Robin B. Fre

Beware the Sidewalks

This is rolling Robin. You may know me from the Mower’s Flea Market. I’m going to guide you through a tour of Woodstock, written for people with disabilities, wheelies, and those with canes and walkers. These are my observations rolling through town.

A Tour Through Woodstock’s Shops and Streets for People with Disabilities

Contrary to popular opinion, riding and needing a power chair or scooter is not fun. Maybe you need to be close to someone with a disability to understand. I have been stopped by strangers on the street, all sorts of people, young and old, walking, huffing and puffing up that long hill coming into town, who say, “Wish I had one of those.” I always reply, “I am glad you don’t need one.” Being in a chair is something that can happen to anyone at any time.

Woodstock is a fun town, with beautiful views, filled with galleries, tasty exotic restaurants and fascinating shops, and has a rich history that precedes the Woodstock Festival. One can spend hours watching a multitude of parades, concerts, and people, such as the Greyhound buses, straight from New York City, unloading such interesting human cargo. While there is always something to do, if you have a disability, can you move around town and explore?

I rolled to town one day and wrote down all the places I could get into, get around, and get out of. I was surprised at how many I’ve actually been able to access. Some with ease, others take some ingenuity.

You’ll see many assorted shops coming into town. Many are inaccessible with steps, giant granite rocks, and entryways too small. I found if you want something and know what you want, and catch the proprietor’s eye, he might give you curb service if not too busy. I’ve done this with the flower shop (Juanita’s) in the middle of town. I have bought lovely plants there.

Most places have heavy winter doors, making it all that much harder to get into local businesses. Everyone is willing to help, and all you have to do is not get frustrated and ask for assistance. People here are nice, especially toward one crippled and in a wheeled chair. Yes, I know asking for help is embarrassing, but you’ll have to get over it. Asking always does work.

For those who are not trapped within an appliance like myself, who are asked for help by people with disabilities, the key word here is ASK. Do not go ahead and attempt to help someone if they haven’t requested it. I have had people do all the wrong things in an honest attempt to help me. For instance, I once turned over the scooter by Maria’s. Instead of stopping for a second, asking me what I needed, they tried to pull me out by tugging on both my arms and legs. Not cool.

If asked, I would have said, “The Machine! Get it off me first!” Then again, there was a mass of good-deed doing fellows who took the scooter on a wild spin at Catskill Mountain Pizza (which is accessible with a nice front yard). They all mean well. But again, if I had been asked, the scooter would not have wiped out tables.

I have learned to kindly say, “Back off.” Because really, only I know what I need. Unless I don’t, then I get to ask you. But I digress.

Landau Grill

Next to the Landau is a tiny mini-mall where the Woodstock Emporium has affordable classic Woodstock tie-dye T-shirts, wind chimes and a Christmas shop during all seasons. A new shoe store sits next to this, Soul Mates, carrying upscale clothes and shoes. Both are accessible, but tight, spaces.

The Woodstock Emporium and Soulmates

Across the street, Bread Alone sits on the corner. And it really is more than just bread. Along with fine almond croissants and yummy sandwiches, there’s good strong coffee or healthy juice to wash it down, and there is ambiance! A back door will give you an escape route should the store get fully loaded, easing that feeling of being trapped.

Bread Alone outdoor area

Down the hill on Rt. 212 is Not Fade Away, which used to be Joyous Lake. This shop has a wonderful functional ramp. For many years, this rocked as a popular night club. Now, Not Fade Away sells stuff that keeps Woodstock smoking. It’s also packed with Woodstock icons, collectibles and fashions. Also, as you might have noticed, there is a wide porch with a view of incoming traffic, an entertaining people-watching spot.

Not Fade Away with ramp

Using the back roads behind Not Fade Away is an alternative route you can take to the Village Green, which is a small patch of what used to be grass until they “fixed it.” The grass got trampled and mostly died, so it was replaced with stone. With benches to rest on, in front of the Dutch Reform Church (also very accessible), this is the site of many demonstrations for noble causes.

There are usually musicians set up on the Green, practically on every corner, with cases wide open for change. Father Woodstock sets up his crate, giving the peace sign to all who enter this sacred town. Women in Black for Peace stand vigil on Sunday mornings, rain or shine. This is where the dogs are judged in all their finery,  where the Halloween parade runs through, and Santa Claus comes in on so many sleighs in so many ways. A weekly drumming circle meets here every Sunday offering a drum to anyone with rhythm. And it’s another good people-watching spot.

Across the way, Oriole Nine offers organic food that tastes good and is good for you. They sell gourmet coffee with cappuccino art. Evidently, they make art in the foam of your coffee. A wide hallway welcomes you with posters of town events.

Oriole 9

A little further down Tinker Street is Joshua’s Cafe, a cozy restaurant that offers Middle Eastern fare. The staff is very accommodating and will always find you space. A lovely front window provides a view of the other edge of town. This was the first place I ever had pita bread served with a meal, and good spinach soup. Don’t miss their zucchini pancakes, artichoke mash, or their famous smorgasbord to fill you up. The upper level offers live music, but I would never attempt climbing the stairs.

Joshua’s Cafe

Across from Joshua’s is the Byrdcliffe Gallery, totally accessible, named after one of the founders of this arts colony. Many incredible artists live here and show their work in this gallery. In Woodstock, the artist is revered.

In May, the fabulous Mower’s Flea Market opens just down the lane from Bread Alone, close to the Houst parking lot.

I get along quite well at the flea market, rolling in the small open grassy yard about the size of a city block. So does Kim, a vendor who is also in a power chair. People in manual chairs may require a strong pusher. Beware the mulch type substance John uses after it rains, as this field gets muddy.

When you’re disabled and in a chair, you’re often dismissed. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 38. Yes, I am one of those – I don’t look disabled, though I will be 57 soon. I’ve been a member of the differently-abled club for a while now, lumped with the elderly and equally disenfranchised. Living in Woodstock since 2002, my 3-wheel scooter is my only transportation, and I get around. I live close enough tot own that I can scoot there regularly.

Fortunately, right before I moved here from Maine, Woodstock, blessed village, invested in new sidewalks from the post office to the edge of town.

The town is set in the mountains, and Woodstock, like many northern towns, is subject to frost heaves in the winter. This geologic phenomenon happens when it’s cold and the soil heaves up. This means that the sidewalks are bumpy and broken with high curbs. Beware for those who must rely on canes! Even those without, you might trip.

While the law says that ramps must be installed at businesses, it doesn’t specify that those ramps must lead anywhere. A few places are blocked by heavy doors (post office) or by hand trucks stored on the ramp (Catskill Art Supply), or the ramp leads to a second floor you must step into (chiropractor). I applaud their intent, but it’s important to know where there are truly functional ramps. one ramp even successfully takes you into a gift shop (Jean Turmo’s).

To summarize, there are many accessible things to see and do here despite being a patchworked town with frost heaves. There are places to eat, shop, and absorb the local culture. People are very nice and will help you – that is, if you ask.

Article by Robin B. Fre

Photos by Sally Delmerico

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