Friday, April 29, 2022
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 Denver and, it's neighbor to the south, Colorado Springs...
Garden of the Gods: Mostly accessible. Great access at the visitor's centers and some wonderful, long, wheelchair accessible trails. Be sure to ask at the visitor's center for them to map out where the handicapped parking spaces are before driving into the park.
Seven Falls: Partially Accessible. Elevator up to a viewing platform mostly negates the fact that you will not be able to climb the stairs at the bottom of the falls.
17th Street Mall: Fully Accessible. Great place for a pub crawl in this famously beery city.
Coors Field: Fully Accessible.
Red Rocks Amphitheater: Mostly Accessible. Wheelchair seating in the first and last rows. When no show is on, a ramp gives access to the stage. Visitor's Center and trading post are fully accessible.
Denver Zoo: Fully Accessible.
Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Sunday, April 24, 2022
Colorado bills itself as the "Napa Valley of Beer." With over 100 microbreweries and a couple of major ones...including the massive Coors complex in Golden...the nickname is apt.
Kind of like Munich, you're never going to hit all the spots you want but we'll make an effort all the same. We did hit enough bars and breweries that we'll have to split this into two parts with the finale coming next week.
Our first stop was actually not a planned stop.We couldn't find the first one (we rectify that with next week's episode) and the second, Pint's Pub, has no wheelchair access.
Walking along 16th Street Mall, we step into the first bar we see that doesn't look like a chain. That's how we ended up at the Paramount Cafe, the bar and restaurant attached to the Paramount Theater.
It's dark with a lot of red lighting inside. It's also Happy Hour so we're able to get a little break on the price. Letty has the house beer, a Big Nose Brewery Wheat ale that is brewed next door. Tim and I have the New Belgium Trippel. You might be more familiar with this Boulder, Colorado's other beer brand, Fat Tire Ale.
Both are very good and as a bonus, we get to meet Denver Robo Mike, a fixture on the 16th Street roster of street performers. He's taking a break and we get to have a beer with him and chat about the NBA.
Next, we walk over to the Brown Palace Hotel, an absolutely beautiful, century old hotel that features a stained glass roof, its own artesian well, wrought iron railing, and the clubby Ship Tavern tucked into a corner off of the lobby.
In this dark little wood-paneled room, we try a Warsteiner from Germany that tasted a little skunky, the Avalanche Ale from local Breckenridge Brewery, and a glass of 10 year old port from Graham's. See the video above for some more from the hotel, which is an amazing place.
Our last stop this day is another Happy Hour at the Apaloosa Grill back on 16th Street. Here, all Colorado brews are only $3 a pint during Happy Hour, so I try a New Belgium Blue Paddle Ale, Letty gets the house merlot, and we share a shot of Casa Noble Crystal tequila. All very good.
That's it for today, be sure to watch the video above for much more detail about the pubs we visited and come back next week as we dig a little deeper into the local beer scene here in Denver.
Friday, April 22, 2022
During our recent pandemic state of emergency in California, our governor...Gavin Newsom...declared that only electric vehicles would be allowed to be sold (as new) in our state starting in 2035. President Biden declared a similar strategy with a plan that all 50% is all new vehicles sold starting in 2030 will have "zero emissions."
The question is, where does that leave wheelchair users?
Electric vehicles that are wheelchair accessible basically don't exist yet and it's not on Elon Musk's radar...or any other vehicle maker...at this time. So let's look at what is available.
Minivans...the most popular type of vehicle for conversion. Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda minivans are the most popular in the U.S. adaptive vehicle market. While you may be able to find a new Chrysler van for under $60k, the Toyotas and Hondas can go for a breathtaking $75k+.
The appeal to a minivan is having more room that a regular car while getting better mileage than a full-size van. There are also numerous options to have a hybrid power plant where you can plug it in to operate in electric mode while the gas engine would kick in when the electric power dwindles. This would add $10-20k to the price.
