A New Challenge
July 27, 2004
All right! A new adventure. The weather was beautiful, and I had decided it was time I went to the optometrist's office to get my glasses straightened, and have my eyes checked. I'd been delaying this trip because to get there from here is no small matter; there is no direct route between the two locations. Not only would I be taking a new route, but the return trip would be through the nearby forest preserve.
I left the house at 1:30 even though my appointment wasn't until 4 p.m. Not only was I not sure how the route would be, I hoped to get there early enough to stop at the local library. Even though my destination was 2 miles northeast, on Devon Ave., I first had to head southeast on Elston, then turn and head north on Central Ave. I remembered from years past, when I drove, that the sidewalk on this stretch of Central was only separated from the traffic by the curb, that the road curved, and cars traveled fast along this stretch. Nonetheless, I was looking forward to the challenge.
The ride down Elston was a mixture of flower gardens and empty lots. The folks in one apartment complex had made a garden on a small triangular patch of land that belonged to the city and the flowers were in full bloom.
I hit my first roadblock a short ways past the flower garden. The sidewalk had caved in and was barricaded.
Since I didn't know until I reached the barricade whether it was passable, or not, I had kept checking for spots where I could backtrack and circle around the area in the street. Fortunately there was just enough room to maneuver around the barricade without having to backtrack.
Once I crossed Central Ave., I turned and headed north. New territory! The first stretch on Central was smooth sailing. The wide sidewalk was in good condition and directly across from a park area.
But past this section the route became trickier. The sidewalk narrowed considerably—it was just wide enough for my power chair—and it edged directly on the street. I could feel the draft from the passing cars.
The worst part, though, was that the sidewalk tilted towards the forested area. It was a steep enough sideways tilt that I was concerned about overcompensating and falling off the curb into traffic. On the positive side, the path went past some lovely scenery.
As I neared the end of this route, there was a moment of consternation. An elderly woman was walking towards me and it didn't look like the sidewalk was wide enough for both of us. I edged as close to the curb as I could get, and she went past me, sideways. We exchanged cheerful greetings and both of us agreed that we weren't going to let something minor like this get in our way. After traveling just a short distance further, the first set of traffic lights was straight ahead.
To my surprise, I came out on Devon at the ice cream store! I remembered stopping for ice cream once in a while, and decided right then and there that I was stopping again. This is a unique ice cream store in that it is always whimsically decorated. My first picture showing the inside of the store didn't come out, which is too bad. There were 'wrapped candies' hanging from a blue sky with drifting white clouds. (Fabric had been draped across the ceiling. Dinner plate size peppermints paraded across the front of the store, and giant ice cream cones were in the window. The picture showing the ice cream parlor's colorful wall gives you a bit of the idea.
I finished my scoop of double chocolate ice cream and headed over to the library. I had been really looking forward to this stop. I hoped to take the medvan to the library this coming winter, and looked forward to scoping out the place. I had the foresight to bring the library's phone number with me, and once in front of the glass doors, called and asked someone to come and open the doors for me. The librarian who answered the phone was rather surprised by my call, but cheerfully played doorman for me. A quick glance at the main floor showed me I would never be able to get my chair past the cubicles and over to the shelves, so I asked where the paperbacks were. Upstairs. But there was a large elevator and the librarian even rode it up with me. And this was where I ran into a major roadblock. I could just barely get my chair down the very first aisle, but it was impossible to turn any corners. I couldn't get down any other aisles nor could I get to the paperbacks. Even though the librarian was nice and handed me a few books, I was very disappointed. This is certainly not an accessible city building!
After I checked out my books I headed over to the optometrist's office, which was just a few doorways down. They were watching for me and opened the door before I knocked on the glass. I won't bore you with the details, but I'm very glad I had my eyes checked. I found out that the m.s. has affected my color vision but other than that, has not affected my eyes. Something for which I am very grateful. I will need to have my lenses changed, but that's fine—it gives me an excuse to make the trip again!
When I left the doctor's building I took the first pix of my route home. Across the street, by the parking lot, was the pharmacy that delivers my meds.
I've been talking on the phone to Donna, the pharmacy store manager, for several years but have never met her in person. So, since I was here, I stopped in front of the building, called her, and asked if she had a minute to step outside so I could say hello to her. (This is another building that is not wheelchair accessible.) It was a pleasure shaking hands with her after all this time.
Next came the real adventure for the day, though. I had planned on taking an alternate route home, a bike path that went through the forest preserve. I had checked out the bike path on the Internet, and had even called the county forest preserve district. I was pretty sure the bike path would take me back to Milwaukee and Devon but I wasn't positive. I did know that the path goes north along the river for miles, and that I didn't want to do!
But before I could enter the forest preserve I had to cross the Metra train tracks.
Once I was safely across I entered the forest preserve.
I could tell this would be enchanting, but there was one serious problem. The battery on my chair was running down. I started down the path, hoping I would meet someone coming my way. Then I could ask if they knew if the path went through to Milwaukee. I lucked out; a lady jogger stopped and assured me that the path would take me through, but it was a long ride. I figured, how long could it be? Milwaukee is just over a mile due west. That's where my calculations were off…Milwaukee was a mile west as the crow flies. But the bike path through the forest preserve curved like a sidewinder!
I kept my eye on the battery indicator, and wondered to myself just what I would do if I stalled out somewhere in the forest preserve. I hoped that if I called 911, someone would come and get me! But even if they rescued me, I wouldn't want to leave my chair behind. If it hadn't been for this worry, I would have loved every minute of the ride through the forest preserve. The picture shows the scenery, but cannot capture the fragrance in the air: rich, earthy, and green.
The scent brought back memories of the happy times when I walked through the woods in Mansfield, Ohio. There were woods just a quarter block from my Mansfield home. These were actual woods, not a forest preserve. There were no paved paths…in fact, there were no paths. When spring came, my first year there, it took weeks for me to gather enough courage to enter the woods. After all, I was born and raised a big city girl. My first forays didn't last long and I made sure I never lost sound of the nearby highway. After a few tentative walks like this, I decided it was time for me to head in deeper. I knew that the woods were only several acres, and not a national park, so I figured I couldn't get too lost. (I have a habit of getting lost. I'm one of those people that does not have an innate sense of direction.) These outings became weekly walks, and each time I went deeper into the woods. I learned how to find the natural path through the underbrush, how to identify the spoor of different animals, and how to identify different plants. (I really wanted to avoid poison ivy!) It took about a month for me to travel half way through the forest, and I was ever so glad I had. I came across an algae covered pond surrounded by willow trees. Off in the far distance could be seen a bona fide mansion. This was an enchanted place where I could pretend wood sprites and handsome princes were real. I returned to that spot many times over the next few years, and even walked through the woods at night a couple of times. Did you know that some plants are phosphorescent? I didn't. I even tried to sketch the fairy pond once, but my drawing abilities weren't good enough, and photographs couldn't capture the mystery.
My ride through the forest preserve recaptured this sense of adventure, this fascination, and made my day's travels memorable.
I eventually reached the intersection where the path traveled north and south, but not west. And west is where I had to go. I sat there pondering for a little while, and finally decided I would go to my left (south.) I knew the bike path went north for miles, so the southern path couldn't go too far. At least I hoped not!
It turns out I made the right decision. The path curved some more, passing a lovely picnic area, and finally reached open park. A bit further was the parking lot, and there was Devon. I made it! I think I was grinning from ear to ear as I started my last lap towards home.
I'm already planning a return trip to the picnic area. After all, I have to go back to the optometrist's office in a couple of weeks to get my new glasses.
Copyright © 2004 Anne Wallingford All Rights Reserved