Eastern Corridor by Foot, Train and Wheelchair
by June & Syd Burns © 2000
June and Syd Burns, of Penrith, England traveled down the Eastern Coast of the U.S. this September. June has arachnoiditis and uses an Echo 200 lightweight push-type wheelchair.
Wherever we travel, the most important commodity is the bath board. As you will see the majority of the disabled friendly rooms are not quite what they seem.
Wednesday, 6 September
Everything went to plan. The train arrived on time at Penrith, and we received the usual star treatment getting us and the chair settled in. The rolling walkway from the rail station to the airport was brilliant. Half way along was our hotel. The Raddison. Booked in with total luxury and our room was spacious, the bathroom had all the hand rails but no method of having a shower from the wheelchair. Fortunately, we always carry the bath board; it is invaluable.
Thursday, 7 September
There were no problems checking in for the flight to Heathrow. Our bags were checked through to Boston, so that was a burden out of the way. We had no problems getting on and off the plane, but our problems started when were going from one terminal to the other. The disabled care handlers insisted that June get on a bus and that was achieved with great difficulty. Arriving at terminal 4, there was no one there with a wheelchair to get us off. We met with total obstruction, and, after a screaming session and putting the fear of God into the incompetents, a wheelchair miraculously appeared. Tempers were rather frayed. We were seated in what we considered the oldest 747 in the British Airway's fleet. It was appalling. Hard seats, no legroom. It was a joy to arrive in Boston. A designer taxi equipped to take the wheelchair accomplished the journey from Logan Airport to our hotel, The Fairmont Copley Plaza, which was awesome. A top drawer hotel dripping with opulence. The room was huge and very disabled friendly. It had a weird set up with the shower, with one on each end of the bath. We chose to use the bath board instead.
Friday, 8 September Boston .
We walked around the hotel taking in the absolute opulence. It was way out of our league. We decided against eating there, so we found a comfortable breakfast place around the corner. The Copley Plaza. The staff placed a ramp for June, with smiles and patience. Found the Freedom Trail, and the day was bright and beautiful. It was a matter of, follow the red brick road. the trail was set into the pavement. We walked through a delightful park full of geese and swans. There were swan boats propelled by pedal power. Eventually, after really slow strolling we came to the start. What an easy walk it was for a wheelchair. It was very well planned as it passed all the shops, pubs, markets and at the half way point a huge market. We toured the market and had lunch and a pint. Onwards towards Little Italy, a most picturesque part of Boston. It was strange to find so many English in Boston. It appears that it the favourite holiday place. Eventually we were in the Dockyard looking at American Naval history. The Constitution was well attended but we decided against as time was marching on. We had to finish the walk at Bunker Hill. It was a hard push, but the path to the site was very wheelchair friendly. People were sitting in the open windows of pubs so we couldn’t resist and spent an hour having a pint and talking. It seemed a long walk back to the hotel but a shower and a change of clothes soon brightened us up. There was a sports bar around the corner, so we decided to eat there. Great ribs.
Saturday, 9 September Boston ,
We walked to the river front and went whale watching. As usual everything was so well organised. The ship was a catamaran. Getting aboard with the wheelchair was easy. We saw more whales than we deserved-- a pod of at least 20 humpbacks. We felt totally privileged. It was a three and a half hour trip. By the end of the trip, we were frozen stiff but happy. Showered changed and off to the Parrish Café for evening meal. Another easy place to visit.
Sunday, 10 September
For all its bells, whistles and flunkies the Fairmont Copley Plaza couldn’t tell the time. They never gave us the early morning call that we had ordered. I let all and sundry, know my displeasure. The train was on time, and we were ushered aboard as one expects from Amtrak. We were duly seated in the disabled area, and there was enough space for the wheelchair the luggage and us. There was a full sized disabled toilet across the way so everything was set out beautifully. There was a snack bar nearby, selling microwaved food, etc. Very handy. The 12-hour journey passed quickly, and some of the trees were turning autumnal, which made a good view. There were lots of people willing to talk. Arrived at Richmond spot on time. At the Crowne Plaza Hotel, we listened to the receptionist with disbelief. She spoke like Scarlet O’Hara on a bad day. Her southern accent was so thick that she could have been speaking Swahili. It appeared that she couldn’t find our reservation but quickly put us in a disabled friendly room. We think she said she would sort it out in the morning. Everyone was over the top in hospitality. This hotel had a bath chair. Really great.
