Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2015 from The World on Wheels!

Normal posting will resume on Friday. Thank you for your support.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Year End Best...Top 10 Accessible Views

Where can a wheelchair user and their companions share great views?  Glad you asked...

Seattle, Washington - Kerry Park in the Queen Ann neighborhood was pointed out to us by the manager of the Homewood Suites we were staying at as the best view in this city full of them. It didn't disappoint. If the walk up the hill is too steep, a wheelchair accessible bus makes the run up making the hill climb for you.

New York, New York - One of the all-time classic views, approved by King Kong, is the observation deck at the top of the Empire State Building. If it's a clear day, it doesn't dissapoint.

London, England - Another beautiful city with breathtaking views around every corner. You can also get a great bird's eye view from the Eye but the one that I always remember is this one. In St. James Park, across from Buckingham Palace. Great view of the palace but I turned around and caught this fairy tale view.

Yosemite National Park, California - Ansel Adams loved it and so will you. Although it can get packed with tourists, seek out Tunnel View...on the road to Glacier Point from the valley get the quintessential view of Yosemite Valley. Then, continue on to Glacier Point for views from the top.

Monaco - The tiny principality surrounded by France is a great place to visit. Head on up to the top of the palace hill to get spectacular views of this small but crowded home of billionaires.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Of course, we need to have a sunset view on here. Our favorite is the view from El Set restaurant in Puerto Vallarta where you have some great drinks, food, and musicians to wish the sun farewell til morning.

Ogunquit, Maine - Nothing says "Maine" to us like the gorgeous little anchorage at Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine. Great place to have some fresh lobster and just enjoy the view.

Niagara Falls, Canada - The best views are from the Canadian side but you can catch the Maid of the Mist for a close-up view of all that power from either side.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - For the best ballpark view, head to the steel city and get a seat anywhere along the home plate/first base line.

Colorado Springs, Colorado - Another great location with lots of great views. We'll stick with the free one, which is the Garden of the Gods.  You can also take a trip to the admission-required site of the Seven Falls, which is shown at the top of this post.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 26, 2014

Year End Best...The 10 Best Meals We Had in 2014

Here are the best meals we had during the past year...

Santa Fe Hotel, Reno, Nevada - Great, old-school, Basque boarding house and restaurant. One of the better and authentic representations of this shepherding cuisine served at long tables where you share the company of strangers. Delicious food, great prices, at a tiny little hotel that wouldn't sell out in downtown Reno.

Chicago Fire, Folsom, California - A great deep-dish pie in an old west setting. Comfortable dining room, great service, craft beer, and awesome pizza at the east end of the Gold Line...Sacramento's light rail system.

Speed's Diner, Plymouth, California - the best breakfast we had was at this very, very basic little diner in the heart of California's Motherlode country. Still dream about their chicken fried steak.

Merchant's, Nashville, Tennesee - Some hot chicken, fried chicken, biscuits, and that great popcorn in the best restaurant on Broadway. It was delicious!

Don Pablo, Runaway Bay, Jamaica - Part of the Gran Bahia Principe resort, it's included for guests but is pretty spendy if you're not. Tim and I still rave about the Chateaubriand and the bananas flambe (at the top of this page).

Bluewater Grill, Newport Beach, California - Tucked away on a quiet canal on Lido Isle, fresh seafood, delicious chicken and steaks, plus a no-corkage fee policy make sitting on the deck here just a fantastic place to eat and take in the view.

22nd Street Landing, San Pedro, California - Another great seafood restaurant tucked into the docks and warehouses of this gritty, port city. The food is fresh and the view great.

Jerk Shack, Runaway Bay, Jamaica - Also part of the Gran Bahia Principe, and reserved for guests only, this afternoon snack bar had the best jerk chicken of anyplace we tried on the island.

55 South, Franklin, Tennessee - Fabulous brunch destination south of Nashville. Shrimp 'n grits to die for, along with another great version of hot chicken.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Year End Best...Top 10 Transit Systems

A lot of wheelchair users can't or won't drive so it's nice to have some accessible way to get around when you're traveling that doesn't require you to transfer out of your chair. It's also nice for able-bodied people who just don't want to be bothered with driving while on me, for instance.

Here are the best transit systems we've encountered on our travels, in no particular order.

London, England - While not 100% accessible, a good number of stations at key spots make the Underground a good travel option for wheelchairs. Always pay attention to the gap (the difference in height between the platform and the floor of the train), which can range from nothing up to 12 inches. The accessible tube map available at each station lists the gap of each station on the back. The London bus system is completely accessible (save for two redundant lines that use older, historic double deckers) and all taxis must be wheelchair accessible by law.

