Lists of Places for Family and Solo Travel that are Accessible and Inclusive

I. Love. To. Travel. And, as you probably know from reading this blog – I enjoy sharing my travel experiences. I often say, “Travel is simply taking educational opportunities – on the road”.

However, travel can be much more difficult if you have barriers – such as those experienced by individuals with physical, mental, and/ or sensory challenges. I have noticed establishments that simply do not provide accessible or inclusive environment. While many places are demonstrating a better understanding of how to make their venues more welcoming – there is a lot of room for improvement.

I would like to showcase the organizations that get it RIGHT. So, I wrote a letter to all with links and lists for helping you plan a great vacation.


Dear Readers,

I am excited for you or your family to be venturing away from your home to discover various parts of the United States. There is so much to experience and learn from travel. I personally find the value of travel to be an extension of what happens within the classroom. It is my hope that my information below will help you to plan for a safe and fun trip. Please note that I am one of many who travel and blog – so be sure to check out other articles on this topic.

Why am I writing this letter to you? I am a frequent traveler, school psychologist, and a parent. I seem to be hyper vigilant for looking at situations through multiple lenses. Does this hotel have good accessibility for people with mobility issues? Can a person safely cross this street if blind? Does the venue offer interpreters for the Deaf or sensory accommodations for a person on the autism spectrum? And, so on.

It is because I have the utmost admiration for families who love to travel together that I want ALL to have a great experience, including equal access and inclusion.

PLAN!!! While a quick spontaneous trip can be fun, don’t underestimate the value of good preparation. Here are some tips that may be helpful –

There is very little consistency among hotel chains, restaurants, or theme park attractions when it comes to accessibility and being inclusive to all. So don’t forget to pack a hefty dose of patience along with your toothbrush!

Hint 1: Travel to family friendly places, especially if this is your first trip. If you are a solo traveler consider group travel to places that cater to large and diverse crowds.

Many people cite the Disney theme park properties as the most “special needs” friendly in the United States. And, I have witnessed that around the globe, too, Disney gets it right – most of the time. As does Disney Tokyo, Disney Paris, etc. They are a big corporation with much money and resources at their disposal. They also are dedicated to educating their staff about inclusion. So, I tip my proverbial hat off at Disney and their employees.

Here is the downside. Disney theme parks are super expensive for most families. Often people save years to enjoy a week with “the mouse”. Look for bargains when you decide to visit Disney properties. See if any organizations you belong to (or the grandparents) offer discounted tickets or places to stay.

Discount tickets for Disney parks have been available at these places (and hope they are still there!)

Once you have planned your trip, consider connecting with Disney representatives to learn about accommodations in the park. Here are two Disney guides for families who have family members with autism and or cognitive disabilities.

Disney theme parks provide for their guests this disability access document that is chocked full of pertinent information.f

Also, there are additional parks and attractions that offer access and disability information. Their links can be found on the list below. Note that these places try to make the information easy to read – but sometimes these guides can be daunting. So, be sure to read ahead of time during your “planning” the trip phase.

Roadtrippers magazine also listed some of the most accessible parks in the United States. Here is their excellent article.

For your consideration: I am a big fan of using a reputable (in person) travel agency for planning vacations that are more than just an overnight and involve a lot of people and “moving parts”.


Next… packing for your trip. It is impossible to bring all the contents of your home with you – but in the case of a child or adult with special challenges you have to be extra careful to remember key items. Not only should you bring all the items for daily living needs (plus extras). But be sure to add to your suitcase medications for the time you will be gone – and additional in case of an unexpected extended stay. You list also should include some comfort items are those that can make a difference with your stay. Such as a night light, a small fan to block out noise from other rooms, and personal soaps or shampoos for those with sensitive skin or adverse reactions to smells. Noise cancelling headphones, an iPad or laptop, and favorite pillow or blanket(s) can make all the difference in the world. (Especially if someone uses a weighted blanket for comfort.) Also, bring snacks and drinks that are “must haves” for your family members.

Tip: Call ahead when making your hotel reservation. Depending on your family’s needs – ask for a room that makes your life easier. Need to be closer to the elevator – just ask. Need a handicap accessible room? Request it. Need a key with braille? Ask them for that, too. Ask if they have a room with special lights and adaptive equipment if you are traveling with someone who is Deaf. And, if you have a child or adult who is vocal – ask for a room that is more secluded from other guests so you don’t feel that you may be disturbing them.

Also, consider bringing a door alarm if you have concerns of elopement (fleeing). I travel with the STEP OFF alarm for personal security. Yet, it also is great to keep those who wander (including people with Alzheimer’s) safe.

If you are a solo traveler consider using a reputable travel agency that has knowledge about opportunities for travel that accommodates people with unique challenges. Deaf travel agencies are also available.

I did a little research on this subject and found these links to help (However, use your due diligence, as well.)

*Inclusive Experiences for All – IAAPA

*National Parks – ASL interpeters, Captioning and mor

HAVE A SUGGESTION? Comment below!

Closing words – I hope this post helps those who are ready to travel again. May you have a safe and fulfilling journey!

Driving Across the United States – East to West Coast (Part 4)

If you have been reading my first three blog posts about driving from California to New York and back again – then you are “up to speed”. As for those readers who are stumbling upon this article before reading the others – you may want to circle back and start with Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 to help give you context.


The final stretch and then back home we go!