You can get not too old used vans for about half that price but you really don't know what you're getting until you drive it. Making sure you have a warranty and a right of refusal on delivery if you dont' like it can help with peace of mind on a used purchase.
The next option is for a full size van. The pros are that you have a lot of room, the cons are that you won't get the mileage you do with a minivan. That is getting better, though.
While a 2014 Ford E-150 van (the last year that Ford made that model) got 12 miles to the gallon in the city and 17 on the highway, the replacement Transit now gets over 15 miles per gallon. That's about the same as a Chrysler Pacifica minivan.
Still, the price for a new Transit van (or Ram or Mercedes, which are very similar) can go for almost $100,000.
Alternatively, used adapted Transit vans in good condition can range in the $40-50k and above neighborhood.
More conventional full size vans...think Ford Econoline, Dodge Ram Vans, Chevey 1500s...can also be found used, already adapted, for more reasonable prices.
Other options include SUV's that have been adapted such as Ford Explorer, Honda Element and Pilot, Scion xB, and Ford Transit connect. Prices are about the same as for minivans and can be a good option for better mileage if you can fit comfortably...for us, we've tried these and Tim's chair just doesn't quite fit.
There are several mobility dealers in the U.S. that can help you find and finance an adapted vehicle for you...
Mobilityworks is a large chain of vehicle dealers
AMS Vans has locations in Georgia and Arizona and ships nationwide (this is where we bought our current van)
Sunset Vans in Southern California has some decent prices
Plus many more that you can Google.
BLVD.com is an online-classified newspaper dealing in adapted vehicles where you can find some of the cheapest prices, mostly from private sellers.
So what did we end up with? We've gone through a range of accessible vehicles, mostly Chrysler minivans, a Dodge full size van, and Ford full size vans.
For us, the best combination of room needed, dependability, and cost of ownership are the Ford E-Series vans but the problem is Ford stopped making these vans after the 2014 model year and replaced them with the Transit line, which doesn't quite do the job for us like the E-Series does.
We were lucky to find a low-mileage (under 14k) Ford E-150, already adapted, for $30,000 just before the pandemic. Last time I checked, an almost identical van with more than double the mileage was for sell at the same dealer for almot $50k.
Our plan is to maintain it as well as we can to make it last as long as we can.
Copyrigh 2022 - All Rights Reserved
Monday, April 18, 2022
After thirty-plus years of using and adapting vehicles to carry Tim in his wheelchair, we may have learned a thing or two about what to look for when buying an accessible vehicle. Hopefully, these tips can be helpful to you when you're shopping.
When looking for an accessible vehicle, the first question is are you going to be the driver, passenger, or a little of both? This matters so that the driver's spot can be modified for you if you're going to drive. If you're not driving, you can save money by leaving the driver's seat just as it is.
Let's start off with drivers...you'll need to have the seat removed (you can also use a removable seat so that others can drive, too, such as the Step and Roll seat) and, if the floor of the vehicle is lowered, you'll need to lower this part of the floor to the same level. Most of the time, the vehicle will be a van which you will probably enter via the back side door, or the back door, and roll into the driver's position.
You may need to have hand controls installed to operate such controls the accelarator, brakes, and maybe a knob for the steering wheel.
Your wheelchair will need to be strongly secured so it does not shift while driving. Four point straps are usually used for passengers but if you're an independent driver, these may be very hard to strap on yourself. You'd probably want to use an automatic docking system such as the EZ Lock.
A ramp is more basic than a lift and can be manually operated or power operated. Ramps are nice because they don't need as much maintenance and are more reliable that a lift.
Your other choice is a lift. This will be power operated and acts like an elevator to lift you and your wheelchair from the ground to the floor level of your van, where you can then roll in. These would normally be installed on a full-size van or other larger, higher clearance, vehicles such as a bus.
