Wheelchair Travel – Accessible ‘on’ the Beach

beach-wheelchairRecently, we attended a conference on the Alabama-Florida border – at the beach. We have been to this conference a number of years and always enjoy this lovely trip to the Perdido Beach Resort and the Gulf Shores area.  We also enjoy the resort’s complimentary manual beach wheelchair.

This year we took our wheelchair travel to an entirely new level by renting a powered beach wheelchair from beachpowerrentals.com.

Let me tell you – a powered beach wheelchair is the bomb! The freedom to move around on the beach, walk your canine assistant and hold your husband’s hand is absolutely exhilarating! What a wonderful experience to use a beach wheelchair with power and have sandy independence. The experience of a mile long walk/roll down the beach without someone pushing me was priceless!


On our honeymoon and many times since, Brent, my husband, and I have walked on the beach together in a manual beach wheelchair, but never in a powered one. The power gives a sense of independence even when parked on the beach. I can’t explain why, but knowing that you have the ability to adjust your position or move a couple of feet makes a difference in the way you feel about your independence. Not only that, Brent was able to easily walk out to the beach with me and I carried beach supplies while he enjoyed the sand.

Manual beach wheelchairs are great, but they are not always easy to maneuver! They require extra effort on top of the work walking in soft sand requires. Having power makes all the difference in maneuverability and independence. This chair was a blast and could go fast.

I learned of such powered beach wheelchairs at local parks when we were in San Diego, but had never seen anything like it on the East Coast.

More about the beach wheelchair travel

– There is plenty of power and stability in this chair.
– The seat and back are padded.
– The joystick can be adjusted for left or right-hand maneuvering.
– The foot rests are adjustable and the back can recline slightly.
– The company adjusts the footrests, joystick, armrests, etc for individual comfort upon delivery.
– Multiple sizes are available to accommodate different bodies/frames.
– The battery life was never an issue although a charger is delivered with the chair.
– Thankfully there are wheelie bars to prevent tipping over when climbing in soft sand – and when driving like crazy to soak in every moment.
– For five dollars a day an umbrella is supplied. It is a large umbrella that shields the sun from everywhere except perhaps your feet. Well worth it, even in October.
– These chairs are also sold by the company…just bring a truck or trailer to transport it.

I suspect that people who have never driven a wheelchair might have a learning curve, but an experienced wheelchair driver can go directly on the beach without difficulty.

More on the experience

I used the chair three times for about two hours each! I would’ve stayed longer but the sensitive skin on my bottom could not handle the cushion that came attached to the chair longer than about two hours. It would have been advantageous if I could have put my own custom cushion on the chair – there would have been no stopping me for a 12 hour day on the beach.

The company brings the large chair 15 to 20 miles from their location and multiple day rentals were discounted. Also, to defer delivery charges you can drive to their location and enjoy a large area of undisturbed beach parkland at Ft. Morgan, AL.

Yes. We will do it again.
I can’t say enough about how much fun it was to be on the beach in a power chair! I will definitely do this again and am forever grateful for this priceless experience. If we ever lived on the beach there’s no way we would be without a powered beach wheelchair!

If you are planning a trip to the beach, consider the area around Gulfshores, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan, Alabama. All I can say is I’m thankful and wish all beach towns offered this fabulous service.

Do you know of beaches where powered beach wheelchairs are available?  Please share!

Merino Wool: The Warmest Fabric

For several years I have relied on SmartWool’s Merino Wool layers to provide winter warmth.  I am not an avid winter sports girl, in fact, I can barely stand being outside for an hour in the dead of winter.  I am paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury.  One of the side effects of my injury is that I get cold easily.  In fact, I can be cold even when my body is truly warm.  I know it sounds like an oxymoron but you just have to live the life of someone with a high level spinal cord injury to understand.  Starting in October I count the months until April and cherish each warm day.  In September, I brace myself for the blowing of cold winds and prepare for the winter chill – even in my moderate southeastern U.S. climate.194

I’ve searched high and low for every kind of heater, warm weather gear and warmth gimmick, and I seriously don’t care much about the electric bills in the winter.  I’d rather sacrifice other things to keep warm.  Once the air dries out and the temperatures drop there is nearly a constant background noise in my head whispering, ” I’m cold”.  It can be a rather annoying.

I discovered my favorite find for cool weather clothing a few years ago when I read an article about how wool keeps you warmer than synthetics and why wool is such a great fabric.

smartwool micro

People say it’s itchy, but they haven’t experienced fine merino wool made by companies like SmartWool, Icebreaker and Ibex.

