Archive for the ‘California travel’ Category

I didn't see this kind of bug in my room at Napa Discovery Inn. But then I was only in there for 5 minutes.

I didn’t see this kind of bug in my room at Napa Discovery Inn. But then I was only in there for 5 minutes. Photo by smee_me on flickr

Twice in the last month I’ve found myself in untenable  situations on the road. Both times, I had to change my plans on the fly. It’s tough and expensive to do that. But sometimes it’s necessary, no matter what your ability or pain level.

In short: Sometimes the best way to improve a bad travel experience is to  pack up and go home.

It’ll be up to you to decide when your personal pain/chaos/trouble-meter has pegged in the red zone.

To stop a trip in the middle, or make a major unforeseen change (like changing flights or hotels) usually costs money. Right now, I make good money at my day job. That means I can afford to indulge my pain and panic attacks in a way that I couldn’t back when I was a full-time freelance writer. When I was skating the poverty line, it took a lot more to make me change paid-for travel plans. Nowadays, I’ll suck up lost money to make myself more comfortable.

It’s up to you. It’s always up to you to figure out what’s worth it to deal with, and what’s just not worth it.

Here’s what drove me to make a major change in one case, and to bail in another case.

The Spider-and-Mosquito Motel

Last month I accidentally found what may be the worst motel in the Napa Valley: the Napa Discovery Inn. In a region that’s got about a thousand wonderful motels, inns, B&Bs, spa resorts, etc etc ad infinitum, there’s no reason at all to stay in a place this crappy. Just a few miles north, the Chablis Inn is a clean, comfortable, safe motel that actually costs less than this freakin’ travesty.

What happened

My instincts started ringing bells and popping red flags the instant I pulled into the Napa Discovery Inn’s parking lot. I stared into the dark, exposed parking lot, lit primarily by my truck’s headlights, and thought “my truck’s going to get broken into.”

I went in to the tiny office, not comforted by the “safety window” that lets clerks deal with customers without letting them in to the office. Hint: those are common in Oakland. NOT in Napa.

Though the clerk was friendly, an overwhelming smell of curry (which I’m kind of allergic to) and loud talking from the next room made the check-in experience unpleasant. And the clerk charged my card for my two-night stay then and there. Another no-no.

Room key in hand, I parked my truck in the too-small space in front of the exposed ground-floor room in an attempt to block the window a bit.

The room was small, badly designed, and not overly clean. But what finally did me in/started me into a full-fledged racing-heart panic attack was the bugs. The distinctive whine of mosquitos came from the ceiling. And as I stared, a big red-and-yellow spider sauntered across the night stand next to the bed.

That did it. Standing there alone, feeling unsafe and creeped out, I freaked.

What I did about it

I grabbed my bags, threw them back into the truck, and strode shaking to the office with the keys. A different clerk, male this time, appeared. I told him my room had bugs and I was leaving.

He wanted to give me a different room. I said no. He yelled at me, angry that I wouldn’t “give him a chance.”

Oddly enough, being verbally abused didn’t help my panic attack. I dropped the keys on the desk and fled.

On the way to the Napa Discovery Inn, I’d seen a couple of chain motels. I picked a Hawthorne Inn & Suites that was only a mile or two away. It was after 10pm, I was pale and shaking and felt like crap. I didn’t want to drive around anymore.

Sure enough, the Hawthorne had rooms available. The lobby was clean and nice (and didn’t have a security window). I went on up to my not-on-the-ground floor room after parking my truck in the well-lit lot. Then, and only then, did my heart rate start to diminish.

I’m never going to see that $300 prepay to the Discovery Inn again. Fine. I’ll repay them by panning them on every review site on the Internet. I can afford to suck up the cash loss.

Mini Burning Man

A couple of weekends ago, I went camping with a big group in a horse pasture in California’s arid Central Valley. I do that occasionally–I belong to a re-enactment group* that does camping events on a large scale. It’s tough to find shady campgrounds that can take 500 people, so we cope with the heat.  The whole state experienced an epic windstorm that weekend. Ever been camping in 35 mph winds? Yarg.

