December 1, 2003
Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis
IN THE FALL, I like to drive up to the Mendocino Coast to see the ocean. It's about a 4 ½- to 5-hour drive from San Francisco. Five friends and I decided to meet there for a few days, as Mendocino can get crowded we made our room reservations far in advance. Four of my friends still work so we had to schedule our trip as a long weekend. One friend planned to bring her 3-year-old daughter, as well as the nanny.
On a foggy day, my friend Sue and I left San Francisco and headed north on Highway 101. As soon as we passed the Golden Gate Bridge, the blue sky appeared, and we knew we'd have warm weather for the days ahead. By the time we reached Healdsburg, we needed a break and found a convenient and accessible McDonald's.
Heading further north, we turned onto Highway 128 toward the coast and found ourselves in country dotted with vineyards and wineries. Near the town of Philo, were orchards with large apples growing on the branches. We stopped at a small fruit stand, Gowens, to buy Yellow Delicious apples to share with the group and to take home.
On a hill a small distance past Philo, we saw the Roederer Estate Winery and knew from past visits that we could taste champagne. We drove in and located a parking space for the disabled very close to a ramp that led into the tasting room. The room was large, and the woman who greeted us suggested that we try five tastings for $3 per person. We agreed and tasted a small amount of five champagne offerings. Bread was offered to cleanse the palate between tastings. Sue bought a bottle of Brut champagne, and received a $3 refund for the tasting. When I asked to use the restroom, I was taken to a very accessible one located near the back of the building, past the wine bottling area of the winery.
Driving on, we entered a forest of giant redwoods and saw a few Aspen trees turning yellow as part of their fall plumage. Reaching scenic Highway SRI, we started to see the ocean and the rugged coast with waves dashing against it. Passing the village of Little River, we arrived in Mendocino but, due to the late hour, decided to continue on to Fort Bragg and our motel.
Sue and I shared a wheelchair accessible room at the Beachcomber Motel (1-800-400-7873) on Main Street. We had asked that the bathroom be equipped with a transfer bench and handheld shower, which it was. Grab bars were located at numerous locations, so I was quite comfortable. The room had a small patio that opened to paved paths leading to the ocean and also a small refrigerator to store my medication. A continental breakfast of juice, coffee, and pastry was served every morning in the lobby. Others in our group were located on the second floor and had ocean views and hot tubs. Two friends brought along their dogs. We observed a number of children and pets on the motel grounds.
Sue and I had arrived ahead of the others the first night, and we dined at the Cliff House Restaurant on S. Main Street in Fort Bragg (707-961-0255). It was accessible, and we had a table overlooking the Noyo River. We witnessed a bright, orange-yellow sunset as the sun fell into the ocean. The scent of fresh sea air filled our nostrils as we went from the restaurant to the car.
Later that night, the rest of our group arrived and, together, we planned our activities for the next day. Everyone had things they wanted to do, and we agreed that we would eat at a restaurant where I'd made reservations. After breakfast, Sue took me for a ride in my wheelchair so I could see the ocean and feed muffin crumbs to the birds. Then we drove into Mendocino to see how it had changed since our last visit. Mendocino is a picturesque community that's reminiscent of 19th-century England. I'm glad to say that a few changes had occurred; however, Sue's favorite store, The Mendocino Cookie Company, was still there. We purchased some delicious chocolate chip cookies. Main street is accessible with curb cuts, so I was able to wheel about and look in the small shops.
That night, our group ate at the Wharf Restaurant (707-964-4283) overlooking the Noyo River, where we could watch the sea lions play and the fishing boats return. The restaurant was a short drive from the motel, and an elevator and new restroom had been added to make the eatery more accessible.
Wanting a change of scenery, we drove home via Highway 20, just south of Fort Bragg, where we had lunch. Highway 20 winds over many hills and past groves of trees with few residences noted. The ride back to San Francisco went too fast and we were soon back in the foggy atmosphere, but with memories of blue skies, good friends, good food, and the ocean.
The quality of my life is good. I can still do the things that I did before I was mobility impaired; I just modify how I do them.
For more information about this scenic and accessible California area,
contact the Fort Bragg-Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-726-2780.
Copyright © 2003, Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis