Sendero Group Travel Blog

Follow Sendero travelers on their adventures using accessible GPS.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

 

Exploring Cascade Idaho at the NR AER conference

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I flew off to Idaho for the Northwest Rockies AER conference in Cascade Idaho, over an hour and a half from Boise. What exactly would be in the GPS database in a small town in the middle of nowhere?

I used the Virtual mode to explore Cascade before I left. There was something like 55 points of interest within a mile of the hotel. I found the hotel location by entering the address. It wasn’t yet added to the Points of Interest database, being only a year old.

I was very surprised when a member of the staff from the Ashley Inn met me at the Boise airport to hear that they had high speed Internet in the rooms and wireless in the lobby and conference rooms. This former lumber mill town, as it turned out, had a beautiful, cozy but modern hotel.
Another blind guy and I, Gary Olson from Cheyenne Wyoming, set out from the inn to have dinner at Gramma’s Family restaurant, not far from the inn but along a rather pedestrian-free Idaho state route 55, also called Main Street as it ran through Cascade. Gary was impressed that two blind guys could find their way to and fro in a town they had never been in before without sighted assistance. The trip was a bigger highlight than the food. Ah, but the homemade cookies at the front desk when we returned…

I took an hour my first morning to walk up the East side of Main street and back on the West side to mark points of interest not in the database. The next GPS user who passes through Cascade will be amazed at the quality of points in the town. The streets were already extremely well recorded. Good thing since we can’t change those. Even the little bitty side streets are right there, being announced. The locals were mighty curious about this blind guy wandering around town. Very friendly folks in Cascade including the lady who chased me down in her car because she thought I couldn’t find the window to an espresso booth I was exploring 4 blocks back.

The conference events were centered on Cascade Lake including tandem cycling, hiking and Kayaking. I took my groups on a 2.5-mile trail, formerly a railroad bed, skirting the lake. I had marked various intersecting trails, benches and points to show them how this technology would be effective on rural roads or when camping. They took turns being blindfolded and getting used to the BrailleNote announcements.

I clocked about 8 miles walking before dusk fell and we headed back into town for dinner. We bypassed Gramma’s this time and found Chief’s, a slightly more upscale place for dinner, not to mention that their libations were a bit broader in selection. A neat blind woman, Danna, and I explored our way back to the Inn with a stop at the Gas and Grubb. We found our way, without the sighted folks, back to the Inn where the conference continued for a few more days and I unfortunately headed back to Davis. I am looking forward to going back to Cascade and the Ashley Inn, maybe this winter when a the new Tamarack Ski Resort opens for the first time. Kudos to Aylee Schaefer and the others who put on a unique and informative conference in what turned out to be a very special place.



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