What happened

Friday night was charming. I hung out with friends, had a couple of cocktails, and enjoyed the atmosphere. What with one party and another, I didn’t make it to bed until about 2 a.m.

At about 5 a.m., I woke up when my tent hit me in the face. At 6 a.m., I woke up to children screaming. At 8 a.m. the sun had turned my tent into a steam cooker, and I gave the hell up on sleep.

The temperature rose to 90F-plus by 10 a.m. But what killed us was the wind. Also by 10 a.m. it blew constantly, gusting high. People’s tents and sunshades started blowing over, disrupting the day’s activities. Many folks had expensive tents badly damaged. (One friend had her 20-inch-long wrought-iron tent stakes bend.) We were all breathing dust and powdered horse crap.

I found myself enduring three of the main conditions that comprise the reason I don’t go to Burning Man: heat, wind, and dust.

What I did about it

By 2 p.m. my friends and I had had it. (I camped with couple who brought two children under 5 years old to this event.) We packed up and left a full day early. One of my friends drove my truck home, because I was on the verge of collapse. We got home, and I spent the evening huddled on my couch watching TV and basking in the lack of dust-filled air pummeling my skin.

The good news for this incident was that we didn’t lose money on the deal. The fee to attend the event was flat. No hotel or transportation reservations got canceled. And the gas cost the same on Saturday afternoon as it would have on Sunday afternoon. All we lost was a day of camping with friends.

* I’m in the SCA, if you care.


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Because a lot of people seem to want to know how to find hotels with Tempur-Pedic(r) beds, I’ve gone out and found some.


Gathering these things takes longer than you might imagine. But there will be lots more soon. Check the Pages for more accommodations with Tempur-Pedic beds in more places.

But in the meantime, here are ten California hotels, motels, and inns with Tempur-Pedic mattresses:

Park Tahoe Inn
South Lake Tahoe, CA

All rooms have  Tempur-Pedic beds; some Superior King Rooms have ADA-compliant bathrooms.

Black Bear Inn
Arnold, CA

All 5 guest rooms have king-sized Tempur-Pedic beds and spa bathtubs.

Coventry Motor Inn
San Francisco, CA

Not sure how many rooms have Tempur-Pedic  beds; rumor has it that at least some of the King beds have the Tempur-Pedics. Call and ask specifically to be sure to get one. The good news: this is not a high-budget motel (especially for San Francisco), but it’s got good online ratings.

La Serena Inn
Morro Bay, CA
(800) 248-1511
(805) 772-5665

At least half the rooms at the La Serena have Tempur-Pedic beds; may all have them by now. But be sure to call for a reservation and ask for a Tempur-Pedic bed. (Can’t do this on the web reservation portal.)

Grass Valley Courtyard Suites
Grass Valley, CA

All rooms and suites have Tempur-Pedic beds. This hotel also has a full-service day spa and an on-site personal trainer. (I love Grass Valley–Gold Country may be my favorite region in California. Oh, and the Flour Garden bakeries have the best cherry turnovers in the known universe.)

Wydown Hotel
St. Helena, CA

Unconfirmed. Only info that claims this property has Tempur-Pedic beds comes from 3rd party website.

Stevenswood Spa Resort
Little River, CA (Mendocino region)

About half the rooms have  King Tempur-Pedic beds; if you look at the individual room types you can figure out which rooms to reserve online, or call and ask for a room with a Tempur-Pedic. As the name implies, there’s an attached spa, which has lots of healing options on the menu.

Best Western Newport Beach Inn
Newport Beach, CA

Some rooms have Tempur-Pedics; this isn’t emphasized and there’s no way to tell on the web site which these are–you’ve got to call for a room and ask for a Tempur-Pedic room. There’s at least one theoretically ADA compliant room that they seem to be very proud of. No idea if it’s got a Tempur-Pedic or not.

Pierpont Inn Hotel
Ventura, CA

Unconfirmed. Only info that claims this property has Tempur-Pedic beds comes from 3rd party website.

