OR to PA and back again

August 29, 2011 at 7:29 pm

I ended up renting a w/c accessible van and power w/c for my journey. I could not find one place that rented both, so had to deal with two separate companies.
The airlines provided me with a manual chair and a person to push it to the check in point. Because I cannot walk the few feet through the metal detector (if that’s what it is) without my crutches, I got a thorough pat down before being allowed into the boarding area. Another person pushed me to the gate, told the attendant I was there and left me with the chair with my crutches. I was pushed to the plane and used my crutches to get to my seat and had to give them to the flight attendant ~ with a promise, if I needed them to get to the restroom – just ask. I did that once; it was not easy.
I found out they have a special chair for those who cannot walk to get you on board and seated – I didn’t ask about how that would work if one needed to use the restroom but I think they have that figured out – certainly something to check out before hand.
Arrived in PA and was provided another push chair and a guy to push me to the parking lot where we found the van – it’s 2AM – and my wife and I are beat. Off to the motel and using my crutches and the wall managed to get to the handicap accessible room located at the end of a very long hallway. The handicap room was marginal even though I’m not as bad off as some – think grab bars! We slept a bit and my wife took off early with the van for the wedding site to set up and I find out the chair in the shower did not fit. Motel people finally got one but took 9 hours to do it – and this was a nice place! If the van was there we could have just rented one and been done with it.
That afternoon my wife returns with the van and I’m down the hall again and off to pickup the wheelchair. Although smaller than mine at home it worked well and was not uncomfortable – my biggest concern. Now I’m mobile. We were gone 8 days and everyday was a full one – I was constantly tired but the focus was my son’s wedding and I was just thrilled to be there.
Bottom line was planning what I could and dealing with ‘it’ as it came along. Reverse journey was the same only different – small things really.
Cost for the van was about $170/day and power wheelchair about $35/day. And I got a lovely daughter-in-law and happy wife to boot.
I would travel again using rental at destination – however, there were flight delays and little time to make connections – an hour layover even with the same airline and we just barely made it both ways. It would be worth it to me to drive to an airport that has a direct flight.
Short trips – say less than 1000 miles – I would consider driving as my first option. Wheelchair and handicap accessible are not necessarily so but with a little effort they can usually be overcome. Have you ever wondered why someone would go to all the effort and expense to expand a toilet stall and have the door only open inward? Or consider a 3″ concrete step as accessible? However, I’m very grateful to the people who helped me and all the efforts that are making disabled travel easier – can’t fault that. Most people are well-intentioned but that 3″ concrete sure made it hard to get my tux… a few bricks and some plywood that just happened to be in the parking lot did the trick! They didn’t see them but I did.
All things considered a person with very limited mobility can get there from here and back home again. My bucket list just got longer….