Wheelchair Accessible Chicago & Las
by Syd & June Burns © 2001
Syd and June Burns of Penrith, Cumbria, England, recently returned from their journey to Chicago, Illinois and Las Vegas, Nevada.
Just after the terrible events in New York and
we had two days in Chicago, four in Las Vegas and another two again in
Chicago on the way home. Our son had decided a year ago to get married
in Las Vegas and all the bookings were completed. We faced a moral
dilemma. Would it be out of place if we continued with our trip? It
was decided, after much discussion, that we must continue. It would have
been just a small victory to the terrorists.
Friday 21 September 01
The train arrived on time, and everyone was so efficient. The ramp was waiting, and we were settled in very quickly for the short journey to Lancaster. Waited 45 minutes for the connection to Manchester airport. On arrival, there was no one to meet us. We were abandoned on the train. No ramps, and the drop was too great for any way to manhandle the chair off. We felt like the wreck of the Hesperus. Just us and nobody about. I was terrified to go and search for anyone, as the train may have departed to destinations unknown with June still aboard. A passing person saw our predicament and helped me to disembark June. Free at last. I went head hunting, but still never found anyone from the rail network. By this time my humour was running a little thin. Onwards and upwards, we made our way to the Radisson Hotel inside the airport. We travelled on moving walkways so there was no trouble. By this time I was quietening down and my fuffle valve had stopped muttering. Booked in and the room was a delight for June. Large and very wheelchair friendly. We went around the airport exploring and finding what the security was like. Very, very tight. It was strange to see British policemen again with flak jackets and submachine guns. It was hunger time, so it was a return to the most famous chippy in the world--Harry Ramsdons. Not cheap but a really good feed of fish and chips. Back to the hotel for a few pints of Boddingtons Bitter and off to bed for an early call. Restrictions now compelling travellers to report three hours before boarding.
Saturday 22 September
Up and away to report the obligatory three hours early to face an inquisition on our travels, packing and exactly what we were carrying in our hand luggage. We were wise enough to leave knitting needles and scissors in the main luggage. Some people had stupidly not heeded the warnings and were really turned over. One person had eating utensils removed. We were astounded why people would carry knives and forks--unless they lifted them from a hotel. How strange. We flew American Airways and were treated superbly. June was carried to her seat with great humour, and we were settled in by the time the main flow of passengers arrived. We were given a bulk head seat, so we had plenty of leg room and June had easy access to the lavatory. No flight really is a good flight but the time passed quickly. Stop them getting bored, feed them often.
We arrived in Chicago on time. June was expertly taken off, and there was a lovely lady waiting to get us through immigration and customs. O'Hare Airport--being probably the busiest in the world--had its ground transportation problems. Long queues for taxi's. As we were not under any pressure for time, we decided to attempt Chicago's rail system. Took an airport internal train to the rail station, and there the staff really indulged us, planning a route to take us to the Holiday Inn City Centre.
We were assisted on the train
and the journey was about 45 minutes for the princely sum of $1.50. It
was a $5 taxi journey from the station to the hotel. Ahhhhhhhhh, what a
delightful place. Unfortunately for them, they were suffering badly from
cancelled bookings in these sad times. For us, we were indulged. The
room had everything that a disabled person required. Roll- in, roll-out
showers are such a boon. Had a few drinks in the bar, meeting up with
policemen and their wives from our small town. A small world. The
weather was very autumnal, although rain free. We ate in a Spanish Tapas
bar. The food was exceptional. Returning to the hotel, we had a call
from Rose Anne who lives about an hour away from the hotel. She kindly
offered a grand tour of Chicago tomorrow. We accepted with the greatest
Sunday 23 September
Woke up to heavy rain. It was positively hammering down. Rose Anne rang to say they were an hour out from meeting us. Shuffled off to our first American breakfast of this trip. Huge--just huge. The timing was superb. Just as we reached the street, Rose and Chuck rolled up. A guided tour par excellence for the remainder of the day. They showed us places that we would never have found on our own. Nothing was too much trouble. Chuck stopped the car as I would nip out to take pictures. We tried the Sears Tower viewing, but security had stopped the trips. We tried the Hancock Tower but that was a not on as the rain mist and low clouds made viewing impossible. The security at the Hancock was pretty severe as all bags were searched on entry. The highlight of the day was visiting the Museum of Science and History. Security here, if it had not been serious, was laughable. The lady who inspected June’s bag just shone a light into it as she kept talking to her colleague. I do believe that if we had spent two weeks there we would not have covered it all. June was in her element viewing the fairy castle. It is in 1/12 scale and is reputed to be worth millions. Leaving there, we were caught up in the heavy traffic from a football game. It was slow driving but we saw such a lot. Said goodbye to Rose and Chuck with many thanks.