Tower23 Hotel
Pacific Beach, CA

Hotel reservation sites claim that all  rooms have Tempur-Pedic beds, and this does seem to be the kind of chic urban resort hotel that can claim tip-top amenities.

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Half Moon Bay California

View of Half Moon Bay from the Ritz-Carlton, where I would one day like to be wealthy enough to patronize for my overnight getaways

Last week, my husband and I went and spent a night in the charming little seaside town of Half Moon Bay, California at the ocean-front Cypress Inn.

This little vacation is exactly the kind of trip I think is perfect for chronic pain patients who haven’t done a lot of traveling with their pain yet, who are celebrating the diminishing of a flare, or who feel like they might be doing well enough to travel. At the moment I’m in category 2.

If you’ve got chronic pain and you can physically get up out of bed and walk around your house, and you can tolerate a car trip of 15-60 minutes, you can take this kind of trip. It may not be pain-free. But if you want to have fun, you can create a lot of fun.

Here’s my step-by-step guide to finding the joy in a one-night near-home getaway:

  1. Choose someplace near home.
    I love Half Moon Bay because it’s less than an hour’s drive from my house, yet it’s got a totally different atmosphere than the one I live in. It’s got a small town feel, complete with kitschy downtown, and it lies along the stunning Northern California coastline. Read here: Beach!I also like taking getaways to the woods, to the mountains, and to small towns with interesting history. I always try to pick someplace with points of interest, places to take slow pleasant walks, unusual or chic restaurants, and a nice inn that’s got comfortable rooms near to the places I want to visit.
  2. Drive out in the mid-afternoon.
    Midafternoon is the perfect time to make my short drive up the freeway and over the mountains. Between 1pm and 3pm, traffic in my major metro area smooths out. Most every hotel, motel, and inn known to man has a check-in time between 3pm-4pm. I timed my drive to get to the Cypress Inn just at check-in time, so I could lie down if I felt tired or achy when I arrived.
  3. Take a walk on the beach.
    I didn’t feel tired or achy, so my husband unloaded our bags into our room, we changed our shoes, and we headed out. The Cypress Inn sits just across the road from the beach. We took a long, shambling stroll. I collected a few shells, including some undamaged sand dollars. I breathed in the ocean air, stared out over the water, petted various dogs who’d taken their owners out for a romp on the sand, and just let myself feel the joy of being someplace beautiful…someplace different.
  4. Rest.
    After beachcombing for an hour, I felt tired. So I laid down on the wide bed and read a book for an hour. My husband and I watched the sun set over the Pacific from the wide windows overlooking the water.
  5. Go out for a nice dinner.
    Before we left home, I’d made reservations at Cetrella–a fancy California cuisine restaurant in downtown Half Moon Bay. I love dining out, especially when I’m traveling. Cetrella has a special $25 prix-fixe menu they serve Tues-Thurs. We took advantage of that discount and enjoyed a charming meal with a glass of wine. The restaurant is only 10-15 minutes from the Inn, so if I’d had physical trouble we could have gotten me back to the room quickly.Though it wasn’t strictly necessary, my husband and I dressed up some for dinner. I wore dress pants and boots rather than a dress and heels–walking in heels tends to cause me pain, and the cold weather would have added pain if I’d chosen a dress. But it’s still great fun to dress up, add some jewelry and makeup to my outfit. It makes the meal a special event, and that much more fun.
  6. Take a bath.
    Especially in chilly weather, baths ease my aches and pains while relaxing my muscles and soothing my skin. Knowing this, my fabulous husband reserved us a room with an oversized spa tub. We made use of it. ‘Nuff said.
  7. Enjoy the hotel room.
    All through our short stay, I enjoyed the amenities of the room at the Cypress Inn we’d saved up to be able to afford and of the Inn itself. The bathtub, of course, the comfy bed, the wide flat-screen TV with cable, the in-house Esalen-trained massage therapist, the wine and cheese in the evening, the room-service breakfast in the morning.
  8. Sleep.
    I can’t do without lots of sleep each night. So I put in my earplugs, locked the door and put out the Do Not Disturb sign, pulled the drapes, and slept.
  9. Eat breakfast in bed.
    The innkeeper delivers breakfast trays to guests who don’t want to appear in the dining room in the morning. So we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in bed.
  10. Check out at the latest possible check-0ut time.
    No point in bolting out of the room at 7 am–this was a vacation! So we packed up, husband loaded the car, and we checked out at 11:30 am.
  11. Shop downtown.
    I love shopping, and my husband gamely tolerates shopping. Shopping is another way to get in a stroll while seeing new things. Most downtown areas have benches if I need to sit down, there’s usually someplace that’s selling bottled water and coffee, and being a customer means the sales staff will let me use the restrooms.
  12. Have a light lunch at a cute bakery.
    Eating’s important. So we did.
  13. Drive home.
    In the early afternoon, we drove home. I have a tough time making it through a whole day without lying down to rest at least once in the afternoon. We went home so I could do that.
  14. Rest.
    We got home and I laid down and rested.

