Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Cozy Dog Drive In

Mik in Front of Cozy Dog Drive In

Date of Visit: June 18, 2024

When planning Mik’s 30th birthday trip, we had considered doing some Route 66 things. Originally it was something we were going to do towards the end of the trip when we went from Anaheim to Chicago, but we ended up starting the trip from Chicago (it was a change we made about a week before the trip to allow Dad and I to make a quick weekend detour to go to see the ceremony for mom’s uncle being inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame). When planning the trip, Mik ended up only wanting to do Pops in Oklahoma. The first rest area we stopped at in Illinois, though, had info on Route 66 attractions in Illinois and Dad suggested we stop at some of them. Mik could not be convinced to stop at the Man with a Giant Hot Dog statue or World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, but he was up for having an early lunch at the Cozy Dog Drive in…once I told him it was no farther off the route than stopping somewhere else for lunch. 

Cozy Dog souvenir display

With it being called a drive in, we thought it be similar to Sonic, but it actually has seating inside and a drive through. Eating inside was definitely the right choice as they have Route 66 decor and information including Route 66 books you can you look through while you’re there.

Mik rolled up to booth table

Mik found the booth tables perfect for him to roll up to. I little hard for Dad and I to get in and out without moving Mik, but once all in it was good. There are also regular tables that you can pull chairs away from to roll under.

Table with chairs

Mik eating corn dog

Mik, of course, had to have a corn dog.

Mik eating chili cheese dog

He also had a chili cheese dog.

Cheese on a stick

I enjoyed the cheese on a stick and we all shared the fries, which were Mik's favorite style of fries.

Cozy Dog Cola in bottle

To drink, Mik had the Cozy Dog cola and I had the Cozy Dog root beer.

Cozy Dog root beer in bottle


Mik said the bathroom was good as they were just one person style rooms that are spacious versus bathrooms with stalls that even the accessible one frequently is not big enough for a wheelchair and helper.

entrance to Cozy Dog Drive In with Route 66 Roadside Attraction sign

Cozy Dog Drive In ended up being a great early lunch stop. We got there around 10:30am and there was pretty much no one there. By the time we left probably half the tables were in use and the drive through line was around the building almost to where we were parked. 

Mik and Kjersti in front of Cozy Dog Drive In Sign

Destination Info:
Cozy Dog Drive In
2934 S 6th St
Springfield, IL 62703

Route 66 Springfield, Illinois sign at Cozy Dog Drive In

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Brookgreen Gardens: Lowcountry Zoo

Date of Visit: March 18, 2024

Brookgreen Gardens is a place I have been wanting to take Mik to since we moved to Myrtle Beach almost 4 years ago. When my godmother came to visit us, we made it one of our top priorities of things to do during her visit.

We decided to do the Lowcountry Zoo area first. There are different parking areas and you can park near the farm/zoo area, but we parked in the main parking by the museum shop and walked/rolled over to the animal exhibits. This allowed us to at least see some statues and the garden areas along the way.

We ended up at the farm area as they were getting ready to go through the zoo area and feed the animals. We did not specifically go on the tour as Mik wanted to go at our own pace, which was faster or slower than the tour depending on the animal area.

Mik was glad he did not use his powerchair when we got to the aviaries. It was a tight squeeze to go in with only one door open, but we had plenty of hands and could have easily opened both if needed. His powerchair would have been totally fine for this outing, but I only convinced him to go if we took the manual and he could have his hands free to take photos.

We enjoyed being in the Cypress Swamp Aviary when they fed the birds.

Mik did not so much enjoy getting pooped on by a bird, but at least it mainly ended up on his wheelchair frame by his brakes and casters and not him. Mik pretty much always has wipes in his bag, so we easily cleaned it up after we exited the aviary.

We then took some time watching the otters while the feeding tour moved on. We then ended up ahead of the tour when Mik wanted to quickly go by the stinky foxes. Also, the way the barriers were for the foxes and some of the rest of the enclosures made it hard for Mik to see over/through to see anything, which kind of annoyed him.