Monday, 11 September Richmond, VA
We were out early and in the blistering heat and started a walking tour of Richmond. Wherever we went, people stopped and directed us to the good places. Our first stop was the old Tredegar Iron Works, which is now a rebuilt museum. We only had a brief look around as we planned to return after some serious walking. There are some steep inclines in Richmond. The Riverfront Canal Walk is about a mile and a half in length and is so easy for the wheelchair. There was one exception where we had to skip around steps, go onto the main road and back again. This really was no problem. The walk was signposted all the way with historical facts. Eventually, we reached the Shokoe Slip, which was a delightful old area with cobbled streets and plenty of restaurants, but there were no shops of any significance. We were directed by a kind lady who took us under her wing, to a microbrewery that had excellent food. We sat in the cool for an hour. Next stop was the Capitol building. It was closed. What a shame. Then, we went to the city hall where we went right to the top for some magnificent views of Richmond. It was a smoker's paradise as all the office workers were puffing away happily. June soon joined them. We explored the streets on the way back to the hotel
Tuesday, 12 September Richmond, VA
We had breakfast at the hotel. The amount that was served would have a kept a family of four for a week. I backed away from the grits, much to everyone’s amusement, . June sweet talked the hotel mini bus to take us to Cary Town and the Fan District. We were told it was far to far for us to walk. It appeared that way by the route taken. It was yet another very warm day. Cary Town is a great arty farty place with magnificent shops selling arts and crafts. The thing that struck us both was the number of shops selling 20s style clothing. It was a great place to spend a few hours. We walked about talking to people that made for a very pleasant day. After looking at the map, we decided to walk home. It was truly a terrific walk, passing old houses with lovely gardens. We found some of the pathways difficult as they were surfaced with old brick. Rather uneven to say the least. We had to do a great deal of wheelies. Halfway to home we passed the university and stopped to talk on many occasions with the students. It took us an hour and a half to get back into the centre of Richmond. We carried on to the Shockoe Slip and partook of a few well-deserved pints in an Irish Bar. We were made so welcome. A trundle back to the hotel. A shower and out for a Chinese meal--really superb and half price in the UK. We were well cared for and looked after. A lazy relaxing evening. A few gins in the bar at the hotel. A peculiar bit of plumbing in the bath room. The wash basins were not geared up for plugs. On making inquiries, we were looked on as archaic as in that area they do not wash their faces in dirty water. No plugs anywhere. It appeared so wasteful to us.
Wednesday, 13 September Richmond, VA
At first we wondered what we would do today. For the foot visitor, Richmond is worked out in a few days. We started out by returning to the Tregadar Iron Works Museum. We spent a fascinating few hours there. We were directed to a footbridge that was suspended under a very wide traffic bridge. It led us to Bell Isle. The footbridge was about three quarters of a mile long and was a series of accents and descents. I pushed up and June freewheeled down and got halfway up the next rise. It was great fun as she developed a great deal of speed. She got it down to a fine art. There was a perimeter path along the James River. We saw rapids, bathing pools, rocks for sunbathing, lots of wild flowers, and, of course, you could not miss the cemetery across the water. It was an exceedingly wheelchair friendly place. The isle was a tragic piece of history, being used as a POW camp housing 6000 prisoners of which more than a 1000 died.
We had set our sights on an Italian restaurant for the evening meal in the Shockoe Slip. The first time ever in America we found no way of entrance. There were steps up, and steps down. Totally impossible. Greeted like regulars, we had a pasta and home made bread in the Irish pub. A wonderful fun-packed day. Geared up for D.C. in the morning.
Thursday, 14 September Washington, D.C.
The train was 15 minutes late, but the people watching was superb. We were, as usual, treated with great care and professionalism. Arrived in D.C. and took a four mile trip to the Days Inn Hotel. It was a little seedy and run down on the outside, but the room was great for us. Once again, the bath board was totally necessary for June to have a shower. The hotel was in a superb location, right next door to the metro rail. We had a walk around the area where there were plenty of shops and eating places. The weather was hot and muggy. We ate at a Chinese restaurant called Charlie Cheungs--a delightful place. The staff were really apologetic as they had relocated, and, as yet, there was no liquor licence. The food was brilliant, and we would recommend it to anyone--very wheelchair friendly. We were tired so had a reasonably early night.