Walking out in the rain, we found a superb rib
place called Lawrey's. They had a small elevator that lifted June from
one level to another—a matter of two feet. The prices reflected the
good food and service. It was an arm and nearly both legs. Got back to
the hotel wet but happy and had the staff fighting over who would supply
the taxi to take us to the airport early next morning.
Monday 24 September
We had arranged a price, and a limo appeared to take us to O'Hare Airport. It was quicker than we thought as it was in the rush hour--hence not attempting public transport. The check-in was easy, but the cabin crew was the most miserable we have ever encountered. We hazarded a guess that they were soon to be made redundant. We chose the shuttle bus to take us to Circus Circus. There was a stretch limo there for hire, but June would not let me indulge her. She has no style. The room was once again totally wheelchair friendly, and although it looked a little worn out it was more than adequate for our needs. We had six hours before meeting up with Ian and Sheena. Walked along the strip, did a little designer shopping in an up-market mall--delightful shops but what a price. We met Ian and Sheena as they were getting in the lift and found their room was next to ours. As expected with a one-stop flight from England, they were both totally knackered. We all wandered around the hotel, had a few drinks, played a few slots, and we ready for the assault of the next day.
Tuesday 25 September
This day was for getting all the formalities ready for the wedding. We all met up and I stupidly suggested that we walk to the licensing office at the far end of the strip. It was so hot at 9:00 a.m. that we were starting to fry very early on. Being mad dogs and English people, we pressed on. It is only a short way, I cried. We broke our journey to have breakfast, and I could feel the others were about to mutiny. Onwards, cried I and two miles later we arrived at Freemont Street where we drank copious amounts of liquid of varying sorts. I can say I was not the most popular person. Anyway, it gave them something to moan about. We made our way to the office. Five minutes and $50 later the necessary papers were obtained. We took a taxi back to Circus Circus where we went to the wedding chapel office to arrange the marriage. How beautifully easy it was. The staff were totally professional and had all the details at their finger tips. Ian and Sheena decided that this is where they would tie the knot. Wheelchair access was by a staff elevator, and we had to have an armed guard to take us. We were passing through the money section. The ceremony was arranged for Thursday at 11.30 a.m.
We all went back to our rooms to freshen up after
the ordeal, and then we heard the wail. Aghhhhhhhhhhhhh, where are my
suit pants? This from Ian. On checking his suit, he had only brought his
jacket. The cleaners had packed them in two separate bags. We now knew
our next job. Eventually he got fixed up at designer prices, but what
the hell he had peace of mind. Explored various casinos, having a
delightful time losing money little bit by little bit. Continued after a
great feed of ribs in a casino, which one I know not as the casinos
were getting to be the same after a while. It was noticeable how few
people were about. It was estimated that it was only 40% off normal. All
superbly wheelchair friendly--we were not pushed or denied views.
Wednesday 26 September
Still hot as we taxied to the other end of the strip and explored, starting at the Luxor. What an opulent place. Decided to have the buffet breakfast there. Enough food was available to feed a regiment and we did our very best. The temperature was about 100F, so we used the various casinos as watering holes on our tour. I think that the Venetian was the most opulent of all the casinos. We were all enthralled by the gondolas plying the canals. Live music and singing made the day go so fast. Went to a food outlet after getting Ian's pants. They may have cost a fortune but they really looked great. Saw a lot of the outside entertainments. Water, pyrotechnics and a pirate battle made up the evening. Finished off playing a few slots and made for an early bed to prepare for the excitement of the next day.
Thursday 27 September
Amazingly we all had a lie in before Sheena departed to the hairdressers. We bumbled around until 11 o'clock when all dressed up to the nines, getting admiring glances, we trooped off to the chapel. All the officials were waiting, including the photographer. June and I had dual roles. I gave the bride away, then jumped to best man and June was maid of honour and flower girl. The ceremony was lovely and the bride cried. All over and dusted in a very short time. Totally delightful.
Then it was the sublime to the ridiculous. After a few drinks in the
casino bar, Ian decided that a small snack was in order. We did not want
to eat a great deal as we were going to the Stratosphere for a slap up
meal in the early evening. June and I were lead screaming to a
McDonalds. Euuuuuuk. It was totally disgusting. At least Ian was happy.
