I was on the plane! My adventure was just beginning. Because I am the first to board and the last to leave, I prefer the window seat to the aisle (and let’s be honest, NO ONE likes the middle seat). My reasons for liking the window seat go far beyond just the fact that there is a window to the great beyond there. It’s because when you sit in the aisle seat you wind up getting beaned in the head by luggage as everyone boards and then again when everyone leaves. So, because I prefer not starting my trip with a concussion or covered in bruises, I gravitate towards the window seat. This flight I was lucky and got the window. So my row consisted of me, a young guy on his way to propose to his girlfriend and a guy who looked like a construction worker, but spent the entire trip reading a Powerpoint about the Ice Age. And we were off.
Flying when you use a wheelchair is no different than anyone else. Except for the bathroom issue. I know that there is some way for people who use wheelchairs to be hauled into the bathroom – I mean, the bathroom had an actual disability symbol on it, but I haven’t attempted it. I know it would involve another exciting excursion on the aisle chair, and honestly twice per flight is plenty for me. So I just try desperately not to think about the restroom and limit my beverage intake. This was a short flight (only 1.5 hours), but on a previous flight to Spain, I was pretty sure at some point I was actually going to explode in fiery bladder bomb. So at some point I probably am going to be forced to attempt this but, on this trip I was fine.
We landed without excitement. Excitement on a plane just doesn’t ever seem like a good idea. I prefer my flights to be boring and without any good stories to tell. Much like this blog post. 🙂 Not much to tell about the airport except that the staff was really nice at San Francisco Airport, and it’s almost all tile and nothing uphill that I could find. Phoenix, take a lesson from your sister airport, San Francisco, purge the carpet and the never ending hills. I met up with my friends and we were headed towards the rental car area.
If you’ve never flown into San Francisco, I highly recommend it. It seems like it’s almost right on the water and it’s a pretty amazing sight when the planes come in to land. The rental car area was quite a ways from the terminals and was connected by a sky train. The train was very accessible with a couple of seats designated for the disabled right by the doors. I don’t like to sit in my wheelchair when the trains take off, so I gave my trademarked evil stare at the guy who was sitting in the seat until he moved, then scampered onto one of the seats and off we were to the rental car pickup.
We rented a car from Enterprise which I had never done before. I’ve rented cars, but never from Enterprise so I was surprised when I found out that they didn’t really have cars with hand controls. I didn’t argue about it, it gave me an excuse not to have to drive. More wine consumption was in my future. We checked in, got our car – a black Dodge Challenger – and were off to Sonoma wine country. The car was large, we were able to fit five pieces of luggage and my wheelchair along with four adults. I found the front seat to be surprisingly tall and that made it a bit awkward to get in from my wheelchair (the awkward level increased incrementally with the volume of wine consumed) but it was doable. I have to admit, I’m very short so a lot of vehicles are “tall” to me. I’m not sure if the vehicle was actually that much taller than my Kia Optima, but it definitely felt a little different.
The drive to the wine country is actually quite awesome. You get a view of San Francisco with all the steep hills and amazing buildings. Then you cross the Golden Gate Bridge and head into vineyard country. It’s kind of a dichotomy – the bustling city of San Francisco and the peaceful towns that make up the Sonoma Valley. Only two hours later, we pulled into our hotel in Windsor.
We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites – Sonoma Wine Country. It was the only hotel I could find that slept five adults AND was wheelchair accessible. When making the arrangements, I was really surprised (and a bit disappointed) in how few hotels have accessible rooms for more than four people. And actually, rooms that slept four were even fairly scarce. It’s like hotels seem to think that disabled people only travel with their partner and need only a room with one king bed. The Hampton Inn put us in a room with two queen beds and a sofa bed. It was huge, like I could have performed a dance routine in the room even with the sofa bed extended. And the bathroom was large enough to have a party in. Though having a party in the bathroom would be a bit weird and likely frowned upon by the hotel staff. The shower was a roll in style with a fold down seat that actually wasn’t slippery. I’ve been in showers with the fold down seat that is like the staff waxed it just for fun. This shower was nice – it had an overhead shower as well as a handheld sprayer. The floor was a little slick after it got wet, and my chair attempted to skate sideways to escape my clutches, but all in all it was a nice room and not a bad price.
The fifth member of our party was waiting for us at the room and our wine tasting adventure was about to begin.
To be continued…