I wear wool all year.  In the heat of the summer I have a couple lightweight wool tee shirts that I use as the perfect shirt.  It keeps me comfortable in the air conditioner and cool outside in the heat.

The Pros and Cons of high quality merino wool

  1. Warm:  It is by far the best solution I have found to keep warm!  In the winter I always layer with a lightweight SmartWool or Icebreaker shirt and add a mid-weight merino wool top over that.  I consider these my base layer and then if needed I put on the sweater or shirt I plan to wear on the outside.  I don’t do well with coats because they are binding on my arms, so this is what I wear all day inside and out with the exception of adding a vest occasionally.
  2. Odor resistant: Whether you perspire or not, this fabric is extremely odor resistant and does not need to be laundered often.  I wear my shirts for a couple weeks at least…  And I mean I wear the shirt underneath whatever I’m wearing for two weeks straight without washing it!  It may sound gross, but I promise even if you perspire you will be surprised how long it takes before it smells!
  3. Soft: You’ll never know you’re wearing wool!  This fabric feels a lot like cotton with stretch.  It is very comfortable and soothing.  I’ve been known to wear my lightweight wool to bed in the summer!
  4. Durable: These pieces do not wear out quickly.  They are high quality and well made.  If you have a few, you can wear them every day for multiple winters!
  5. Requires minimal care: Like I said above, you don’t need to launder them often.  My recommendation is not to launder them unless needed.  Give them the sniff test.  They are machine washable and can go in the dryer!   Sometimes I don’t put mine in the dryer and they will hold up better with fewer washes!  I have, on occasion, taken a piece that is a couple years old to the cleaners to have them freshened up.  The dry cleaners have a way with wool and can remove any pilling.  For every day care I simply lay my shirts out at night!  They can be folded or hung up for storage.
  6. Worth mending: Because I wear one of three light weight shirts next to my skin all  winter I have taken a couple to the dry cleaners to mend an elbow hole.  I’m always leaning on my elbow!
  7. Temperature regulating:  Choose the right weight and they will keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.



  1. Limited selection of color and styles.
  2. Price: Find a sale!  I buy most of my merino wool on sale.  At first I paid full price for a couple pieces, but now that I know I love the product, I buy on sale and clearance!  I often get it as gifts!  There is nothing like a great pair of warm wool socks for any cold nature friend!  Price is probably the reason every cold natured person doesn’t buy high quality merino wool.  Full-price for a lightweight item like a long sleeved shirt is $70-90.  A mid weight ¾ zip shirt can run $90-120.  A wonderful pair of socks can run $25-30.Smartwool Women's PhD Snowboard Medium Sock

If you are not convinced to make an investment in high quality merino wool clothing, treat yourself to a pair of SmartWool socks, then decide on your next piece.

Stay warm and share your tips for beating the cold below.


Let Peace Rule – Advent Devotional Week 4

Let Peace Rule – Advent Devotional Week 4

It was September 1999 after Brent and I had dated for 2 1/2 years when, in typical female style, I wanted commitment. Although I was crazy about him, my peace with our relationship was waning. Brent was understandably cautious about taking the ‘marriage’ plunge with
anyone, much less a gal with my disability…yet I needed to get commitment or back off and regroup. That was when, after much prayer and agony, I talked to Brent about a ‘break’. It was a difficult but healthy time for both of us. When Brent called me a week after our ‘break’ started to ask me out it was almost impossible to say no, but God gave me the strength to do it. Test – passed!

Even though this ‘break’ was rife with sadness, I had peace. No matter what happened I knew we would both be fine – whether together or not.  My heart dealt with grieving the potential loss of Brent as well as the loss of my mom four months earlier.  It was my relationship with God and love for wisdom that gave me the strength to make a tough choice. I knew that peace within is not a mere absence of grief or difficulty, but an active experience of following God that promotes peace regardless of circumstances.

As we light the advent candles we remember that Christ’s birth set the stage to bring us life with hope, love, joy and peace. He is ever present in our times of grief and difficulty. I can’t help but pause to think of those who struggle to celebrate this season because they grieve.

The focus of peace reminds me to find gratitude and celebrate by making choices – wise choices – that may be tough but bear good fruit. Peace is present when we choose to thank, choose to let go of fear, and choose to trust the One and Only – especially in our grief and heartache – and even if it means a girl might never get married or never walk again!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Obviously, the story of our relationship ended in marraige…we took our healthy ‘break’ and after a couple months began to see each other again. To my complete surprise within two months Brent proposed! I think I said something like ‘Huh? Are you sure you want to get married?’ Oh yeah, then I said ‘Yes!’.

