by Bob Vogel
This past summer I was able to relive one of my favorite childhood memories of a family camping trip — at age 51 — when I took my 10-year-old daughter Sarah and my German shepherd service dog Schatzie on a 21-day 3000-mile road trip from California to Colorado.
In addition to packing the Jeep and trailer with an adaptive off-road bike, camping gear and luggage, I made sure to pack a “skin check” mirror and the right cushions. I’m in my 26th year as a T10 complete para — over the years I’ve developed a pelvic obliquity, my left ischium (butt bone) sits lower than my right. To compensate for the obliquity I use a ROHO® QUADTRO SELECT® Cushion on my chair, and to protect my butt in the car I sit on a custom two-chamber ROHO that doubles as a handcycle cushion. This would be especially important on the 10–12 driving days that lay ahead. As a journalist I’ve written about many wheelers that have gone decades without a pressure sore, only to get one and spend many months in the hospital with major skin flap surgery. Twenty-six years after rehab, I still do a morning and evening mirror skin-check.
My plan for the trip was to “drive until it’s time to stop” and then find an inexpensive hotel room. This being tourist season, finding a room without a reservation at late hours was going to be tough enough, forget about finding an accessible room with a roll-in-shower. No problem, a ROHO ADAPTOR® PAD on the standard shower floors gave me a safe — and clean — place to transfer down to.
Our first destination was a campground nestled high in the Rocky Mountains next to the Colorado River near Eagle, Colorado. I was there to compete in the Adventure TEAM Challenge — a three-day multi-sport adaptive adventure race. The race is made up of five-person teams — two athletes on each team must have a disability, one of which must be a wheelchair user, the other three team members are non-disabled athletes. The focus of the event is teamwork — working together to get all five members through a race that includes mountain biking, white water rafting, zip line, hiking, climbing and navigating in the mountain wilderness.
During the long race days I wore a climbing harness that I lined with ADAPTOR PADs — held in place with contact cement. Not only did this protect my skin going over rocky terrain — the harness made it easier for my teammates to help me transfer over difficult obstacles.
At the event, Sarah and Schatzie had a great time camping and were able to tag along with the camera crew to watch the race and cheer me on. The team I raced with ended up in 5th place — the highest placing rookie team.
Our next stop was Winter Park, Colorado for the No Barriers Summit — a four-day seminar that included the latest innovations in adaptive sports and adventure, adaptive technology, disability-related scientific presentations and adaptive adventure films.
More than 600 people with disabilities from around the world attended this year’s summit. For four days the Winter Park village became a hub of disability culture.
Sarah joined me on an adaptive white-water raft trip on the Colorado River. At times she would excitedly call out “Daddy, that’s where we were taking pictures of you during the race!” Sarah and Schatzie were also able to participate in adaptive kayaking — Sarah with me in a double kayak, Schatzie swimming from shore to our kayak and back. During rafting and kayaking, my skin was protected by my harness with an ADAPTOR PAD.
From Winter Park, we followed the same route through Colorado that my folks drove when I was Sarah’s age. Highlights included touring the mining town of Leadville — elevation 10,152 feet — driving over the continental divide and spending a day in Aspen. We watched the 4th of July fireworks in Telluride, a scenic mountain town at the end of a box canyon surrounded by 13,000-foot mountain peaks — each display would light up the canyon walls and the boom’s echoed about the walls to Sarah’s delight. I was relieved that Schatzie is not gun-shy — she fell asleep halfway through the show.
From Telluride we drove to Durango to ride behind a steam locomotive on the famous Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The route goes through a steep gorge, high in the San Juan Mountains and offers amazing views. The engine and coaches were built in the 1800’s with one very cool addition — a wheelchair lift on the coach nearest the engine — the most coveted spot for a rail fan.
Sarah loved the view — but said “Daddy, I’m getting cinders in my hair.” I replied “when we were kids, Grandpa explained that a real rail fan loves the cinders and soot, and we would see who could get the most.” From then on Sarah kept her head out of the coach as much as possible.
By the end of the line, Sarah was covered with soot and grinning from ear to ear — so was I — and grateful to have had this experience when I was a boy, even more grateful to share it with my daughter!
Bob Vogel, 51, is a freelance writer for the ROHO Community blog. He is a dedicated dad, adventure athlete and journalist. Bob is in his 26th year as a T10 complete para. For the past two decades he has written for New Mobility magazine and is now their Senior Correspondent. He often seeks insight and perspective from his 10-year-old daughter, Sarah, and Schatzie, his 9-year-old German Shepherd service dog.