Windy City Smoke Out

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For the past few summers we have been going to the Windy City Smoke Out in Chicago. It is a country festival with tons of great barbecue and music. Every time we go, we have a blast. You can’t go wrong with delicious food,  great music and a beautiful view.

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There is a ton to look at while you wonder around the fest and it is pretty easy to get around in a wheelchair. The one obstacle you might face is just trying to maneuver through the crowds of people.

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They do have handicap bathrooms and the handicap section is actually right in front of the stage. This year the section was a little on the smaller side, but nevertheless it was still amazing to be that close to the stage and the artists. The first two days they allowed all of us to go in the handicap section. There was three of us. But by the third day, they told us only one person could go with Gary in the handicap section. They did eventually tell us we could all go in.  I would be aware however, that if you bring a group with you, there is a limit to how many you can bring in the section.

Overall the fest is awesome and accessible. We definitely recommend checking it out if you enjoy country music!LRG_DSC00590

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Sailing in Newport

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Every year we go to Newport, RI to sail in the Thomas Clagett Regatta. It really is an awesome event for disabled sailors. The volunteers and the sponsors are just amazing and of course the competition is great. The reason we get to partake in this wonderful event is because of the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation. If you live close to Chicago and want to participate in adaptive sailing, you need to check them out. It is truly a wonderful foundation and every year they send Gary and other adaptive sailors to several locations to compete in sailing races. And of course Newport, RI is one of the locations we get to travel to through the foundation.

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They always put us up in the The Seamen’s Church Institute for lodging. It was originally built for sailors and fisherman, but now welcomes all types of visitors. There are two bathrooms that are shared among the guests. Two rooms and one of the bathrooms are ADA compliant. The rooms and bathrooms are very basic and nothing fancy, but very clean and  for us it works out perfectly. The hotel is close to the ferry that takes Gary to his sailing location at Fort Adams and is also right downtown. The bars and restaurants are just steps away. There is limited availability since there are just a few rooms, so you definitely need to book ahead. But we definitely recommend the Seamen’s Institute to anyone who is looking for something right downtown and doesn’t care if it’s not a five star hotel.

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Here are some pictures of one of the ADA compliant rooms and the bathroom.

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Newport is such a cute little area. Tons of bars and restaurants. Not the greatest with accessibility because of cobblestones and older buildings, but we definitely managed and had a great time. And despite the older buildings and cobblestones streets, there are still plenty of restaurants and bars that are ADA friendly. Just look at how beautiful it is!

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Gary did finish second in his division! Spot him in the bright green shirt!

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Nashville CMA Fest

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We have always loved Nashville and have been there multiple times, but have never been to the CMA Fest. It did not disappoint. There was so much to do everyday and so many artists. If you are a country music lover, this is a must. The stadium you see above was the Nissan Stadium and the main performance stage at night.  There were multiple locations to see different artists and handicap shuttle buses to take you around to each location. There were performances all day long starting relatively early and would go all the way until midnight. So there is plenty to do just at the festival, but it was pretty hot outside, so during the day we ventured out and did a few other things around Nashville. It was a perfect balance for us. In terms of accessibility, the fest was pretty well equipped. The shuttle buses were very convenient and the handicap seats were decent. The only issue we had was the seating arrangements at the Nissan Stadium. They would only allow you two seats for the handicap seating area and we had four people. It ended up working out as they didn’t give the surrounding seats to anyone, so we were all able to crash there every night. The biggest issue being wheelchair bound at this festival is just maneuvering through the crowds. There were so many people! Don’t let this deter you, it is worth the hassle. We would definitely recommend to check this festival out!

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CMA Fest Hotel Stay

FullSizeRender-6.jpgLast week we went down to Nashville for the CMA fest. We decided to stay away from the downtown area and ended up staying in Brentwood. It’s about 10 miles away from downtown. We stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton. There was nothing fancy about the hotel but it was clean and modern. There is a restaurant in the hotel and in the same parking lot there is a target, Panera and a bunch of other businesses. We did get an accessible room and an adjoining regular room. The room was nice and there was space for Gary to get around.

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The bathroom on the accessible side was on the larger side and had a roll in shower. But as you can see in the picture below, the shampoo, conditioner and soap are on the opposite side of the shower head. So if you put the shower bench back far enough to reach the shampoo, you can’t reach the shower head and vice versa. Poorly designed but easy enough to figure out. We have noticed this design in a couple of hotels and it really doesn’t make much sense. This obviously wouldn’t deter us from coming back, just a minor nuisance.

