Sunday, November 24, 2019


It's Blooper Reel week here on The Cocktail Hour!  Not really, but you will see a major prop malfunction in the video below (what happens when whipped cream isn't whipped?  Find out below).

It's getting colder now and we're going to go with a hot drink.  Cold means 58 degrees mid-afternoon here in Southern California, but it's also very windy today and we need something hot if we're going to sit out on the patio.

Watch the Video!

Today, it's the Cafe de Playa, which means beach coffee in Spanish.  If you're on a cold beach this winter (which can be very fun...if you have a nice fire to sit by), this is what you need to take the chill off.  I modified this recipe from the Cafe Platino recipe on the Jose Cuervo site, and mashed it up with Giada de Laurentis' spice coffee recipe.

It came out good.  Letty liked it a little better when she added half a shot of amaretto to it which also adds 42 calories to the total.  Here's the is it's 120 calories.  Add 42 more if you use the amaretto:

1.5 oz. - - tequila
1/2 oz. - simple syrup (can substitute sweetener to eliminate more calories)
1 cup - coffee
reddi whip or whipped cream (1 tbls)
dash of ginger
dash of nutmeg
dash of cinnamon powder

Put ginger and nutmeg in coffee cup.  Add tequila and simple syrup.  Pour in coffee and stir. Put whipped cream on top.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.



Wednesday, November 6, 2019

TRAVEL TIPS: Packing for Travel

Rick Steves likes to say pack as little as you think you’ll need, then take less than that.
Packing for a trip is always a challenge, you don’t want to forget that one item that you’ll end up needing but you also are trying to limit how much you’ll have to carry, especially if you’re flying.
Many people try for that elusive “one carry on bag” so they can just hop off the plane and be on their way but for most wheelchair users, we need to carry too much and always end up checking something.
Still, we strive for that magic amount of clothes and accessories that leaves us with as little as possible to carry along with everything we’re going to need.  Here’s how we do it…
Pack with the idea that you’ll wear some of your clothes more than one day. For pants, I take two pairs for a week…the one I wear on the plane and another pair in my luggage. Dark colors can help hide an accidental stain and if it gets too bad, you can always find a laundry or washing machine nearby if an emergency makes you wash your clothes.
We also try to take clothes that are easy to clean in our bathroom sink or tub. For instance, these cargo pants from Campmor wash very easily and air-dry within 30 minutes. They also feature zip-off legs to convert them into shorts. Very handy for traveling.
One pair of shorts will do, none if you’re going to somewhere cold, swap another pair of shorts for one pair of pants if you’re going somewhere hot.
One pair of what I call “house shorts,” a comfy pair of gym shorts that I can lounge around the hotel in that also doubles as swim trunks if I need them to.
Two nicer shirts, like a polo shirt, and 6 T-shirts. I’ll wear a different shirt every day, t-shirt if I can get away with it, and save the nicer shirts for going out.
Underwear for a week...a pair a day. Same for socks. They don’t take a lot of room.
One jacket that will be appropriate for the climate I’m visiting (this can range from a hoodie to a down jacket…depends. Check the weather before you pack) and a hat. Also, if the weather looks like it will be cold on arrival at your destination, take the jacket onboard so you can wear it when you get off…no need to freeze.
If I’m going to be gone for more than a week, I’ll plan on doing laundry at some point but will not take more that what I have above.
For shoes, I take one pair of “coaches” shoes…nicer looking athletic shoes that can be worn casually with shorts and white socks, or going out to dinner with pants and a polo shirt. I also take a pair of flip-flops that I can use for lounging around the hotel, going to the pool or the beach.

Since we have to check our bags when we travel anyway, we'll put the clothes for all three of us in one suitcase. If it's over the airline's weight limit, we'll split it into a smaller bag as well.

I don’t bother with shampoo or soap…the hotel will have that. I take my toothbrush, a disposable razor, shaving cream, deodorant, and toothpaste.  I’ll also take along some Rolaids, Ibuprofen, and Imodium for any maladies that may pop up, along with any prescription medication I need.  Anything else that I find I need, I’ll pick up at a local store at my destination.
Due to my being a travel writer, blogger, and video producer, I tend to take more camera equipment that most people. Still, when buying equipment, I try to get the smallest possible components that will still allow me to get quality shots.
Technology has come a long way, it is very possible to buy high definition video cameras that will fit in your pocket and do not use tape or discs to record. Many high quality cameras also come in little packages. Fuji, Canon, and Nikon all have great pocket size cameras with high resolution and powerful zooms. 
One still camera can fill the need for most people. If you want a dedicated video camera, you can get one of each and put them in your pocket.