After this rather strange wedding breakfast, we changed and explored all
the facilities of our own hotel. It is really vast. Not one of us dared
go on to the indoor high rides. Particularly June and I, the oldies, who
were still trying to digest a Big Mac. In the evening, walking to the
Stratosphere, we realised how empty Las Vegas was. We never knew that
you had normally to book well in advance for the pleasure of dining in
the revolving restaurant. Going up to the top was an experience in
itself. It was high and fast--800 ft., they told us. The meal was superb
and the view spectacular. The restaurant revolved 360 degrees in an
hour. They claimed they had the shortest lift on an elevator. June was
put in this machine, and it moved about seven inches, then she was in the
dining area. We sat the night out there with no one to bother us. It was
still hot around midnight. The end of a perfect day.
Friday 28 September
Up and away early to the airport. Not many about, but one lady was virtually being stripped searched at Las Vegas Airport. She accepted it with great fortitude and humour. I was expecting the same treatment, but after a thorough search of our hand luggage we were let through. The plane was half full and the crew was a lot happier than the incoming flight. On arrival at the Holiday Inn Chicago, we were offered the same room as previous. The water for the wheelchair-friendly shower still flowed the wrong way, and we had to stem the flow with towels. Only a minor crisis. Walked down Michigan Ave. and were still in awe of the prices. Returned to the tapas bar for the evening meal. Company good so stayed the rest of the night there.
Saturday 29 September
Up early to do some serious sightseeing and shopping. A wonderful, glorious, sunny day. Made one glad to be alive. Found ourselves outside a huge shop, Marshall Fields. The difficulty arose when we could not find a way in for a wheelchair because they only had revolving doors. There were signs directing us to accessible doors, but to get there we had to cross over a building site. The entrance was near where we started out from but about a mile away. We walked the whole square. I was at my outraged best when I told customer services their pedigree. We were mollified by the sale that was in full swing. June bought half a suitcase full of sweaters at an almost giveaway price. I had to take pictures of a most spectacular ceiling. It belonged in an art gallery or a museum. The food hall was great so we were well fed and watered and then onwards to the Hancock Tower.
Security was great, a proper search of all bags. The view was totally
awe-inspiring. Lots of pictures and conversations. After walking what
seems forever taking in all the shopping, we ended up inside the American
Girls Shop. June wanted to see what houses there were. I felt a little
strange amongst all the young girls who were really bending their
parent's credit cards. Harassed fathers were only too happy to pay up
and get out. Saw a strange protest march against the proposed
retaliation in Afghanistan. It was going down like a stone yo-yo. The
abuse that was being hurled against them was totally expected. June and
I thought it totally incongruous that these people were protesting under
more flags than we Brits see in 25 years. We ended the day at a Thai
restaurant; it was nice but very different. Finished off with a few
drinks at the hotel and then off to bed. A tiring but very satisfying
Sunday 30 September
Out early again after storing the cases and ordering the taxi to the airport. Another lovely day. Found the lakeside very easily and just strolled along, enjoying the lake views and toward the city. A glorious ice cream half way along. We reached the planetarium and that was as far as time would allow us. Retracing our steps, but this time through the park. Saw a tune up of a huge concert that was to be held: “Chicago Honors American Heroes.” I thought the quote of the day, which was printed on the programme was totally superb: "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more devotedly than ever before." Attributed to Leonard Bernstein. Alas, we had run out of time. We watched the tune-up and some of the rehearsal.
We decided that Chicago must be one of the most wheelchair-friendly places we have ever visited. It deserves a greater exploration at a later date. Arrived back at the hotel just in time to catch our connection to the airport. June's security search was the most intense since being in India 25 years ago. She sat, crouched, stood, while they did a full body search, including the chair. Most gratifying to say the least. The flight was brilliant, plenty of legroom and we arrived on time at Manchester. Alas, we had over two hours to wait for our connection to Penrith. I hunted the station manager and requested an earlier connection. Hooray no problem! We changed at Preston and were put in first class with all its advantages-- like free drink, etc. Home around noon and fell into bed and slept the sleep of the just. The end of yet another fantastic adventure.
Read Syd & June’s previous adventure along the East Coast Of America from Boston to Richmond and return.
Copyright © Global Access News 2001
1995-2011 "All Rights Reserved"
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