While in the Birds of Prey area, we again joined the tour and learned about how the eagles were rescues. The tour ended after this area. It includes the alligators seasonally, but it was still too early in the year for them to be fed, which was actually interesting to learn about their torpor state (later learned the guide used wrong word for the winter dormancy and it’s actually called brumation) more than watching them fed.

By this point Mik was ready to go because he was cold (hands instead of his usual feet and it was my fault for leaving home his gloves that he recently bought to stay in his backpack). Since we were mostly through the zoo, we continued on the trail and went through the Waterfowl Aviary and past the Red Wolf Ridge (none were out easy to spot here) as we headed back to the truck.

The Waterfowl Aviary was our favorite. In particular, Nora and I enjoyed identifying the different ducks and adding some new lifers to our bird lists. I especially had been wanting to see a Ruddy Duck.

Overall it was an enjoyable morning visit. I would have liked if we could have had lunch and stayed longer, but Mik was done for the day because he hurt from sitting in his wheelchair, which we think is from the seatbelt not being able to be tight enough to keep him positioned well (really should have paid attention when Dad adjusted it for him this winter as it seems it needs to be adjusted seasonally). If we had bought tickets, we could have gone back again another day that week and definitely would have, but we had used guest passes which they take when you enter. Hopefully, another time we can go back and see more of the actual garden areas and the statues that are throughout. Definitely plenty more to see and good easy paths for the either the manual or power.

Destination Info:
Brookgreen Gardens
1931 Brookgreen Drive
Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

Saturday, February 10, 2024

McKee Botanical Garden

Date of Visit: January 10, 2024

McKee Botanical Garden was Mik's pick of attraction for last year's Vero Beach trip, but we did not get around to going. Making sure we visited this year was a priority considering Mik was hesitant about the whole family trip this year because last year he felt like he did nothing, which was rather true.

We started our visit to the McKee Botanical Garden with the Hall of Giants, which turned out to be a good place to start as it provides some history of the place. The table make from a piece of wood is also impressive.

Mik liked the nearby Spanish Kitchen, which had a grill that could cook a lot of steaks (100 or something like that, I think) at once.

Next we began walking the paths to find all of the different bird sculptures part that were on display around the garden for the "A Tropical Flock of Avian Avatars" exhibit. We found the paths through the garden easy enough to navigate as mostly packed gravel, but there was some going in the grass and dirt for the sculptures.

The "Sanctuary" sculpture was one of the ones you could walk through. Approaching it Mik did not think he'd be able to go inside, but it was plenty wide enough.

The "Platinum Peahen" was another one you could walk through. This one was do able, but it was a little room for error on the ramp. It probably would have been fine if they had just made that whole entrance a ramp and not partially stairs.

"Lift Off" was over one of the bridges in the watery maze area of the garden.

Mik's favorite part was the colorful Cortada columns.

Overall we enjoyed strolling through the McKee Botanical Garden. In particular, we enjoyed finding the different bird sculptures. Without those, though, not sure it would have been a worthwhile visit as it felt more like just walking through a park rather than a botanic garden as I expect more signage and information to learn about the plants when visiting a botanic garden and there was pretty much none.

Destination Info:
McKee Botanical Garden
350 US Highway 1
Vero Beach, FL 32962

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge: Centennial Trail

Date of Visit: January 8, 2024

Last year on our Vero Beach trip we visited the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge and Mik stayed back at the resort. This year since we had done it before and knew the trail was accessible, we were able to convince him to come.

The first part of the trail is a paved path. This part goes by a pond.

The last part of the trail is a boardwalk style with planks listing all the different National Wildlife Refuges. As Pelican Island was the first one, this trail celebrates the Centennial and history of the National Wildlife Refuge System and lists all of them on the planks as it leads to the Observation Tower that looks out to Pelican Island. Mik did not like the bumpy feel of this part of the trail. It seemed that the writing on the planks made it bumpier as he found the areas without the words smoother.

