Speed Up The Turmeric Studies: I’m Getting Older Already!

Spice shop, Old Delhi

RoseMary, my beloved aunt, used to be able to talk in circles around me.  A constant stream of words, detailed memories, bird-like observations of everyone around: this was RoseMary.  Until about five years ago, that is, when vascular dementia took hold of this once-unstoppable woman.  Now, she can barely string together a few words into a coherent meaning.


Old Delhi, India, May 2014

Last year, in a packed and fragrant spice shop off a teeming Old Delhi street, I spoke with the proprietor, who claimed that liberal use of turmeric in Indian cooking is the reason that alzheimer rates are so low in India.  Nationalistic claim or truth?  I squirreled away the information and continued inhaling the cardamom pod I had been given.

Today, the BBC included this article on the benefits of turmeric  in their daily news feed.  Any one know good Indian cooking classes in the Boston area?  I need to sign up, fast.

Spice shop, Old Delhi, 2014

Spice shop, Old Delhi, 2014

Every Day Is A Marathon

Marianne meets Team Hoyt at the 2014 Boston Marathon

Marianne meets Team Hoyt at the 2014 Boston Marathon

Marianne is really, really tired at the end of every day.  I imagine that for many who work hard physically to move, it might feel like you’ve run a marathon some days.

My friend Katy is a runner and an athlete, and she recommended this book to me:  The Runner’s World Cookbook, edited by Joanna Sayago Golub.  I just checked it out of the library, and I think a lot of these recipes will fuel Marianne’s herculean efforts.  The recipes are categorized: gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, low-calorie, fast, pre-run and recovery.  There’s something for everyone here.

Travels Near Sunday River, ME

Winter is coming, oh yes, it is.  I follow the weather blog of a family friend who predicts weather as a hobby, and although Pete says it’s too early to make an educated guess (watch for his predictions around November), the Boston area could have “a very memorable winter” this year.  Coming from a hardened New Englander like Pete, words like these conjure up equate measures of elation (woo hoo! I love snow days!) and despair (but not too many snow days! how many exactly are we anticipating?).

IMG_3140In Bethel, Maine, the leaves are starting to turn, and it’s a beautiful time of year for a road trip to the Sunday River area before the snow hits the ground.  On Columbus Day weekend, the Sunday River Resort hosts its annual fall festival.  You can buy your season pass and check out the pre-season equipment sales, take in some great music and even better – participate in or cheer on the North American Wife Carrying Championship!!  Seriously, this is apparently a very big deal.

IMG_3153Near the ski resort, you can wheel or walk in to the Sunday River Brew Pub, for good burgers, hearty and healthy salads and one of Stoo’s Brews (I heartily endorse the Sunday River Alt).  A little further afield, but definitely worth the 30-minute drive to Rumford, is the Gone Loco No View Farm cafe and bakery.  Annette, the owner, opens for the season in early October, and if the home-made chocolate she so kindly gifted us is any indication of her kitchen prowess, I will return this winter.  The cafe is accessible by outdoor ramp.  About a mile down the road is Mt. Zircon, a satisfying half-day hike or snowshoe destination – although you’d have to bring your own equipment if you needed modifications.  The views from the top of this 5-mile round trip hike and a pit stop at the No View Farm are a rewarding exploration onto a little-traveled road in the Androscoggin River Valley.


Ruby Dog: a fearless hiking, snow-shoeing and couch-surfing companion

When looking ahead to winter fun, consider the programs offered at Maine Adaptive Sports.  Their winter programs run at Sunday River in Maine, beginning in July, and we have had years of truly wonderful experiences with the staff.  Through this link for the town of Bethel, Maine, you can do an easy search for rental properties (sea “handicap accessible” in the search criteria).  Hope to see you there!



A Small Slice of San Francisco

_SC03221Although Fisherman’s Wharf (home to San Francisco’s fishing fleet AND Ghirardhelli chocolates) is insanely crowded in August, at peak tourist season, I loved our hotel, the Argonaut, at the far end of the wharf.  Close enough to the madness of the Wharf if that’s what you want, but take a left out the front door and you’re at the gateway to the Presidio, 1400 acres of hills, woods, beaches and paths right on the bay.  There is lodging within the park called The Inn at the Presidio; click here for accessible accommodations.

There is no denying that the Argonaut Hotel is pricey, but it is centrally located for many tourist activities, and the whole place seems easily accessible, from the front door, to the lobby spaces, to the attached restaurant and its adjoining outdoor dining area, to about 4 or 5 ADA guest rooms. Not all have roll-in showers, so make sure to specify if that’s what you need. You can bring your dog, even if he or she is not a service dog.  This seems to be a West Coast/Southwest thing, and I love it.

IMG_3056A few small things (and its the small things that can add up to make or break a hotel stay):  the room windows actually open so you can get fresh air, the beds are not too soft, there are plenty of outlets for charging (wheelchairs, electronics), and the shower shampoo, conditioner and body wash are all in refillable containers mounted to the shower wall (I dislike the waste of the small travel-sized toiletries that so many hotels dispense).  We’ve had breakfast, lunch and dinner at the hotel and all are very good.  (I’m a rather tough restaurant critic, so that’s saying something.)