Friday, 15 September Washington,
A wonderfully sunny day, we were up early and went exploring the metro. We wanted to start out our tour of D.C. at Union Station. A huge machine dispensed a variety of tickets, and iit appeared rather complicated. A member of staff saw our puzzled looks, talked us through the procedure and made sure we were on our way in the right direction. What lovely people. Walked to the Capitol and did the usual touristy things. We got into a conversation with what appeared to be a Senator who went out of his way to get us tickets to visit the Senate, which was in session. We walked to the Lincoln Memorial and were quite exhausted by the time we arrived back at the hotel and went across the street for a small Italian restaurant. The D.C. Metro is superb for the disabled.
Saturday, 16 September Washington, D.C.
One of our minor ambitions is to fulfilled today. We are going to walk part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Bought a $5 all day metro ticket and headed for Union Station. After breakfasting there we backtracked and ended at Foggy Bottom. Georgetown was a vibrant place, which we passed through it to find the canal. The walk was very gentle, and the pathway was pretty smooth for the wheelchair. There were some bad patches, but they were easily got around. The canal is way over 120 miles long, so we did the obligatory two up two down. Explored Georgetown, visiting a huge mall and the ubiquitous bar. The weather was changing, and a cold front was coming in. The pavements in Georgetown were pretty desperate, and June was feeling the strain. We then visited the American History Museum. It is our favourite museum of all. We were of the opinion that you could spend a week in there and still not see it all.
Sunday, 17 September Washington,
We were out pretty early and off to the museum again by Metro. Totally efficient and cheap. Spent several hours there and then went to Arlington Cemetery. Got mixed up on the Metro and spent some time getting back to where we started, to start again. It was great fun. Arlington is a beautiful, somber place with wheelchair friendly paths. There was a steep push up a zig zag to reach the JFK eternal flame, and there were lots of people about, but we were not crushed or pushed. We viewed many graves whose occupants were historical. We went back to the hotel to start packing for tomorrow’s adventure. We decided to return to the Chinese restaurant, as it had been so good
Monday, 18 September Baltimore ,
Left the hotel early for Union Station and on to Baltimore. Had lots of time to spare, so enjoyed ourselves sitting in the sun at the Capitol fountain, people and squirrel watching.. The train was on time . The Days Inn Inner Harbor was such a difference to the Days Inn D.C. This was a lovely hotel with a huge bedroom and disabled friendly bathroom, but once again the bathboard had to be used. Such a small, but necessary commodity. After being fed and watered, we took a stroll into the Inner Harbor. What a revelation! The whole harbor was really beautiful, with a walkway around it. There are only two miles completed, but eventually it will be almost seven. A lot of the restaurants were not wheelchair accessible from the front, but we found away around it through the back door. We walked as far as we could and then returned to the hotel.
Tuesday,19 September Baltimore .
Rain! What rain. However, skin is waterproof, so we braved the elements and went to the Inner Harbor. In the rain we strolled over to the National Aquarium-- a real joy. Spent many hours there and it was totally absorbing. The dolphin show was marvellous. There were special seating for the wheelchair users with a super view. It was still pouring down so we beat a hasty retreat to a huge bookshop called Barnes and Noble based in an old power house . Really we could have spent a week in there. What a splendid place to shelter from the rain. On to domestic things. We found a clothes washing place in the hotel and did a great big wash, so we could continue in comfort. Later in the evening. it was a Thai meal in a food outlet. It was really good and the beer was superb.
Wednesday, 20 September Baltimore,
What a difference a day makes! Up and away in glorious sunshine. Did some shopping and walked some more on the Inner Harbor, having a look at a part of little Italy. We covered about four miles in all. We were terribly sweaty, needing a drink so ended up in a sports bar called ESPN Zone. Very modern and slick. The conversation was great. Huge surround TV screens, and so as to miss nothing. I was amazed to see very small TV’s over the men’s urinal so that one never missed one scintillating moment of the game. I was in hysterics. After about an hour, disaster struck. June and I got out of sync with our communication. I went off to photograph a Coast Guard Cutter and thought June had control of the chair. But she thought I had, and zoomed off the sidewalk into the road. I turned around, and she was goner. I looked down, and she was sprawled out with the chair on top of her. Blood everywhere. The passers by were great. I hauled her back into the chair using up all my first aid gear. Towels were passed and many people called 911. Within minutes the ambulance arrived taking us to University hospital. The main damage was to her head nose and to a lesser extent elbows and knees. Her glasses were ruined taking the force of the dry aquaplane. She was soon patched up having three stitches on the nose bridge. A little consternation when we could not produce a social security number. All smiles when insurance was produced. Amongst the questions was "Do you take drugs?" June said yes, and yet again another jump back and strange looks. When June told them that the drugs she took were because of her disability, it was all smiles again when the told us they meant illegal drugs. The hospital staff were so friendly and professional patching June up, and we were back on the road again in 35 minutes. June was battered but not bowed. I felt terrible. After a rest up in the hotel, we ventured out dining rather posh at Phillips fish restaurant. We got some very peculiar looks. It was a long walk back.