Next, you will probably need to have your van modified by a certified body shop to either lower the floor or raise the roof, unless you are not very tall in your chair. For example, our son is 52 inches tall in his chair and the space from the floor to the ceiling in our previous van was 55 inches meaning he could ride inside without modifications other than the lift. He did have to lower his head to fit through the door, though.
In the United States, Sure-Lok and Q-Straint are the leading manufacturers of wheelchair restraint systems. Fortunately, this is one thing that isn't incredibly expensive. A restraint system can be installed in your vehicle for between $500-$1000.
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved
Sunday, April 17, 2022
It's another stop on the wide world of beer as Tim and I put three tripels to the test. A tripel (or triple, or trippel...depeding on how the brewery wants to spell it) is simply defined as a Belgian strong ale.
Why tripel? It's hard to pin down. My research points up to two reasonable explanations...
1. It's got more alcohol than a dubbel, which has more than a regular ale. Legend has it that this is where the "X" in describing alcohol. A keg of Belgian ale would have an "X" for a regular ale, "XX" on the keg for the next level of strength, and "XXX" for the strongest.
2. It uses triple the amount of malt in the fermentation...this is the description New Belgium Brewery uses on their entry, so I'd give that some credence too.
All were very good but one really stood above the others for superior taste and drinkability...and it's probably not the one you guessed.
See the video above for the whole tasting and see who came in head and shoulders above the others in this strong ale taste off.
Friday, April 15, 2022
Inflation and world unrest have really done a number on gas prices this year. While the economy and governmental policies are pushing us towards an electric vehicle future, it's not here yet for most people and for special needs people that need an adapted vehicle in particular (check this article out to get depressed about the state of accessibiltiy adapted electic vehicles).
Along with the gas prices, the cost of an adapted vehicle is through the roof. Used vans less that five years old are going for over $40k. New ones can push the price upwards between $75-100k.
If you already have a vehicle, the only choices are to look for cheaper fuel or drive less.
One thing you may be able to do is use an alternative fuel. In our case, our van is a Flex Fuel enabled vehicle. That means we can use a blend of up to 85% ethanol (15% gasoline) in our car in place of gasoline.
You can tell if your car is flex fuel enabled by looking at the fuel fill point...if it is yellow or has a yellow cap, that indicates that your car can use flex fuel. Most flex fuel vehicles also have a badge on the bodywork.
With all that in mind, I decided to check it out. Our nearest gas station that sells E-85 (the name for 85% ethanol) is in Placerville, California. The day we went, the price for regular gasoline was $5.85 per gallon. The E-85 was $3.99 per gallon (the same day, a gallon of regular at the nearest Costco 15 miles away was $5.29 per gallon), a savings of $1.86 per gallon. Our van can hold 35 gallons so a tank of E-85 would cost $45 - $65 less than gas at the cost of fuel as I type this.
That is a very significant amount of money but how does it perform compared to gasoline?
Our van is a 2014 Ford E-150 van with a 5.4 liter V8 engine. Using gasoline, we get about 12 miles per gallon driving around our neighborhood and about 15 miles per gallon on the highway. The E-85 comes in at a mile per gallon less...11 around our neighborhood.
At that MPG, the fuel cost is 45-48 cents per mile for gas and 33 cents per mile for E-85, enough that there's still a substantial savings per tank using E-85 over gasoline.
The pros of using E-85 in our van also include increased performance from our engine. E-85 has an equivalent of over 100 octane. It's a renewable fuel, for the most part, made from corn, sugar cane, and other plant products which also help with carbon capture while growing.
Some of the cons of using E-85 include availability. In our area, it is not widespread. The closest three stations that do sell it are over 25 miles away. I need to make sure I have a reason to be there to make it worthwhile.
Other concerns are that the ethanol content may vary. E-85 only needs 51% ethanol to be able to be labeled "E-85," so you may not be getting quite what you think you are and there is still some CO2 being released although it is quite a bit less than gasolines emissions. Older vehicles may also have parts, like rubber seals, that can be negatively affected by ethanol.