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The adjoining bathroom was not accessible, but we only needed the one accessible bathroom so it worked out perfectly. We had plenty of space between the two rooms. The adjoining room had a pull-out couch and the hotel also provided a cot if needed. Here is a picture of the second room and bathroom.

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FullSizeRender-3.jpgThe one negative we found was that the pool wasn’t open. They said it was closed for construction around the hotel and for liability purposes. However, it was about 90 degrees or close to it daily, so it would have been really nice to have the pool. The pool is on the smaller side but it does have a lift. Besides the pool, the overall experience was a good one. We would recommend it if you are looking for something less fancy and more functional.

Overall Hotel experience: thumbs ↑

Pool: thumbs ↓

Hotel room: thumbs ↑

Location: thumbs ↑

Bathroom: thumbs ↑

Secrets Puerto Los Cabos

IMG_0068_2.jpgA few months ago we went to Cabo San Lucas for a little get away with some friends. We ended up staying at Secrets Puerto Los Cabos. The surrounding area and drive to the resort was just beautiful.

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After getting to the resort they didn’t have an handicap accessible room for us, so they upgraded us to a room with a swim out pool. The room had plenty of room for Gary to move around, but the room still wasn’t accessible. The shower had a step to get in, so we had to bump Gary up to get into the shower.  So there wouldn’t be a way you could shower if you were on your own. Now, they did tell us the accessible room would be available the next night, but we decided to stay in our room and make it work since we had the swim out pool and we were already unpacked. Of course there wasn’t a lift for the swim out pool, but it was a very nice view.

The hotel in general was very nice and we had a blast. We pretty much just stayed by the pool and hung out with our friends the whole time. We never really made it out of the resort, nor did we check out the beach. The best part of the hotel was that it was all inclusive. The restaurants were hit or miss. Some of the restaurants were delicious others were just so so. But hey, everything was included, so you could really order as much as you wanted or go to a different restaurant if you weren’t satisfied. The pool and swim up bar were nice but unfortunately no pool lift. So we would give the pool a thumbs down for being wheelchair friendly. Luckily we had friends there to help us get in and out of the pool.

So overall rating for wheelchair users

Room: thumbs ↓

Hotel: thumbs ↑

Pool: thumbs ↓

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Vegas

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We took a weekend trip to Las Vegas for a friend’s birthday and ended up staying at the SLS Hotel. The hotel is relatively newer on the strip and is close to the Stratosphere hotel. We were able to get a handicap accessible room and the hotel was connected to the monorail train. These are some of the positives of the hotel. The hotel itself is nice and is a little bit on the smaller side, nothing too fancy and not a lot of traffic. The restaurants in the hotel that we tried were just okay. Nothing special and definitely on the pricey side. The room itself was small, but enough room for Gary to get around. The bathroom was nice with a built in shower bench. And we believe this trend is seen in all of the hotels in Vegas, but what is with all the carpet? There were carpets on the ramps and just about everywhere, making it harder for Gary to wheel around.  In addition to the carpet, we will say that the pool was nothing great. It was on the smaller side and was broken up into two halves that were not connected. No lift either. So the pool was a thumbs down in our opinion and the overall hotel experience just okay. So if you are looking for an handicap accessible hotel in Vegas, you may want to look elsewhere for better options.

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So besides staying at the hotel, we made it out to Freemont street, saw a show, found a great breakfast place off the strip, visited Lasher sport  wheel chair shop, walked the strip and went to the Wynn buffet. If you are out in Vegas please check out Lasher sport. He has the best materials and technology for creating wheelchairs and is really friendly and knowledgable. Check him out!

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Shown below are a few pictures of Makers and Finders. A great breakfast spot off the strip. Check them out!

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Inside the buffet. Probably the best buffet we ever had!

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Ireland Adventures

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Some of the friendliest people you will ever meet are the Irish. Meeting some of the locals was one of the best experiences of our Ireland trip. One local definitely stood out  in helping us enjoy our trip to the fullest. His name is Jonny Mac and he owns a tour guide company called Jonny Mac’s famous Ireland tours. As far as we know, he has the only tour company in Dublin that caters to wheelchair users. He has a handicap accessible van and will take you pretty much anywhere you would like to go for a day trip from Dublin. We decided to go see Giant’s Causeway and along the way he took us through Belfast, to the Dark Hedges (shown in Game of Thrones), a beautiful broken down castle, a little cafe with the best scones we ever tasted and then to a quaint restaurant with delicious oysters. It was an amazing day and we have to thank Jonny for that. Not only is he friendly and easy going, he was very helpful to Gary. His personality is one where you feel as if you been friends for years. Easy to talk, very knowledgable about local history and knew the all the best spots to explore. We would have never found all these wonderful restaurants, little towns, and beautiful history without him. Traveling with him really took the stress out of site seeing, as he did all the work for us. We highly recommend him!  A must if you are traveling to Ireland.

