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.


Life Can Turn on a Dime – Part 8

Hi friends. This is part of a series about experiences related to a life change at age 18 when I lost control of my car many years ago and became paralyzed from a spinal cord injury. See part 1 for more background.

Almost ready to go home from the hospital in my brand new wheelchair. My half butchered hair is hidden as we pulled it back to cover the bald spots from traction and surgery.

Home Sweet Home?
Eleven weeks after the accident I was discharged from rehab. Coincidentally,  my accident occurred the day I left for my sophomore year of college and I arrived at home the day I would have come home for the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays. Yes, that was an interesting semester and definite learning experience.  The true training was just beginning.

The transition to ‘every-day’ living was what I remember as the most difficult adjustment. I no longer had a host of new friends and therapists who understood my ‘different body’. It was ‘game on by myself’. Most of my friends were away at school, and yes, my family was there, but whoa…it was an awakening. A hospital bed was set up in the living room for the first six months while we worked on an addition to the house on the ground floor.

We set up a temporary shower in the hallway between the kitchen and laundry room right in front of the door going out to the garage.   I remember threatening to charge admission when someone needed to slip in or out during my shower.  When showering seems to involve the whole family you get a new perspective on life!

Finding Help
We had no idea how to hire helpers and we learned life lessons as we saw the good, the bad and the ugly up close and personal in our house. We tried both ‘live in’ and ‘visiting’ helpers. One night I was awakened to flashing blue lights at 2:00 AM as the police entered the house. One of our hired helpers took my mother’s wedding rings!  Redemption came when her father bought the treasured diamond from the pawn shop where she sold it.

It’s heart-breaking to see such desperate people. Gratefully, we honed our approach to hiring and I have developed many wonderful and lasting friendships through my dependence on others for personal care.  As you might imagine there are times of joy and challenge with this dependence and these relationships. I highly recommend a couple of my go to scriptures for courage and relief during the tough times….No kidding, I use these now to remember and to move ahead.  Yes, I still have my struggles just as I know you do. This very year has been replete with pneumonia and other health challenges. I repeat my short verses over and over:

March on my soul, be strong. Judges 5:21 NIV
Rely on the Lord! Be strong and confident! Rely on the Lord! Psalms 27:14”  The NET Bible

Friends Stick Close
Many friends helped lighten the family’s load and ministered to physical and emotional needs.  It is overwhelming to look back at the ‘mini’ miracles and the glorious evidence of God’s amazing grace.  A good friend, Julia,  cared for me during my first summer before she went to college.  I know it was difficult for her to stay with our family caring for a needy, exposed paralyzed friend, but her young soul offered safety and continuity as she served selflessly.

One of my former full-time helpers and friend, Michel, has a special gift of care giving and was with me for a good part of ten years as she lived with us and became part of our family. She helped when I first moved away from home and was a great support when both my father and mother died.  She was in our wedding and even went to Aruba to help us with care-giving on our honeymoon.  She now lives in Arizona and I rarely see her, but we had many memorable times together.  One of my most tender memories of her were the nights she spent at my mom’s bedside during her final days of fighting breast cancer.  Mom seemed to eat and move best with Michel…it was beautiful…and a great comfort to mom and our family.

Precious Gifts
A couple nights before mom died, unable to sleep, I drove to her house at eleven or so and Michel put me in the small hospital bed with mom in her semi-conscious state to cuddle.  A precious and priceless time.

You see, through the struggles and difficulties of my ‘different’  life I have seen the caring, loving touch so many extended to me and to those I hold dear. As if that was not enough of an example of God’s great love and faithfulness, he surprised me with the gift of a loving, caring husband!  Great is His faithfulness!

If you are currently struggling I’d be honored to hear your heart and pray for you.  Drop me a note or post a comment.  Love to you and more to come next time my friends.   – Madge

Life Can Turn on a Dime – Pt. 7

This is part of a series about experiences related to a life change at age 18 when I lost control of my car and became paralyzed from a spinal cord injury. See part 1 for more background.

A few weeks after my accident and shortly after surgery. The weather was nice enough for some relaxation on the porch in the late afternoons when mom stopped by after work.

So grateful I have learned how to take care of my skin without laying down every thirty minutes when the timer alerts! That was my first experience of ‘weight shifts’ for healthy skin!

New Appreciation and Caution
When I started sharing my story last year I had no personal experience with skin breakdown. Because of the intensive training I received during rehab, I was proud of the fact that I had good skin and avoided the commonly experienced complication of skin breakdown which can lead to surgery and many weeks of down time and further skin vulnerability. As I write this entry, I am healing from my first and only true pressure sore smack dab on my bottom!  Somehow I believed that my “perfect trouble-free skin” would never need such pampering.

This new-found caution concerns me, but more than that it gives me a chuckle as I look at these pictures and think, wow, a few months ago my outlook and appreciation for the ritual of regular weight shifts was entirely different.

A Class Disruption
A month after my discharge from rehab, the process of weight shifts in college calculus class was something that could have embarrassed me right out of the room. But somehow, by the grace of God, I was faithful to interrupt integrals and derivatives every thirty to forty-five minutes.

My big tan wheelchair sounded like a loud drill whirling into metal as a light touch of a button took me from an upright position to flat on my back…silenced for only a minute, the whirling sound brought me back up and erect. Classmates politely pretended like they didn’t notice.  I was a sight to see…half bald, in a big noisy wheelchair! I wore a metal brace to hold a felt tip pen that I used to scribble giant numbers in my notebook as I learned how to write without finger movement – pencils were out because they take too much pressure!

Grace Disguised
Yikes! Looking back, I’m amazed at God’s grace. I didn’t realize what a mess I was – a real disaster on the outside! But it was one day at a time then and it is one day at a time now just like everyone else.

One day at a time.  Yes each day of calculus class was precious and so is this very day.

Let’s use this day wisely no matter what circumstances we face.  This is our only today.

Love deeply.  Extend much grace to yourself and others.

Read on to part 8