Hubby met me in Chicago where we made our way to New York and later New Jersey. I loved visiting family and friends who live thousands of miles from our home in California. Catching up after being in quarantine for a year was amazing. We laughed. We ate a ton of calories (I am a sucker for black and white cookies – a New York speciality!) We looked at old photos and even had three generations working online to fill in gaps for our family tree via Ancestry.com.

After a week of east coast driving it was time to hit the interstates and backroads from New York through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and finally Illinois to reconnect with driving partner and friend, Marj. We both had sons in Chicago and I jumped at the chance to see my second born and his “gal” twice on this trip and have more time in this beautiful city. Lucky for us it was DINE BROADWAY. An event where restaurants along Broadway Avenue in the Lakeview district set up on the streets and offer the best from their menus. Trust me – I have a new found love for cheese curds and grilled Caesar salad. If you haven’t tried either you are truly missing out. Thanks to one of my new Chicago favorites WILDE for not one, but two great dining experiences during this trip! I’ll entice you to visit with the photos below.


Hint: Do your due diligence on the return trip!

Before starting out we gave “Phoebe”, my car, a “once over”. We checked the tires, added coolant before we hit the highways, and refilled the invaluable windshield wiper fluid. Unlike our trip from west to east, this time we would cross the country along the northern plains and some southwest states. Through Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, a few miles in Arizona, and Nevada we would drive before arriving in California. I was excited to step foot in Iowa and Nebraska – two states I have never visited.

Illinois has endless tolls.

I love Chicago. And, parts of Illinois are truly charming. But, the toll roads were too much! Like Indiana, Illinois was filled with tolls and more tolls. Plus, there is signage that confused us! How many college degrees do you need to know where to drive in Illinois? Sadly, our collective number wasn’t enough as we ended up driving much longer in Illinois than we had anticipated. Enough said.

Mississippi River

Iowa – flat but fluffy!

Finally, for what seemed like an eternity – we left Illinois and arrived in Des Moines. I am pretty sure we stopped at a Cracker Barrel. But, honestly after the 6th one or so, you stop counting.

Iowa is flat, but the low clouds on the horizon gave it a sense of “fluffiness” that day. Marj and I decided to keep the “pedal to the metal” and make it to Nebraska before dusk. And, we did. I don’t have much to say about Iowa except that I get to check it off my “50 states visited” list. Oh – also we crossed the Mississippi River!

Nebraska

The weather turned on us once we hit Nebraska. Fluffy clouds became rain clouds and the pretty vistas were – bleh. We stopped along the way to eat in Lincoln, Nebraska. I learned to play Keno in a honky tonk bar that was open for an early dinner. We finally quit driving after nearly 9 or more hours to sleep at a hotel located on the state border of Nebraska and Colorado. I was very disappointed that the Nebraska Souvenir Shop was closed before we could get there and opened after we left. I would have liked to see what was considered “local to Nebraska”.

Colorado- OMG!

Colorado started off as a fun state. We visited the Overland Trail Museum for a while. That was an interesting place and I loved the doll collection they housed. They had a fair amount of quilts, vintage clothing, and relics from old ranches and farms. School children were visiting and that was lovely to see. Kind of made me think Covid was soon to be in the “rear view mirror”. Let’s just say this early morning stop was the best part of the day.


I will take a moment to digress. There are very few times in my life where I truly have been a nervous wreck driving. I have hit major fog in Salt Lake City trying to get to an airport and snow that was coming down in buckets on back roads of Pennsylvania. I have driven the Redwood Forest area of Northern California where I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the trucks carrying huge loads of trees being brought to sawmills. They traveled on roads that seemed way too narrow for one, let alone two, vehicles – but the weather was clear and the skies were blue – so I learned to “share the road”. Note: All of these experiences TOGETHER do not add up to the what we would encounter in Colorado on Interstate 70.

First, let’s talk altitude. Keep in mind I live at SEA LEVEL. So, my idea of “altitude” is a few thousand feet, not 10 thousand feet and higher. When you are afraid your snack bags and soda cans will burst – you know it is HIGH!

Driving through this part of the country is like playing weather roulette. One minute it is 62 degrees and light rain, the next torrential rain, then the temperature falls 25 degrees in five minutes and the roads nearly become a skating rink. Compound all this “fun” with changes in barometric pressure coupled with altitude adjustments and you have one throbbing headache. Both Marj and I felt the need to stop before Vail, Colorado to get our bearings. Good move as we had no other viable rest stop for quite some time. Bad move because we both really felt the altitude change – and not in a good way. In fact, many of the people who were at this rest stop looked a bit weary and ill. After downing a ton of water we got back on the road and ended up in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Other people stopped here too due to a truck that flipped and closed both sides of the highway.

Just for informational purposes here is what I found about this little “scenic” drive that we survived:

Connecting Grand Junction to Denver is Interstate 70 that passes over the continental divide via Loveland Pass at an altitude of 11,990 ft. This is the highest point anywhere in the U.S. interstate highway system. The route is known for stretches of steep grades, twisting turns and treacherous winter conditions. The specter of altitude sickness going over the numerous passes poses a hazard as well. Add in heavy traffic laden with out-of-state drivers all headed to the ski resorts and it’s easy to see why car accidents are common. As the main access from Denver to the famed resorts like Vail and Aspen, this route is notorious for large-scale congestion during the ski season. A route that is 90 minutes in summer can turn into a frustrating 3-4 hours snarled in bumper to bumper traffic. In 2008 alone over 1,900 accidents were reported in the corridor. It has gotten so bad the locals have a saying, “Friends don’t let friends drive I-70.”

