Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Marginal Way, Ogunquit Maine

A wonderful ocean view in Maine - and accessible too! If you've never been to the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine, consider stopping by on your travels or staying for a weekend in this lovely seaside town. My partner Meb and I just returned from a refreshing getaway there and thoroughly enjoyed some spectacular birding. We love this spot especially because we can leave our home mid-day, get there in 2 hours, and enjoy viewing sea ducks on the water in late afternoon sunlight.

Marginal Way is a 1 1/4 mile stroll along a rocky coast. The path is paved and considered accessible, but caution is necessary and the entire length may not be accessible to everyone due to its length and some aspects. There are 39 benches, so plenty of resting space, each with its fabulous view. At the town end, the view includes the mouth of the Ogunquit River and spectacular waves rolling into a sandy beach. At the Perkins Cove end, enjoy a less dramatic but equally scenic view of a peaceful cove and rocky shoreline extending southward. In between the rocky views and waves and incredible expanse are a total mind clearing delight.

The path is narrow. There are some narrow turns and a some spots with a fairly significant grade for a relatively short distance. Someone to assist if needed is a good choice if you haven any concerns. The pavement is generally in good shape, but there are some divets and more disconcertingly, there is in some spots a downgrade right from the edge of the sidewalk, usually just a few inches of downslope, often paved. So you do have to be careful and watch your wheels and footing, despite the accessibility of the pavement. There are few if any handrails, though parts of the path follow private property fences. If you have any challenge with the entrances to the path (supposedly there are no steps but I forgot to double check on the one entrance we used), there are a couple of side street access points that intersect Marginal Way and offer a few parking spaces with easy access to the path. You don't even have to travel any distance whatsoever if you choose, but you may expect wind so dress for the conditions.

I recommend going off season or early in the day at the height of the summer season. Avoid July through September if you don't want to hassle with crowds, narrow streets, and limited parking. We prefer early spring and late fall, when fewer people are around and the seabird viewing is especially exceptional. Sea ducks winter here and if you have binoculars or a scope, amazing views of harlequin ducks, long-tailed ducks, scoters, loons, mergansers and grebes can be easily obtained. Dogs are not allowed between April 1 and November 1, although I assume service dogs are the exception.

Ogunquit view courtesy of Maribeth Dawkins
Harlequin Ducks courtesy of Eric Reuter and Ducks Unlimited

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Trends in Handcycles and Adaptive Kid's bikes

In anticipation of biking season, I contacted Scott Pellet of recently. Scott and his wife Lynn are specialists in adaptive bikes. Their business, located in Rhode Island, is a global distributorship of many brands and styles. The bulk of their sales are of handcycles, but foot-pedal bikes, recumbent bikes, kids bikes, tandems, other specialty bikes, wheelchairs, and many types of accessories are all available.

Scott told me that handcycle racing has really taken off in Europe, and that a major race was taking place in Dubai even as we were speaking. Although not as popular in the U.S., handcycle racing is a growing sport overall. Performance handcycles have seen lots of design advancements in recent years that make for an increasingly faster ride. If you like bikes described as "missiles", the Top End K Force shown above and the Quickie Shark S are two of the extreme high end handcycles for those who are serious competitors with over $5000 to spend. More affordable quality recreation handcycles include the XLT, a performance design, and the Excelerator, an upright touring model. Handcyclists can keep up to speed on the latest trends and techniques and connect with others via the Bike-on Community organized on Scott's website.

For handcyclists who are quadriplegic or have difficulty with grip, Scott recommends interchangeable grips for the hands. The C5 grip is a glove which clips into the headset crank - no wrenches needed. We use these in our adaptive cycling program and they are a fantastic advantage for those who need them. If your hands are different in ability, there are some basic styles that can be mixed and matched to best suit your needs.

I asked Scott about innovations in kid's bikes. He is seeing more and more families getting their kids out riding. The challenge is finding the right bikes so that all members can equally enjoy biking without being held back by the slowest rider. He recommended the Hase Trets Trike - an versatile foot-pedaled kid's bike that can be ridden independently but also attached to an adult's bike as needed and pedaled as a tandem. With this unique combination, families can ride for miles together. The Trets Trike works especially well with the Hase Pino Tour bike as shown in this picture from the website, but can be attached to other Hase bikes and even bikes of other brands using a coupler.

You can find some extended info on handcycles and other equipment mentioned here in the comment section below. This is just the beginning of what can offer. To get recommendations for your own cycling needs, visit the website to get started, then contact Scott or Lynn at 888-424-5866.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Accessible Birding with Joe

Spring is arriving early this year and the birds are on the move! Grackles and red-winged blackbirds are the most recent arrivals in western Massachusetts, following on the wingtips of turkey vultures. The robins have been congregating in my neighborhood all winter. Maybe they knew something all along. Everywhere I go, I'm keeping my eye out for new birds. As we move through spring, birds arrive from the southeastern US early on, then from far flung wintering grounds in Central and South America. Finding such birds can be a treat for the senses and a lovely way to enjoy the outdoors. The yellow warbler shown here in a photo taken by Joe is one of my favorites.