So, it it worth it? For us, at current fuel prices, it is certainly worth it if we're in need of fuel and near a station that sells it. With the information above, as they say, your mileage may vary.
Click this link to find fuel stations that sell E85 fuel near you.
Copyrigh 2022 - All Rights Reserved
Monday, April 11, 2022
Living through Covid restrictions was bad enough. Now, inflation has made everything very expensive which can create big difficulties if you live in poverty or a fixed income.
Time to start coming up with strategies to save and conserve our money.
Today, we're talking about getting everything done in one trip...combining errands to save on gas. Getting 4-5 stops in on one trip certainly makes better financial sense that going somewhere just for one thing.
Where we live, it's a good 25 miles to the nearest Costco, Target, Trader Joe's, Marshalls, etc...all stores we like to shop at for their prices and quality. We also need to go that far if we need a medical specialist, such as an ophthalmoligist or dermatologist, that we can't get in our neighborhood.
That just means we need to plan on our calendar for a day out to do it all.
For example, let's say my wife has an appointment with her dermatologist in Elk Grove (a city just south of Sacramento about 30 miles from home). I may need a new pair of shoes so I'll drop her off and go to the nearby Famous Footwear to pick up a pair.
After picking her back up, we'll get a cheap lunch of Asian take out, In-n-Out, or something similar.
We'll head over to the Trader Joe's nearby where my wife and Tim will wait in the car while I run in to get coffee (our favorite is their tasty and inexpensive French roast) to stock our freezer - 8 bags of coffee will easily fit there and keep us caffeinated for a couple of months at 25 cents per pot.
We'll then head across the street to Costco and pick up another load of groceries (usually, enough for a couple of months) and make our last stop the gas station in the parking lot where we fill up on the cheapest gas around before heading home.
Yes, it takes a bit of gas to go those 30 miles each way but we'll save big in the long run if we can combine several errands while we're there...plus the gas is significanltly less "down the hill" than it is in our home up in the Sierra Foothills...so we'll come out well ahead when we're done.
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved
Sunday, April 10, 2022
We're visiting the land of blue cocktails today with this one. Actually, I was just playing around but this came out so good, I had to add it to the Cocktail Hour Canon.
Here's the recipe...
2 oz. coconut rum
1 oz. blue caracao
1 oz. lemon juice
In a glass full to the rim of ice, pour in the lemon juice, rum, and blue caracao...in that order. Enjoy.
Friday, April 8, 2022
As we all know by now 2020 was the year that most of us would like to forget due in large part to the havoc that COVID-19 caused for everyone in one way or another. Thankfully when the calendar flipped to the year 2021 our daily living routine started to slowly but surely get back to normal.
Since most people have now gotten the vaccine in one form or another, that means our lives can start to get back to a more normal way of living that existed before we even knew anything about the virus. For us that means being able to get out and about more often to explore new places and things to do in our local area and beyond.
The first of what is hopefully many more fun adventures that made 2021 more fun than was the Calaveras County Fair in the town of Angels Camp, California. The 2021 Calaveras County Fair was held from May 13 through May 16.
We went on the first day that the fair was held for a few hours of fun. One of the more interesting sights that we saw as we were driving into town on our way to the fairgrounds was the vast amount of what looked like freshly laundered clothes that were hung on a clothesline. We soon found out some time later that this is a Calaveras County tradition that takes place during the time when the county fair occurs.
After taking in the laundry scene in downtown Angels Camp, we finally arrived a short time after at the county fairgrounds site. After parking our car and buying our tickets, we spent most of the time there walking around checking out some of the fair exhibits and having some corn dogs to eat. We also came across a group of what looked like school kids who were part of a dancing group that we had to wait for to go by us each time we saw them.
While it was nice to experience the usual fun activities that are a part of any county fair, the main attraction of the Calaveras County Fair is seeing the annual jumping frog competition that has become a big part of Calaveras County's history ever since Mark Twain wrote about them in one of his books.
