Accessibility · Adaptive Adventure · Adaptive Parenting (an adventure itself)

Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog, August 11, 2019: “Why we can’t just rent a car to go on vacation”

After a recent car accident left us scrambling before our road trip to Michigan for my husband’s family reunion, a well-meaning friend suggested we just “rent a car.” I thought about that idea for about three seconds. As the accident was caused by another person, a rental would certainly be covered by that person’s insurance. A rental could also certainly be accommodated with the hand controls necessary for my husband Geoff, a T7-8 paraplegic, to share the driving of our 17-hour pilgrimage.

However, could a rental come with the kind of storage basket on top to secure his handcycle? Could a rental also be fitted with a rear bike rack for the rest of our bicycles? We are an active family who loves to explore the countryside we visit on the backs of bikes with our kids. Would not bringing our bikes compromise our vacation? It sure would. So, I panicked and then made a call to my hero mechanic Jarrett Ham of Lin-Wood Auto Center. I needed him to reassure me that my beat-up vehicle- all the damage on the passenger side – was still aligned properly and safe to drive our 940 miles west and back again.

Jarrett is not only a great guy, but a thorough, reliable, and honest mechanic. He understood our plight and not only squeezed us to make sure we could still drive my 2011 Subaru, but also reassured me that I was not the crazy person I appeared to be on the outside. When I first articulated these initial reasons for not just getting my car into the auto body shop to be fixed and renting a car, the same well-meaning friend suggested, “Just rent a big car, like a Suburban, and all of your bikes, luggage, kids, service dog, etc. will fit on the inside.” Although this logically made tremendous sense, I was concerned about how much the gas alone would cost our family of four humans with budgeted and modest means to travel almost 2000 miles. Call it anxiety. Call it control. Call it whatever you need to call it; I know how to pack our Subaru wagon to fit everything we need; we pack light and do laundry. We need to be able to access Geoff’s wheelchair easily for rest stops or in case of emergency. I know how to put our kids’ life jackets, fishing poles, bike helmets, Geoff’s travel commode, tire pump (have a wheelchair, must have a air pump), and waterproof luggage bag on top of the car so that there is enough room inside the vehicle for the family, dog, cooler, wheelchair, etc. There was even enough room for the inflatable avocado and noodle net Geoff likes to float in when in the water.

So, we returned home safely and began the lengthy process of finding an auto body shop to return our call so that my loyal, reliable vehicle with 125,000 miles can be fixed. Geoff’s car, although big and burley to fit needed equipment for adaptive sports, isn’t great for family road trips. Plus, the AC is broken and $1700 to fix the problem isn’t in our budget right now. We make decisions based on as much information we can gather. We depend on local mechanics Jarett and brother Jon Ham for making sure the transportation needs we have are met. We depend on car insurance and health insurance. We depend on our friends and family to help us to problem solve whenever needed and to trust our instincts as a parental unit.

Not for anything, if you haven’t checked out Reeve Connect yet, you really ought to. Another friend of mine who is a paraplegic and new mom had asked me if I had any contacts in Florida because both sets of parents (hers and her partner’s) wanted to celebrate the holidays together with them in a fully accessible house. I told her I did not, but that I would put a blurb in Reeve Connect. And guess what– people are replying with all sorts of insight, both positive and negative in relation to an Airbnb or Homeaway or VRBO. But I feel a little like the Reeve Connect Fairy Godmother because I’m fairly certain I will be able to connect my friend with appropriate housing for some good old-fashioned memory making with their parents and new baby.

Summer road trip. Check. Memories with our children. Check. Gratitude for our favorite mechanic. Check. Wishes granted. Check. Pay it forward. Check. Check. Check.

Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 9 and 8.Please check out her novel True North, website, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.

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