Birding can be an accessible activity, especially if you know of easy access locations where birds gather. One person who knows such places is Joe Superchi of Athol, Massachusetts. Joe is an avid birder who uses a wheelchair. He is a member of the Athol Bird and Nature Club and the Millers River Environmental Center. Each month Joe goes on an accessible birding adventure in the Athol area, as part of a public program offered by the Millers River Environmental Center. Athol is in north central Massachusetts between Greenfield and Gardner along Route 2. You can join him on the second Tuesday morning of the month from April through October and bird from 8 - 10am.

For close up viewing, Joe uses his scope on a tripod or his binoculars mounted on a monopod. The monopod is a great piece of equipment, essentially one leg of a tripod, that allows people with balance issues, hand tremors, weak grip or arms to use binoculars more easily and get more satisfaction out of their sightings. Not all binoculars mount onto monopods, so be sure to ask about this feature if you are shopping for optics. Joe's binoculars and monopod were made by Brunton, a well-known sporting goods company.

To bird with Joe, you'll need your own optical equipment. Several local birding experts drop in on Joe's program and can assist you with spotting. Programs meet at the Millers River Environmental Center in downtown Athol and provide an accessible van for group transport to a selected location. Give them a call at 978-248-9491 to sign up!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Paralympic Media Coverage!

In a few days, 600 athletes from 40 countries will begin competition in 5 winter Paralympic sports. The Paralympics always follow the Olympics in the same venue. The Olympics get lots of TV coverage, the Paralympics follow almost unnoticed in mainstream media.
One of the reasons I started this blog is because there is so little media coverage of adaptive recreation and sports on all levels - even the most elite athletes in disabled sports are often little known outside the disable sports world. Nonetheless, the Paralympics will get some television coverage this month, and while TV pales in comparison, the internet offers more options now than ever.

NBC Sports and Universal Sports just announced their coverage this week. NBC will recap the opening ceremony for one hour on Saturday March 13 from 1-2pm ET. After the Games are over, on Saturday, April 10 from 3-5pm ET highlights from all sports will be shown.

UniversalSports will show 2 hours of coverage nightly at 6pm and 11pm ET starting Monday, March 15 through Tuesday, March 23. There will also be on demand selections, including entire event "rewinds" on
You can also check out daily updates and videos at, the Team USA website, and
Along with the outdoor competition of downhill skiing, nordic skiing, and biathlon, be sure to watch get a view of the indoor sports - sled hockey and wheelchair curling, both growing sports.
I found curling fascinating in the Winter Olympics. In wheelchair curling, there is no sweeping and a throwing stick is used to send the stone down the ice. It is quite the mesmerizing game of skill and strategy and Canada is the team to beat this time.
Team USA will attempt to reclaim the gold in sled hockey, after winning gold in Salt Lake City in 2002, then being unable to follow suit in Torino in 2006. Sled hockey has been an official Paralympic sport since 1994 so more teams have had a chance to develop their competitive edge. Its fast and furious, so don't miss out!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's Maple Sugar Time! Break out of the house and get a taste!

March is here and the sap is flowing! There is nothing like the taste of warm maple syrup just collected from the evaporator in a "sugar shack"! If cabin fever is getting to you, now is the time to check out our local maple syrup and taste the sweetness of an otherwise often dreary and moody time of year. Learning about the sugaring process through direct experience is lots of fun.

There are maple sugaring events this month at three state parks in Massachusetts near Boston. Access for people with disabilities is generally good in each location, but somewhat dependent upon snow and mud conditions, so I recommend you call the park of interest and get an update.

In Uxbridge at Riverbend Farm (part of Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park), you'll find a completely wheelchair accessible visitor center with heated bathrooms and exhibits on local history, as well as a petite little sugar shack across the street. Even if you can't get into it, you can usually get a good peek in with your tasty sample. The park has been working to make its shack more accessible, so call 508-278-7604 for the latest info. Free Tours will be offered to the general public on a first come-first serve basis during the first three weekends in March, from 11:00 am to 3:30 pm when the last tour starts. Tours last one and a half to 2 hours, with both indoor and outdoor elements. Visit for more info and click here for directions.

DCR and Mass Audubon are co-hosting Maple Sugar Days March 13 and 14 in the Blue Hills in Milton south of Boston. The event starts at Trailside Museum, where you can see maple trees being tapped, meet costumed characters, and learn about the history of maple sugaring. This event has a $5 admission fee for adults, $3 for kids ages 3-12. A trolley will take sugar enthusiasts over to Brookwood Farm, where the sugaring operation is based and other fun activities will be offered. Trolley rides depart from each location every 15 minutes or so and one trolley is wheelchair accessible. Brookwood Farm is on level terrain. The entire event is billed wheelchair accessible. If you have more specific questions about accommodations for people with disabilities, call (617) 698-1802 or (617) 333-0690.

At Breakheart Reservation in Saugus (north of Boston), you'll find a beautiful accessible visitors center, with sugaring demonstrations and a sugar shack just outside. Public sugar demonstrations will take place March 20 and 21 from 10am to 2pm. Call 781-233-0834 for more info.