ALS Fact of the Day~
San Francisco or Bust!
Inverness, CA is solitude and beauty and quiet in a way that I have not experienced in years. I want more, but I will be content with the few minutes I was able to enjoy before I was needed by the tiny travelers and the big guy. There is a part of me that could stay here forever, watching the tide ebb and flow with the seasons. I must admit, the food and the local market leave much to be desired, but seriously…when was the last time you sat outside and listened to absolute quiet? Just the gentle lapping of waves as they caress the shore. No cars, no loud brakes or honking or engines revving. It was peaceful. I desperately want to come back someday.
Check out time is noon, which should give me enough time to shower Matthew, clean out the van and get re-packed. The entire process should only take me a couple hours, but the kids are happy to watch a movie, and Matthew is laying back resting. And I don’t want to be the drill sergeant ruining the peaceful setting. So I wait…almost patiently.
The night before, I had tried to lay Matthew on the bed, with pillows all around, under his head, his arms and legs. However, sometime in the middle of the night, the pain was too much. So, once again, I get up, trying desperately not to wake the kids as I grab the lift and put him back in his chair. His knees and hips are hurting, regardless of what position he is in lately, so it means a lot of moving, and stretching and trying new ways to make an impossible situation bearable.
Finally! At 12:00 pm, we load up and are ready to hit the road. Everyone is in good spirits once again, and I suggest we get gas and a good meal before we attempt anymore of Hwy 1. Our navigator thinks it would be better to get down the road a bit more. ( I silently disagree with his assessment, but I let him make the decisions, as he is the one who planned all of this!)
So begins the swerving, and curving..the topsy-turving. In and out, and all around, we roll from side to side. The kids begin complaining of headaches, and belly aches. My arm hurts from holding Matthew steady. Still, he wants to move onward.
Where the redwoods stood tall and proud behind us, the trees that come around the bend are different. The only way to explain them is as if you were to take all the different kinds of trees from across the land, and then toss them haphazardly across the landscape. There are trees that are leafy, that reach over across the highway to touch the fingers of the trees of their lovers across the road. It was almost as if they couldn’t bare to be apart, and even the simplest of touches would have to suffice.
The next trees were lined up, one-by-one, along the road, in an almost military style, as if they were saluting the cars as they passed by, standing proud and strong at attention. Next were the trees that were a bit too lazy to make the effort to create strong branches. Instead, they had vines and moss that were hanging from limb to limb, as if with a small smile and a happy gesture to say welcome, but they were not going to offer any shade.
We were down to an eighth of a tank of gas again, and everyone was getting hangry. I have such happy memories of S.F. and I can’t wait to show them the sights! But, my anxiety at letting the gas gauge get that low, and the kids are noisily munching on the last of the bags of baked chips and popcorn.
Matthew keeps repeating, “Its about the journey, not the destination.”
But I really want to get to our hotel room and then explore and it is already 2:00 pm.
We see the Golden Gate Bridge. I reroute us so we can get closer, but hauling a trailer behind us is proving to be difficult in a tourist hot spot.
We agree getting to the room and then coming back would be better. I am getting antsy. I don’t want to be in the van anymore! I want to be out, walking around and seeing things!
We navigate our way through the back streets towards the Fisherman’s Wharf. Only one problem…. The valet won’t take a vehicle with a trailer.
I have the kids unload everything, and I have them all go in and check in and get things to the room while I navigate the parking arrangement.
Each parking lot within a four-block radius refuses to let me in.
It is so bad, in fact, that they come running and won’t let me even enter. They yell at me that I can’t park there, and they send me on my way. One man glares at me, putting his body between the barrier and my can. All I can do is ask as politely as possible, and know that the prison system in California frowns against running over people for no reason. So I smile and back out into honking traffic. Each place looks at me as if I have two heads for even attempting to bring a trailer downtown.
There was a moment, when one of the garage attendants was telling me to go away, that I almost started to cry. It was close, but since I only cry when I am truly desperate, I backed that trailer up, in the middle of rush hour traffic like a true Mountain Woman, and short of telling him to piss off, I drove away with my head held high.
Until I parked and went into the hotel and saw their faces.
The kids were so sad.
I don’t know what is worse. The fact that they were ecstatic over the size of the large bathroom, so I would be able to help Matthew, and we had to leave, or the fact that they had to go back up to the room and load it all back up, while I brought the van and trailer around.
People are often unaware of what it takes to find accessible locations. I can’t say it was ever anything I ever would have considered during my life before ALS. But, now, it is constant. I look at stairs, and steps, and dips and holes, I am constantly navigating and judging if it is something we can do. Most times, we are unable to venture out to the highlighted attractions simply because Matthew lacks legs that can take him up or down a few steps.
I refuse to let this ruin our day.
I pull the kids off to the side of the trailer after we have loaded it back up again. The damn valets and hotel guests can take a flying leap as far as I am concerned.
I kneel down, and I hug each of them and I tell them how much I love them and how proud of them I am. Not once did they complain or become rude. They did what was asked of them, even when they were disappointed. Not many kids could hold it together as well as they have today. I told them that things weren’t always going to go as planned, but that we could only do the best we could do and go from there.
So off we were, once again. A hotel booked about an hour south from here. With the idea we would return in the morning.
I don’t know if I should thank San Francisco for permanently scarring my children to the effects of drugs and prostitution, but they got a pretty good idea of what it leads to. As our safari bus tried to make its way out of the city, we went from light to light, witnessing drug deals, people literally leaning against the building to use the restroom…and I don’t mean #1! There were people talking to themselves, and people dressed up in various outfits. I tried to explain that some people were not given the same chances or advantages that others are given, and others become broken through a lifetime of bad choices.
They seemed oblivious to the seriousness of what was happening around them, and as we went up the steep embankments and then down again, I couldn’t help but laugh so hard I was snorting. The kids were freaking out at the almost 70-degree incline (so not joking here!) and I was literally trying not to crash as I help with one arm to keep Matthew from slamming his head into the dashboard on the way back down. Brakes are good! I know, because I was on them for quite a while!
But alls well, that ends well. I managed to drive us through the city and to our hotel in San Mateo, where they are above and beyond accommodating!
We have hotels figured out for the next six days, and now we will attempt to see San Francisco once again..this time without a trailer in tow, as we will be leaving it behind to navigate a bit easier!
Some important life lessens here:
- Don’t do Drugs! They do scramble your brains!
- Don’t use the bathroom on the main thoroughfare..at least go the alleyway!
- Even when people are assholes, try not to lose your patience. They are only doing their job
- NEVER! I repeat…NEVER! Attempt to take a trailer into the city…EVER!!!!
ALS Fact of the Day~
If you must know, I never write if I’ve been drinking. Matthew says its because I refuse to be truly vulnerable.
That couldn’t be further than the truth.
The truth is that I simply don’t have the ability to form complete sentences if I have had a drink or two. It’s similar to drunk texting your ex at 2:00 am after a night of too much indulgence, or getting on stage with a microphone after knocking a few back and thinking you can speak coherently.
It’s just a bad idea!
You’ll end up thinking you sound intelligent. But in reality, you’ll come across as desperate and probably a bit inept.
I left off on our California adventure having had a less than ideal experience in San Francisco. We had hoped to have two days to explore, but after the hotel and trailer fiasco, we would have to make due with only one day left..
I stopped writing for the remainder of the trip because, as you can probably guessed by now, I began drinking every night.
Don’t raise your eyebrows at me!
It’s hard work, daunting even, to be solely responsible for a paralyzed man, two children and all that that entails, thousands of miles from home, or help of any kind. Falling into bed exhausted, the last to close my eyes, and the first to open them. I took my respite once everyone had fallen into their slumber. I would pour myself a glass of my favorite red wine…or more often than not, some cheap crap from the gas station with a twist top, poured into those little Styrofoam cups from the bathroom counter and relax for just a while, thankful no one is needing me for just a while. Some nights I stopped with one glass; some nights required a bit more of the tranquilizing liquid.
However, Matthew is holding me hostage. He says I need to finish the story and post the pictures so that we can move on with the next adventure!
So here it goes….
San Francisco – Take 2
The city is a hodge-podge of messiness. It is almost as if it can’t quite make up its mind what it set out to be, so it took everything and everyone and wrapped its arms around in a welcoming embrace. Before the gold rush, the city consisted of about five hundred people. One year later, it was five times that size. There was no planning or time for adjustment. They began building in the least desirable location possible. On steep mountains and dense forest on the edge of the ocean.