The annual jumping frog competition is held in an outside open area of the fairgrounds where the participants gather on a stage with their fellow amphibian competitors to determine which frog can jump the farthest. When we were there we got to see a few of these competitors in action. The basic fundamentals of the competition include people placing a frog on the stage and then kneeling down on the ground and using their outdoor voices so to speak to get the frogs to do about 2 to 3 jumps or so.
We stuck around for about an hour or so to watch the proceedings before we decided to call it a day and head back home from our first county fair experience in 2021.
Our next journey to a 2021 county fair was in July for the Amador County Fair in Plymouth. We had already been to the Amador County Fair a few times before we moved to where we live now so we had a pretty good idea of what there is to do there. After all we had been coming to the Amador County area off and on for many years before.
The theme for the 2021 edition of the fair was Back In The Saddle Again. This was most likely to poke fun at the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown that forced many of us to stay home during 2020 for health and safety reasons.
The list of things to do and see at the Amador County Fair include the usual suspects of carnival rides food booths and fair exhibits. A couple of our favorite exhibits in particular there are the outdoor tractor exhibit where you can see and hear a lot of neat old looking tractors and the animal livestock exhibit.
The 2021 fair was also a special one for us when it came to the exhibits area because my mom decided to enter one of her knitted shawls in the fair! After the competition was over we saw that the judges awarded her with a second place ribbon!
There is also a rodeo that takes place each year at the Amador County Fair each year but we didn't go to see it in 2021. When all was said and done the 2021 county fair season in our local area was very fun! We can't wait to see what's in store for the 2022 season!
Copyright 2022-All Rights Reserved.
Monday, April 4, 2022
AMADOR COUNTY RURAL COUNTRY LIVING: Enjoying Live Music In Amador County And Beyond In Northern California
At one point or another my family and I have been coming to Amador County and the surrounding area of Northern California for about 24 years now. The very first time any of us came to visit this area was when my parents went on a mini getaway by themselves when I was at summer camp all the way back in 1998. Since then, we had come back to visit the area so often and started to like it so much that we eventually decided it was the perfect place for us to move to after my dad retired from his job as an I.T. Specialist with the United States Department of Justice.
Fast forward to the year 2019 and that is exactly what we did. Looking back to that time, I guess it was a good thing that we made the move up Amador County when we did because it wasn't very long after that when the world was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Luckily for us we already had over a full year under our belts as new residents of the area to have new experiences and memories before everything would be completely shut down for a long period of time. One of our favorite activities that we had started looking forward to doing every year since our very first visit to the area was to see the various musical concerts that were held at local wineries and other venues that featured some very famous big name bands as well as some very good local groups and musicians.
During a normal year, the various concert events that make Amador County and other parts of Northern California a fun place to be usually begin in the Spring and go on well into the Summer months.
One of the first concerts we went to after we first moved to the Northern California area before the start of the pandemic was to see the Quebe Sisters in Sutter Creek. The Quebe Sisters are a western swing band that came to the area in March of 2019 to do a performance at the Sutter Creek Theatre.
The first time we had ever heard of them was when they made an appearance on the Marty Stuart Show on RFD TV and we really liked their music by the end of that show. By the end of the show in Sutter Creek, it turned out to be another good one and my dad Darryl was lucky enough to get a picture with the band members after it was over.
The next big music event that we found ourselves at was a performance of the Legends of Country Rock concert tour in August of 2019 at Helwig Winery in Plymouth, California. At this concert there was a grand total of three very well known bands from the '70's who were considered legends of country rock. They were Poco, Firefall and Pure Prairie League It turned out to be a very good concert overall.
Pure Prairie League was the first of the three bands to take the stage. They played a lot of their big hits such as Amie, That'll Be The Day and Let Me Love You Tonight.
