Antique Car Show

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Last weekend, Guy and I attended an antique car show.  It’s surprising how many antique car collectors live on Camano Island.  We frequently see beautiful collector’s cars driving through the area. I guess it has to do with the high retirement population living here.

While enjoying the show, I came across an Invacar collector.  He and his wife found this vehicle, designed for the disabled, abandoned and covered in blackerries.  They recently purchased it from the property owner and are in the process of restoring it.  The car has an interesting history.

Old Disability Mobility Equipment

In 1948, Bert Greeves adapted a motorbike with the help of his paralysed cousin Derry Preston-Cobb as transport for Derry. Noticing the number of former servicemen injured in the Second World War they spotted a commercial opportunity and approached the UK government for support, leading to the creation of Invacar Ltd. Invacar_model_70

During the 1960s and 70s the Invacar, with its modern fibreglass shell and ice-blue colouring nicknamed Ministry Blue after the Ministry of Health, was produced in the tens of thousands. More than 50 variants were produced.

All Invacars were owned by the British government and leased to disabled drivers as part of their disability benefit. Their use had been in decline since the introduction of the Motability scheme, which offers disabled drivers a conventional car with modified options.

On 31 March 2003 all Invacars owned by the government were recalled and scrapped because of safety concerns. The veteran vehicle could not meet modern-day government regulations, which required approval under the Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval Scheme as part of a standard set by the European Union.

There were still around 200 Invacars in Britain before the 2003 recall and scrapping programme. Hundreds of stockpiled Invacars in government warehouses were scrapped along with all their spare parts. A few examples survive in the hands of private owners and museums in Britain and abroad. Invacars can still be used on UK roads, only vehicles owned by the government were scrapped in 2003.     —Wikipedia

New Disability Mobility Equipment

It seems innovators are always inventing updated mobiliity devices, for which I’m extremely grateful.  Although the US government doesn’t lease vehicles to disabled drivers as part of our benefits, I was fortunate to discover the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation does assist with the cost of the convertions–so long as the vehicle is required to acquire or maintain employment.

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As I’m currently retired, our most recent purchase was not subsidized by the government. However, I’m grateful for the financial assistance I received many years ago to purchase reliable disability mobility equipment and the opportunity it gave me to be a productive member of society.  I’m also grateful for the creative minds that continue to invent equipment to enhance and sustain a certain level of independence for the disabled.

https://www.dshs.wa.gov/ra/division-vocational-rehabilitation/assistive-technology-services

Traveling With Your Dog

and a disability

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My Toronto friends in 2002

Traveling With A Disability

Before I met Guy, I visited my friend in Toronto at least once a year.  The cost of renting a wheelchair-accessible van in Toronto was outrageous, so I traveled with my manual chair.  The airlines were very accommodating and assisted me in every way possible (especially post 9/11 when security restrictions prohibited my caregivers from escorting me to the gate).  And, of course, I always boarded first.

On my first flight to Toronto, I wasn’t sure how I’d maneuver down the plane’s narrow aisles in my  chair. No worries, every plane carries “aisle chairs” and offers assistance from very courteous Flight Attendants.  Well, every plane except the one I was on.  Their chair happened to be broken.  Again, the friendly Flight Attendants came up with a  solution I wasn’t going to argue with.  They moved me to the front row of first class, close to the door and bathrooms.

Make Friends By Traveling With Your Dog

Now that I’d mastered the art of traveling with a disability, or at least felt comfortable with it, I decided to add my puppy to the mix.  While trying to find someone to care for Cinder during my two week absence, my Toronto friend suggested I bring her along. So I did.

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Miss Cinder

 

Traveling with my dog, was surprisingly easier than I expected, and quite rewarding.  Cinder is ten pounds dripping wet, so she fit in a small carrying case that could be stowed under the seat in front of me.  She was unfamiliar with flying/dog-crates and whimpered quietly the moment we boarded.  The kind gentleman in the seat above her tried unsuccessfully to calm her by touching the crate.  Fortunately, the Flight Attendant took pity on Cinder and allowed her to sit in my lap (this was a Canadian Airlines).  DSCN1745

The trip was uneventful from that point on, with the exception that I made lots of friends with my adorable puppy sleeping peacefully on my lap.  The Flight Attendant even brought me a fresh cookie from first class and offered to assist me with my return trip to Seattle, which she just happened to be scheduled on.

Traveling With A Disability And Your Dog

I don’t necessarily recommend doing this unless you have a service companion, which are allowed to sit under your seat, uncrated.  But I was fortunate to have had a wonderful experience the two trips I made.  However, the U.S. airlines I flew with did not allow Cinder to sit on my lap.  Luckily she was used to flying by then and slept quietly under the seat (in her crate).

 

 

Baby In Control

The Dangers of Power Wheelchairs

 

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A Few Primary Friends

 

One of my favorite activities has been teaching the primary children every Sunday.  The ages range from three to twelve years old, which keeps things very interesting and quite lively.   I absolutely LOVE it!

I also appreciate the parents entrusting me with their precious ones, especially in light of my 300+ pound wheelchair/gymnasium.  Although the wheelchair is a benefit in relating to the children, as I’m always on their level, the lights and buttons are a huge temptation for tiny hands.  For the most part, the children and I have an understanding (buttons are only touched at my direction), however, occasionally–only occasionally–someone gets too curious to mind the rules.  And, occasionally–only occasionally–I’m not vigilant enough to foresee the potential disaster.IMAG0623One flawed design of power wheelchairs is easy access to the joystick, great for the user, not so for children, horses, dogs, etc.  Toes frequently get run over when someone leans in for a hug, or a dog jumps on my lap, or the horse nibbles on the “carrot”.  But that’s nothing compared to a child reaching for the joystick while standing in front of the chair!

I’m always on guard and turn off the power with the slightest hint of danger.  Unfortunately, children, animals and loved-ones are often just too fast for me.   Toes get squished and one time so did my nephew.  He grabbed the joystick, with the chair rolling over him he hung on for dear life.  Very counter productive, but he was only two.  Those little fingers were surprisingly strong–it took his mother and me to release his grip.  Although a lot of tears were shed, thankfully, he wasn’t hurt.DSCN1532

A more comical situation  occurred while giving my niece a “ride” while shopping in  a mall.  Before I could stop her, she had taken control of the joystick.  In my effort to hold onto her, I wasn’t able to pry her determined fingers from the handle.  All I could do was shout “baby in control”‘ as we spun haphazardly around the aisles.  Once again, mom saved the day and no harm was done.

The danger I dread the most, is backing over an infant.    There are tons of really fun gadgets attached to power chairs–parents, it’s your turn to be vigilant.  Those little ones creep up behind us when we least expect it.  I’m happy to say, the worst thing that’s happened to me in that regard, was discovering a deck of cards lying on the back of my chair after arriving at work.

 

 

 

 

Fun On The Alpaca Ranch

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When Guy and I moved to Camano two years ago, I noticed a number of alpaca ranches on the island.  I was especially intrigued by the huge herd grazing in the fields just south of the bridge leading onto the island.   Each time we passed the alpaca ranch I became more and more curious.  Until I finally Googled “Alpaca ranches on Camano Island.”  This is what I found http://www.sentinelranchalpacas.com  And guess what–I knew the owners!!!!

Every chance I had, I grilled Ann and Nathanial (or their daughter Renee) about their alpaca ranch.  They’re totally eager to share their knowledge and frequently host tours of the ranch.  Although I had been to the ranch a couple of times in the past, last Friday  was the best.  I traipsed out in the fields with Ann, Renee and baby Vincent and experienced the alpacas up close and personal.

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curious Artimus

 

 

I had a blast!!!

At this point the ranch has a herd of over 200 alpacas, but most of them were in the lower fields.  They’re expecting about 50 new crias (babies) this year and I got to meet one of the first, born just a week ago.  I also met a friendly little male named Artimus.

Alpacas are extremely curious animals, and very friendly.  With a little coaxing from Renee, Artimus came right over to me.  His clucking sounds were endearing and he was quite the nuzzler.  Now I see why alpaca wool is used for clothing, it’s really soft.  alpca3

I highly recommend a visit to Sentinel Alpaca Ranch next time you’re on the island.  It’s WAY better than a petting zoo.

Beware Of Animals That Think Wheelchairs Are Toys

One caveat when visiting any animals while in a wheelchair —

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wildlife preserve in Oregon

Beware of the toy factor.  Joey, a retired cutting horse, seemed to think the pads on my wheelchair were toys.  Before I knew it, one was hanging from his mouth.  That wouldn’t be the first time.  Many horses think my joystick’s a carrot.  And even heavy duty wheelchairs are susceptible when it comes to goats.DSCN1319

 

 

Camping In A Tent As A Quadriplegic

I’ve always enjoyed camping.  In our early twenties, my friend and I spent four months traveling around Europe with only a backpack, cook stove, sleeping bag and pup tent as travel necessities. We had a blast!

So. . . when Guy and I met, I insisted we go camping.  Needless to say, with my disability he was hesitant at first, but eventually succumbed to my constant pleading.  Armed with new camping equipment, we started off by camping on his parent’s lake property in Shelton.    DSCN2672 Aside, from freezing to death (October), the experiment was successful.  We then gained the courage to camp in a designated campground (with fully equipped restrooms) in the North Cascades.  Another successful weekend camping trip.

We were now prepared to camp next to the river in the North Cascades, in a less designated campsite (at least it had an outhouse close by).    DSCN2703 Our site was beautiful!

What Not To Do While Camping In A Tent

As a quadriplegic, one of my requirements for camping in a tent, was to sleep on an air mattress. Not just for luxury purposes.  The added height allowed Guy to lift me off the ground a little easier. With my poor circulation, it also protected me from the cold and hip sores.  I have to admit, the queen-sized mattress was pretty comfy, though.  We also determined that using the outhouse in the middle of the night would be virtually impossible.  The solution, place a commode in the far corner of the four-man tent.  Now this was MY kind of camping! No late-night rendezvous with a stinky outhouse. Why hadn’t I thought of this sooner?

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In the middle of the night, we discovered why.  Let’s just say, make sure to check your commode bucket for leaks before using.  Arghh!!! At least the disaster was isolated to the other side of the tent.  Unfortunately, that was just the first disaster.  While Guy was lifting me from my cozy mattress, he stumbled and landed right on my ankle.  That was it for that trip! My ankle was quite swollen and very painful.  But I’m afraid we weren’t going home just yet.

Apparently, blowing-up my nice cushy air mattress the night before, had depleted our car battery.  We were stuck in the mountains with a dead battery and no cell phone reception–and an injured ankle. There was nothing to be done, but elevate my leg and wait for someone to drive past.

 

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Camp Robber

It was a beautiful fall day, so it wasn’t long before we were rescued by a group of hikers heading home. A quick jump and we were on our way.

A Must For Camping In A Tent

  1. If using a commode–make sure there are NO holes in the bucket.
  2. Always carry a battery starter–especially when driving in isolated areas
  3. HAVE FUN!!!!   DSCN2717

 

For more information about accessible camping check out http://www.spinalpedia.com

The Wobbly Watercolorist

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

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I’ve always wanted to paint with watercolors, but my first attempts ended in disaster. And that was before my disability.  I never dreamed I could paint something worth looking at, especially since losing some use of my hands. Then I met Nicki Wight, watercolorist extraordinaire!

Nicki believed in me and took me in as one of her students.  We’ve been painting together for about five months now.  She encourages me, pushes me and has taught me that nothing’s impossible.  I’ve learned which brushes work best for my limited dexterity and build up the handles with rubber bands to compensate for my weakened grip.

The end results aren’t too shabby.  A few wobbly windows (my friend dubbed me the Wobbly Watercolorist), but even those are improving.  I’m finding that painting has become a wonderful form of therapy, both mentally and for better hand control.

But most of all, it’s a whole lot of fun!

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Little Bit Horse Show

 

Last weekend was Little Bit’s annual horse show, where riders are given the opportunity to showcase their skills and instructors and volunteers get to showoff their riders.  As usual, this year’s event was the crowning event of the season.

Even though temperatures reached the 80’s, the show went off without a hitch.  Young faces beamed as riders received their ribbons and parents snapped pictures to capture every moment.  Little Bit’s amazing horses were decked out with braided manes and patiently tolerated the heat and long hours. The day was capped off with a delicious barbecue featuring hotdogs, hamburgers and Margie’s famous baked beans.

It was an amazing day, with so many people to thank, from the staff and volunteers that put in weeks of service to keep the show running smoothly, to the Redmond fire Department for contributing their time and fire truck to prepare the facility prior to the show and cool off the participants after the barbecue.

From one grateful rider – thank you Little Bit, from the bottom of my heart.

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Pictures courtesy of Debbie Bacon (Little Bit volunteer)