Totally successful trip! Try it yourself when you get a chance.


Photo (c) radzfoto on flickr

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North Fork American River Tunnel Rapids

This is actually a rapids on the North Fork of the American River, and a different company's raft. I've got to get those rapids photos from my dad!

On one of my summer trips this year, I got the sudden, surprise opportunity to go on a free Class 3 whitewater rafting trip on the South Fork of the American River with the Whitewater Connection rafting company.

When I was healthy, I loved whitewater rafting. I went at least once every year on guided trips, and dreamed of learning to kayak at a Class IV level. But rafting is called an “extreme sport” for a reason. It’s physically demanding, from eyeballs to toes. Paddling correctly means using my hips and my core as much or more than the shoulders and the arms. I have chronic pelvic pain, so my hips and belly and back are where my pain lives. Which makes correct paddling…let’s say challenging.

But but but…free rafting trip! With my 70-year-old father, no less. Dad had never set foot in a raft before in his life, and was intrigued and willing to give it a shot.

We had a fabulous time! My body remembered how to paddle correctly, and was able to keep up with the pace of the Class III trip. We plunged through some white water, bounced off a few big rocks, got thoroughly soaked, paddled hard, and sat still and silent, glided down the river through scenic valleys that are not accessible by road.

When I was young and strong, I preferred to sit in the front of the raft–you get more control and more splashes in that position. This trip, I was more than content to let the two twentysomething guys who were our trip companions take the front-of-raft positions.

By the middle of the trip, I was feeling some pain. I took a painkiller and kept on paddling. The pain stayed very much in the background of my mind, when I noticed it at all. The fun and excitement of the activity totally overwhelmed the pain. The fact that my dad was also having the time of his life, grinning manically through every rapid, helped too. To introduce him to rafting and have him love it so much that he was willing to buy the silly pictures they take from rocks as the rafts negotiate the rapids absolutely made my day.

I had a magnificent trip!

The next day was…less magnificent.

When you play with pain, you pay the next day. Thems the rules–challenge them at your own risk. I knew the risks when I decided to go rafting. And the consequences were, to me, moderate. I spent the rest of the week-long trip enduring a higher-than-normal level of pelvic and back pain, plus sore muscles up and down my back and my core. That’s a tough set of pains to deal with, especially faced with two more full days divided between sitting in the car and hiking around parks and museums and shopping areas.

So I dealt with it. It made the end of my trip harder, but not impossible. My dad helped out all he could, schlepping bags and assisting me in every way he could. Thank you Dad! I honestly don’t think I could have done it without you.

My conclusions:

  • The rest of the trip would have been easier, possibly much easier, if I hadn’t gone rafting. I would have been in less pain for several days.
  • Rafting caused me to spend two days mostly in bed when I got home from the research trip. Ouch.
  • The positive consequences of the rafting trip outweighed the negatives for me, despite the weight of the negatives consequences. I’d do it again.
  • I can engage in mild to moderate outdoor sporting activities, with unpleasant but survivable consequences. Yay!!! (This wouldn’t  have been true for me even a year ago.)