As we approach Christmas  ‘may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ Romans 15:13 NIV

Would love to hear about your difficult, yet ‘peace-full’ circumstances…

Life Can Turn on a Dime – Part 4

The Surgery
Surgery was next on the agenda. My fifth and sixth vertebrae were ‘wire-tied’ together and bone from my hip was packed in for stabilization. As I mentioned in part 1, my father had the same surgery a year earlier and I don’t recall any fear regarding this procedure. Unlike my first head-shaving experience during preparation for traction, I wasn’t worried about my hair as Nina, my nurse, ran the sharp razor across my scalp and neck from the top of my ears to below my tanned shoulders . “You are my very first surgery prep,”  Nina confided. No worries for me, I was no novice in head shaving!

I should have been worried..this WAS the haircut of my teenage life! From the back, my thin hair would be nearly invisible after my two head shavings. Unknowingly, I had laughed and visited with Nina while she over-zealously impressed the surgeons with a MORE than adequate sterile surgery site! Weeks after surgery my brace was permanently removed and revealed my scar and peach-fuzz..

Rehab Begins
With surgery completed I was on my way to a vigorous boot camp along with twenty-five other soldiers…I mean patients…who had spinal cord injuries. No longer a special case that required the TLC I received in the first hospital, daytime visitors were prohibited during the week and exercise was required no matter how we felt. The first day after surgery, almost two weeks after the accident, I was strapped down and lifted on a dark navy, vinyl-covered tilt table that slowly raised my body from a horizontal position higher and higher until my stomach was queasy and I was on the verge of fainting. I’m sure I would have vomited if my paralyzed abdominal muscles supported such a raging reaction. Any one would feel unsteady after a couple of weeks flatly reposed in fancy hospital beds!

This day I didn’t like ‘rehabilitation’…no…not one bit.

Workout times with physical therapists maintained my range of motion and strengthened the muscles I could still use. Gail, my occupational therapist,  patiently taught me how to eat, drink, write, hold objects and navigate many essential daily activities. She and others taught me and my family how to care for basic needs like dressing, transfers, showers and using the bathroom.

We learned the importance of weight shifts to relieve pressure points and to prevent pressure sores that could put the spinal cord injured out of commission for weeks.

Weight shifts were predominately focused on the pressure points on my bottom where I sat all day, but my feet and elbows were watched closely too. The cuffs on my ankles helped prevent blood clots and pressure sores when I was in bed.

Not to happy here? Exhausted physically and emotionally and ready to transfer to bed.

We used a Hoyer Lift for transfers. I felt like a car engine being cranked out of its body!

Now, since I’m such a light weight and know how to assist, even a small woman can lift me without the Hoyer using good technique.  We still have a Hoyer for lifting emergencies, but rarely use the awkward device!  It’s a fool proof back protector for helpers.

Day after day my paralyzed friends and I attended classes and group therapy sessions to help us learn about our new bodies and to adjust emotionally. We laughed at times while we watched somewhat juvenile, yet memorable cartoon characters on video like Nick the Nerve, Belinda Bladder, Mr. Bowel and the Kidney Brothers.  They taught us the basics!

Other group sessions revealed the hopelessness so many experienced as they openly contemplated suicide. I was shocked because in my wildest dreams I had not fathomed that my paralyzed friends had the physical ability to do such a thing – much less contemplated the helplessness and depression associated with feeling like it was a way to escape this life change. Thankfully, no one I knew chose that escape, although some turned to addictions to numb their pain.

Hearing others’ hearts made me even more thankful for my faith, family and friends as I took one day at a time.

There is Hope
When our life turns on a dime the foundation we’ve built upon inevitably reveals itself.  Life’s turns may require strengthening or rebuilding with a whole new slab of concrete. My foundation was sure, but boy did I have strengthening ahead…

I’m wondering how your life might be turning on a dime…even in small ways that cause anxiety and confusion…it is happening all around us. Sometimes it’s obviously packaged in a newly paralyzed body, but more often it’s hidden in a heart pricked or paralyzed by loss, uncertainty, fear, regret or grief.

My hope is that we will turn to the One ‘who comforts us in all our troubles, so we can comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God‘ ~2 Cor. 1:4.

Here’s part 5…read on my friends…