Our trip to Southern California was focused around golf. The secondary focus was to check out Los Angeles. More specifically we had a Dodger game on our radar before heading south. But, traveling to see the Dodgers play was going to involve some planning. It would take most of one afternoon and night to make the game happen. The drive from the desert to Los Angeles would take a couple hours’ minimum. So, instead of simply driving to Dodger Stadium and back, we added activities, breaking up the drive and day. My brother attended USD, so driving down to San Diego would be something cool to add. He doesn’t get the opportunity to be on his college campus often. Driving around the L.A. area appealed to me, as it has always sounded like something fun to check out. Then, ending the day with a grand finale like the Dodger game would round out a fun adventure. It was going to be a long day, with fatigue playing a role. Cerebral palsy would be a factor, as we spent time in unfamiliar places. How would moving around Chavez Ravine be impacted by cerebral palsy? Dodger Stadium is one of the oldest stadiums in baseball. Built in a totally different era with seemingly less thought to handicap people moving about.
We headed out of Palm Desert early Tuesday morning. The first stop would be the University of San Diego. My brother had graduated years prior, so we headed back to walk around campus. It was going to be just the second time being on the campus for me. This time would be fun to see more of the school. Walking around USD turned out to be fairly simple. The campus isn’t big as compared to larger schools. It might be a third the size of Oregon State, where I attended school. Therefore, moving around wasn’t too taxing on my cerebral palsy. The warmth of San Diego also helped ease the movements of my body. It was a warm sunny day, ideal for touring my brother’s alma mater. We walked through a beautiful campus set in the hills above San Diego. Different classrooms were pointed out where classes had been taken. We walked through the library and a couple amazing churches that sit on campus. A cool view point overlooking the bay and back through the quad almost running the length of campus. It was fun to move around places my brother had spent so much time and left me thinking, “maybe I should have attended school somewhere warm.”
Getting back into the car after touring in the warmth was tough. It was time to move toward the next part of our adventure. After stopping for some lunch, we headed up the 5 for Los Angeles. After another couple hour car ride, we arrived on campus at UCLA. As a person who enjoys walking around a college campus, getting to see UCLA sounded appealing. It was a campus I’d always heard was something to see if possible. UCLA didn’t disappoint. The campus might be the coolest I’ve seen. In the warmth of California, it was extremely picturesque. Tucked up in the hills of Westwood, the campus was huge, but didn’t feel overwhelming. We didn’t walk much of it, what we did see was pretty great. Being built in a hill, UCLA would probably be a difficult place for me. The large stair case in the center of campus was fun to walk at a leisurely pace. However, navigating it along with the hilly terrain surrounding it would eventually prove too much. It would be a challenging place to move around each day.
Sometimes cerebral palsy rules out scenarios. It can become difficult to look at a situation admitting it’s not possible because of something uncontrollable. The hills of UCLA’s campus would wreak havoc on my body if attending school there. Still, walking through it on this afternoon remained breathtaking. The old architecture up against the sunny warmth had me envisioning walking around as a student. We walked into Pauley Pavilion where they play basketball. The arena was located in the heart of campus and was sparkling inside. It reminded me of a small NBA arena. After walking around in awed silence, we found a building to change in for the baseball game. Everyone took one last look around, commenting on how cool the campus was. We meandered slowly back to our SUV and onward to Chavez Ravine for a night of Dodger Baseball.
Driving around Beverly Hills and down through West Hollywood was exciting. Like we hear all the time, traffic was stifling. The good thing about moving slowly was the luxury of absorbing the environment. The area around UCLA and Beverly Hill were similar to what might be envisioned. Streets were nice, surrounded by trees and green vegetation. We drove by some of the most breathtaking homes I’ve seen. The strange thing was they all looked completely normal. These homes were huge, but seemed to fit into this place seamlessly. As we drove through West Hollywood the streets were lined with restaurants, shops, and people lined up for concerts. We saw a couple boutique hotels, but nothing too exciting. Then, hopped on the freeway for a minute, exiting into what appeared to be a neighborhood. It seemed a rough neighborhood, leaving me wondering if we might be lost. But, we took a left hand turn and seemingly out of nowhere, drove up the hill and into Chavez Ravine.
Dodger Stadium is built into the side of a small mountain. There are large parking lots instead of parking structures and everyone parks around the stadium. They don’t park on side streets or small lots in the middle of a city. One of the most unique things is we entered into Chavez Ravine from a neighborhood street. There looked to only be a couple ways in and out of the area. It felt like its own oasis in the middle of the city. When entering the stadium, we walked in on the 2nd level. Our seats were on the field level, so we took an escalator down. The wild thing is everything is enclosed. The only view to the outside is looking onto the field and toward a group of palm trees beyond the outfield wall. It had me feeling closed in while on the concourses. Usually the rear of a stadium opens onto the street or an open-air view. There probably isn’t another stadium built quite like Dodger Stadium.
Due to the stadium construction against the hill, paired with the year it was built, Dodger Stadium is unique. It is the third oldest ballpark in major league baseball, behind only Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, both built prior to Dodger Stadium. Because it was built in the 1960s, there isn’t as much space to move around. Each concourse is more narrow than ballparks built today. As we moved through the ballpark things were more challenging for me. Cerebral palsy makes any movements slightly more difficult. When attempting to move around in tight spaces the difficulty only increases. So, moving through those old concourses, crowded with people was tough. However, we took steps making the experience easier. Getting to the ballpark early made the stadium less crowded. We seemed to beat the rush of people flooding the park just before game time. Leaving before the game ended also helped with crowds, most people were still in their seats watching the game. It helped us move freely exiting Dodger Stadium. There are often small things that can be done to help the challenges of cerebral palsy. Thankfully our family is happy to help where they can.
Once in our seats the experience was pretty amazing. It was like no baseball view in my past. While I’d been to a few other ballparks, this seemed special. The stadium seats seemed to rise slowly from the field instead of straight up and back. There was more of a gradual incline moving away from the field. The base of the seats started slightly below field level, so even our seats felt lower to the field than in other ball parks. This design feature caused us to feel like we weren’t looking down onto the playing surface, but more level with it. Fly balls seemed to be hit higher and we found ourselves with the emotion of looking up at much of the action. The different feel made the stadium and game grander. It was an exciting way to watch a baseball game,
Life can bring about many exciting adventures. Having cerebral palsy can cause those adventures to be challenging. Still, the disability shouldn’t leave someone without the opportunity to enjoy those pleasures. Planning ahead has been key in easing the challenges CP provides. Like arriving early and leaving the ballpark slightly earlier than other fans. Walking around a college campus or through a stadium more slowly can ease stress. These may seem like simple things, but it makes experience profoundly more enjoyable. Slowing everything down helps us all breath in an experience more fully. It’s one of the gifts provided from having the disability. Cerebral palsy can force us to slow down and enjoy the view around. There is such blessing in having the patience of a family. They may move at a slower pace, helping ease the impact of CP, and add to the enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures.