Sunday, December 10, 2006

My Wheelchair's Vacation Story

Before I sent my trusty Permobil off to the wheelchair graveyard a few months ago, I found this travelogue secreted away under the cushion. It reads as follows:

Day 1... Today I took a few unexpected side trips and saw the inside of many airplanes. I missed David! He went to Jackson, Wyoming, but I went to Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and back to Denver for the night. A whirlwind adventure, for sure! I still feel a little woozy and have some bumps and bruises from the mishaps and mishandlings. I wonder what he's up to in Jackson. Sure hope I’ll be with him tomorrow.

Day 2... Hooray! I was reunited with David. Frankly, I got pretty tired of touring airplanes and airports. It's nice to start the vacation. David was relieved that with a few adjustments and Band-Aids, my condition was acceptable to continue with the trip. I know I'll need some major surgery when we get home, but for now good times are ahead.

Day 3… Today, David and I checked out some wonderfully accessible walkways and saw Old Faithful Geyser. David said that watching the many magnificent geysers erupt was unforgettable. Talk about a steamy experience!

Day 4… More hiking along the miles and miles of accessible boardwalks. It seemed like we were on Mars as we passed by bubbling, stinky mud pots and fumaroles. David learned about Yellowstone's geothermal activity and features, while I couldn't help but notice how many other wheelchairs there were in the park.

Day 5… Today, David and I visited the majestic Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. There were paved walkways up to many different viewpoints of the canyon. David's favorite spot was Artist Point where the view of the Lower Falls in the vast yellow canyon was spectacular. David found the sound of the waterfall to be relaxing and peaceful.

Day 6... While driving through Yellowstone in a van rented from Wheelchair Getaways, we saw many wild animals including bison, moose, and elk. We found it amusing to sit in the van and watch the bison roll around in the dirt. These gigantic animals would also nonchalantly walk directly in front of our van, sauntering by like they owned all of Yellowstone National Park. The elk stayed mainly by the rivers; David and I could see them from a distance from the van. An anxious moose darted in front of our van, and then quickly hid behind some bushes. Yellowstone’s diverse wildlife is certainly a sight to behold!

Day 7… We said goodbye to Yellowstone and headed down to Grand Teton National Park. Like Old Faithful Snow Lodge in Yellowstone, we found more accessible lodging at the Jackson Lake cabins.

Day 8… I was not with David today. I needed to rest my weary parts. In his manual chair, David went up to the summit of the 10450-foot Rendezvous Mountain, via an accessible ski lift. I heard the view was incredible - snowcapped mountains, lush green forests, cool breezes, and the invigorating smell of the earth.

Day 9… Not with David again. He took a scenic boat ride across Jenny Lake. Many hikers used the boat ride to get to the other side the lake to hike through Cascade Canyon. Unfortunately, there aren't many accessible trails in the Tetons, but the views of the mountains from the boat and from the road are quite grand.

Day 10
Finally, I was back on duty. We visited the historic Chapel of the Configuration, a must-see in the Grand Teton National Park. Imagine going to a church that overlooks the Teton Mountain Range!

Day 11… David and I hiked along Coulter Bay, which is on Jackson Lake, at the northern rim of the Tetons. It was a difficult hike accessibility-wise, but we managed to do it. The backdrop is the beautiful Mount Moran.

Day 12... David took a raft trip along the Snake River, and that city boy saw a baby moose and a few bald eagles! Tomorrow we go home. Sure hope there aren't any unexpected travel calamities.

Day 13… I'm on the plane. So far the flight has been relatively uneventful. We just landed. Good to be home.
Here come the baggage attendants to help me down the conveyor belt. Oh no, there's a drop ahead and they don't have a good hold on me…..

Epilogue from David: My Permobil wheelchair was fatally damaged from that final catastrophe. With some work, the airline did authorize a full replacement. I was without my specialized chair for several weeks, and still now am needing adjustments on the new chair. It is taking a long time to get both the function and the comfort adjustments correct for my needs. VERY frustrating! But, I refused to let the problems ruin a wonderful trip.


Ruth said...

aw I' can appreciate your frustration- but good for you for not letting it ruin a wonderful trip. Not the same thing as an everyday chair at all but on one trip we took with out special tennis wheelchairs, we ran into a problem - they uh lost them. They were relocated eventually (imagine trying to explain what a tennis wheelchair is LOL) That part became a bit funny after awhile, explaining to people what to look for. Hope you get your adjustments correct soon - and get the new chair.

Anonymous said...

What a great post. Your photos are beautiful. For me this was like a walk down memory lane. I saw much of what you describe when I was 16 and invited by a friend's family to join them on a cross country jaunt. There were six of us from the ages of 6 to 16 crammed in the back of an old Chevy Suburban. Oh the memories! Too bad about your wheelchair though. It was never meant to last I guess, but your memories will last a lifetime!

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I hope the new chair is working out for you. I always get a little nervous when I fly. I take every part of my wheelchair that can come off with me onto the plane, and if I can have the whole thing put in the onboard closet. It's a rigid chair, so it can fit it pretty small places. I'm getting a custom chair made soon and I know I'm going to be even more nervous traveling with it because it will be one of a kind and can't just be replaced.

Sometimes I wonder about airlines!

Kay said...

My mother's knees are getting bad and she can't walk much. We're planning a trip to Yellowstone and Glacier and wondered how it would be to bring her wheelchair. Your post was extremely helpful! Thank you so much.