San Francisco, California - The most Eastern (in culture and vibe, anyway) of the West Coast cities, San Francisco has a pretty extensive trolley and bus system in the Muni. While all buses are accessible, only about half of the trolley stations are. The historical streetcars on Market Street are accessible but the cable cars are not. BART, the regional subway, is 100% accessible.

Los Angeles, California - Although I never thought I'd say this, our hometown has developed a pretty extensive, 100% accessible rail network over the last couple of decades. Six light rail and subway lines run across the region from Long Beach in the south, Pasadena (soon to be Azusa) in the east, North Hollywood in the north, and Culver City in the west. Several Metrolink train lines also link such far-flung locales as Oxnard, Oceanside, Lancaster, San Bernardino, and Riverside with all those other rail lines at Union Station downtown. The weak link is the bus system that, although 100% accessible, is run by over a dozen operators with different fares and policies creating much confusion.

Chicago, Illinois - The El system here, although only about 50% accessible, at least has it's accessible stations at key points such as the airports, the stadiums, and strategic locations in the Loop. It's also nice that they have heaters on the platforms for those bitterly cold Chicago winters.

Munich, Germany - An incredibly extensive subway system (U-Bahn for the city and S-Bahn for beyond) that is very close to 100% accessible and run with great German efficiency. Not much need for buses here but where they are, they are also 100% accessible. Only the older street-tram system is's maybe 75% accessible.

Boston, Massachusetts - Like Chicago, the T in Boston is only about half-accessible but at least it's the key points you'll want to go to that are.

Minneapolis, Minnesota - Some cities don't have a lot of transportation but, what they do, goes just about anywhere you want to go. Such as it is with Minneapolis, with its 100% acccessible Hiawatha light rail line that runs from the home of the Twins...Target the north to the Mall of America in the south and all the great points in between.

Denver, Colorado - Six, 100% accessible light rail lines serve the mile high city. Since there's so much beer to drink here, that comes in very handy. The newest serves Golden to the west, almost to the massive Coors factory.

Seattle, Washington - A burgeoning light rail system, running from the airport to downtown, supplements a great bus system. Free fare in the downtown zone and 100% accessible.

Sacramento, California - The Capitol City's light rail system is 100% accessible and is great for exploring the sights of the fun city. We also like to use it to go the eastern terminus at Folsom for drinks and dinner at the beautifully restored Old Town. Downside is that the system shuts down early.

NOTE: Why not New York? I'd love to include the vast subway system of the Big Apple but only a very small fraction of the stations there are accessible.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Year-end Best...The Top 10 Hotels

The Buccaneer, St. Croix

Here are the best 10 hotels, inns, motels, etc., that we've ever stayed at. In no particular order, all are outstanding properties...

Ambassador Hotel - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - An art-deco jewel next to Marquette University near downtown. For a small upcharge, they include a very indulgent breakfast in the lobby restaurant. The rooms are very generous in size, up-to-date, and have some of the most comfortable bedding we've ever had. For an old, historic property, it's very nice to see modern accessible bathrooms in rooms that are not an afterthought or located in a dark, corner of the hotel. All of this would be moot, however, if the service wasn't good. Thankfully, the staff here is at the top of the game and very attentive to their guests needs and wants.

The Buccaneer - St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands - Another historic hotel and the best in the Caribbean. Incredible staff that will walk miles to make sure you're comfortable and having a good time. The accessible rooms are really suites with a bedroom, living room, two bathrooms, walk-in closet, and a large terrace overlooking the sea. The breakfast buffet will amaze you as you take in the morning beach views from the open air dining area. Only downside is it's hilly and tough to walk down to the beach along the steep slope. 

Riu Palace - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic - Part of a very large group of Riu properties on a mile of beachfront and hundreds of acres at the far eastern end of the island of Hispaniola. While the fully accessible rooms tend to be hidden in the back, a large selection of step-free rooms are available throughout the hotel. Oustanding beaches, endless pools, and all inclusive, what sets the Riu apart from it's competitors is an attitude of "if you're not happy, we're not happy and we'll do whatever it takes to change that." Best service we've ever had at any hotel in the world...period. You'll end up with life-long friends from the staff when you leave here.

