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  • Writer's pictureCandis

Strawberries, Break downs and Gator On A Stick…

The month of May is known for bringing showers, gloom but it also can bring delightful sweetness in the form of STRAWBERRIES! On May 19–20, 2018 Oxnard, California hosted its 35th Annual California Strawberry Festival. For those of you that have not ventured to far out of Los Angeles, (L.A.) Oxnard is about 61 miles from L.A. The Strawberry Festival is one of the most highly anticipated events that grace this agriculture driven city. I have wanted to attend for several years but never had the time, transportation, or life got the best of me and I just forgot (lol).

During my mom’s pregnancy with me she ate strawberries almost every single day so it’s no surprise that this sweet berry is one of my favorite foods. This year, with a friendly reminder from my Mom… I bought tickets for us. Since my mom isn’t a big fan on celebrating Mother’s day the same weekend, I decided to turn this mini day-trip into a Mother’s Day celebration and go on Saturday, May 19th.

I bought tickets in February and at the time each ticket was $12.00. We decided to take the Amtrak train from Los Angeles Union Station to the Oxnard train station. Two roundtrip coach Amtrak tickets cost $82.96; the price would have been lower if I would have ordered more than 30 days in advance. I did notice that Amtrak has a working application in the Apple App Store, and upon me downloading it, making a profile, and beginning the purchase, I was unable to complete my purchase due to the app not allowing the option to select your seating for a wheelchair seat and your companion.

As a woman who prefers to do things via website and/or app it was quite frustrating to know that I still needed to contact customer service; this is definitely something that Amtrak should look into changing.

With the festival going from 10am to 6:30p, my mother and I decided to board our train at 7:30am to guarantee we caught the 7:50 am train arriving in Oxnard at 9:20am.

After an hour and 15 minute ride, my mom and I arrived in Oxnard. After exiting the train, I immediately see signs for a courtesy Strawberry Festival shuttle, which prompted me to inquiry on whether their shuttles are wheelchair accessible. To my surprise, the festival did provide a wheelchair accessible shuttle transportation with less than a 20 minute on-site wait.

Unfortunately, the festival website did not publicize this ADA feature. A couple days prior, I reached out to my Access Para-transit (L.A.) division and requested the customer service department send over my rider file to Ventura County to utilize the guest pass provided for riders who wish to use up to 21 calendar days in another county, city and/or state.

The guest pass allows the rider to explore but not have to go through recertification within each new location. My scheduled Access Para-transit vehicle arrived on time and cost $3.00 for a one way trip with a free Personal Care Provider (PCA)

The festival is approximately 8 minutes away from the train station, and if you don’t have Access Para-transit services, this Oxnard train station is the hub of all public transportation in the city so you can catch the number 8 bus which will drop you off right outside the gates of the festival.

Upon arriving to the festival, I purchased up a 3 pack of fresh strawberries for $7.00 (I like to get mine before the masses pick over them) my mother was unimpressed by the lack of sweetness but I appreciated the fact they weren’t overtly sweets.

During my purchase I was approached for an interview for the local news, which threw me off guard but I’m just happy I put a little makeup on lol can’t be caught out here too raw :-) and this is why they say “if you stay ready, you never have to get ready!”

After my media moment, I decided to get my game-plan together on how my mom and I would tackle this strawberry festival. Upon looking over the program guide I was completely underwhelmed; there didn’t seem to be much that would capture the interest of an adult. There was a lot of kid friendly activities but it pretty much excluded the adults in my opinion. So my NEW game plan was … instead of having events/activities I would focus on all the food. Can’t go wrong with that, right? Well life had different plans for my mom and I.

About 15 minutes into the festival I noticed a stand selling Strawberry popcorn and strawberry lemonade so I decided to try it out; I proceeded to roll over a small bump and in a split second my chair stopped moving, all lights on the control joystick were blinking and a cloud of irritation and anger formed over me as I knew I was STUCK, and not just stuck but stuck over 60 miles away from my home, no car, in a very heavy six-wheel Permobli M300 electric wheelchair.

In a situation like this, I could of freaked out, yelled, cried (all of which I felt could happen at any moment) but I remained calm because unfortunately I have been in very similar situations and crying and throwing a tantrum does nothing to fix the situation … it only delays your solution and at this moment time was of the essence.

We noticed a couple walking by and quickly flagged them down and politely begged for them to assist me off the bump; thankful they obliged. Since my chair was not in manual drive (a feature that allows any power wheelchair to be rolled at a much easier level) it was extremely difficult for him to try and roll me off but by the mercy of God he was able to do it. Once securely on flat ground I started to “try” and restart my chair in hopes of this being a quick fix. The kind couple begin to walk away as my mother and I thanked them for their assistance.

Despite my “restart”’efforts, nothing was working and I could feel my hope sinking. Just when I thought things were in a downward spiral the couple turned back around and said they weren’t leaving until we could figure this out. So when people say there aren’t good people in this world that’s a definite lie; angels exist you just have to know how to recognize the blessing.

The couple begin to remove the plastic casing around my wheelchair motor and I went into “work mode” and begin yelping medical supply/repair locations in the City of Oxnard. All the while, people are staring, kids are running around and the local high school band is playing just 5 feet away from my mini crisis. I found TWO medical repair companies: one was closed on the weekend — go figure and one was open but not answering. The couple is still trying to locate my manual brake switch to see if we can “reset” the chair and my mom is on the ground trying to feel around for anything that might have broke off such as screws we may need.

Since I wasn’t making any headway in Oxnard I went to my next best thing.. my former medical chair repair Sherman Oaks Medical Supply and Repair in Sherman Oaks, California. They know me very well and have NEVER failed me. They answered and begin troubleshooting with me via FaceTime. When I tell you Sherman Oaks Medical Supply helps by any means necessary I mean it! Unfortunately, even with all the troubleshooting to no avail my chair would not work; so I tried one more time to call the only Oxnard wheelchair repair open and they finally answered and redirected me to a technician that was local to Ventura County that they contract with.

His name is Emanuel and he is truly an angel. He agreed to come to the festival and could be there within two hours. During this wait, I really had to lean on my faith in God and try to gain a different perspective; I had to will myself to believe this chair could and would be fixed and my day would not be ruined. This mindset can be hard to achieve when you are surrounded by people that are enjoying the festival, laughing and eating as you wait for the daunting truth (whether it’s fixable or needs a new part), but it’s so important to not let the world or your current situation take you under. Life in general will throw curve balls at you regardless of how well you plan, but especially when your life requires modifications. You should learn early on… be prepared for anything to occur; more than not… something out of the ordinary at the worst time will happen!

After what felt like a lifetime… Emanuel was onsite and begin running a few diagnostic tests, he quickly found that my second motor wire had broke in half causing the chair’s drivability to come to a complete halt. Thankful he was able to patch it up enough for me to go on for about a month before it requires replacement. Now, for those who have went through the repair route via medical insurance, you know a month isn’t much time. I am currently receiving repairs through NuMotion; like many insurance repair companies, Numotion, is notorious for taking an extreme amount of time to “process” requests. My current insurance process is as follows:

1.) Contact primary doctor to request an authorization for a chair repair
*Reg processing time is 7 days; Expedited is 3 days.
2.) Doctor approves request; authorization moves to group insurance approval
3.) Group insurance approves and sends authorization to wheelchair repair company
4.) Wheelchair repair company receives and schedules visit to look at chair and review damage.
5.) Wheelchair repair company orders parts and awaits shipping
6.) Parts arrive
7.) Wheelchair repair company schedules visit to install new parts
8.) Chair is repaired

As you can see, this process is long and “red tape” heavy; it can take over a month and a half if anyone lags during the process. For someone like myself with full time jobs, commitments and an active social life, I don’t have the luxury to just sit around and wait. So over the past 5 years I have tried to become proactive with preventive maintenance. You can request at least two yearly full maintenance exams outside of breakdowns. Use these! They can save you in the long run. In my case I just had a full maintenance but clearly they either missed this which is inexcusable since Emanuel stated the wire was wearing for months or it was just bad luck. This is something that I will bring to the attention of Numotion. Our chairs are our vehicles, just how automotive technicians are held liable for faulty work or mistakes so should wheelchair repair technicians.

Once Emanuel got me back up and running, my mother and I offered him $200.00 cash for his time and service. To some that might be excessive to some, especially when you are on a fixed budget via government assistance programs but when you’re stranded money is the last thing you are concerned about. This is why you need a cushion in the bank for incidents just like this. Emanuel also offered to come down to Los Angeles the following week to completely change the wire all together since he is familiar with Numotion and their long processing time.

I immediately took him up on this offer and told him that I will keep his number in case of an emergencies in and around Ventura County! This is a perfect example of building your rolodex of people/companies you can call on for help.

Now that my chair was actually working it was time to get out and enjoy the festival! First stop: Margaritas!! Fresh strong strawberry margaritas to be exact. That was the best strawberry margarita I’ve had EVER! From the margaritas my mother and I went around the grounds, visiting the crafts section, which was nothing but jewelry making, baby clothes and headbands. Very underwhelming and not diverse. There was a bungee jumping activity that appeared to be a hit with the teenager to young adult crowd.

The food was very interesting to say the least. Overall we tried the following foods:

Louisiana Crab Cake — Delicious
Alligator on a stick — Taste just like chicken. Wasn’t nasty but wasn’t amazing
Muddled Strawberry Lemonade — Too sweet … but good
Strawberry Nachos — underwhelming, messy and not worth it
Strawberry Churro w/ Vanilla Ice Ceeam — churros were hard but it was best out of the “strawberry” food items
Strawberry Beer in commemorative glass — I liked it BUT for true beer drinkers it will disappoint.
Cinnamon dusted pecans — Good snack!

Overall the food was ok but nothing that just stood out or would make me want to return. The experience of the Strawberry Festival was an interesting experience and I’m happy I attended but I was very disappointed in the lack of diverse activities for all ages and would not attend again. In regards to accessibility, the grounds were accessible; there were wheelchair accessible port-a-potties and sinks and the festival shuttles were accessible upon request. I would suggest the festival really find more craft vendors, show more history on the actual strawberry and more entertainment; I would even suggest adding food trucks in conjunction with the food vendors.

All in all my day was a learning experience that showed me I can handle whatever life has to dish… it’s all in the perspective you have!

Until next time, this is my world… on wheelz!

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