Source: The Five Most Dangerous Roads in Colorado

I believe if the circumstances were different this would have been a fun stop with a chance to sight-see. The town seemed enchanting and a bit quirky. There are hot springs and also a cable car ride to the mountain top. But, once in the hotel I wasn’t going anywhere until the next day or when the weather cleared. What a shame as I love quirky.


I HEART Utah. Bryce Canyon – Zion Canyon

Of all the states we visited, I was most excited to spend time in Utah. So was Marj. So we set out early and drove and drove and drove until we finally reached Salina, Utah for lunch. Here we dined at Mom’s Diner. Thanks to the “cowboy” who sat next to us and gave us great advice, we made our way to Bryce Canyon. A “short 110 miles” he told us. Yep – it was a 110 miles, short it was not. But, the ride to the canyon was worth it to see the Natural Bridge and the amazing circle of rocks at the last stop. Marj had read up on hints about visiting Bryce. So, we decided it was best to start at the back of the canyon and work to the front. We also hit the park later in the day when many were leaving and it was less crowded. That was quite helpful on many accounts. First, there was construction to get in and out of the park. Later in the day resulted in less waiting. Secondly, there was something magical about late afternoon sunshine bouncing off the rocks.

Learn more about Bryce Canyon


Zion National Park

Our trip from Bryce through Zion was the highlight of our trip. Sure, we had seen beautiful landscapes across the country – but NOTHING compared to these two national parks and the gateway between them. We made it to Zion National Park after eating a lovely dinner a bit outside their northeast gate. It was on some kind of a farm to table family “resort”. At first we thought that driving through the park would be a “bummer” as it had a hefty price tag at $35 per car. But, as our luck would have it – we drove in to the park just as the sun was about to set and the guard let us in for FREE.

This drive can’t be accurately described. There are simply not enough adjectives. Yet, I will try. Through the narrow and windy switchback roads we drove from the top to the bottom of Zion. Almost a full hour from end to end and worth every second. Through tunnels that were pitch black except for the lights from vehicles and across narrow bridges that seemed to hug the rock walls. Each twist and turn unfolded an amazing array of colors and rock formations. As the sun became further down the horizon the rocks changed color and the park took on so many different hues – it was stunning. Sadly, both my iPhone and Marj’s were dead and for some reason we couldn’t get them to charge quick enough to take photos. I guess that means we will need to return and do it again. Gladly.

Nevada – Mesquite

We spent our last night in a so-so hotel in Mesquite, Nevada. We would have gone to Primm or Las Vegas but the day was long and we were tired. Frankly to do it again, I would have taken a quick nap, drank a large coffee, and pressed on. This was the low point of our trip and I barely slept due to the room being less than stellar and more likely the cause of my humongous allergy attack.

There is no place like home.

Home. Sweet. Home. Is where the “Lady Pacific” greets me every day.

After almost a month on the road, countless tanks of gas, and a slew of adventures to chat about for years – we were home. I am grateful for the experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat – but slower. I would plan more stops and really get to know each area. Marj and I both agreed that this was a very special trip – worth repeating.

I encourage you to dare to venture beyond your town, your state, your region, and explore the United State to really appreciate how vast and amazing it is.

Final Tips for Driving Across the United States

  1. Keep a journal with notes about what you saw and where you stopped. Add some stories from the local people you met. Add some anecdotes that you would like to share, too.
  2. Take a lot of photos.
  3. Write a blog to share with others using your journal notes and photos. 🙂

Happy Travels!

Our West – East Route

Our East to West Route (Chicago to LA)

Driving Across the United States During Covid ( Part 3 in a travel series)

As a fully Covid vaccinated traveler I was more than ready to hit they highways this Spring. I had reached my maximum limit of days staying at home. I had cleaned all my closets and repainted most of my walls. I was done being a homebody. It was time to venture past these walls.

Keep in mind that six months ago I was pretty much too scared to leave home. I would have minor panic attacks walking into a grocery store for a single item. I was the queen of online ordering and started cooking nearly every meal at home. I was a Covid agoraphobic. It was right after one of my panic attacks that I decided I needed a plan to get past this “crisis”. So step by step I put together a trip (with the help of co-driver, Marj) from LA to New York with a few days “layover” in Chicago to visit my son and for Marj to visit hers. We knew we wouldn’t leave until at least 50% of the adults in this country were vaccinated. So, we prepped and waited.

By the end of April it became clear that we could travel without much issues if we did so “Covid wisely”. That meant we needed to wear a mask when outside of the car. Have a ton of antiseptic wipes for various cleaning purposes. We wore gloves when pumping gas and opening up doors. I changed my clothes frequently and made sure I was doused in hand sanitizer several times a day and after each and every “pit stop”. Marj also had a hefty supply, too. By the end of our initial five days of travel our hands were chapped. We didn’t care. Personally, I was finally breathing air beyond the borders of my home and my spirits were lifting. This was a victory.

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Here are a few tips for those who plan on taking a driving trip.

  1. Get vaccinated. It reduces the risk for you and your loved ones. But, understand there will be a number of people who will NOT be vaccinated and do not believe in the Covid19 vaccination.

2. Bring lots of sanitizing spray, like Lysol, to doubly clean your hotel room.

3. Consider bringing your own pillows and blankets. Or spray the ones at the hotel with sanitizer.

4. If using the remote, phone, or any furniture in your hotel room – spray them first or clean with sanitizing wipes. I brought six packages of wipes, two sprays, and a ton of different. hand sanitizers. No joke. I returned home with half a spray and half a container of wipes.

5. Wear your mask, even when others are not. Bring disposable masks for really “yucky” areas – like bathrooms.

6. When using a public bathroom be extra vigilant. Use a towel to open and close doors or wear gloves. Sanitize a zillion times. Heading out to a national park? Know that many of these parks are sans water – just very crude toilet set-ups. So, be sure to have lots of bathroom supplies handy.

7. Use “to go cups” when possible vs. reusable. Although not environmentally friendly, they at least reduce the risk of germ spread from possible poor washing at a restaurant.

8. If using a public pool or spa – be sure to wipe down locker handles, tables, chairs, etc. These are places sometimes overlooked by staff.

Hotel Versey gave each room sanitizers and resupplied, as needed.

9. When booking a hotel room look for those who post their Covid 19 policies. ( For example, they don’t book back to back but allow for at least 24 hours to clean between guest stays, have sanitizers in the room, have plastic over the door to ensure you know it has been cleaned, etc.) The Chicago Hotel Versey (A Wyndham) was super strict with their Covid 19 policies – much appreciated. As were the Hampton Inns we stayed in. Most of the Holiday Inns also adhered to excellent precautions. The one that did not (and will not be specified here) – warranted a message to their corporate office.

10. If you are unhappy with the Covid 19 protocols at hotels (or restaurants, venues, etc.) – let people know. Write reviews. Knowledge is power and also keeps others’ healthy.

11. Let the corporate offices know of any establishments that were not clean. Hotel chains can’t police each establishment daily, but they need to know when there is a lack of safety measures being used.

12. Bring medications and items such as a thermometer just in case you feel ill on your trip. Try to locate the nearest clinics for testing or assistance with your condition.

13. Be smart. If a place is too crowded or you feel uncomfortable – don’t go.

If you have suggestions on how to safely travel during Covid – please comment below. Respectful comments always welcome.

Happy Travels!

Part 2: Driving Across the United States – The Southwest

You are insane- why don’t you just FLY?!” asked many well – meaning friends and family. My response – NOPE!! I have been looking at the same walls for months and now that I am vaccinated I am going to pack my Mazda3 and drive from one end of this country to another.  And I did. With the help of my friend, Marj, we criss – crossed the United States learning more than any book could teach about this vast country.  This is the second of my blog series about this experience spotlighting the  trip from LA to Chicago!

Time to roll: Day 1

After much preparation – Marj and I were ready to roll! With a car packed from top to bottom – my little Mazda 3 was decked out to the hilt. My co-driver had stashed a lot of yummy snacks and drinks in the cooler and we had enough electronic and print maps to hopefully guide us through any navigation situation. Read about how we prepared here.

Cute clothing and much more at Cracker Barrel

Never under estimate stopping at a Cracker Barrel

I must admit that I had not considered the perennial favorite – Cracker Barrel – as a place that would become very important to us during this trip. Not only does this restaurant/ store have a huge array of candy that evokes emotional responses from my youth, but the ladies clothing line and game selection were amazing! Marj and I stopped at no less than 8 Cracker Barrels during this trip. I managed to buy everything from candy sticks to a baby present. The menu selection is best categorized as “comfort food”. But, most notably – this establishment has CLEAN bathrooms. Seriously, as the trip continued the importance of having a clean and safe bathroom was tantamount! I for one am a new and forever fan of “the barrel”! To see the list of Cracker Barrels around the United States – click here.

Crossing the Mojave to Arizona full tank of gas is a must!

Route 15 and 40 across the Mojave desert are two long roads that converge and cross and area of California noted for being a bizzilion degrees hot in the warmer months and windy as hell on most any day. It also has very little service areas so if you are crossing this part of California (home to the nearby and infamous Death Valley) – go to the “potty”, gas up and check your car before venturing out. Our route had us going through the Cajon Pass to the bottom part of the Mojave on Route 40. (This also is the part of the highway that is shared with Route 66). After about 7 hours (with stops)- we found ourselves in Williams, Arizona. Here we stayed for the night and headed out to get dessert at a local establishment known for their various pie recipes. Sadly, our choices of pie were unsatisfactory – so I will leave off the name of this place and hope that they were just having a bad day.

Highly recommend purchasing and using THE NEXT EXIT 2021 edition. This little gem of a book tells you which towns are on your route, what service areas are at each exit and much more. Found on Amazon and worth the $18 price. Check here for details.

Day 2- Let is snow!

We left the last week of April only to find ourselves riding through several inches of snow the morning of our second day. Breakfast was in Flagstaff, about an hour east of Williams, and an excellent little diner – Brandy’s Restaurant and Bakery. The waitstaff was super friendly and very knowledgable about the area and supplied us with updated weather reports. Based on what I was seeing outside our diner window I was very happy that I remembered to pack snow boots.

When Covid Rules

Due to Covid 19 restrictions many places had limited availability to tour. Some closed early. Other places simply were CLOSED. We thought of visiting the Petrified Forest but changed our minds once we discovered it would add at least two hours to an already long driving day. The petroglyphs have been there for eons, and we will just have to put this national park on our “next time” list. Instead, we opted for the overpriced “unofficial” Petrified Forest store off Route 40. 