For most people, however, many mobile phones also have pretty good video and photo capabilities now and will do nicely.
That’s it for me…although my wife will also want to pack her cosmetics and supplements though what she packs all fits in with my stuff in our overnight toiletries bag.

With the wheelchair, we’ll first determine if we’ll take a power chair or a manual chair. Power chair is very nice at your destination, provided it is accessible enough for a power chair, since you have more independence. We make an effort to take it but leave it at home if we have any doubts and take the manual instead. Recently, we also bought a 60 pound (including batteries), folding power chair for traveling. We take that now instead of the manual. 
If you do take a power chair, the biggest hassle is getting it on the plane and off the plane at your destination but that’s another story…what we’re concerned with today is that you’ll also need to take a charger for the batteries.
Realize that medical equipment doesn’t count against your weight limit for luggage and doesn’t get charged a fee in the United States and EU countries.
Before you go, check to make sure your charger will work with the electric outlets at your destination. Voltages and outlet designs vary greatly across the globe…don’t assume that you can use a cheap voltage converter either. Call the manufacturer…I did and found out our charger wouldn’t work in Europe and  the cheap outlet/voltage converter we had might actually kill the charger.
Think of any bathrooming equipment you’ll need to take along. Are the smaller versions available…more portable versions? Are there other ways you can take care of those needs without bringing the equipment? Can the hotel provide some of this equipment (like a bath chair) or can you rent or buy cheaply when you get there?
Don’t worry too much that you’ll forget something. You’ll find stores at your destination to fill those needs. Pharmacies for any medicines or sunscreen that you need; thrift stores or discount stores if you need a particular piece of clothing; electronics stores for batteries or converters…there’s not too much that you can’t find while on travel.

Finally, souvenirs...if we can't fit them in luggage we'll do one of two things. Rethink the we really need it? Where will we put it? Is it worth the hassle? The other option is to ship it back home. Most places have businesses such as Kinko's or the UPS Store that will do this for you at a nominal fee.
So, as Mr. Steves would say…go over these items. Pack as little as possible…then go back and take out what you really don’t need.  No one ever says “gee, I wish I’d packed more.”
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

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Sunday, November 3, 2019

Classic Trip: Bavaria, Germany - 2009

Munich, Bavaria, Germany

NOTE: Usually, on Sundays, we have a Cocktail Hour post but for today we're going to rerun the first trip report we did on this blog because we've now been doing The World on Wheels for 10 years! Let's go back to where it all started...

Below is our newly re-edited video of this trip, Parts 1 and 2Part 2 should start immediately after Part 1 ends.  Click on the links in this paragraph if you'd like to watch them separately.

Watch The Video!

Previously...we were in France. In this, the second installment of the trip, we fly over the Alps to Munich.

First, let me say that Munich is the most accessible city I've ever found outside of America. It's even more accessible than many American cities, and that includes my hometown of Los Angeles. Railed transit goes everywhere here and it's all accessible to wheelchairs...granted in some of the larger stations it may take a little while to locate an elevator, but they're there. The only non-accessible transit we encountered is that some trams are not accessible but they seem to have a policy that if a non-accessible tram shows up, the next one (usually within 10 minutes) will be accessible. Munich is a wonderfully accessible city. In fact, it would be easily doable in a power chair.

An early morning flight from Nice has us at our hotel in Munich at 9:00 in the morning. There are two trains from the airport into town, the S-Bahn lines S1 and S8. Our hotel is the Vi Vadi which is one block north of the main train station, the Hauptbahnhof. The station is huge (larger than Grand Central) and it takes us a little while to find our way out and to get our bearings for the hotel.

Since it’s early morning, we are thinking we’ll drop off our luggage and sightsee until check in time. We are surprised to find our room is already ready so we go up and unpack. Again, it is pretty much step-free access (a small 2 inch step into the lobby is all there is) and we have a room with one bedroom, kitchen, tiny dining area, fold out couch and a loft with two beds. The bathroom is tiny and none too accessible but we are able to muscle are way around it with the shower chair provided by the hotel.

The room is very nice otherwise with three flat-screen TVs and a full breakfast provided each morning in the restaurant next door. The cost is $1000 for seven nights, or $200 each for the five of us.

Tim has said he wants to see the 1972 Olympic site and, specifically, go to the athletes village to pay his respects to the Israeli athletes who were taken hostage and murdered during those games.

It’s back to the train station, this time to the U-Bahn (U-Bahn is the local subway, the S-Bahn is more of a commuter system for the suburbs) where two trains and 15 minutes take you to the Olympic park station.

Israeli Athletes Quarters from 1972 Olympics

You need to know where you’re going if you want to visit the Israeli athletes accommodations…it is not advertised or encouraged at all. At the station, you walk towards the big, white apartment buildings and find the way for Connellystrasse. There’s a little mini-mall and different colored pipes lead you to different streets in the complex. These apartments were the Olympic village in 1972. The light blue pipe leads down Connellystrasse…watch for the ramps to lead you down to each level. The athletes were in the two apartments on the second floor of 31 Connellystrasse where a small memorial marks the spot and lists the names of the athletes who died.

On the day we were there, two fresh flower bouquets had been placed at the memorial. Later, we found out we’d happened onto the site and on the anniversary of the attack, September 5th.

Afterwards, we made our way back to the U-Bahn station via a little bakery run by a very nice lady at the above mentioned mini mall. We had some delicious donuts and strudel before continuing on.

On the other side of the station is the massive BMW factory. Adjacent to that is BMV Welt, a visitor’s center for all things BMW. Here, you can make arrangements to tour the factory, see the museum, browse all the BMW models on display, see their race cars, visit the gift shop, and…for some reason most fun of all…watch the people who travel here to pick up their new car right off the factory line.

There is a middle level where customers watch as their new car is brought up by elevator from the factory. Then it is driven onto a presentation turntable as the BMW people teach the new owners about their car. When done, they drive off down a massive ramp through the big public space.

After that, an exit out the back of the building leads to a pleasant walk to the Olympic stadium. You cross a bridge over the autobahn…the same bridge that led the athletes into the opening ceremony…and into the Olympic complex itself. It’s 2 Euros to go inside the stadium with its spider-web acrylic panels covering the stands. For an extra charge you can tour that roof…not accessible…and take a zip-line ride across to the other side.

Olympic Stadium

We left the stadium and a short walk later ended up at the Schwimhalle, the indoor pool where Mark Spitz won his then record of 7 gold medals. It is hot inside the pool area…like a sauna…so it felt very good to get out. These days, you can pay a small fee to go swimming and use the diving pool. The day we were there, the big pool was drained but the diving pool was more than big enough for the crowd.

Outside, the former Olympic area is now a rather large park where locals go to relax, have fun, and get some sunshine. There’s a nice lake loaded with swans, ducks, and geese; a large hill to climb; an even bigger tower to ride the elevator up to; and a walk of fame around the lake where celebrities have left their handprints and signatures in the cement, a la Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

Still having some time to kill, we walked back to the U-Bahn and caught a train back to the heart of town, Marienplatz. The elevator out of the station deposits you directly on the main plaza, saving you a lot of walking that you do at other stations.

Marienplatz is your typical, medieval style European town square with its many ornate buildings, churches, and street performers except this time, not much of it is ancient. Most of this area was bombed into oblivion during World War II and what you see is a very good recreation of what was here before. We’ll return to the plaza later in the trip, today we want to go to the local market, the Viktualienmarkt, located a couple of blocks away from the plaza behind Sankt Peter Kirche (Saint Peter’s Church).

The Viktualienmarkt

One of the great things to do in any European city is to explore the local market. Here, along with the usual produce stands are wine shops, cheese makers, butter dealers, sausage counters, flower shops, and more. The centerpiece is the biergarten (beer garden) sitting in the middle. Around 100 tables sit here. The few with table cloths are for service by the waitresses. The rest are open to anybody. Browse the market, pick up a picnic, and take a table. A couple of beer stands will be more than willing to quench your thirst.

Our first trip to a real German beer garden is initially intimidating…we are rookies on protocol…but we soon get the gist. A stand at one end sells food. We get some big red sausages, served with your choice of sauerkraut or roasted and pickled potatoes. We get one of each. You can also get the sausage served on a roll or with a pretzel. 