Overall we have enjoyed Pelican Island National Refuge as a family we have visited different parts of it, but this visit with Mik was not the best. The trail is good accessible-wise, but Mik really did not like the boardwalk part and was disappointed that that day we did not see many birds. Last year and the other day we visited this year, we did see more birds including close up, so understandable that he was disappointed as this day there were not many to see even with binoculars.

Destination Info:

4055 Wildlife Way
Vero Beach, FL 32963

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Disney's Vero Beach Resort: 3 Bedroom Beach Cottage Wheelchair Accessible

Date of Visit: January 6 to 13, 2024 

Since Mik and I have not been doing our one week trips in a studio for years and we did not do any other DVC trips in 2023, we had extra points to splurge on the family vacation this year. Of course, we really wanted to use the points on concierge at our home resort of Animal Kingdom Lodge, but when the waitlist had not come through at 7 months out, we booked the 3 bedroom beach cottage at Disney's Vero Beach. With Mik and I still not wanting to spend the money to go to the Florida parks (saving to go to Disneyland, which we prefer instead) and enjoying the trip last year except the small room, it probably should have been our first choice anyways.

The accessible cottage has a ramp off to the one side for getting up to the porch and entry, which was also helpful for the luggage cart and stroller.

The front porch of the cottage has a swing and two rocking chairs.

The umbrella was a useful unexpected item by the door.

The stairs to the upper level are right inside the door. The location makes sense, but the rather full wall of windows make it kind of an odd set up. To the right is a lift to be able to access the second floor for those that cannot do stairs. It was also helpful for getting the full cooler and food bins upstairs.

Under the stairs there is a closet where all the cleaning stuff (vacuum, mop, broom) was stored. There was also an open area that was good for leaving shoes as well as the stroller.

The laundry closet is large leaving room to store stuff. If it wasn't for the utility access door, it would seem it was designed for side by side machines like Hilton Head had. This was one of the most useful laundry machine we've had a DVC in that had a large capacity. However, the controls on the top was horrible in that I could barely reach them and certainly makes no sense for an accessible unit. Considering that they could not just swap out the oven because it was an accessible unit, it seems odd they do not have a laundry machine with lower controls in here.

The bedroom on the right was one of the ones with two queen beds. This one was awkward in that the path to the bathroom was very narrow by the bed.

Bathroom accessed through that room.

Access to the back porch from bedroom.

After the lack of storage last year, definitely appreciated that there was space in all the rooms to unpack. They also have power in them.

The middle bedroom is the master with the king bed and also the only accessible bathroom. Mik enjoyed that there was plenty of floor space for him.

The bathroom connected to the master was decent sized. The layout was okay, but overall it did not really work out for Mik.

We were surprised that it actually had a roll in shower as the booking description said accessible beach cottage with tub. The design was decent in that the wall helped keep the water from spraying out and while the mat did get wet, it did not end up everywhere like sometimes happens.

Mik found it impossible to get on the toilet himself with this set up. I think it is because while he has grab bars on both sides at home, I notice he mostly uses the one on the other side than this set up. He said it was because the toilet was too close to the wall and he could not turn, which kind of makes no sense because his at home are closer to toilet, but it may be that he needs more space when he has to turn from this side.

His wheelchair could be left next to the toilet for him to have something to hold on that side. Then it was annoyingly in the way of accessing the sink for others since that is where it was mostly kept.

The bathroom also had a tub with grab bars and two shower heads. Since there is only one accessible cottage, it is nice that the accessible bathroom provides both options to fit more needs/preferences. Also, this is a good option if you do not need the roll in shower to avoid the potential of too much water on the floor from the roll in shower.

The third bedroom on the left also had two queen beds, but it had a better layout that provided a reasonable sized path between the bed and the hall to the bathroom.