Side note: Unfortunately, not all who travel know how to negotiate roads in snowy situations. That includes the trucks that seemed to bounce along the highways carelessly. One after another of these double and triple trucks seemed to have challenges with “holding on to the road”. So, lesson for all – keep your distance. Be attentive to others who share the road with you.


Hello New Mexico we have a change of plan!

WINDY!! That is how I would describe driving through New Mexico on Route 40 before we arrived in Albuquerque. While the snow abated, the wind and dust did not. Poor Phoebe (yes, I named my car) – was so dirty by the time we settled for the night in Santa Fe.

While driving through New Mexico, we took in the beauty of the surrounding mountains and appreciated the small towns, many that were part of the Navajo Nation. New Mexico is beautiful, but the houses and villages seem to all adhere to a muted color palate. Shades of browns, greens, and yellow were most noted. Almost as if the intent was to not detract from the natural scenery, but to blend with it. 

A small section of the Navajo Nation

The trip through New Mexico took longer than we anticipated. So, we ended up just skirting Albuquerque and arriving in Santa Fe at dinner time. There we had an absolutely delicious dinner at the restaurant inside La Fonda – a big hotel in the town’s center. While most of the area was pretty quiet, we did see some fun street art.


Our original plan was to leave Santa Fe and continue to Tucumcarri – a small town on the Texas/ New Mexico border. But, due to the severe weather anticipated in that area and up through Oklahoma, we changed our path and headed north to Taos and southern Colorado. This was the first of many “adjustments” we made thanks to Mother Nature. So, we stayed the night at a resort north of Santa Fe and had a quiet evening. Little did we know that the next day was to be a marathon driving day.

In the morning we ventured to Taos, New Mexico. Known as a true artist colony, both Marj and I were pretty excited to check it out. Sadly, due to Covid, many of the galleries were closed. What was open was clearly geared for tourists.

There is one recollection of Taos that left me sad. I was a bit surprised about the number of people who were living on the streets or the back alleys). While Taos is beautiful and we simply did not see all the positive it offered, it is the memory of several women waiting to wash in a public bathroom that will stick with me. Their eyes so forlorn. I wondered if they were “broken” physically, mentally, or both.

(Side note: I am fully aware that homelessness is a situation that is complicated and happens in our urban, suburban, and rural areas. I just was surprised at the extent of homelessness in Taos.)


COLORADO – KANSAS – MISSOURI

We didn’t expect to go to Colorado during the West to East portion of our trip. But, since the weather was ominous to our east we thought going north and then east would be “safe”. This meant adding hours to our trip, being stuck in lots of road construction, and driving across endless areas where you passed very few if any other cars. (There was a time I would swear we were driving through private property as we saw NO ONE for miles and miles.)

Second adjustment of the day: Route 50 was closed. This was to be our connector to points north and now we had to decide what to do. To Route 70 we would go! This decision resulted in a much longer driving day than we expected and over 12 hours passed before we stopped for the night in Hays, Kansas.

I had heard from others who drove this route that Kansas was one of the worst states for driving. “Monotonous”, “Flat” “Boring” were all adjectives I have heard from others. I disagree. The roads were well maintained. The rest stops areas were plentiful. And, seeing the fields of golden crops juxtaposed with greenery was amazing. I enjoyed driving through Kansas very much.Plus, a stop in Kansas City at Joe’s “World Famous” Barbecue was a very welcome side-trip! Not to mention that I stocked up on sauces and seasonings for gifts!

We spent our fourth and final night before arriving to Chicago in Hannibal, Missouri. Here is where I encountered some of the most interesting people – in a hot tub.  Yes, an oversized indoor hot tub of all places! I learned from this assortment of folks that there is a lot of misinformation about Covid 19. But, I had to come to the reality that their “truth” was not all that uncommon.  The lack of facts they spewed to me were often cited on TV.  Some of these people were convinced that the covid vaccines were a ploy constructed by the Democratic Party to “brainwash” Republicans. I rarely am at a loss for words – but I wasn’t sure how to answer this claim. 

However, when one woman was very vocal about covid being due to “those people from Californi-ee” – I couldn’t keep quiet. Especially since I outed myself as a person from the great state of CaliforniA.  As an educator, I tried my best to present facts vs. fiction. I gave up after about 10 minutes and retired for the night feeling that I just met a good sample of people that support some of the initiatives in this country that divide versus unite us. If you agree with my spa buddies that the vaccine is a conspiracy – please feel free to stop reading my blog and skip the comment section.



DESTINATION CHICAGO!

Marj and I parted ways in Chicago after five fun-filled days together.  It is essential to travel with someone who is a good match or compliment to your own travel style. 

I must admit that when we crossed the Illinois border we did a bit of “hooting and hollering”.  And a few hours later we were finally within site of the Chicago skyline.  By mid-afternoon our first big leg of this month l long journey was checked off as complete!

RANDOM TRAVEL TIPS

  1. Buy jars of hatch chilis available in New Mexico. They are AMAZING!
  2. Stop at local owned stores for the best food/ spices and gifts. The prices are much more reasonable and the selection is usually more expansive than the stores located in the tourist areas.
  3. Keep your receipts for future reference.
  4. Lock your car and have a tarp or something to cover any items you need to leave in your back seat.
  5. Write down key “memories” as you will forget names and dates later.
  6. Consider donating to local shelters and food banks to help those in need.
  7. Take lots of photos, videos, and notes.
  8. Travel with someone who compliments you and doesn’t have vastly different goals for your trip.
  9. Remember that you didn’t need to talk the entire time. Quiet travel time can be wonderful. 

Driving Across The United States – Part 1: Prepare for your trip

During the year of being “stuck” due to Covid I dreamed of hitting the highways and driving from Los Angeles to family in New York. I spent months planning the route and picking the “right” time to leave (post vaccination). In order to make this trek successful and keep hiccups to a minimum, I prepped with the help of friend, Marj aka, co-driver and navigator. So, get comfy as the next few posts will be dedicated to this adventure from the perspective of two women ready for fun and ready with AARP and AAA cards in their wallets!

And, in the spirit of this blog – lessons we learned will be shared framed with tons of photos and video for your enjoyment.

So, let’s begin with Part 1: Driving Across the United States from the WEST to the EAST COAST – the “getting ready” blog.

Map Your Route

Marj and I decided to prepare a route based on weather during the early and mid spring, places of interest, and shortest distance between points. Our first thought was to go through the Mojave through California and connect to Route 40/ 66 once in Arizona. We decided to spend the first night in Williams, Arizona – north of the Grand Canyon. Then off through New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma the second and third days. Day four we thought we would veer off course to Branson, Missouri and then head back up to St. Louis. Our destination was Chicago to visit our two sons – coincidentally they both live in the Windy City very close to each other. I was then to continue the journey to New York to see more family, sans my driving gal.

Hint: Be prepared to have a PLAN B and PLAN C of your route. We needed to switch our plan due to horrendous tornado activity through Texas and Oklahoma. More about this in the next blog entry.

Prep the Car

I made sure the car was fully serviced prior to leaving. That included a very thorough look-over by the Mazda dealership, including new brakes. We then went to American Tire and added new windshield wipers and four new tires. I even bought a spare set of wipers.

What should you have in your car?

  • Spare Tire – checked and ready to use. Also, FIX A FLAT in a can for quick emergency repairs.
  • Chains for tires, in the event of lots of snow- if you are traveling through snowy regions.
  • Emergency lights.
  • Blanket
  • Water and lots of it.
  • Emergency medical supplies – including an api-pen or something for an allergic reaction.
  • Emergency radio.
  • A book of maps, such as Rand MacNally. DO NOT depend on “Mr. Google Maps” to guide you. (See story in next blog for this lesson learned!)
  • Your cars information guide, including what kind of coolant you use.
  • Spare key to give to your driving partner.
  • Snacks that are healthy (a cooler is a good “addition”).
  • Raincoat or poncho.
  • Flashlight (check batteries).
  • Cords for your phone to recharge while driving.
  • Change of clothes easily accessible.
  • Holder for extra items.
  • Comfortable car seat cover
  • Lumbar support, such as Therma Rest Lumbar Support
  • Download audible books, bring trivia games, and have a good satellite radio.


Where to stay? Should you book hotels in advance?

Some of you may want to stay with family and friends along your route. That is great! Marj and I decided to rough it – meaning we stayed in fairly inexpensive hotels with a few splurges. We also didn’t book a hotel until we knew where we would “land” that night. I found TripAdvisor to be an invaluable resource as to which hotels were rated decently and about their pricing. Much of my bookings came through TripAdivors via the connection to Orbitz. Marj used her AAA card to save money. I also was equipped with an AARP card. We had a few criteria about where we would stay. First and foremost, safety. After all, we are two women who are traveling. Secondly, we preferred a place that had a hot breakfast. For, I wanted an indoor pool, if possible. A bit of exercise after driving all day was a welcome amenity! Nearby restaurants also were a must to grab a nice dinner or a snack. Lastly, proximity to the interstate. After a long day the last thing we wanted was to drive further just to find a hotel that may save us a few bucks.

Hint: Have your travel rewards numbers for hotels ready to use when you check-in or book your room.

Things you may not have thought about when preparing for your cross – country trip

As I said at the beginning – expect the unexpected. So, be sure to have phone numbers of people who you can call along your way. Also, when you see that from Point A to Point B is X amount of time – don’t believe it. Your trip will be longer than what is quoted on your digital map. You see, “potty” and meal stops are not factored in to this calculation. Nor is slow traffic due to weather or being pulled over for a ticket because you went too fast on that flat highway that just seemed so inviting to rev it up to 90 mph!

Do not underestimate the importance of travel apps for cell phones. I highly recommend TripAdvisor, Weather apps with all the key cities on your route tabbed for reference and alerts, and an app that gives you current road conditions (such as unexpected closures or construction.)

Also, if anyone in your party has unique challenges – be prepared that many places in our vast country have not embraced the word – “accessibility”. I met NO ONE who could use American Sign Language (ASL) outside of the city tourist sites. Many of the doorways to restaurants and rest areas seemed too small for a standard wheelchair. There often were steep inclines at rest stops. Only a few restaurants had braille menus. And, if you are a vegan or vegetarian you may have difficulties eating in more remote areas in states like Kansas and Nebraska. Be prepared that mask mandates for Covid were not always adhered to in many hotels and venues.

Let’s talk money. Whatever you THINK it may cost – double it. The price of gas surged after we left our homes and that meant a gas bill allotment far more than we anticipated. Try to fill your gas tank before it dips under the “half-way” point. As you may not know when the next station will be available. Furthermore, the cost of tax on hotels and food varied from state to state. I also ended up having to buy new sneakers after I dropped one in a street only to find it later- broken. And, don’t forget you WILL buy something that you weren’t expecting. After all , who can resist the green hatch chilies of New Mexico or candles of Northern Lights / Zippo in New York?!

