It’s hard to believe we’ve already been in the US for half a week. Quarter of the trip gone.
With that lingering thought, Clara and Jeff set off on one of the most epic days ever attempted while on vacation, which would be too much for both Clara’s feet and Jeff’s wheelchair. Yes, this blog will contain some graphic descriptions of wheelchair carnage. Consider yourself warned.
Morning was a bit of a groaner to get up–we have possibly the loudest air conditioner that does very little “conditioning” and Clara found it difficult to sleep with the sound of a jet engine roaring in our bedroom all night. Despite all this, we staggered down to get breakfast and, after drinking some orange juice that did not taste like orange juice, we set off to complete our ambitious agenda. On the docket was a morning hop to a small art gallery about 20 minutes away, followed by a light lunch, a trip to the national zoo, some pub grub for dinner and a stroll through the national mall at dusk. We got through about half that plan. Give or take.
Leaving the hotel we began heading off to the art gallery when we discovered it was much further than anticipated and instead decided to just hang out on Wisconsin Ave and check out the really, really sweet boutiques and antique shops. Our stroll was extremely relaxing, checking out all the period homes and waxing philosophic on the American way of life. As it turns out, even in this upper class wonderland, there were signs of the housing crisis that gripped the nation. Yep, even people who own mansions get kicked out of their homes sometimes. Having said that, these boarded up home was but a speck of dust on an otherwise pristine set of houses worth more than the collective wealth of both our families. After strolling around for about two hours we headed back to the hotel for food.
After lunch, it was time to zoo it up. Heading to the zoo would be our first major dive into the transit world of Washington, as it was simply too far away to walk. All in all, the trip took about an hour to get there between walking to the correct bus stop and then riding the bus half way across the city (or so it felt). Once again, accessibility was no problem and the bus driver was happy to load Jeff up and let us know when our stop came up. We had an amazing time at the zoo, despite missing out on some of the big ticket animals. We didn’t get to see any elephants or pandas, but we did see a ton of other cool animals and have lots of beautiful photos to prove it. The zoo also provided a lot of entertainment for two 20-somethings with dirty minds, as you can probably tell from the photos included in this blog post. We spent an astonishing 3 hours wandering around the park which is, we might add, quite large geographically speaking. The journey was complicated by the fact that it was also extremely hot today, but luckily the park is designed with “shade” in mind, meaning we spent much of it being fairly comfortable despite the cloudless sky.
We’re pretty sure Jeff didn’t even get a sun burn, which is a great accomplishment. Some of our favourite animals include the ant eaters, the komodo dragon, and the “Amazonia” exhibit which was almost completely empty of human families (unlike every other exhibit). There were times when it was extremely hard for Jeff to see as bars, fences, and huge crowds of people were constantly in the way. Some of the indoor exhibits were particularly difficult in a wheelchair because they were so congested. Jeff actually came extremely close to crushing a child to death who tried to dart between Jeff’s chair and the wall, while Jeff was moving, and would have been crunched between the wall and the chair if his father didn’t yank him back and begin screaming. If you’re in a wheelchair and like being climbed over and being surrounded by sweaty people who you can’t see through, then these exhibits might be for you. The really unfortunate part is these indoor exhibits are crucial at the zoo because, frankly, you might not see a live animal if you don’t check them out inside these enclosed spaces. Something to consider.
After trucking it around the zoo for the afternoon, we were in desperate need of a drink (that didn’t cost +$5…money grubbin’ zoologists) and were feeling a bit peckish. Just as we were about to set off for home, Jeff happened to look down and notice his controller flashing. Yep, he was running out of battery. This is astonishing because we charged the chair fully last night, meaning at that point we had walked approximately 20km (or back and forth from UWO campus to Dundas about 4 times). Suddenly it made sense why Clara’s feet were so sore.
This would launch the great exodus from downtown as we fought our way back to the hotel, desperate to arrive before killing that last 5km of battery life left. Our journey would take us through the metro, where we got off at the wrong stop and once again got locked out by going through an accessible gate that lead to a flight of stairs. We want to point out that every time we’ve screwed up the Metro staff has always had no problem letting us in for free and directed us to the correct exit. These people are about 150% more reasonable, friendly, and helpful than most LTC employees. Gold star to the Washington Metro folks.
Anyway, jumping around from busses and subways and doing a substantial amount of walking, including a walk past the White House, we finally found a bus that would get us within a block of our hotel and we made it home with about 2 red bars of battery left in Jeff’s chair. Definitely cut it a bit close. For future reference, we’re going to try and avoid going on 2h walks in the morning and will be using public transit a bit more, just to save battery life and foot life, in Clara’s case.
While we did very little of our original itinerary, today was an absolute blast–definitely the type of day we’ll never forget.