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Ireland Accessible Hotels

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When we went to Ireland last year we were a little afraid of how accessible the accommodations would be. To our surprise we actually booked two hotels that were perfectly accessible and very nice. We ended up staying at the Brooks Hotel in Dublin and the g Hotel in Galway.

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Both had accessible rooms, however, there wasn’t an accessible room left at the g Hotel. We did call ahead of time to both hotels to check on how our accommodations would be. When we called the g Hotel, they said that all their handicap accessible rooms were booked, but they would make sure that we had a room that had a roll in shower that was accessible for Gary.  The staff was great on the phone and in person. The g Hotel’s room was huge and beautiful. They upgraded us to a Luxury suite, so that we could have a roll in shower. The bathroom was very roomy and modern, but the roll in shower was a little tricky. The shower itself was huge, but the door into the shower was a little narrow. We were still able get Gary’s chair through with enough room to transfer to a shower bench, even though it was a little tight. We would definitely recommend this hotel. We can’t speak for the actual accessible rooms, but the non-accessible Luxury suite was as good as some of the hotels out there that claim to have accessible rooms. This is one of the nicest hotels in Galway, but just be aware that it’s a little far to walk to the downtown area of Galway. A cab will probably be necessary most days. If you are staying in Galway, check out the g Hotel. You won’t be disappointed!

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Now, let’s make our way back to Dublin and back to the Brooks hotel. The accessible room was an average size, but very clean and upscale. The bathroom was a decent size with a roll in shower. The room and hotel worked out perfect for us. It was a perfect location. There were plenty of restaurants, bars, museums and shopping to walk/roll to.  We loved this hotel! If you are staying in Dublin and looking for an accessible room, please check out the Brooks hotel!

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In both hotels, the included breakfast is amazing. You can order anything off the breakfast menu and there is a buffet as well. This is not your holiday inn type of breakfast buffet, this is very upscale dinning with delicious food with all sorts of options. One of the best parts of the trip was stuffing ourselves with the gourmet breakfast foods before we went exploring.

Unfortunately, we don’t have many pictures of the hotels themselves except the second picture shown above, but we did manage to capture some pictures of the surrounding areas.

 

Joe’s Bar

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If you are looking for the perfect spot in Chicago to listen to live music, Joe’s Bar is your place. Joe’s is large enough for a big stage, yet small enough to were it is an intimate space to enjoy music. Because it is on the smaller side, you can pretty much see anywhere you stand, except of course if you are in a wheelchair. But one of the nice things about Joe’s is they always cater to people in wheelchairs or with other disabilities. They always let Gary go in before everyone else to get a spot up front where he can actually see. Or there is a raised platform on the side of the stage that is for VIPs, but they usually let us go up there because it is easier for Gary. Although it isn’t as close as front and center stage, there is a bar connected to the platform and easier access to the restroom. So we tend to pick that spot if we can, but if you would rather be closer to the stage, it may not be for you. To each his own, right? The staff couldn’t be nicer and are always willing to help Gary. Next time you are looking for a place to listen to some tunes, check out Joe’s Bar on Weed Street.

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If you are looking for a new band to follow, check out Cadillac Three ! A mix between southern rock and country. They are amazing live.

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Cancun Part Three

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One of the best restaurants we have tried in Cancun, hands down, is Puerto Madero. We actually went there twice last time we were in Cancun. It has beautiful views, a great atmosphere and even better food. Try the sashimi platter. It’s the one of the best we ever had. The portions of sashimi are huge and very tasty. The seafood, lobster, and steak are all amazing too. Unfortunately, we forgot to take pictures of the food. We were too busy enjoying it! Everything we have had off their menu is just wonderful. Oh, and they have a great wine selection as well. Getting into the restaurant is a little tricky. There is a ramp, but it isn’t quite up to code. It’s just a little steep, but still accessible. You may just need a little push, but the staff is more than willing to help. The staff are great too. Very helpful and accommodating. Please, if you are going to Cancun, you have to check out this restaurant. It won’t disappoint.

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View from our table.

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