Southern California

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When: December 27th 2010- January 22nd 2011

Where: Stayed in Oceanside and visited surrounding area, including San Diego and Los Angeles

Weather: First two weeks were on average 10-15°C, some rainy days. Last two weeks were average 25-30°C and sunny.  The weather the entire time was unseasonal for this time of year.

Getting from the Airport to the Condo

Since we had 2 electric chairs and the three of us, we took an airport taxi (http://www.cloud9shuttle.com). Call a couple of days ahead and reserve the taxi. It is a large and spacious mini-bus. You do not have to pay for the second chair (you can lie and say it’s 2 people in chairs). But remember, multiple parties can be in it, so if you would rather pay the extra money you can order it private. We didn’t, and it cost us $70, but had to drop off 2 other people, taking an extra hour!

The Condo

Note: This condo is no longer listed online.  There were many other condos in the building being rented out as well. The description below can be used to help you navigate a condo that is not 100% accessible.

This condo was in Oceanside (910 N. Pacific Street), CA. It was a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom place on the 2nd floor. An elevator could go from the underground parking (1 space) to the condo’s floor. You were also able to access the elevator from street level. Since there were stairs to get to the main floor, you had to enter from an alley way. The gate is locked at all times, requiring a key. I felt safe going down this alley way, but would not recommend going alone after dark. The front door of the condo is very large, and is actually 2 doors. They can be opened simultaneously.

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The front doors opens up into a spacious living room and a kitchen to the right (see below). The kitchen has  all the amenities, including a small room leading off it that has laundry. The kitchen can get crowded with a wheelchair and a couple of people.

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Plugs for charging wheelchairs are in odd places, but manageable.

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Front balcony is nice to sit on when warm out. It over looks a pool (kind of ugly) and other apartment doors. If you stand really tall you can see the ocean through an opening of the building.

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The first bathroom has a small doorway opening. You need to go at it straight on to get in, and you cannot close the door behind you. For privacy, someone would have to wheel your chair out after you. As for the shower, I added a chair I stole from the roof deck. If you need help showering, someone needs to be in there with you! My attendant just wore a bathing suit, which was fine. You also need to be careful because it is carpeted (Weird!)

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Master Bedroom: Since I use an air mattress, I had to rearrange this room a bit. By the window you can see that my air bed is on a rollaway which we found in the closet. There was a table there that we stuck in the closet. There is a plug by the window for a Bipap to be used. There is a bathroom there with a tub and toilet in a separate room. The toilet is very low and right beside the door, so it is difficult to get to. There then is a hallway for the vanity and sink. It is narrow, and good driving is needed to avoid hitting the walls. I only used the vanity countertop to get ready, and used the other bathroom for the shower and toilet.

Oceanside

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The area: Great pavement boardwalk. The pier had a Ruby’s Diner that was typical Diner food. The first half of the pier was nice and smooth, but the latter part was awful! Take it only once to see the view. Around the train station (approx 10 min walk from the condo), there is a movie theatre (free attendant ticket), some shops and restaurants. The restaurant 333 Pacific was great (expensive) for seafood. They had the best pomegranate vinaigrette I’ve ever had. I haven’t been able to find anything close to it since!

To the north, there is a boat marina with some restaurants. Our favourite was an italian restaurant that served amazing pasta and bruschetta. Stay away from the crab shack, it was greasy and way over priced. There was a small convenient store, but was closed for the Winter season. There is a Ralph’s grocery store about 30 minutes away by bus and walking (10 minutes by car).

Transportation

Reduced fares: If you are staying for an extended period of time (I was here for a month), it might be a good idea to look into a monthly transport pass (www.gonctd.com). It can get you unlimited train, bus and tram fares from Oceanside, all the way to San Diego and throughout the city. Regularly it costs $184 for the month, but if you have a form filled out by your doctor and sent into the office to be approved, it will only be $45. Now, since I’m Canadian I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be accepted. On the form I left the social security number blank, had a Canadian doctor, and put the address of my condo on it. Fortunately, I don’t think they looked that closely, and was accepted! Just make sure that for your application, on the site you click “Only email me my information”. You can then show your acceptance letter to the people at the station in Oceanside and they will issue you a card. Your attendant fare will always be free.

The Coaster: This takes you from Oceanside, to a couple of towns along the way, ending in San Diego. You don’t have to call ahead, just show up and someone will put out a ramp.

The Bus: These are really nice in Oceanside, and kind of gross in San Diego, but accessible none the less.

Tram (Sprinter in Oceanside, Tram in SD): Again, all accessible.

Taxis: Unfortunately, after calling close to 10 companies, there are absolutely no wheelchair accessible taxis. By that I mean none with ramps. Some insisted that it was wheelchair accessible, you just had to get out of the chair, and pop the wheelchair in the back! So plan ahead how you are getting somewhere, and make sure you make it onto the final train that comes back to Oceanside. If you missed it, you could possibly call the Cloud 9 as a last resort.

Renting vans: We used this company for the last 2 weeks of our trip. It was great and made it a lot easier to get around. It was a side entering vehicle.

Activities in San Diego and surrounding area

NOTE: To get discounts, go to the train station and you will see a display case full of brochures. On the back were great coupons (Usually $5 off) to get into many of the main attractions, including the zoo and the aquarium

The San Diego Zoo: Pretty good zoo, but very hilly. Some parts of the park are so steep that I didn’t even want to go up it. Also, the behind the scenes tours are not accessible. Perhaps try calling in advance and have them set something up for you.

Birch-Scripps Aquarium: This was amazing. It’s on a university campus and right on the ocean. You will need a car to get there since it seems to be right in between two transit districts.

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Shopping in Carlsbad: There is a great outlet mall here that has a lot of designer deals. We were here a couple of times and loved it! Down the street is a PF Chang’s Chinese food. Delicious!

Shopping in San Diego at Fashion Valley: A bit of a hike to get there, but again, worth it. There are more department store shops here. A large Cheesecake Factory as well.

Old Town: Very kitschy and cute. Some nice unique food and home décor boutiques here. Lots of restaurants up and down the streets.

Natural History Museum: A bit on the boring side, but probably meant for younger kids. At the time there was a jewellery and precious stone exhibit which made it fun!

Wild Animal Park: This is about an hour away from San Diego and is the sister park to the San Diego Zoo. It is much more spread out and the animals are in large fields rather than small enclosures. I personally preferred it to the San Diego Zoo.

Julian: The drive up the mountains was amazing. This is past the Wild Animal Park and has a small mining town at the top. There are a few stores, bakeries and restaurants here. Buy the pies and apple cider!