How is it possible that I feel so happy and positive about an activity that definitely hurt me? Easy–I DID IT. I succeeded. I made it through the whole trip, and climbed out of that raft under my own steam.

And now I have the memory of myself out there on the river, paddle in hand, water in face, dad at side, scenery all around, feeling alive in a way that’s indescribably wonderful.  The pain calmed down in less than a week. That memory will be with me forever. I’ll have those silly photos of dad and me plunging into the white water on my wall for decades.

My pain will ebb and flow for the rest of my life. It’s just there, kind of like my hair and fingernails. But an experience–that matters. Experiences create memories that distract from the pain, and make it clear that I’m more than just a pain patient, that there’s more to life that pain.

There’s rafting!


Photo (c) fortherock on flickr

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My bucket list may be near-infinite, but it’s not all dreams and fantasies. Even traveling with my chronic pain, I’ve gotten to see and smell and touch a bunch of my bucket list destinations.

* Paris

Bastille farmer's market

The farmer's market at the Bastille in Paris

Paris was my #1 bucket list item from childhood. I studied there as a healthy college student many many moons ago. I’ve been back repeatedly.

Two years ago I took a weeklong jaunt to Paris. Just me and my pain, alone together. I rented a studio apartment in the 3rd arrondissement and spent the week visiting my favorite places and seeking out a few new sights. An old friend from high school lives in Paris now–he and his wife took me to dinner and to a few of their favorite spots.

I wouldn’t have done it this way if I weren’t already familiar with Paris, and I didn’t speak functional French. Since I am and I do, I felt comfortable rambling around my favorite city in the world on my own.

My pain certainly made itself felt on this trip. The worst attack came at the very end. I failed to plan properly, and my taxi driver dropped me at the wrong terminal. Because I was exhausted and already in pain from the walk from my apartment to the taxi stand, I became somewhat disoriented and decided to walk to the correct terminal. Bzzt! Wrong answer! I made it, after a long and horrible walk, dragging my heavy luggage behind me, crying quietly the whole way. I had to stop repeatedly.

Would I do it again? Oh yes. Anytime.

* Kauai

Last summer my friends Andrew and Catherine took me along on a trip to Kauai. I hadn’t been to the oldest major Hawaiian island since I was 5. (All I remember is being stung by a jellyfish.)

We had an active, adventurous blast! We snorkeled at Poipu. We spent a day driving around the island and did some snorkeling on the Na Pali Coast. We did an all-day boat trip out to Moku’ae’ae (with more snorkeling, of course). Another day found us driving up to Waimea Canyon, stopping to snap photos and take short hikes.

Andrew & Catherine at Waimea Canyon

Andrew & Catherine at Waimea Canyon on Kauai

My pain didn’t bug me much on this trip. Both of my travel companions had varying levels of hidden disability themselves, different from mine but still pertinent to travel. We all took care to respect one another’s limits and needs. This made for a more comfortable than average island vacation.

Next, I want to explore Oahu, beyond the bounds of Waikiki.

* Mt. Shasta Region

Liz Hamill Mossbrae Falls

I have conquered Mossbrae Falls!

My fabulous fiance Eric and I spent a week in the fall of 2009 hiking the waterfalls of the Shasta-Lassen region. Though we didn’t make it up to Mt. Lassen, and I wasn’t able to do long hikes, we found plenty of short and medium-length walks in beautiful forests along charming rivers and streams. I got to see waterfalls I’d never seen before. I got to watch Eric leap off a waterfall and plunge into an ice-cold swimming hole. (After sunset. Rather him than me.)

We stayed in a cheap motel–the “good” Motel 6 in Redding, in fact. See–I don’t always need luxury accommodations to enjoy a trip! We ate in the diner down the block and grabbed sandwiches for lunches. The trip was charming and cheap for both of us and reasonably comfortable for me.