The bathroom for this bedroom also had an entry from the hallway.

All of the bedrooms had doors to access the back porch. Since they have bushes to block the light for the turtles on the beach, there is not much of a view from this porch, but it does provide some good seating that is less likely to end up wet than the upstairs porches.

The living room, dining, and kitchen are upstairs. There are actually some drawers and shelves in the TV unit so I could put my stuff away as the one using the sofa bed. The amount of seating, though, seemed way too little for a place that slept 12 as it is just a regular couch and a chair and not even an ottoman type table that you could sit on that some places have. Certainly unexpected when from what I remember of when we ended up with the 3 bedroom in Aulani there seemed to be more seating in the living room area, although that time we did not need it being only 4 of us and this time we had 8 adults, a kid, and a baby.

While the table also did not have enough chairs, it was at least big enough to seat everyone once we brought in chairs from outside. The lights above the table could be appreciated here with the ceiling being high enough that there was no way Josh could bump them and cause Dole whips to be ruined by glass (see last year's post).

Most importantly, it was big enough to easily play Wingspan.

There is also some high top seating at the counter, which was also a good place to put the food for serving dinner.

The upstairs entry to the lift is next to the top of the stairs.

The kitchen was a decent layout for the most part. The fridge being next to the wall is annoying in that it does not open all the way, which I think may be even more of an issue for someone in a wheelchair. The bar area with the utensils was a good way for more cabinet space to store things low, although it was awkward that because the drawers were small the utensils were split between three drawers.

The first day we could not find a cutting board and we're glad that we had happened to pack one for making sandwiches in the car, which we actually did not even end up doing. That night Dad found the cutting board when he went to put the fish in the oven. He had not checked it for stuff before preheating. It is not surprising that there were pans in there, but it was surprising to find the cutting board had been under the pans on the first shelf. Luckily there was a pan on the lower shelf that caught most of the melted cutting board. Some of it got on the bottom, though, and it took maintenance at least an hour to clean it out. They said if it had been a regular room they would have just replaced the oven because I guess they have extra ovens, but not ADA ones.

The porch outside the kitchen had two lounge chairs and a table with chairs.

This porch was not all that accessible with a large trip hazard threshold.

The threshold out to the porch with the ocean view was accessible, though.

This porch also had lounge chairs and a table with chairs.

View of the ocean.

Sunrise ocean view.

Because they try to limit the light for the turtles, the resort in general is dark at night, but in particular it was annoying that there were no lights on the stairs. It especially did not makes sense when there are some lights on the ramp. However, not sure the logic of when they go on because sometimes the ramp was lit at night and sometimes it was not.

The only wheelchair accessible cottage is at the opposite end of the resort than we stayed at last year. We found being at this end of the resort was much better for parking than last year as even last year I noticed when walking in the mornings that this end always had open spaces whereas at the end we were at least year we had issues with parking being full and several times an electric vehicle parking partially in the wheelchair access aisle when they were charging rather than actually being in their spot. Being at this end also made it so that we did not have to deal with going past the pool to get to the main building, which after the first day was often blocked by them moving in equipment for the pool refurbishment that started on our second full day.

Something new we enjoyed this year was finding Tinker Bell. Every day she was moved and if you found her, you could get a sticker on a button. When you fill the button, they let you pick a prize from their bucket of little toys.

It was a bummer that the mini golf closed with the pool (pool closure was not as much of a missed thing with the weather not being ideal for it this year anyways). We did at least manage to get one round in playing the mini golf tournament on the one day we could.

Overall we really enjoyed Disney's Vero Beach again this year. The space of the cottage was nice and something we'd definitely do again if we end up with enough points to splurge on it. Not sure we could go back again with the lock off and the small studio space, but I really have surprisingly enjoyed our trips to Vero Beach having discovered the nature trails off the nearby Jungle Trail.

Destination Info:

9250 Island Grove Terrace
Vero Beach, FL 32963