Homewood Suites - Seattle, Washington - This Hilton property in the Queen Anne neighborhood is like most Homewood Suites...large, multiroom suites that are very comfortable...but, again, it's the service that sets it apart from the manager actually going the extra mile to get great local microbrews and locally inspired cuisine in the evening reception, providing detailed jogging maps and telling you where to stop to get the best breathtaking views, to procuring special needs products like bath chairs for your room. I wish every Hilton's staff could be as good as this one.

Shenandoah Inn - Plymouth, California - Mom and Pop motel in the Gold Country. Marie is the mom and Ken...a former the pop and a friendlier mom and pop you'll be hard pressed to find. It's a basic motel but the rooms are clean, up-to-date, and comfortable. Each one comes with million-dollar views of the rolling hills of Amador County's wine country. The pool and jacuzzi...with a lift for the disabled...sit on a delightful patio with the same views, along with picnic tables and barbecue because you're gonna want to sit here with dinner, drink the bottle of wine you bought today, and watch the sun go down.  Just a beautiful, comfortable, friendly slice of  Heaven.

Mission Inn - Riverside, California - Another historic hotel in the heart of Southern California's Inland Empire.  Along with the gorgeous property, with it's endless hallways, pathways, nooks, and crannies to get lost in, you get impeccable service, larger than you thought rooms, great pool area (lift too), wonderful food and drink, and an ever-present feeling of being somewhere very historical.  It's also located smack dab in downtown Riverside where a large assortment of restaurants and shops lie just outside to tempt you. Across the street is the historic restored Fox Theater making this a great place to take in dinner, a show, and spend the night.

Drury Plaza at the Arch - St. Louis, Missouri - Drury Inns is a large, midwest based chain of hotels. We've never had a bad stay at any that we've been to but their flagship hotel in downtown St. Louis takes it to another level. Again, the rock is great service that's attentive to guests and makes them happy. Great, fully accessible rooms and suites. Very comfortable and plush.  Great location next to the Gateway Arch and the statehouse...just a few, easily walked blocks to Busch Stadium for those Cardinal games. And the freebies...oh, those freebies...Drury is the king of the free extras. Breakfast (darn good one, too), happy hour and light dinner, local calls, long distance calls, popcorn and soda...the list goes on of all the free stuff you get here included with your reasonable room rate.  An expansive lobby, complete with a large Lewis and Clark diorama fountain, provides a nice place to relax and the pool and gym upstairs will keep you in shape while you're here.

Village by the Sea - Wells, Maine - A hotel made up of condos, the rooms here are very large and very reasonable (but you must pay an upcharge to get the alcove with the washer and dryer unlocked in your room). Not quite on the beach but only separated from it by a wildlife preserve, the the views are outstanding. You won't find as much bang for your buck anywhere else downeast in Maine.

Best Western Station House Inn - South Lake Tahoe, California - This motel next to the stateline in Lake Tahoe not only has it's great service going for it but it has the best free breakfast we've ever had at a hotel. On the property is a nice restaurant where guests get to select from a menu of 7 great, full, and complete breakfasts, all served with a smile by the waiters at your table. The rooms are large with comfortable furniture but the ceilings are just a bit low. You can walk a block to the lower gondola of Heavenly Valley for skiing and another short block east to visit the casinos of Nevada. One of the world's most beautiful lakes lies only 100 yards away.

The Flamingo Inn - Santa Rosa, California - I can't believe the prices of the rooms here (but make sure you get a big enough room, some are pretty small). This resort is modeled after it's namesake in Las Vegas and looks just like a retro, 1950's Vegas hotel, sans the casino. The well kept-up building rings a large lawn and olympic size pool where a party atmosphere rules in the warmer months. An on-site nightclub can provide entertainment and the wineries of Napa Valley and Sonoma are less than 30 minutes away. Great staff and great, oldschool vibe. It's our go-to hotel for visits to Napa Valley.

Notice the one thing in common that ties all these hotels together...great service. It doesn't matter if you're a mom-and pop motel, a Caribbean island resort, or a corporate behemoth...provide great service and you can be a great hotel.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

ACCESSIBLE ATTRACTIONS: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Our ratings are...

Fully Accessible - You can access all of the attraction, with no problem, in any type of wheelchair.

Mostly Accessible - You can access most of the attraction, and all of the important parts of it, with your wheelchair.

Partially Accessible - You can access a good deal of the attraction but some parts are inaccessible and some important parts you'll miss.

Inaccessible - Kind of speaks for itself, avoid if you're in a wheelchair.

Here's Minneapolis, Minnesota...

