, who knows what or where the new year will bring us. Wherever that may be, we hope you stick around to see what adventures await around the next corner.
Darryl
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

(More) Shopping with The World on Wheels...Packing for a Road Trip


JUST A REMINDER: The World on Wheels is an Amazon affiliate. When you shop through the Amazon links on our page you support our efforts to provide the best in accessible travel information at no cost to yourself. I really appreciate our supporters who use our Amazon links!



Airfares are high, planes are cramped, and service leaves much to be desired...why not take a road trip?

Here are some great gift ideas for your road-tripping friends...


For less than $90, give the gift of never being lost again with a GPS unit with lifetime map updates.


Road trips are always easier with some cool drinks and snacks handy. The flat top of this ice chest also
doubles as a tray.


Keep your drinks cold and the mess out by using this ice blanket instead of ice. Wrap around the walls of your cooler and never see a melt puddle again.


For no mess or fuss at all, an electric cooler (that plugs into your lighter) works without ice or having to freeze your Blue Ice. Turn the plug over and it becomes a food warmer. We use this for bringing meat home on the road without spoilage.


Road trips often involve long stretches of continuous driving. If it's not your turn behind the wheel, make yourself comfortable and take a soothing nap with this inflatable neck pillow.


Finally, make those long stretches a little less boring with a massive collection of music on your iPod. This 160GB model will hold thousands and thousands of tunes to keep you awake and entertained on your way to your destination.

Happy Holiday shopping!

Darryl

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Shopping with The World On Wheels

JUST A REMINDER: The World on Wheels is an Amazon affiliate. When you shop through the Amazon links on our page you support our efforts to provide the best in accessible travel information at no cost to yourself. I really appreciate our supporters who use our Amazon links!

 


  Here are some items we at The World on Wheels like and think would make a great addition to your Christmas gift list.

As I write this, I'm sitting in a Best Western in California's Motherlode and Letty has informed me that she forgot our toiletry bag. Dang...hate when that happens...but be sure you have a good toiletry kit available. Start with this oral care kit from Dr. Fresh. With four kits, there's enough for the whole family.



You can also get this travel kit from Donavan that includes deodorant, razor, shaving cream and more...


To carry your gear, we recommend a lightweight, folding, and hanging flat bag that you can just hang on the bathroom hook when you get to your hotel. This bag from Lewis N. Clark fits the bill.



My wife wouldn't want me to finish this list of travel grooming accessories without mentioning a good hair dryer and curling iron combo for travelers, so here you go...



That's it for our Black Friday list but we'll be back with more recommendations as the gift giving season continues.

Stay tuned...

Darryl

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Shop Amazon with The World on Wheels!


JUST A REMINDER: The World on Wheels is an Amazon affiliate. When you shop through the Amazon links on our page you support our efforts to provide the best in accessible travel information at no cost to yourself. I really appreciate our supporters who use our Amazon links!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

TRANSIT REPORT: Denver, Colorado


Denver is a very large city surrounded by a patchwork of smaller towns, plains, and mountains.  It's transit system is actively growing and is not quite a mature system.  Some things work quite well, others are OK, and there are still patches where transit is not yet a viable option.

Public transit here is provided by the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) and is a mix of light rail and buses.


LIGHT RAIL - Currently, there are five lines that make up the light rail system.  It runs two lines to the south to Englewood and Littleton and terminates at two points to the north of downtown, 30th and Downing and Union Station at the western end of the 16th Street Mall.

Inside, the trains are clean, modern, and fast. For wheelchair users, there is a raised platform at the end of each station at the driver's end.  A manual ramp is deployed by the driver to allow chairs and strollers to board.  In this configuration, up to three wheelchairs or strollers can be on any given train.  The trains themselves have a much larger capacity.  Either 12 or 18 chairs/strollers can be on a train (depending on if it is a 2 or 3 car train) and if the platforms were built to train level instead of below it, more chair users could be accomodated. 

New lines under construction are also following the lower platform model the current stations have.

Chair users must tell the driver where they plan on exiting so the ramp can be deployed.  This seems like a missed opportunity in universal design and puts an extra burden on wheelchair users that the general public does not have.

Another egregious lapse in the system is that it does not serve the airport but a line is under construction and service to the airport is expected to begin in 2016. To the west, a new line to Golden that will get you close...but not quite...to the Coors brewery will open in 2013.

BUSES - The buses run by the RTD are like most cities in the U.S.  A lift or ramp is deployed from the front door and up to two wheelchairs can be accomodated in each bus.  Tie-downs are installed in each position.

The bus system covers a much larger area reaching towns in the nearby Rockies to the west; Boulder to the north; Denver International Aiport to the east, and the county line to the south.

16th STREET MALL FREE SHUTTLE - One of the stars of the transit system here is the shuttle that moves people back and forth along the mile long 16th Street Mall from Union Station on the west end to the Capitol Building on the east end.  Just about anything you want to do in downtown is within 3 blocks of this route.

The buses are electric/hybrids and have multiple entry doors like trains.  Wheelchairs enter via the second door where the driver can deploy a manual ramp.  It's an easy entrance into the two wheelchair locations and tie-downs are available.  Buses run every couple of minutes and are among the easiest I've seen for wheelchair entrance and exit.  They are also free.

SKYRIDE - RTD also operates a bus service to the airport via large buses that serve Englewood to the south, downtown, Broomfield to the north, and Lakewood to the west.  It also connects with several light rail stations.  Fares run $9, $11, or $13 each way.

Unless noted above, the basic fare on buses or light rail is $2.25 (disabled $1.10), which is in the high range for most transit systems. 

Day and multi-day passes are also available, which would make it a little more affordable for travelers, except that they're not available at the stations...you have to buy them at approved retailers such as Safeway.  This makes it pretty hard for a traveler to get one when they're in town.



-Darryl
Copyright 2011 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Front Range Express provides accessible bus service between Denver and Colorado Springs for $11 each way.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

TRANSIT REPORT - NEW YORK CITY



UPDATE: For service status following Hurricane Sandy, check this page: MTA Service Advisory

New York is a dizzying, confusing place but, if you do your homework, you can navigate your way through the city in a wheelchair.  Here are your major options.



AIRPORT TRANSPORTATION - The two major New York airports are Kennedy and La Guardia.  Amazingly in this city of subways, neither is connected to that system.  Your best bet is to either request an accessible taxi at the taxi stand, or to book an accessible shuttle from a company such as Supershuttle.  If you're more adventurous, and don't have a lot of luggage, you can catch an MTA bus.  At La Guardia, it's not too far to take the 48 bus to Queen's and catch the 7 subway there into the city at the accessible Flushing-Main St. station.  At Kennedy, you can take the AirTrain to the accessible Sutphin subway station (E line) or to the accessible Howard Beach subway station (A line).  We did try the bus option from La Guardia.   It's doable, but coming back it's very confusing finding the right bus stop when you get off of the subway.  We haven't tried the Kennedy option yet.  There is also train service from Newark airport and nearby the Islip airport, which you'd either have to taxi or bus to...it would be about a mile walk from the airport to the train station.  We did this via a taxi one time...if possible, I'd rather fly into one of the other three airports.



SUBWAY - Let's face it, it's just not New York without the subway.  When possible, it's also the fastest way to get around.  There are currently 33 accessible subway stations in Manhattan listed on the MTA's website.  Some popular locations with accessible stations are Times Square, Herald Square, Penn Station, Grand Central Station, Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center, Roosevelt Island, and the World Trade Center station.  Outside of Manhattan you have Yankee Stadium, Coney Island, and Flushing Meadows Park.  There are several more non-accessible stations where you can transfer between lines in a wheelchair.  It is very important to study the map and information provided by the MTA's website for particular access information, for example some lines may be accessible in a station while others in the same station are not such as Times Square, where the shuttle (S) is not accessible.

The basic fare for buses or subways is $2.50. A 7-Day pass is $29. (2012)



BUS - All buses in New York are accessible.  We had no problems on any bus or with any drivers while we were there.  The only problem is that they must also sit in traffic, although they have dedicated lanes on the busiest streets.



STATEN ISLAND FERRY - is accessible and a great way to get good views of the city and the Statue of Liberty. The Staten Island Ferry is free.

STATUE OF LIBERTY/ELLIS ISLAND FERRY - is accessible.



ROOSEVELT ISLAND TRAMWAY - is accessible.



TAXIS - Most are not accessible.  You'll usually need to call a dispatcher to have one sent, it is very hard to hail an accessible cab on the street.



LONG ISLAND RAILROAD - In Manhattan, the LIRR uses the accessible Penn Station, underneath Madison Square Garden.  Click the link for a map of accessible stations.



METRO NORTH RAILROAD - For points upstate and Connecticut, the Metro North uses Grand Central Station, which is accessible.  For points across the Hudson, Metro North uses Penn Station, which is also accessible.  Click the link for a map of accessible stations.

-Darryl
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Diliff and Janke under CC-BY license
Daniel Schwen under CC-BY-SA license
Kris Arnold under CC-BY-SA license

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

TRANSIT REPORT - CHICAGO 2010

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Rob Pongsajapan under CC-BY license

The main transit agency in Chicago is the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). They run a system of buses and subway trains. Most of the trains run above ground, much of that on elevated tracks so the system is known locally as the "L" (for elevated).
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Kelly Martin under CC-BY-SA license
BUSES

Chicago was a bit late to the accessible bus party, but now 100% of their fleets and routes are wheelchair accessible. I remember when we were there in 2001, we were at a bus stop and a bus with a wheelchair lift stopped but because it was not designated as a wheelchair accessible route, the driver would not pick us up.  The new policy opens up vast swaths of the city that were not available to wheelers before.

Buses go just about everywhere here and come by often. You’re never more than a couple of blocks away from a bus line. Normal fare is $2.25 (2012) and a day pass can be had for $5.75. Disabled riders can board for a dollar. An RTA reduced fare is technically required, but in our experience, if you’re obviously disabled, you can ride for this fare.

Illinois residents with disabilities can apply to the RTA for a free ride card.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
JeremyA under CC-BY-SA license

THE L


The L serves much of the main corridors of the city. We found we could get to about 90% of the places we wanted to go via accessible L service. First, both airports…O’Hare and Midway…have accessible L stations. The Blue Line serves O’Hare and the Orange Line serves Midway.

Both ballparks are served by the Red Line with Wrigley Field next to the Addison station north of downtown (north side) and US Cellular Field (Comiskey Park) served by the 35th Street station. Each station is less than a block from their respective stadiums.

Soldier Field is served by the accessible Roosevelt Station on the Orange, Green and Red Lines.

The Loop is the downtown area where several L lines go in a circle around the area on elevated tracks…the Blue and Red line go through this area underground. The Pink and Orange lines go in a clockwise direction while the Brown line goes in a counter-clockwise direction. 7 of the 14 Loop stations are accessible.

Chicago can get extremely cold. Each L station has an area where you can press a button and a space heater will run for 15 minutes to keep you warm while you wait for the train.

Fares are the same as for the buses (above).

Click on the link for a route map for the CTA. Wheelchair accessible L stations have the wheelchair symbol next to them.

METRA


METRA is a commuter rail service providing service between Chicago and the suburbs to the North, West, and South. All downtown METRA stations are accessible. You can view a map and get a list of their accessible stations at their website, http://www.metrarail.com/ . It keeps crashing my browser but maybe you’ll have better luck.

One way, full fare tickets run from $2.75 to $9.25 (2012). People with disabilities pay a little less than half price. On weekends, up to 3 children…age 11 and under…can ride free with each paying adult. Adults can get a weekend pass for $7 good for both Saturday and Sunday.

PACE

PACE is a regional bus service that serves Cook, Lake, Will, Kane, McHenry, and DuPage counties. It also serves nearby cities in Indiana. All PACE buses are accessible but their website is in dire need of a makeover. Fares runs from $1.75 to $4.00 (2010) with disabled fares running from 85 cents to $2.00.

-Darryl