The beer stand next door has big mugs of cold brew on the counter. Take as many as you like, pay the guy on the way out, and make your way back to your table. Now eat, drink, and start talking to the friendly locals sitting around you.

It helps to at least have some basic phrases learned in the local language before you go, such as greetings, asking for directions, or ordering food. You’ll find that this breaks the ice and that once you open up, many Muncheners also speak English. They’re very friendly here in the beer garden and we have a great time hanging out with them.

We walk back to our hotel, taking in our first, major glimpses of the city before settling down for the night. It’s only a 10 minute walk back, or two stops on the underground.

The next day is depressing. There’s no way around it, but this is something that I think is necessary to do. Today is the day we go to Dachau.

It’s less than half an hour by S-Bahn to Dachau…which is a lovely little village…and then about a kilometer bus ride to the memorial which was Hitler’s first concentration camp, now a memorial to Nazi Germany’s victims.

Entrance is free but there is a charge for the audio tour. The entire site is wheelchair accessible save for the re-created barracks.

The infamous gate has those German words telling you your work would set you free. The big building by the entrance served as a processing center for newly arrived prisoners. Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and Catholic priests made up most of the population at this camp. It was not an extermination center like Auschwitz, but over 30,000 prisoners died here during its operation.

A graphic and brutal documentary starts off the tour (note – the museum is not recommended for children under 12 years old) and there is an eerie silence, although that is much more appreciated than it would be if smiling, laughing tourists were milling about.

It’s an overwhelming place, also noting that disabled people were also on the list of victims. A lot here is hard to stomach…

The barracks which held up to 5,000 prisoners each while only having 11 toilets installed; the “kill zone”…a strip of green grass before the fence where guards had free reign to shoot on sight; the wall where prisoners were executed by firing squad with a little ditch dug in front to catch the blood; the mass graves.

The worst, however, are the crematoria. First, a small building with two ovens for body disposal. When that proved unable to cope with the demand, a second larger facility was built next door.

The Ovens

A macabre assembly line, this building was made for prisoners to enter at one end, strip in the waiting room, lead into the “shower room”…a gas chamber, had the bodies stored in the next room before being burned in the new room with four ovens. Although it is claimed that the gas chamber was never used, some theorize that it had at least been tested because the Nazi authorities were assured that it worked. Nonetheless, all the other rooms in this facility were used…in fact overburdened…for their intended functions. There are still metal rings in the rafters where prisoners were hung before their bodies were fed to the flames.

Incongruously, the area around the camp is beautiful making the shock even more disturbing. Perhaps in an effort to cleanse the awful spirit of the camp, there are four religious chapels and a convent now on the grounds.

In need of some serious cheering up, we skipped the next train out that carried most of the hundreds of visitors in our group and stayed behind in the village for some coffee and dessert. It was quiet, the sweets delicious, and the friendly people of the café eased our disquiet somewhat over what we had just experienced.

Back in Munich, we have dinner at the Augustiner Kellar biergarden, which is a two-block walk from our hotel. Munich has around 400 beer gardens and halls and it is our intention to make a big as dent possible on this number!

The Augustiner, a few acres behind a stone wall, has both. The garden is like a nice park that happens to serve beer and food. There’s even a playground here.

The Augustiner Beer Garden

Snack stands are sprinkled around the periphery selling deli sandwiches, fish, roasted chicken, and more. The main area has a cafeteria-like setting of five stands where you grab a tray and take ‘em on, one at a time. The first stand has kuchen…German for cake. In this case, it’s much like a puffed pancake. If you’ve had fried dough, Indian fry bread, or elephant ears, this is similar except it seems there’s a yeast component that makes it fluff up. It’s exceedingly delicious and we found ourselves going back to this stand frequently.

Next, you can get those great, big German ham hocks with their delicious crackly skin and juicy meat; a variety of sausages; cheeses; salads; soft drinks; light beer; and then the last stand with the cold, Augustiner brew being poured out of a wooden keg into liter sized glasses. A basket of fresh, large pretzels completes the menu. This, and the Viktualienmarkt, turned out to be our favorite places to eat here.

Our hotel features a big, bountiful and hot breakfast buffet at their Italian restaurant next door. That’s one thing I like about German hotels, breakfast is almost always included in the rate..if you find a hotel that doesn’t, skip it and keep looking.

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.