After they finished their set, there was an intermission period during which preparations were made for the next band to take the stage. While all of this was happening, my dad was once again able to get a picture taken with the Pure Prairie League band members.
After the conclusion of intermission the next of the three scheduled bands to take the stage was Firefall. They are known for the song called Just Remember I Love You, which they played, among other tunes as well.
Since they were the second of three bands to perform that night, that meant we were in store for another intermission period before the performance of the third and final band of the night that was Poco. Up to this point considering that the first two bands put on a very good performance overall we had high hopes that Poco would be just as good or better than the first two bands. We soon found out though however that the last band of the night would fall well short of the standard of excellence that was set by the first two bands.
If I'm not mistaken, I think there may have been a few concert goers who left the show a little early after Poco took the stage to do their set. I'm pretty sure we stayed all the way through to the end of the concert but that didn't change our opinion on which of the three bands had the best overall performance. Our final ranking for best overall performance at the 2019 Legends of Country Rock concert had Firefall take the number one spot followed by Pure Prairie League in the second position and Poco in third.
With the Legends of Country Rock concert in our rearview mirror, the next big concert on our 2019 live music itinerary took place at Harlow's Restaurant and Nightclub in Sacramento. It was there where we saw a band called Gaelic Storm in October of that year. They are a Celtic music band that was formed in Santa Monica, California in 1996. We were first introduced to their music a few years ago when we started watching one of their performances that was on the AXS TV channel. After we started to watch that particular performance, we started to really like the kind of music that they played.
Fast forward to now where we are now settled into the Northern California area, my dad noticed that they were going to be playing a show in the Sacramento area at Harlow's. Since we now residents of the local nearby area, it was an easy decision to say yes and get tickets for the show. The only downside was that it was going to be quite a drive going from the countryside into downtown Sacramento. The good thing though was that the concert was at the beginning of the week on a Monday night if I'm not mistaken.
When we finally arrived at Harlow's we saw that it was a very small establishment that had the vibe of some other small music venues in the L.A. area such as the Troubador. By the time the concert got underway it looked like there was standing room only with all the people that were inside.
Before Gaelic Storm took the stage there was a kids dancing group that performed as a warm up act. While it was nice to hear and see them perform the number one reason we went there was the for the Gaelic Storm main event! Once the festivities were underway we were treated to a very good show! Lead singer Patrick Murphy and the rest of the band did a great job of interacting with the crowd and keeping us all entertained.
Whenever they did a song of their that was a good one to dance to, Mr. Murphy would refer to it as a standy up song or something like that. One of the band's songs that I really like which they played that night is called The Night I Punched Russell Crowe. It is one of the bands funniest songs which was also inspired by a true story in which the lead singer punched actor Russell Crowe in the head while working at a bar in Santa Monica because Mr. Crowe refused to stop smoking a cigarette while he was in the bar.
After the concert was over we made our way back to where our van was parked and made our way back home after another satisfying night of music and fun. Since we made the move to Northern California, the three concerts that I have just described in great detail above are just a small sample size of the bands that we have seen since then.
The list of the other bands that we have seen perform since then consist mostly of some very good cover and tribute bands. Those bands are After Dark, The Kool Shifters...
...Petty Or Not (a Tom Petty tribute band)...
...The Rusty Rockers...
...and Funky Tim and the Merlots. We have seen all these bands play live at one time or another at local venues such as the Helwig Winery in Plymouth, the Italian Picnic Grounds in Sutter Creek, the Amador County Fair in Plymouth, the Kennedy Mine in Jackson, the Lodi Grape Festival and many more places. Ironstone Winery in Murphys located in Calaveras County also has a big amphitheater where they put on live concerts with big name bands such as Train and REO Speedwagon but we have not yet seen a concert from there up to this point.
Now that we are getting back into the swing of things to start 2022, we are looking forward to going to some more concerts and music events over the next few months as we head into the 2022 Spring and Summer seasons in Amador County and beyond!
Copyright 2022-All Rights Reserved.