Mall of America - Fully Accessible. It's a mall...that is all. Well, it's really big and has an amusement park in it but malls don't really float my boat.

Target Field - Fully Accessible. Right down to the Closed Captioning for the announcer. Great ball park.

Minnehaha Park - Fully Accessible. Beautiful waterfalls in a great park.

St. Croix River Cruise - Partially Accessible. Their website says "fully accessible" but it depends on the river water level, plus there are no accessible restrooms on board.

Mill Ruins Park - Mostly Accessible. Great place to see some of the city's historic flour mill ruins then walk across the Mississippi River to more accessible hiking paths on the other side.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 15, 2014

The World on Wheels 2014 Gift Guide

Don't look at this post as a shameless plea for Amazon commissions, look at it as a curated gift giving guide for the modern wheelchair traveler about town.  Get free two day delivery with your Amazon Prime account. Don't have Amazon Prime? Click the link below to get a free 30-day trial.

Now, on to the list.

Luggage Scale - It's very tough to be a wheelchair traveler and only go with a carry on bag. We always end up having to check something and with airlines baggage restrictions on weight, it helps to know ahead of time if yours meets the criteria. We use this one that you simply hook through your bag's strap and lift up.  It's saved us a bunch of fees and repacking over the years.

Overnight Toiletries Bag - This foldable toiletries and cosmetics bag has really earned it's place in our travel gear setup. It goes everywhere with us. Unfolded, you can lay it on top of the clothes in your suitcase to save room. Folded, it makes a small carryon and holds a ton of stuff.  At the hotel, just unfold and hang on the bathroom coat hook with the built-in hanger. Great little bag, can't recommend it enough.

Universal Electric Adapter - Going by the commissions we receive from it, this is the most popular product I've recommended. International travel can be a pain if you want to be connected to your electronic gadgets and they don't fit that foreign power outlet. This adapter to the rescue. Small and very handy, it works like a charm for us.

Voltage Transformer - One of the problems with traveling with a power chair in a foreign country is charging the batteries with your American charger. Lester...the company that makes just about all of those chargers...will tell you your warranty is void and you'll burn out the charger if you don't use a proper voltage transformer (unless you get a dual voltage charger). This transformer, in conjunction with an adapter, will solve that problem.

Zip Off Cargo Pants - Sometimes, you just gotta go. Wheelchair users and their caregivers often need easy access to those areas of relief. While there are pants made especially for this purpose, they are expensive indeed. We've found these zip off cargo pants, with their zippers conveniently place mid-leg, are the perfect and reasonably priced solution.

Portable Urinal - Not to get too much TMI, but it can be a pain when you have to go in the middle of a trip and you don't have a handy bathroom. This unisex (it comes with a female adapter) urinal is shaped just right for people who have to sit in a chair. Don't leave home without it.

Kindle Fire HD - Need an easy to carry, powerful little tablet to stay in touch while on the road? Amazon's Kindle provides just what we need at an easy price and fits very well in a purse, carry on, or wheelchair backpack.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

ACCESSIBLE ATTRACTIONS: Charleston, South Carolina

Our ratings are...

Fully Accessible - You can access all of the attraction, with no problem, in any type of wheelchair.

Mostly Accessible - You can access most of the attraction, and all of the important parts of it, with your wheelchair.

Partially Accessible - You can access a good deal of the attraction but some parts are inaccessible and some important parts you'll miss.

Inaccessible - Kind of speaks for itself, avoid if you're in a wheelchair.

Here's Charleston, South Carolina...

Fort Sumter - Partially Accessible. The Civil War was sparked here. Call boat concessionaires ahead of time to be sure boarding ramps are in place. The top of the walls of the fort are inaccessible (elevators used to be here but, apparently, have been removed). Boats stay docked, giving visitors access to handicapped restrooms on board during visit. Visitors are given 90 minutes on the fort before having to leave on the same boat you came in on.  Fort Sumter Accessibility

Fort Moultrie - Mostly Accessible. On the other end of the battle was this fort on Sullivan's Island. It's a lot easier to visit in a wheelchair than Fort Sumter.

Original Charleston Walks - Mostly Accessible. Fascinating walking tours with guides who are sensitive to wheelchair users' needs. We took the Ghost Walk and Pirate Walk with them.

The Battery - Mostly Accessible. A ramp on one end allows wheelchair access to the battery and the park within.

Waterfront Park - Mostly Accessible.

Magnolia Plantation - Partially Accessible. Main house is upstairs with no access but grounds, slave quarters, and some of the swamp and gardens are accessible.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved