MY 2013 ROAD TRIP WITH PPMS

My husband and I travelled a lot before I had MS. For the past twenty years, however–since the age of 47–I’ve had Primary Progressive MS, the last twelve years of which I’ve been in a wheelchair full-time. We took a road trip in 2013 that was the best we’d had in over thirty years. I’m writing to tell you what we did, and also to encourage those with severe disabilities to travel (so long as you enjoy traveling) It does, however, take a willing partner or attendant to accompany and assist you.

We left our home in No. California in mid-December, 2012, and didn’t return until the end of June, 2013. My husband drove our Dodge Caravan minivan which is outfitted with a “buddy” passenger seat for me. The seat swivels sideways and tilts down for ease of transfer. We took my manual wheelchair in the van, and have a heavy lift in back for my electric wheelchair. First we headed for Mexico where we have a small, accessible retirement home in a beach town one hour north of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific’s Jaltemba Bay. We’ve been spending winters there for the past five years, and I have a beach wheelchair for use on the sand. We spent 4 1/2 months there before heading back to the U.S.

This time we took a different route than usual back to the United States. We wanted to see some parts of Mexico we hadn’t seen before. Driving east to Guadalajara, we then went north to Guanajuato and Zacatecas (two beautiful colonial cities from the time of the Spaniards) before crossing the border into Texas. We spent some time in San Antonio for the first time, and loved their river walk through the old town. We were scheduled to spend three weeks visiting our son, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren in Elgin Illinois, in early June. Since we were ahead of schedule, my husband asked me where I’d most like to go and without a second thought I said New Orleans. Neither one of us had ever been to Louisiana, and we loved its lush greenery, the colorful Cajun country, and the swamp boat tour where we saw an alligator. Since we only had one night to spend in New Orleans, we decided to splurge. We spent the night (at a very discounted rate) at the best hotel on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Bourbon Street was full of unbelievably colorful characters in various states of undress, and had fabulous food and music everywhere. We understood where “the Big Easy” got its theme–“Let the good times roll”!

Heading out of Louisiana north we were caught in a rainstorm that we discovered after the fact was almost a. tornado. It made us grateful that ‘all’ California gets is earthquakes. We had a wonderful time with our grandchildren, all of whom love to ride on “Grandma Carrie’s lap” in my electric wheelchair. With so many things I am unable to do with them at this point, I love that they fight over whose turn it is next to ride on my lap. Leaving from the Chicago area, we headed north through Wisconsin and Minnesota, then west through North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Washington. We visited friends near Portland, Oregon, and Shasta City, California, before returning home to Santa Rosa.

Some of you may be wondering how we managed the inevitable “pit stops” that go with road trips. I have a suprapubic catheter with a belly bag that needs to be emptied twice-daily into a plastic “juice container”. To minimize transfers – which my husband needs to lift me for – we eat lunch in the car and stop at dinner time for the night. We stay at motels that include a buffet breakfast to eliminate another restaurant stop. I knew that I still had some adventure left in me and this trip–all 11,000 miles and six-plus months of it, and with the help of a willing and able companion–confirmed it !! 🙂

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