Also, remember there are TOLL ROADS. I attempted to be prepared by downloading toll road apps and getting actual transponders. Epic fail. We ended up paying cash or having to pay later.

Final notes: Safety first

Safety should be tantamount when traveling. Not only should you prepare your car and pack accordingly – but also yourself. Know your limits. If you are someone who can’t do long distance driving – plan to take a lot of breaks and only make a few hours of travel per day your goal.

Have a history of blood clots? Consider talking to your doctor before leaving about steps you can take to minimize your risk (such as compression socks, frequent breaks, etc.)

Also, know the laws per state. Pepper sprays are not allowed in all states. You also can’t transport certain fruits, plants, or items that are for “medicinal” purposes across state lines.

Lastly, remember to adhere to local speed limits so part of your trip isn’t spent on the side of the highway being issued a traffic ticket.

May your journey be filled with fun, adventure, and great memories!

“SHIT ADULTS NEVER TAUGHT US” – What I LEARNED from my daughter’s self-help / mini-memoir.

One of the opening lines of her first journal from kindergarten read, “When I grw up I want to be a dwkter.” And, with a single affirmation began the career path for our daughter, Natasha Sattler. Yes, after honing her craft she now is an accomplished filmmaker, producer, and most recently author of a new book – SHIT ADULTS NEVER TAUGHT US.

Did the title take your breath away? It did mine, just for a second, the first time I read it. But, if you know anything about Natasha you know this – she does not hold anything back. She speaks her mind. She will talk and write with candor and a generous amount of humor. But, she will tell it like it is. Her journey is chronicled in this book – “no holds barred.” I for one am glad she didn’t try to be polite and politically correct. (I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree?)

SHIT ADULTS NEVER TAUGHT US (to be shortened by me as SANTU) is best described in one short quote:

“A SNAPSHOT REVIEW OF THE THINGS YOU DIDN’T LEARN IN SCHOOL – IN QUICK, HILARIOUS CHAPTERS.” 

But for those who are seeking a wee bit more context about the book, try this longer explanation that Natasha wrote for her book jacket and promotional materials:

We’ve made it this far, but after countless conversations with friends, it became obvious to me that our childhood education had a ton of gaps. Sure, we learned linear equations and got to dissect frogs for some reason, but no one taught us what the difference between an HMO and a PPO was and why it’s important. I took several years of Algebra but not once was a Mutual Funds class offered. 

That’s where Shit Adults Never Taught Us comes in. This book picks up where the adults left off and helps fill in all our insufficient knowledge by going beyond the Google search bar. 

Disguised as a self-help book, this mini-memoir uses personal experiences, including some epic failures, to guide you through the most perplexing moments in life. Shit Adults Never Taught Us covers a lot of topics: including career strategies, mental health, emotional quandaries, and navigating all of the WTF moments of adulthood.


Now the “Mom” perspective. I read the first and second draft of SANTU. First time I read it as if there was a disconnect – trying to put on my “objective hat”. Looking at the grammar and flow of the book. Yep, it seemed to check all the technical boxes.

The second time, I laughed, I cried, I had a few “aha moments”, and I reminisced. Here are a few of my personal favorites from the book:

And… I will read it again – the final polished version and this time I will wait for the phone to ring. You see, SANTU is raw. It is honest. It is FULL of profanity. It is Natasha’s truth and I am beaming with pride that she had the courage to tell it. It also may not sit well with people who may recognize the “cast of characters”. Too bad, I say. No one is mentioned by name. So, let the guessing begin.

What I truly am hoping is that the readers will learn more about the practical things in their life that may be missing. Perhaps a few lessons for all on how to deal with money, career choices, and buying “stuff” – like a car. Then there is the more heavy weighted material to digest and this is where the road gets a little uncomfortable. Natasha talks candidly about relationships, mental health (including her own), and grief. She has experienced her share of all of them from the end of long – term partnership to losing close friends way before their time. The book is written about her life juxtaposed with lessons to be learned – the sh*t that this parental unit may have forgotten to teach, school didn’t cover, or simply she found out (or didn’t) from “Mr.Google”. (Perhaps the desire to educate is genetic?)

SHIT ADULTS NEVER TAUGHT US NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon / Barnes and Noble Apple Books and GOOGLE STORES

READ the REVIEWS!!! GOODREADS

To learn more straight from the author – check out recent podcast interviews and the SANTU website here.

Or click the images below to go straight to each podcast that has aired at the time of this blog being uploaded.

In closing, I welcome respectful comments and thank you for reading this blog.

Be well. Be safe. And if you bought the book- thank you!

Red, White, & Pinot

UPDATE! PINOT HAS WON HIS CATEGORY!

I don’t often write posts that ask for “votes”, but, I am making an exception for little Pinot, the “Chiweenie”. 

Pinot, named for the fine wines of Northern California, is vying for “top dog” for the America’s FAVORITE Pet Contest! The prize is being the COVER model for Dogster magazine AND a $5,000 prize.

PLUS, America’s Favorite Pet will be donating to the PAWS FOUNDATION. (“PAWS actively rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife, shelters and adopts homeless cats and dogs, and also provides education and outreach within the community to promote compassionate action for animals.”)

Why Pinot?