Adjoining the hotel is a national park visitor center (San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park), with a park across the street (part of the National Park site). The visitor center is fully accessible and has multi-media displays covering San Franciso’s maritime history beginning with the early days of the native Americans, the Ohlene tribe. There is a walking tour, led by NPS guides, and if you contact them prior to your visit (even a day in advance), they will make sure the trail is wheelchair-friendly. I spoke with a park ranger who is on the accessibility board for the NPS, and she gave me a universal access guide to this particular park; you can get one here, although they are in the process of updating it.

_SC03236At the Argonaut Hotel and at the San Francisco Maritime NHS, you are within walking/rolling distance of the Presidio with views of the Golden Gate Bridge (if the fog, named Carl, or so we have been told, is not present). The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a separate park within the National Park Service, although you can get information, including a map and brochure, at the visitor center at the Argonaut Hotel.    We biked along the trail and much of it was paved (so good for wheelchair travelers) – although not all of it. You’d need to check online before you headed out to see where the trail becomes unusable by wheel.  I did find this link for trails just north of San Francisco and this one for accessible sections of the trail near the Golden Gate Bridge.

One note: don’t bother buying The Fodor’s guide to Northern California 2014 as it has no ADA info whatsoever, that I can see. The index has no listings for “accessibility” or “disability” or “wheelchair.” There’s not even a small nod to travelers using wheelchairs in the general information section. Seems like a glaring omission. How hard can it be to include whether a hotel has accessible accommodation?



Robotics That Change Lives: At The Abilities Expo, Boston

Imagine being thirsty but ALWAYS having to ask someone to get you a drink?

That’s how it’s been for Adrianna, until she had the chance to try out the Jaco Arm by Kinova, a Canadian robotics company.  We had a chance to see it in action at the Abilities Expo in Boston this past weekend;  you can check it out on YouTube here:


The Jaco Arm runs off the battery on Adrianna’s power chair, and has a range of motion of 360 degrees.  The articulation on the sinewy arm is like a snake – no jerky, robot-of-days-past movements on this product.  The pincher grip can pick up an M&M or a dog leash, and it shakes your hand with a firm but not-too-tight grip.  Something on the floor to be retrieved? No problem.  The Jaco Arm is long and can reach from a large electric wheelchair to a tabletop, floor, or closet shelf easily.

The price tag is hefty, at about $40,000, but what a game-changer this product is!

That wasn’t all at the Abilities Expo this year.   We met the engineer behind the Smart Drive, a power-assist device to manual wheelchair-users – the tool is about 8 lbs and easily attaches (and detaches) from a manual chair.  And then there’s the Go Grit chair, a lever-powered manual chair that was developed at MIT’s Mobility Lab and is changing lives in India and now the US.  Last but not least, new to us is the Roho seat, a “dry flotation technology” that reduces the friction a wheelchair-user experiences – and hopefully decreases pressure sore incidences!  Marianne was sold.

The Abilities Expo has come annually to Boston in recent years, and you can get on the mailing list here.  There are expos in the Bay Area in November, LA in March, New York in May, Chicago in June and Houston in July (not sure we’ll be making the road trip to Houston in July, but hey, someone will!).  I can’t say enough about the resources available at these expos:   medical products and wheelchairs, clothing, connections to outdoor programs, service programs, and workshops.



Guest Post: Summer Trails in Vail, CO

IMG_3587Many thanks to my sister-in-law, Marcia Mahoney, who took notes on her recent summer trip to Vail, CO and wrote the following:

“We went to a free concert at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater. The sidewalk down from the parking lot was free of bumps and negotiation nightmares (as shown) IMG_3575but despite that, they offer a shuttle service for those who might need it, which was quite handy for my mother who just has stability issues. Both entrances to the amphitheater were accessible. The seating for wheelchairs had a prime viewing spot without viewing complications and included places for able bodied friends and family. IMG_3571

IMG_3589The following day, some of us who are lucky enough to have legs that can walk up a hill, hiked to the top of the Vail Ski Area mountain. My brother easily joined us on the gondola as the grandmother guardian. The restaurant at the top was fully accessible with stalls in the bathroom where both you and Marianne could both have done a jig. But what was amazing, at least to me me, was the path down to the zip line viewing spot as well as the restroom and ticket sales building was accessible. Granted a tad of four wheeling capability would have been necessary, but Marianne’s chair would have made it. This allowed my mom to walk down and watch our zip line silliness, which made her feel included.

Just a small snippet of what Vail seems to be doing well. I saw more of it all over the city. The buses had wheelchair lifts.”

I’ll add that Vail also has a handicap ski program; for more details see here.  A quick google search for “wheelchair accessible lodging” yielded many results – not surprising for an area with a well-developed handicap ski program.