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posted 9/11/08 - 6:39 am
When I was planning my trip to Beijing I knew I'd encounter access issues and that I'd have to be creative to work around them. I didn't expect them in Denver of all places.
My mom flew in Sunday night and rented a car until our early departure Tuesday morning. After dumping the rental, we waited for the shuttle to the airport. The shuttle driver tried using the ramp/lift on the shuttle bus, and mumbled next bus. My mom said, no we need this bus, we'll be late. I tried walking aboard using my crutches, but the first step was huge. Two other travellers, picked me up in a fireman's carry and we were off. Don't rent from Budget in Denver.
16 hours of uneventful flying time and we were in Beijing. The airport is huge, gleaming and spotless. Customs was a breeze and soon we were pilled into a taxi. This city is pumped for the Paralympics. They aren't just a poor stepchild of the olympics. The entire way into the city is lined with banners every 30m. Every banner has been changed to say Beiing Paralympics 2008. Impressive.
After a long taxi ride (lots of traffic everywhere) we picked up our tickets at CoSport. What a mess. Only one set came through as wheelchair accessible, the rest general admission. And I'm short a couple of rugby tickets. But I have tickets for the finals...
Ticket mission accomplished, we spent the afternoon at the Forbidden Palace. Wow, this place is huge! For all te nstairs, it was amazingly accessible. Ok, there were lots of ramps that weren't up to ADA code. The coolest part was the stair crawler. It was a tracked vehicle, which they rolled your chair onto and strapped it down. It slowly and smoothly went up this section of 50 stone stairs. At the top Dan MacClauley was waiting to come down. Awesome to see another quad from home here.
From the Forbidden Palace we rolled a few Ks to the tranquil Biehan Park with a huge Buddhist Stupa (temple) surrounded by a lake. Very chill, beautiful place. Which was needed because traffic is anything but. Beijing has its hits and misses with accessibility. Curb cuts yes, but not at every interesction. And busy streets can be crossed at all. Pedestrians are directed under via stairs, no elevators. Wheelers get a long detour. We've been crossing with locals whenever possible, since there don't seem to be much for the rules (if any) of the road.
After chilling at the park we were headed to the night market, so db could eat some funky food on a stick. Getting a cab at rush hour wasn't happenning, so we started wheeling back. I was rolling to a curb cut and didn't pick up my front end, when disaster struck -- I sheared off my front caster! Terrible TiLite design, the vertical caster bolt tapers down and sheared right before the threads. We bailed on the night market, scorpions on a stick will have to wait.
The locals have been so friendly and helpful. We've found the right strangers at the right time who spoke english. When my caster broke, a woman had been waiting 20 minutes for a cab and said, you need this more, please take the cab. Someone else had handy wipes to wipe off the grease. At my hotel, I asked the manager if he had some pliers. He personally worked on my chair and extacted the broken bolt. Tomorrow he's sending someone to find a bolt. It's going to be tough as it looks custom, but I'm hopeful.
Til then, I'll be three wheeling mand cheering on Team USA. First game is tomorrow!