Friday, May 09, 2014

Spectacular Arizona! Cities and Canyon experiences from April 2014

April bring mountain towners into what's called "mud season," after all the ski areas close and the visitors leave, and the locals pick up their toys and head south for adventures.  This year we headed to Arizona; we had been to Phoenix, but only briefly, in 2001, and Craig hadn't been to the Grand Canyon ever, so this was going to be a fun adventure indeed - as it always is!

We first spent a week in Phoenix exploring this truly fun and beautiful city, the biggest stops on our list worth mention were the Desert Botanic Gardens and Taliesin West.  Both were basically accessible.

The Gardens were a mostly flat course of rolling around on very fine pebble paths -thanks to Craig's knobby tires and strong arms, it wasn't an issue, although it might be a little tenuous in spots for someone in an older chair with less strength. We were very impressed with the Gardens, augmented by the Chihuly glass sculptures exhibit and the excellent dinner we had at their in house restaurant. We attended the evening session in which we toured the grounds in daylight, dined at the restaurant, and the quickly toured parts of the grounds again at dusk to see the lit-up glass structures, which were magnificent. We're delighted to announce that Chihuly's exhibit will be visiting the Denver Botanic Gardens next (June through November) so we'll hopefully get another glance and we highly recommend you do as well.

Taliesin West, the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright and students- still to this day, was very well adapted. Despite being told on the phone that the ramps were only 28" wide, they were indeed 32" and although steep in spots, not an issue for us.  He got into every building on the tour, and it was well worth the visit even though we were skeptical. It was inspiring, impressive, and affordable.

In addition, we also looked into golf in Phoenix. While this proved to be a little bit of a challenge, we managed to find a working SoloRider for our purposes, but also reached out to the City Manager about making sure their adaptive cart fleet was up to speed, and we can happily report they have made this a priority so the next time we visit, golfing will hopefully not be a challenge.  Supposedly all 6-7 of their municipal courses have a SoloRider or two, so any of them are options.  We used the one at Maryvale and found the staff to be extremely helpful and accomodating. The course was well shaded and fun. You can learn more about Phoenix Golf here.

After Phoenix we headed north to Sedona, but on the recommendation of my cousins, we visited the tiny cliff town of Jerome on the way. This wasn't the most accessible tourist spot, but it was worth a stop - or even a drive by if you have the time.  Extremely quaint, complete with a 100-year-old post office (original PO box dials in the front box room?), Jerome is nicknamed the "most wicked place in the west," we're not sure if it's for the people or the location. Hanging literally off the black hills themselves, the switchback road has 180 degree corners and the shops, restaurants, homes, all seem to be on a tilt. There is a step up to some of the shops, but not all of them. The vibe of the place is groovy, like all the old Sedona hippies left the growing metropolis to find solitude here.

Sedona was just up our alley - crystal shops, vortices, gluten free restaurants, red rocks, gorgeous drives and vistas, and a wide range of affordable lodging.  What we road tested for you:
  • We stayed at the Sedona Real Inn, the accessible room there was awesome, the staff was extremely amenable (complete with concierge), the breakfasts were filling (average), and the price was great. See the first photo below of the accessible shower - among the best we've seen. 
  • We had our two dinners at Picazzo's Organic Italian Kitchen where everything on the menu - including Andy's ravioli- was gluten free, and Thai Palace Uptown.  Both were delicious. 
  • Drive up to the Airport and catch a sunset or a sunrise - the closest vortex on the map, you can really feel the energy swirling up here. There's a parking lot, complete with two handicap spots, and a short trail or just a pull out to sit at, your choice. Bring a dollar or two, there's a donation bucket for local parks there. 
  • We also drove the short drives out of the main town to see the other vortex spots, with great views of red rocks along they way.  
  • If you're a slow walker, you can also do the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park - a 1/4mi. and 100-200ft inclining dirt trail climbs to this amazing prayer park, but it's not accessible to wheelchairs. That said, there was a sign there that said call for access, so if we'd made advance arrangements, we think you can get the key to drive right up to it. It's really a powerful spot, so it'd be worth it. 

Other than this we ran out of time to explore Sedona further so we'll just have to go back!

Moving on to the Grand Canyon!  On our way, we visited Bearizona, an animal park/preserve that has some great views of animals if your family is into that. I could flood this already-lengthy blog post with adorable pictures of baby bears playing and owls flying so close to our heads they'll knock you over, but you get the picture. Check it out, it's a sweet spot.

Once in the canyon - We were truly awestruck by this amazing 7th Wonder. It was a place that no picture or description can fully describe, you simply have to see it for yourself.  We'd managed to get a copy of Candy Harrington's brand new Grand Canyon guidebook before we went, and got a few great tips out of it for our needs - number one is ask for the accessible driving pass at the entrance gate, with it comes a code that lets you drive to the end of Hermit's Rest where only shuttle busses go. This was a special treat for us because it meant having our cooler with us for a picnic in the middle of a long day.

If you think every view will be the same, you're wrong. Stop at every one as we did, and be impressed in a new way every time. But don't be stupid and go too close to the edge. They pull 250 people out of the canyon every year, and most years a dozen people leap or fall accidentally over the edge. Those 1000-foot cliffs aren't forgiving.

We love camping and stayed at one of the accessible spots in the Mather Campground and it was perfectly convenient and predicable for us - near the restroom, flat tent area, protective metal fire ring. But a few of the lodges look right into the canyon and we think the next time we visit we'll step up and book a room just for the views.  A warm shower would be nice too - camping in April in the Canyon can be cold, our nights dipped into the low 30s. The last time Andy camped there in 1998 they got snowed on.

We also squeezed in a visit to the Grand Canyon IMAX and for those of us who aren't doing the hiking, a flight trip, or the mules, make this movie a stop during your stay. It was enlightening, historical, and almost gut wrenching with the typical IMAX flying.

We must say, reading Candy's book before, during and even after our visit made us reminisce about writing guidebooks - sometimes we miss those days!  It's a great little guide of the area, so definitely check it out. We didn't take much out of it other than the few tips about shuttling because we made our own meals and camped, but there is a lot of information in there that is extremely detailed - right down to the photographs of the lodge's accessible bathrooms! Always the biggest stress when traveling for us - does the shower really have a bench?

If you don't have the Grand Canyon on your bucket list, you should amend the list!

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Know of someone with a disability that's trying to find work?

If so, our friend Brooke Lightner here in Steamboat Springs may be just the girl to help you.

Work isn't easy to find, but inspiring work for people with disabilities is out there, you just may need some assistance in finding it. Brooke works for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), Colorado’s leading placement organization for people with disabilities. The DVR Business Outreach Specialist team has more than 60 years experience in providing a bridge between companies and talented job seekers, committed to helping employers find candidates who are skilled, loyal, and committed to their success, as well as helping individuals with disabilities prepare for going to work, obtaining and maintaining employment.

DVR is your advocate. DVR educates businesses about the benefits of using DVR as a recruitment resource, the business outreach team prepares and delivers valuable disability awareness training to assist employers in learning about hiring and employing persons with disabilities, proper disability etiquette, and how these can positively impact the business bottom line. Other services to employers include: information and guidance about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and job accommodations, consultative services such as job retention for a current employee with a disability or who has recently acquired a disability, job analysis and adaptive technology, and information about possible DVR financial incentives and tax credits a business may receive for hiring a person with a disability.

Contact Brooke Lightner, the Business Outreach Specialist in your area for more information about our business services. 970-367-3220 or