Our last week in Puerto Rico seemed to be the most thrilling for me. Maybe it was because I tried to soak up every moment of sunlight or because we stayed grounded in the same location for a week. It honestly doesn’t matter why, all I know is I fell in love with San Juan so much during the last leg of our trip.
Getting there was no different than getting to any other location in Puerto Rico...exhilarating but dangerous. The roads are littered with potholes, low hanging electrical lines, and other drivers who don’t seem to follow driving common courtesies.
It’s the Wild West and honestly, I loved every second of it.
Push the danger to the side and you’ll see the beauty of traveling in Puerto Rico. Driving from town to town lets you see how people really live and feel the distance between destinations. Roadside shopping had me mesmerized. Pulling onto the shoulder of the freeway to do some shopping seemed insane to me. Cars, only a few feet away, passing at 65mph from you while you’re picking your weekly groceries was something I didn’t need to experience.
I was relieved of all worries when we pulled into our hotel parking lot. Finally, safety.
San Jaun, the capitol of Puerto Rico, has everything you need in life. It’s going to be tough explaining how amazing the last week was but I’m going to try anyway. The food was to die for. The people we met showered us with love. No barrier stopped us from adventuring. Nightlife went into the morning. We relaxed and cared for our bodies. All in one week.
Emily and I took turns choosing where we would stay during our adventure in Puerto Rico. The last week was my choice and boy did I do well! Well, depends who you ask. Emily may disagree and you’ll understand a little later. We knew we wanted to stay in the Condado district of San Juan. It’s safe, both touristy and a local favorite, and close to the beach. We had the usual pick of American chain hotels but there were some major price differences. Wanting to save a buck, I chose Best Western Plus Condado Palm In & Suits.
It wasn’t that bad. We got exactly what we paid for. It was a little gritty, specifically the bath tub. Emily didn’t like it and was slightly appalled when I climbed into it. What can I say, I’m a dirty boy! Location was perfect as were one block from the beach and surrounded by so much local and fantastic cuisine. We had a suite with a couch in the living room.
It was perfect because Emily and I don’t always sleep on the same time schedule and enjoy our alone time. The kitchen even had a full sized fridge! It was like our own little apartment. Our balcony overlooked the main strip and beach.
There was one issue with the suite, however. The bathroom yet again was a challenge and I’m not talking about the slimy tub.
When I picked Best Western I thought it would be fully wheelchair accessible. Usually, American hotel chains are pretty good in the ADA department but the doorway to the bathroom was similar to the rest of doorways in Puerto Rico...narrow.
Using the toilet was a pretty big endeavor. I had to hop out of my chair onto the ground and crawl through the doorway into the room the sink was in. It’s a four foot area that I had to crawl through to get to another doorway, and in that room was the toilet and tub. Our room had a bunch of extra chairs so we put a one in the toilet room. I would then crawl onto that chair to transfer to the toilet or to the tub. Not everything in life is going to go your way and this is a picture perfect example. As long as our room had a roof and running water I felt fine. It served its purpose. We were out of the room for most of the time anyway.
Emily hung out in the room the first day and night to catch up on some work. I went out exploring alone. Me alone in a new city can be dangerous. The only plan I had was to grab a couple drinks and make new friends. I was pretty damn successful too. I opened google maps and searched for bars and I found a neighborhood full of red dots and started pushing towards it.
As I got closer to the bars the neighborhood started looking sketchier but I thrive in sketchy areas. When I arrived I was in awe.
In the center of the neighborhood was La Placita a market. Inside was a ton of food, craft and art vendors.
I bought a cigar and found a spot at a bar next door. Every building surrounding the market was a bar. I was in heaven. Not a tourist in sight either! Only locals enjoying a wonderful sunny Friday afternoon.
I finishing my first drink and was moving to the next bar when I was approached by a gentleman using a power scooter. He asked if I knew English and after I replied yes he told me I’d be drinking with him for the rest of the evening. I shook his hand then told him we better move fast because I was thirsty. While waiting for our first drink we properly introduced ourselves to each other.
His name, Ricardo and he used to live in Berkeley! He moved to Puerto Rico to be closer to his family roots. Our conversation moved quickly. Like most people with disabilities we get to the uneasy stuff fast. It’s always weird when someone without a disability asks me, “what’s wrong with you” while pointing to my wheelchair. I’m pretty open when it comes to my disability but let’s get to know each other before bringing up something that can bring back traumatic feelings. On the other hand, when a fellow wheeler asks the same question I’ve never felt weird. We’re trying to see how our lives can relate and even though we have major disability differences we were able to connect.
Ricardo is what he called himself, a little guy. His sense of humor was infectious. I’m friends with countless people with disabilities who openly joke about their “situation.” It’s usually a great way to break the ice when meeting new people. After we got our drinks I followed Ricardo to a table. Already sitting at the table were three people. I first thought he knew them but my thought was wrong. We had great conversations and many laughs. Ricardo leaned toward me and said, “this little belly can’t take anymore. I’m going to head home.” I turned towards the group and laughed. When I turned back he was gone.
I quickly learned Ricardo wasn’t friends with these people because they asked, “wheres your friend going and what was his name again?” I explained to them I met him 5 minutes before meeting them and we all laughed. I bought the next round and our conversations continued like Ricardo was never there. After a few more drinks we parted ways and I went to the next bar. It was dark now, the market had closed and the party was just beginning.
I drank and people watched for sometime before heading back to the hotel.
Walgreens was directly across the street from our hotel. I stopped by to do some drunk shopping. I was so proud of what I acquired I pulled every item out of the bag and explained its purpose to Emily.
The bag of beef jerky, Puerto Rico flag magnet, heat pads for sore muscles, and multiple candies (some half eaten) didn’t excite Emily as much as it excited me.
After eating the rest of the candy I decided to go back out. I ended up at the same place as earlier but something was different. The street was filled with people shoulder to shoulder partying and I loved every second of it.
I don’t remember what time I made it back to the hotel but it was late. It was an experience that will stay with me for life.
The next day was just as exciting but in another way. Emily and I went on a helicopter tour of Puerto Rico. I’ll tell you all about it in my next post.