Everything we’re doing that can’t fit another page’s classification will end up here. So far, we’re too busy with the novels, screenplays and jewelry to deal with anything that doesn’t fit those pages. I suppose that’s a good thing…
GIMP ON THE GO — Travel reviews for the less-than-agile
All of this is opinion, based on my experiences. Your mileage may vary, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear, in other words, your experience may not be the same. Of course.
Shake, Rattle, and Roll, Gimp At The Theme Park
At first, it might seem strange that a person with so many rattling bits is such a theme park fan, but if you know two things about me, it makes perfect sense:
1) Part of my childhood was spent in Santa Cruz, CA, home of the Santa Cruz Beach & Boardwalk, and,
2) For years as an adult, I weighed somewhere on either side of 400 pounds.
This means that I grew up with a taste for theme park rides, and built up a lot of frustration all those years I couldn’t ride them as a young adult.
I’m making up for lost time.
Mark took me to Orlando, FL to mark one of those “milestone” birthdays. I’d been looking forward to it for over a year, peddling that bike, telling myself that each sweaty minute brought me closer, closer to the moment when that lap bar went “click, click, CLICK!” and I was fastened in for the ride.
We stayed in two different hotels on the trip, the Caribe Royale and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. But first, we had to get… The Cart.
Horning In For Theme Park Success
If you’ve been thinking about renting a mobility cart, also called a “scooter,” for a visit to a theme park, let me tell you that it made a big difference. The parks in Orlando are big. Walt Disney World is HUUUUUUGE. It’s hard to convey the size if you haven’t been there. All of Disneyland (including the parking lot) would fit comfortably inside ONE PARK at Walt Disney World. Although I’d been exercising for quite a while and could walk short distances, a past visit where I clung, tears in my eyes, to the ramp up to the monorail, wondering how I’d ever walk up that ramp, convinced us that this time, we were getting the scooter.
Yay for the scooter. I was able to walk the amount I could walk (letting Mark ride the cart for me), then when the knees said “no more!” I could still keep going. It reduced the stress on both mind and body. I wasn’t constantly looking for a bench, a planter, anywhere I could get off my knees. I wasn’t having to pop pain meds just to keep from screaming. In other words, I was able to enjoy myself. When it comes to theme parks, I’m a cart convert.
If you’re going to rent a scooter and you’re going to mutiple places, consider renting “off-site.” Many of the parks rent mobility scooters of their own. I have been told by people who have gone that route that it makes sense if you’re going somewhere for a day or two, and spending the day at one park or venue. In that case, it might be easiest to take the day-rental, although the cart stays with the park, so you can’t use it to get to your car, for example. You should also be prepared to be first in the gate, as the park carts are first-come, first-serve.
We went with an off-site renter, Scootaround, which serves North America and the U.K. The rental process was easy. The cart was delivered to our first hotel, The Caribe Royale (more about that in a future post). I was assured by the Caribe that you could take the scooter on the van to the parks, but as we were going various places, we rented a small SUV to schlep it, and us, around. First, a few words about mobility carts:
* If you’ll be “on your seat all day,” I find it worth it to rent more cart than I need. In other words, carts handle different weight classes. I find that if I rent a cart rated for someone who weighs more than I do, the battery life is no problem (and the seat is more padded, thus more comfortable).
* Baskets are often optional. Get one, if you’re headed for the theme park. It gives you a place to stash your water bottle and rain poncho (useful for wet rides as well as rainy days). It also gives you a place to clip…
* bike horn and light.
Why a bike horn and a light? The mobility cart may have a horn, but they often don’t work and when they do, they make a thready whimper that has no chance of competing with the noise at a theme park. People at the theme park are not looking where they are going. They’re looking up, around, all over the place. You are below the eye level of teens and adults. In a crowd, you are especially invisible. Unless you want to meet strangers by having them step on you (or sit on you, which happened to me), make your first stop a department store.
We visited a local Target store and found a reasonably-priced bike horn. Here’s a thing we didn’t know… even bike horns that look alike don’t necessarily sound alike. We honked horns until we found a goofy-looking horn with a cheerful “honk.” Kind of like the horn Harpo Marx used. (Note: Attach the horn to your cart “finger-tight.” There are certain attractions, especially those involving animals, that may ask you to remove the horn while inside the attraction.)
We also bought a cap light. If you know anyone who rides a mobility cart at night, or walks or runs in the dark, or needs a light for close-up work, head for the sporting goods aisle. You’ll find a lightweight flashlight that clips to the bill of a baseball cap. Because Mark walks a lot, we paid a little more for one that has multiple settings. I clipped it to my Goofy hat, fixed the bike horn to my basket, and was ready to brave the theme park crowds.
“Mobility” Begins With “Mob,” Negotiating Crowds In A Mobility Cart
Years ago, Mark and I were waiting for the rope to drop on the “Splash Mountain Dash.” For those who have no idea what that is, it’s the informal name given to one of the daily events at Walt Disney World. You line up early (some guidebooks recommend that you be at the park an hour early to race for the most popular rides) at the theme park gates. Disney “cast members,” by which they mean staff people, walk backward with a tape strung between them, preventing anyone from sneaking in. The crowd follows, jockeying for position. At a time known only to Disney, the cast members drop the tape and sprint for safety.
If you’ve ever been in the front line of a marathon, you know what comes next, except the “runners” in this case are a mix, old, young, fit, fat, dressed in everything from bermuda shorts, knee socks and Disney t-shirts to Princess outfits. Elbows fly, and more people do “the bump” than you could find at a disco on a Saturday night in 1976. When it comes to the Splash Mountain Dash, there are only the quick and the dead.
One grannie, in a wheelchair and tired of being hip-checked, started flailing around with her cane, whacking total strangers. At the time, we thought it was kind of dotty and dangerous.
Having negotiated theme parks in a scooter, I have to say, “Granny, I get it!”
It’s a weird feeling, being an adult in a crowd, staring at human backsides crowded together. Some people simply forget to look down. There’s so much to look at. Some, however, play “chicken.” I can’t tell you how many people would see me coming, trying to judge whether or not they had time to sprint across my path. Without exception, they forgot to factor in time for the offspring they were hauling along behind them to make it.
Enter the bike horn. Whenever someone wandered in front of me, or dragged a small child directly before me, I gave a honk of my very silly bike horn, made eye contact, and smiled. “Excuse me!” For the most part, I got a sincere apology, or a sheepish one (from the parents playing “chicken” with the children). Only once or twice did I get a surly reponse. More importantly, only one person actually sat on me.
When you’re negotiating a crowd in a scooter:
* Try to keep to the side of the path as much as possible as it’s usually the least-crowded place,
* Be speed-safe and remember it’s a cart, not a tank,
* Keep your sense of humor. The people who are almost tripping over you are usually over-stimulated and underslept, and
* Don’t be shy about that horn. Smile, be polite, but don’t be shy, unless you want a lap full of tourist from Omaha.
Copyright © 2000 – 2017 Joey and Mark Jones