Well fed and rested up, we head over to the Hauptbanhof 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 Hauptbanhof. 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

Friday, November 1, 2019

Up Close and Personal with the Motherlode: Gold Mine Touring in Placerville, California

When you're in a wheelchair, there are certain features of geography that are usually off-limits for you...beaches, water sports, when you do find something that goes against the grain, you jump on it with a vengeance.

We'll do what it takes to make it work if it's even just hinting at being accessible like the time we went zip lining down a Costa Rican volcano with Tim, hiked to the top of the tallest mountain in Tennessee, trekked through an alligator infested swamp in South Carolina, went on an air boat adventure in the Everglades...but this time, it required no effort at all other than an easy 40 minute drive from home.

Here in California's Gold Country, there are hundreds of mines. Most of them long closed and pretty dangerous to explore for anybody. When they were active, none were ever thinking about becoming tourist attractions. Some are open for surface tours the Kennedy Mine in Jackson...and extremely few allow visitors to actually tour the shafts and tunnels. Those that do stress that it is not an adventure for those who are not physically up to going up and down shafts, hiking in the dark over rough and rocky terrain, or having to climb stairs or ladders.

You can imagine my surprise when I found a mine tour, fairly close to home, that welcomed people of all abilities. It's only a 40 minute drive, so we'll give it a shot. If it doesn't work, we're still in a very nice area of the state where we can at least have a picnic and browse the downtown shops of one of the state's great Gold Rush towns.

We'll go up to Placerville and have a little picnic at the park before starting. Our local police chief owns a peach farm down in the central valley town of Linden. He sells them at local farmers markets and also at our town's grocery store. I pick up a couple, plus some string cheese and prosciutto. This will make for a nutritious but not too filling snack to hold us over until we get a big meal when we're done here.

We arrive at Gold Bug Mine and Park, just about a mile north of Highway 50 in Placerville. Handicap parking is easy and right by a large, shaded picnic pavilion so we head in there to have our light meal.

At the gift shop, the lady at the counter points me up a staircase to buy tickets for the mine tour. At the top...especially since I just climbed a flight of stairs...I share my concern with the lady selling tickets that maybe it might not be so accessible.

"Oh no, it's completely accessible. There's a ramp out the back door of the gift shop that will lead you up here and to the mine entrance."

I go back down and the three of us go up that ramp, being careful to stay on the path to avoid the poison oak growing just beyond the handrail. At the top, we go into the ticket office and get fitted with hard hats. It's a requirement for Letty and I, optional for Tim. I'll find out why later.

We pay for our tickets ($9 each today) and the lady guides us into installing an app on our phone. This will be the audio tour when we're in the mine. We connect to the park's wifi and are shown what to do. In the mine, there are numbers on the wall. You tap the corresponding number on the app and a narrator explains that stop on the tour.

The floor has been boarded over or paved and it's a flat journey that's easy on wheelchairs all the way to the far reaches of the shaft. At the very deepest point, there's about 20 feet with ore car rails embedded into the ground but it poses no real challenge to Tim's chair.

Along the way, we're treated to large holes in the ceiling (called stopes) where miners would follow the gold bearing quartz. There are small holes drilled into the walls where dynamite was packed in to blow the rocks apart.

Letty and I also keep banging our heads on the low roof...hence the reason for the hard hats. Tim's OK down in his chair, though.

Here and there, water seeps through and you can see the beginnings of stalactites forming on the ceiling.

At the end of the shaft, a couple of ore cars sit on the tracks while representation of explosive fuses hang from the walls. An air shaft reaches up 110 feet to allow fresh air in. You can feel the slight breeze.

On the way back, we learn about the wooden bracing to prevent cave ins and closely inspect the white quartz veins, looking for the sparkle of gold.

In the warm Placerville sun outside, we turn in our helmets and head to the gift shop. Two bucks gets us a pan for an hour and we head outside.

Water troughs filled with dirt have been salted with pieces of gemstones that you can mine with your pan until you've had your fill.

After about 15 minutes, we fill a couple of small vials with small pieces of colorful, broken rocks.

It's been a fun and interesting day, and another notch on our list of things we didn't think we'd be able to do with Tim's wheelchair. Now, time to head back down the gold rush highway (highway 49) to home....stopping just to get some delicious barbecue at Poor Reds in El Dorado along the way.

Darryl Musick
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