Thursday, 21 September.Baltimore, MD
June was really sore this morning. Two lovely black eyes along with her cuts and bruises. Proceeded to the Kids Museum on the waterfront. It was delightful. It was pretty empty, so June and I regressed to 7 years of age. We joined workshops with a few kids making rinky-dinks and puppets. June was miffed that she couldn’t make a puppet, as the safety goggles would not fit over her battered nose. I joined the kids in the adventure course-- Slides, tubes, ropes, walkway, and high net walks. June was shouting encouragement. Trying to keep up with the kids was impossible. I finished and was totally knackard at the end. We spent nearly four hours there. A walk back and watered and fed at the Sports Bar. A totally delightful day. Junes face was starting to heal up quickly. An early night after a few drinks.
Friday, 22 September Salisbury, MD
Left the hotel early for the airport. The little Dash puddle jumper left on time for Salisbury. We were met by friends There was a family get together the evening where we ate the fabulous eastern shore crab cakes. As usual, conversation flowed and the evening soon passed away. Not a really late night.
Saturday, 23 September Salisbury, MD
Linda had the whole weekend off so we were able to enjoy fully her company. The weather was inclement, but it was decided that we would go to Ocean Beach and really do the touristy things such as ice creams tee shirts and perambulate the board walk. The weather, although dull, was not bad at all. Really enjoyable. Headed off late afternoon to an Australian theme restaurant called the Outback. It was all really accessible.
Sunday, 24 September Salisbury, MD
Up late, read the papers in the porch on a really warm morning. The morning passed so quickly so it was a surprise when friends and neighbours appeared bearing food and drink. The conversation was fast and furious, the food and drink really flowed. Well fed and watered it had really been a delightful day.
Monday, 25 September Salisbury, MD
Rain, rain and more rain, it feels like home. We sat, read and talked the morning away. Linda’s sister Vicky came to take the stitches from Junes’ nose. We just lazed about and recharged our batteries.
Tuesday, 26 September Baltimore. MD
Had a beer and sadly left Linda and Paul as we returned to Baltimore. Back to Days Inn where we were met as old friends and got our original room again. How nice. Had a walk to Inner Harbor for the final time and had a superb meal in the ESPN Zone. Even had the last drink bought for us by the barman.
Wednesday, 27 September
Breakfast at the hotel and as usual left early to catch the train to Boston. Checked in and found there was a train leaving within 10 minutes that would get us to Boston an hour and a half earlier. We availed ourselves readily, and the disabled place was as usual terrific. Smooth ride to New York and then a crew change. As the train set off from Penn Station, I asked the conductor what time we arrive at Boston. "You are going through to Boston?" he asked looking puzzled. It arrives in at 10.35, but if you had caught the train after this one you would have arrived in an hour earlier. It appeared that our original train took a direct coastal route, but this one wandered all over the place. At one stage, we thought we were headed for Niagara Falls. After our initial shock, we sat back and enjoyed the ride. Our travelling companions were very talkative, so the time passed so quickly. Amtrak is a great medium for meeting people. We were fed and watered on the train, so it was just a matter of getting to our hotel, The Copley Square. It was a hotel of faded elegance, but to us it was really comfortable. The doorman had to lay out a ramp again so we could get inside. Everything was done with a smile. Sat in the bar for an hour and then happily to bed.
Thursday, 28 September Boston
Had a walk to the park after breakfast, stopping at various big stores en route. A last look around Boston and off to the airport. We think that Logan Airport is the most unfriendly after London’s Heathrow. It was chaotic and totally uncaring to the disabled traveller. We were handled like pieces of meat. Our 777 got us home home in five and a half hours. A quick transfer to the Manchester flight, and then it was a case of déjà vu. We were offered a train to Penrith two hours before the one we had booked. We asked the stops and the arrival time and it worked out well. We did arrive home earlier. It is so nice to go travelling, but so nice to get home. We were jet lagged, went to bed for a few hours, and that ended a terrific adventure.
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