Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Oh the Trials and Tribulations, and the Rewards, of Disabled Travel: Part Three

The Las Vegas Sign.
Image via Wikipedia
Per the title of this series, there are some rewards associated with disabled travel. Is it time to discuss those? No, not yet. Maybe next post.

Here are two more cases from my “trials and tribulations” folder.

The first night we arrived in Las Vegas, my friend Dave took Kim and me out to his favorite Italian restaurant. One of the nice things about exploring Las Vegas with a local resident is that you experience more than simply the glitzy mega-casinos on the strip. We enjoyed a lovely dinner and then walked (and rolled) down the street to a locals’ bar called Roadrunners. Naturally, we were anxious to begin squandering our hard-earned (and over-taxed) money in the shadowy world of Las Vegas gambling. The unwritten rule in Vegas is that if you sit at a bar and put money into a video poker machine, you get free drinks. Because we enjoy video poker anyway, we didn’t pay for many beverages (not that my current drinking habits result in a significant bar tab).

220px-International_Symbol_of_Access_svgEventually, as always seems to happen, and as I probably write about too often, I needed to use the bathroom. This particular establishment was of a size and age that would suggest accessible restrooms. I found the bathroom and was pleased to see the universal handicapped symbol on the door. I went in and noticed a stall at the far end, then wheeled up to it. It was not accessible – not even close. I looked around for the handicapped stall that had warranted such boasting on the bathroom door, but there was none. Liars!

As the beer continued to work on my bladder, I made the command decision to seek out a bathroom at one of the nearby establishments. Don’t worry; this was not a scary neighborhood.

I left the Roadrunner and zipped across the street to a convenience store, to try their bathroom on for size. When I exploit a business in this manner, I feel obligated to purchase an item from them. I mean, why should I benefit from their facilities without compensating them, if only in a minor way? But this time I took a stand, if only a minor one. Should I be required to pay to use the bathroom when everyone else gets to use one for free? No. So instead of purchasing an item that I didn't need or want, I gave a heartfelt “thank you” to the clerk and headed back to the Roadrunner. He didn’t seem to mind.

I had now frittered away 25 precious minutes of vacation time with my wife and friend. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence when I go out. As I’ve written before, so often my excursions into the world of the walkers become all about the bathrooms.

2011 04 108The next day we decided to spend some time with nature. Don’t laugh. There is more to Las Vegas than just the man-made glitz. It is smack in the middle of a desert – and deserts contain fascinating ecological and geological systems. They are particularly enchanting to those of us from the East Coast who rarely see this type of terrain. We visited a National Conservation Area called Red Rock Canyon- only a 30 minute drive from Dave's house. Dave knew that there were some hiking trails at the park, and he vaguely recalled that some of these trails were fairly flat. Based on his description, I thought that there was a reasonable chance that my iBot could handle the challenge. I also knew that if there was even one insurmountable obstacle, maybe a boulder in the middle of the trail or a fallen tree that any walking person could easily step over, that would end my hike.

We drove around the loop road and took in the beautiful scenery. Eventually we parked at a trailhead and decided to try our luck hiking. We had brought Dave's beautiful dog, Kayla, with us, as she is an accomplished hiker and an all-around pleasant companion. From where we parked, the trail appeared welcoming enough for my four-wheel-drive iBot wheelchair.

2011 04 141We made it around the first bend in the trail, and there was the ditch. It was good going before the ditch and good going after the ditch. If not for this obstacle, I might've been able a hike a considerable distance. But instead, my hike was complete after only 200 yards. If I was of a different mindset, or possessed a certain disposition or temperament, I might've let that ruin my day, or at least ruin my trip to Red Rock Canyon. But because my expectations were modest and realistic, and because I've coped with situations like this in the past, I shrugged it off and we continued our enjoyable drive around the park.

By making too much of accessibility-related frustrations, we instinctively avoid exposing ourselves to the risk of repeated failure, and miss out on potentially life-affirming experiences. For every ten of these (relatively) daring quests that I attempt, I probably fail seven times. But the three victories I enjoy render the misadventures insignificant and forgettable.

To be continued… Click here
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