Next time I want to go to Lassen proper–I’d like to stay at the farmhouse hotel in the southern reaches of the national park, or maybe in Susanville, and explore more of northeastern California on and beyond Highway 395. Hey–another bucket item!

* Victoria & Albert Museum, London

I have this thing for medieval and Renaissance art. Especially textiles. And jewelry up through the Art Deco period. The V&A houses one of the most amazing collections of beaux-arts in the world. Granted, they’ve moved the textiles. But in a way that worked out beautifully last June–it gave me the opportunity to explore the rest of the museum. Including the absolutely awe-inspiring jewelry collection.

Victoria & Albert Shoes

Are these not the most awesome shoes ever? From the Victoria & Albert in London

But next time, I want to go to the new textile museum that’s being set up in London. It won’t open for a couple of years, so I’ve got time to save up.

* A Big Cruise Ship, Any Big Cruise Ship

I’ve always wanted to know what a cruise on one of those gigantic ships actually feels like. Yes, really. I am a plebian Philistine with no taste and no appreciation for What Real Travel Is All About(tm).

Philistines represent!!!

In the last two years I’ve been on two big-ship cruises: one to Ensenada on Carnival’s Paradise–a small and somewhat shabby ship by industry standards, but impressive enough for me as a first-time cruiser. The other cruise went to Cozumel on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas.

Perhaps the Great Travel Writers will forgive me somewhat for saying that my overall opinion of big-ship cruises is…meh. Cruises have many great features for disabled travelers, and I’ll probably cruise again. But the overall experience just doesn’t mesh well with my personal travel idiom. I like less fake and more freedom, frankly.

Liz Hamill on Navigator of the Seas

That's me, standing in front of one of the many enormous sculptural thingos on Navigator of the Seas

* The Caribbean

I only got one day on the island of Cozumel in the Caribbean Sea. But I got to ride a jeep around, taking in the beautiful scenery, local poverty, and native ruins. And I got to take a snorkeling tour on a Caribbean reef. For me, that constitutes a good start.

I added this to the “done” list, but the fact is that I’ve barely whetted my whistle when it comes to traveling in the Caribbean. There’s much, much more I’d like to do in this island chain. Most of my interest centers around historic sites left by the native islanders, and fish. I love paddling about in warm water, following pretty and colorful fish around as they go about their business.

Liz Hamill & Nancy on Cozumel

Me and Nancy with our fabulous snorkel guides on the beach in Cozumel

Next time I visit the Caribbean, I’d prefer to do it without the giant cruise brick. I’d like to settle onto one island (maybe Cozumel again, maybe one of the Saints…I haven’t planned this trip yet), rent a car and a snorkeling kit, and take at least a week to explore on my own. Well, “on my own” meaning “with my husband or at least one friend” in reality. I’ll probably avoid the all-inclusive resorts, instead picking out a nice a la carte hotel or cottage-resort with an attached restaurant but no meal package and no property walls between me and adventures of my own design.

* The Bottom Line

Having chronic pain does not prevent me from attacking my bucket list with a strong will and a happy adventurous attitude.

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Liz & Eric wedding

That's us getting married on the sand at Manresa State Beach

I just got back from the Best Honeymoon Ever! It’s possible that I may be prejudiced…really, every newlywed should think her or his honeymoon is the Best.

But how did I create the Best Honeymoon Ever, with pain?

1. I got my spouse-to-be into the honeymoon with pain planning process.

Because my sweetie and I planned our honeymoon together, we each got a say in what we wanted to do. And he did his share of making reservations and decisions, so I didn’t have all the stress ahead of time, either.

Eric knows all about my pain conditions. He’s been my partner for years. I trusted him to know what I need, to make plans that would work for me, and to ask me questions when he needs more information from me.

That’s a good way to start a marriage.

2. We picked our destination with care, and mindful of my pain.

I’ve got nothing against people who spend their honeymoons BASE jumping. Whatever floats your cake. Probably if you’ve got chronic pain you’re not planning an extreme sporting honeymoon already.

