Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Airstream Chronicles............Ainsworth State Park, Oregon

In late Summer of 2004, after we had finished the refurbishing of our 1964 Airstream, we were a’hankerin’ t’go somewhere. Not only had we spent a lot of time and money on the trailer itself, but we had put together a state of the art trailer hitch package too, sway bars, stabilizer bar, a runaway braking system, all the extras. We were so ready.

Of course a 1964 Airstream, with it’s 1964 architecture, is, shall we say, the antithesis to the concept of accessiblility. As some of you know, our 26 year old-son Blaine, who lives with us, uses a wheelchair. So we wanted desperately to do a dry run, at least, to see how it might work out, with the three of us, (and our dogs), doing our usual bending and stretching and other creative methods as we cope with the fact that the world is mostly not made for wheelchairs.

The State of Oregon, and many other states, are doing a great job, these days, bringing parks, and park ammenities, like bathrooms, up to ADA standards, to make them accessible to disabled citizens. Gravel paths, in many cases, have given way to nice smooth pavement paths, much more suited to wheelchair use. Gravel paths, for the wheelchair user, totally suck. If you have a person who uses a standard wheelchair in your world, and you see gravel, you usually go the other way. If there is a way.

We thought we might find a nice park near our home, travel 25 miles or so, just go for an overnighter, see how it went. First, my nephew Max and I, as we neared the completion of our Airsteam polishing, took a break one afternoon and drove out to Ainsworth State Park, in the Columbia River Gorge, just a few miles past Multnomah Falls, to see what the accessiblility conditions were like there. We pulled into the park, and I was immediately encouraged, when I saw several RV sites which were designated as accessible sites, complete with blue wheelchair logo signage. Since there was no one parked in the site, we pulled in, to check it out. “Wheelchair Accessible” campsites are a fairly new innovation, and are distinguished from other sites in that there is no gravel, the picnic tables are sometimes extended on the ends such that a person in a wheelchair can easily sit up to the table, and many times the sites are located fairly close to the park restrooms. Very cool. Very welcoming. We walked about the site a bit, optimistically, and decided to walk up the brand new pavement path to the bathrooms, for a bit more research. The path was swell, a gradual incline, approximately one inch incline for every foot of distance, which is the ADA requirement. Very doable for walkers and rollers. But when we got to the bathroom, a large green structure with showers and many stalls............oops. It was completely inaccessible. Not even one bathroom stall was large enought to fit a wheelchair. The showers were even smaller. I could tell by the age of the building that it was probably slated for replacement. Other recent improvements, to make the park more friendly to the disabled, like the great pathways and the accessible campsites, led me to believe that the plan was being implemented, but not yet complete. One day, we’re gonna give ol’ Ainsworth a try.....but for now, uh, no cigar.

We may not have found the result we were hoping for at the campsite, but undaunted, and hungry as hell, Max and I visited the restaurant at Multnomah Falls Lodge next, a lovely old stone building built during the Roosevelt years, (and accessible!) for the most succulent Halibut fish and chips I know of. See pictures of our Airstream, here, at the “Photos” section of my website .

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