I happen to know Pinot’s fur-mommy, Nicole Z. She tells me that her fur-baby was adopted after being in three other placements. To this day she can’t figure out why this bundle of energetic love needed to be rehomed so many times. But, now he is snuggle bug with his fur-parents and doggy sibling, Max.

Actually, Max is the reason why Pinot is competing. Apparently, he needed some unexpected surgery. The cost – $5K. The parents opted for this expense to help save Max from pain – but let’s face it – during COVID 19 that is a lot of cash to outlay when times are uncertain. So, they are hoping that Pinot’s cuteness and the kindness of friends and strangers will click to press the vote button below!

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

2020. We. Have. Had. Enough.

This will not be my usual post. It won’t be full of humor or “teachable moments”, but, instead a blog that puts 2020 to “bed” as we turn the proverbial calendar to 2021.

The year started off with such hope and promise. While tensions over elections were predicted to be high – no one really grasped the enormity of impact that could be made by a microscopic terrorist that was to ravage our globe. During 2020 Covid 19 became the devil that walked among us – everywhere – 24/7.

I stopped sleeping last January. I know the exact day that I started to only rest for about 4 hours a night – it was the day our daughter flew China Air to Asia. Her wanderlust took her on a great solo-preneur journey throughout Cambodia, Singapore and Bali. But, I had heard about this global terrorist – then called CORONA – and was petrified that the two would meet up. Thankfully, our daughter traversed Asia without crossing paths with CORONA.

By the time she returned to the US, the now termed “Covid 19” was at our shores. But, just a “few cases” – mostly isolated. People seemed to not take it seriously or thought it was “fake news”. Nor did we quite expect that within a few months in to 2020 this disease would take hold of the US from coast to coast and across the globe.

I equate my March birthday with QUARANTINE. At first it was a novelty. Happy hours every night on the street – physically distanced, of course. People stirring their creative juices, pivoting their careers and learning how to assume the role as their child’s teacher. Zoom became a noun and a verb in March – meaning to meet online and not to physically race past another person or vehicle.

By summer we thought we were going to get “sprung” and travel. Some folks did. Some stayed put. I continued to be one of those people who did’t venture more than a mile or five from home.

I discovered this past July that I have Covid 19 anxiety. Every time I see people in crowds I start to sweat and my heart races. I have left a store with a basket full of items upon hearing a single person across the store cough – once. No joke – I literally ran out of the store and to the car at a speed that may have broke my personal best running time due to a single little cough. That my friends is situational anxiety. I got it. It ain’t fun.

In August I started a new virtual job – pivot, pivot, pivot! I pivoted so many times and in so many ways that I found myself becoming dizzy. But, my new job is really good and replaces the dire straights I was feeling with trying to make my “old gig” work financially and spiritually – especially during a pandemic. (So, this may be the 2020 silver lining). While I still work in social media from time to time, I am really enjoying helping kids and their families as a School Psychologist.

By fall I realized that 2020 would end but Covid wouldn’t. I must admit the sadness started to really drift in to my psyche when it hit me like a brick the cumulative toll that 2020 took on so many of my family and friends. People had become seriously ill. People had died. People had lost their jobs, relationships and for some – hope. Covid was indeed the name of the new Satan. It had no mercy. It had no rationale. It was just the devil. It took too much from so many.

Then today happened. The devil took someone else. Someone I knew and admired. Her name – Dawn Wells, and on this second to last day of 2020 she died due to complications from Covid 19. You may know her as Mary Ann from the TV show, Gilligan’s Island, but, I knew Dawn for herself – a great person. Dawn and I met several years ago at the premiere for a web-series directed by the very talented, Steve Wishnoff, and starring her called, Life Interrupted. My “assignment” at the premiere was to snap some photos and “do” some social media postings. My goal was to at least introduce myself to Dawn – and I did. I snapped the photo below, and several others, and that was the start of our first “meet and greet”. She invited me to sit next to her and we chatted for what seemed like quite a long time. We talked about her work with the awesome ensemble cast and crew of the series. Then we chatted fashion, how great she looked in the color she was wearing, and how I could never don an outfit in that hue of yellow. We gabbed, we laughed, and we said good-bye. I didn’t know it then – but we would cross paths again.

Dawn Wells at the LA premiere of
Life Interrupted,
May 2015 Photo: Louise Sattler

Photo by Louise Sattler, October 2017

Life Interrupted also was my pick for opening the San Pedro Film Festival (SPIFFEST) in 2017 – where Dawn and I met up again. I was helping put together the festival and thought it would be fun to celebrate the opening night with a party. Dawn attended and again we spent quite a bit of time talking and sharing funny stories. She was a huge “trooper” as she wasn’t feeling her best that evening – but you would never have known that!

Dawn impressed me as a consummate professional and genuinely an amazing person. I didn’t know her well – but I was glad we had an opportunity to meet and share some laughs. She was indeed very special.


Today, the news of Dawn passing came to me via text as I was leaving the dentist office. That was it. 2020 finally got to me. I broke. I cried all the way to my car and then the whole drive home. It was a sucky day.

Then this happened. A sunset. A glorious sunset with random formations of clouds and blue skies peaking through. I noticed that in the photo a little glimmer of yellow – perhaps nature’s tribute to Dawn?

If nothing else, the sunset reminded me that there is a lot wonderful days ahead. We just need to have patience, grit, and hope.

See you in 2021.

~Louise

Photo credit: Louise Sattler, Dec. 30, 2020