Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Birding in Arizona - Day 9, pottering about

For our last day in Arizona, prior to travelling home, we decided to head out together but borrowing the wheelchair from the hotel to try and find some accessible spots for some birding.  We were delighted to see this Cooper's Hawk in the first light of day just outside our room:

The first place we stopped, having eventually navigated the major roadworks on the freeway, was the Sweetwater Wetlands, another waste-water wetlands.  Great idea by the way Arizona, hopefully it'll be repeated elsewhere...

I parked Helen in the accessible part and wandered around.  She was avidly bird-watching too as you can see:

Birds of the wetlands included some very enthusiastic Red-winged Blackbirds:

Cormorants, en passant:

Cinnamon Teal:

Blue-winged Teal and Northern Shoveller:

From the wetlands we tried a couple of the city parks.  They didn't have much to offer, though this terrapin was defiant despite being somewhat out of water:

Gila Woodpeckers abounded:

As did Gambell's Quail:

and indeed Abert's Towhee:

Helen eventually conceded and we drove up Mount Lemmon, pretty much the number one local attraction.  We met a lot of cyclists, mostly descending the mountain at pace.  We also passed some just starting their ascent.  It's a 7,500 feet climb, covering roughly 25 miles.  Nutters they are, nutters.

The views are good though:

We wrapped up and headed back to pack and enjoy pizza before our trip home.  I should say a few things about the trip:

Tucson airport was easy.  Instant access to (very) big wheelchairs.  Boarding was simple and the American Airlines crew very helpful.

The flight home was very pleasant with a wonderfully friendly and professional BA crew, luckily a reward flight so we were in club with flat beds, the Captain refused to leave the plane until we'd been found a wheelchair at Heathrow.  Hats off to the flight and the cabin crew, BA went up big time in my estimation, thank you!

Heathrow was a breeze thanks to our wheeled luggage and an understanding wheelchair attendant.

Chicago however was a shocker with one single notable exception.  First they had seven wheelchairs lined-up to collect people from the flight.  The ramp does not accommodate two wheelchairs wide (they do have to be very big of course), so the attendant Helen got decided ramming his way up the ramp was the answer. Complete idiot.  After around 10 minutes and with me dropping my luggage, going back down the ramp and collapsing all the other wheelchairs we got her out.  My tip to him was plan ahead.  Boy was I annoyed.  Anyway we wheeled for about 7 minutes to find a sign pointing us back to the other end of the terminal, fully 15 minutes away.  We got there to be told that we had to go all the way back again, out through security and then on the train between terminals because they hadn't bothered to work out transfer logistics for less able bodied passengers.

At this point the lady who was managing the transfer stepped-up and spent nearly 40 minutes on the phone trying to locate a wheelchair for Helen in the other terminal and persuading the jobsworths to let us go, which she eventually did.  We got Helen downstairs thanks to the loan of a walking stick from a very kind and considerate gentleman.  It wasn't over yet though, next we had to surrender the wheelchair at the lounge, then persuade the lady on the front desk that Helen was fit to fly.  Then I had a fight as the food was in the other lounge and they couldn't locate a wheelchair, eventually they conceded and let me carry a plate of food from one lounge to the other (I ate mine in the club lounge to avoid further fights), then there was no wheelchair for boarding.  Having hopped about 50 yards, in real pain and with 150 yards to go I dropped the bags and carried Helen on to the flight, thankfully the lounge attendant was finally on board and helped move our bags too.  I was properly relieved when they served me double champagne!


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