Just ten years later, the population was over one million.
Yet, now, it feels as if the hippies, the yuppies, the homeless, the hopeless, artists and businessmen alike, have molded into a beautiful condensed mess. There are redwoods mixes with cypress trees, military with peace and love. Vines, flowers of every texture and color mixed with weeds growing in impossible locations. Fog, so thick you can’t see ten feet in front of you, only to traverse a few miles, and see brilliant blue skies, and birds gliding seamlessly across the horizon.
Every ethnicity, culture and race can be found within a few miles of one another, stacked upon each other, not unlike the buildings they co-habitat in. In a matter of just a few hours, we ate at the Fisherman’s Wharf, with Alcatraz looming off in the distance. We walked, following the masses along city sidewalks, when the kids jumped up and down excitedly.
Could they please???
Now, I am not much into the whole Ripley’s Believe it or Not kind of entertainment, but after looking aghast at the prices, I kept walking. Matthew rolled up alongside me and gave me the look.
I tried to ignore his scowl.
It’s one I get quite often actually. It’s the “You are being cheap!” look…
The next building had wax figures, some so life-like, you could almost sense their eyes following you as you tiptoe around them, inches from their face. The kids were creeped out yet enthralled by Madam Trousseau’s Wax Museum. The Virtual Reality exhibit was open, and this time, when I was given the
“Can we please, mom?!”
I shrugged and left it up to Matthew.
Okay, to be fair, the virtual reality was really cool. A quick walk back to the van and this time, buckling Matthew in to avoid him making a face plant on the dashboard, we went on to the next location.
The Fine Arts Museum, with columns and arches, complete with a beautiful Indian wedding taking place in the center of the columns. Women in colorful gowns, jewelry jangling at their wrists, eyes darkened to accentuate their almond shaped beauty. Men, dressed in their wedding attire, trying not to look nervous, their feet shuffling, as they readjust their vests for the hundredth time that minute. I felt as if we were trespassing, so I ushered the kids along the path, shushing them along the way. Matthew unable to follow us along the pathway by the pond, turned his wheelchair around and began to navigate his way around. We watched the swans swimming gracefully along. The idea of staying still and simply watching life move by for a while was tempting, but my children are unable to sit still for long and I should probably make sure they stay out of trouble.
Instead of simply walking along the path, enjoying the sights, and sounds, they have to run, whoop and holler. The next thing I know, my children are attempting their skills as modern day Tarzans, climbing onto massive limbs, so far high above the ground I began doubting their ability to get down safely.The limo pulls along side the street, and the wedding is about to begin. It is time for us to go.
The streets were jagged, the buildings looked ragged and old. Paint peeling from the walls, and steep steps into nooks and crannies that promised intrigue and ancient secrets. As soon as we find a somewhat level parking lot, Matthew wheels himself out of the van, we are ready to explore!
Each street is cobbled stone and cracked beyond repair. Most sidewalks are crumbling concrete with no gentle slopes to be found. Matthew would not be able to go far. We settled for a restaurant as close as possible to where we parked. We weren’t going to be able to explore this part, but we could at least try the food. Yelp reviews be damned!
Imagine the look on my children’s faces…no one spoke English. No English on the menu, no English to be found anywhere! The menu had strange marks etched beneath photos of food. There was no way to distinguish pork from chicken or beef…All we could do was point to whatever looked appetizing and hope for the best.
The circular platter in the middle of the table was soon filled, and they delighted in spinning it to and from, reaching for new delights. Besides sitting in an area where no one spoke English, it felt like any other restaurant. Families walking in, toddlers misbehaving or whining, and parents scolding them for wiggling. The tone, inflection of the stern voices, and the parental “evil” eye cross all boundaries!
I want to say that we had all the time to explore, but really it was more about racing from one site to another, since we only had this one day to see it all. A drive-by to visit the Painted Ladies (no one seemed to impressed..) to Coit Tower, and the last part of the day, driving down the infamous winding Lombard Street, all before the sun set on our adventure for that day.
I can’t say that it was easy to get around, and I am sure that it is even harder in a wheelchair, as Matthew was bounced around in his endeavors! However, the kids didn’t seem to mind only getting quick sneak peaks here and there, and Matthew was happy to finally see the city that I had told him so much about.
Stay tuned for our next few days of adventures along the California Coast!