But I also think that a honeymoon isn’t the time to go do the ubertourist thing. At least not if chronic pain will be coming along on the trip too. Don’t get me wrong–I adore going over to Europe and knocking from museum to cathedral to monument to marketplace. I wouldn’t be a travel writer if I didn’t love that kind of trip.

It’s just that for my honeymoon, I wanted a vacation. I wanted the nicest hotel room I could get, complete with a fabulous view. I wanted room service available, and a comfy bed with a bathtub. A pretty hotel room with a DVD player is always nice for me–if I’m feeling cruddy I can lay in bed and watch movies with my new husband. We love us some hot tubs, and hot tubs do wonders for my pain. Eric and I like the ocean.  We wanted to be able to walk on a beach at least once, though we were willing to drive to get to it.

We chose the Ventana Inn & Spa at Big Sur.

Liz & Eric & Angela Hunt

As we said our vows

We’d been there before, so we were familiar with the property. Familiarity = less stress. Less stress = less pain. It had everything we needed and most everything we wanted, and it was only a 90-minute car trip from our wedding site to the Ventana.

3. We started the honeymoon the day after the wedding.

Not the first thing in the morning, either.

Instead of flinging ourselves directly from an energy-intensive event into energy-intensive travel, we spent the night at the site of our reception.

4. We spent a lot of time in bed.

No no no, not like that! Well, okay, some like that–it was our honeymoon, after all.

But seriously, we spent a lot of time each day lounging about like slugs. We read, we talked, we snuggled, we watched Firefly on DVD, we stared out the window at the view, and we slept. It was restful, relaxing, and fun.

5. We kept our plans simple, and minimal.

Before we left, Eric made us a reservation for massages at Esalen. Thus endeth our appointments for the week.

By keeping our formal plans to a minimum, we decreased any potential stress about getting places on time almost down to nothing. That doesn’t mean that Esalen was the only place we went–in fact we hit Jade Cove, Moonstone Beach, Pfeiffer Big Sur, and we grabbed food at the fabulous Big Sur Deli almost every day. (I’ll do a destination post on Big Sur soon.) When we felt like it, thankyouverymuch.

6. Despite all that time in bed, we kept the drinking and…er…honeymooning to a moderate pace.

My pain centers in my pelvic region. My beloved understands what that means. Yes, we enjoyed our honeymoon–at a relaxed pace that stayed mindful of my limitations. Your mileage will vary, depending on the location and nature of your pain.

Drinking lots of liquor does all sorts of bad things to people with chronic pain conditions. It causes hormone fluctuations that can trigger pain. It doesn’t play well with most medications. And because I’m menopausal, it causes hot flashes–the very antithesis of sexy. So I resisted temptation (and why did five of our friends give us bottle of booze to take on the honeymoon, anyhow??) and kept my consumption to one or two glasses every other day.

7. We spent enough time honeymooning to recover from the stress of the wedding.

We took a full 7 nights and 8 days to kick back and get away from it all. If we could have afforded it, we would have taken another week. But that one long week did us a lot of good.

Eric & Liz

Being just a little bit silly, because that's a super-important part of a happy marriage

8. We took time to feel the joy of our new marriage and to connect with each other.

A honeymoon is a time of pleasure and joy–the beginning of something new and wonderful. Eric and I focused our energy on connecting as a couple, being with each other, and making each other laugh and smile.

Does this have anything to do with pain? Yes. There’s a whole bunch of stuff about making sure we have more than a patient-caretaker relationship, that his needs are met as well as mine, that he understands my needs, etc etc.

Bottom line: Connecting with my husband makes me happy. Happiness leads to less pain.


All photos (c) Laina Worth (’cause we didn’t take pictures of our honeymoon)

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Liz & Eric getting married

Yeah, that's my sweetie. Isn't he cute? And yes, he's that much taller than me. I love that about him.

I got married last weekend!

Despite building up to a massive stress flare in the two weeks before the wedding, I had a wonderful and pain-minimal Big Day. After experiencing it, I can safely say that a destination wedding worked out nicely for me as a traveler with pain on a limited but not miniscule budget.

Why have a destination wedding with pain?

Wouldn’t a site near home be easier? Not necessarily. Many destination weddings take place at hotels and resorts or on cruise ships—that is, within walking distance of the room where the bridal couple stays overnight. That means no need to drive from home to salon to pre-ceremony site to ceremony to reception to wedding night hotel to airport from other airport to honeymoon locale. (It also means no need to hire a limo or a horse-and-four or an ambulance.)

Liz Hamill

That's me and my dad up by the cliff at Manresa State Beach

We rented out The Flora Vista Inn–a small bed & breakfast inn near the beach for the whole weekend. That meant we arrived early in the afternoon a day before the wedding and went to bed early-ish. With no need to stagger out of bed before sunrise, I marched through the sand to my ceremony site faster than my attendants and I looked downright perky walking up the aisle on my father’s arm. The afternoon reception shut down before dinner-time and my new husband and I got to bed early on our wedding night.

Whatever might have happened then isn’t the subject of this blog. 😉

Bright and late the next morning, we ate a hearty breakfast and helped our slaves…er, friends tear down and pack up as much as they’d let us. Lazy still, my husband and I got into the car just before noon to drive the hour between our wedding site and our honeymoon lodgings. If it had been a traditional destination wedding we wouldn’t have even had to go that far—our honeymoon locale would have been the same as the ceremony and reception site.

Overall, doing a semi-destination wedding made it much, much easier for me and my pain than a traditional wedding would have been. I got to sleep more, run around less, and settle in one place long enough to feel comfortable.

Here are a few tips that go beyond what you’ll find on The Knot and other big wedding planning sites:

  • Find the right destination for your wedding
    Destinationdoesn’t always mean Hawaii or St. Thomas or Tahiti or the Biggest Ship Ever. I chose a destination about an hour from home. Granted, I live less than an hour from major California beaches. But a nice lakeshore, a lovely forest, even a broad prairie will do the job so long as it’s special to you, affordable for you, manageable given your condition, and accessible to your guests.

    Flora Vista Inn

    The view from the Flora Vista Inn's lawn in La Selva Beach--they have weddings there often

    Try to find a property that does weddings frequently—that way you’ve got experienced personnel who won’t freak out at you (and send you into an even worse stress flare) because there’s not enough parking for your guests, or the ice sculptures are melting onto their deck or whatever.

  • Get there early
    Preferably, at least a day before the ceremony. Settle in. Unpack. Give yourself plenty of time—even have a few minutes available to meditate, stretch, do yoga, or do nothing at all. Whatever keeps your pain minimal.
  • Stay at your wedding site on your wedding night
    You’ve been stressed, you’ve been drinking, you’re probably feeling some pain. Now isn’t the time to take a long drive or a plane trip. A destination wedding means there’s no need to leave at all—you’re on your honeymoon as soon as you close the door to the bridal suite. But even if you’re heading elsewhere to be alone with your beloved for the honeymoon, leave the next day.
  • Use the advice and experience of the locals
    If you can afford it, hire an on-site or local wedding coordinator. If you can’t, chat up the owner or manager of the property you’re using and get the names of party rental companies, caterers, florists, bakeries, and so forth who’ve worked with your site before.
  • Get the busy-work done at home ahead of time
    Assemble as much as possible as far ahead of time as you can. That means everything from wedding favors to hair gewgaws to little bags of rice. The less you need to do once you’ve reached your destination, the happier and less pain-wracked you’ll be on The Big Day.
  • Remember to get your prescriptions filled in advance
    For the obvious reasons. Also see your doctors a week or two before your wedding. Make any follow-up appointments for after your nuptials before you leave. Buy any OTC meds and items while you’re still at home. Look up (and write down!) the locations of emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, and pharmacies at your destination.
  • Have fun!
    Seriously—a wedding is mainly a big party. And this one’s your big party. Enjoy the living heck out of it!
All photos (c) Laurie Mount on Facebook.

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