My goal is always to live a life as “normal” as possible with my husband Arthur, a T-11 complete paraplegic. We have a comfortable routine for everyday living – cooking, doing the wash, loading the dishwasher. We are still honing our skills when travelling. Like most people, when we go away, we don’t jump in the car and hope we find a cute little motel along the way, although that was a dream of mine before the accident. Now we plan ahead.
When we decided to go to the beach this summer, we looked for a room that was handicapped accessible. Each hotel usually has only two so the pool of availability is limited. The place we stayed at last year was beautiful with a balcony that allowed us to see the sunsets, easy access elevator and within walking distance of the beach. But the handicapped rooms were already booked for the weeks we were interested in this summer.
We found a reasonably priced clean motel that was within walking distance of the beach in Fenwick Island at the Seaside Inn. We stayed in one of the two handicap accessible rooms in the motel, both on the first floor. The rooms were plenty big for a wheelchair to move around in. Arthur also had enough room for his wheelchair to fit next to the bed so he could transfer into bed. And the bed was the right height! In our room last year in Ocean City MD, the bed was too high for Arthur to move into from his wheelchair. We asked the staff to remove the box spring, which they did.
Our motel was conveniently located across the street from several shops and restaurants. This is Coastal Highway – the main road through Ocean City MD, Bethany Beach DE and Fenwick Island DE. It’s busy in peak season, and fortunately, not so busy during COVID. Which doesn’t mean we didn’t have our challenges.
Crossing that 6 lane highway in a wheelchair was like playing chicken in the road.
When my mom and I were in Rome years ago, we were told that traffic lights and stop signs were only suggestions. If we want to cross the road, step into the road, put your hand out in a stop position and walk. We did this and, miraculously, it worked. Cars stopped so we could cross the intersection.
Crossing Coastal Highway was a little like that, except the cars were not following the rules.
Where we stayed in Fenwick Island, there are no sidewalks. We went into the street with his wheelchair to go to the corner where we would cross the intersection. There was a wide pedestrian crossing but NO traffic light.
At the corner, I waited for traffic to slow down, then I stepped into the walkway, leaving Arthur behind. In Maryland and Delaware, cars are required by law to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. As I continued to inch my way into the street, in the walkway, cars continued to pass in front of me. It was crazy! One car finally stopped and slowly, the others followed suit. I stood in the middle blocking traffic while Arthur crossed. If you can imagine all 4’9″ of me stopping traffic! 🙂
On another venture to a restaurant across the street, a car actually honked and pointed at me for being in the pedestrian crossing! We did find that the next street up had a traffic light, but without sidewalks, we were still a little scared to walk in the street.
Imagine how scary it would be to travel across this highway or any highway alone in a wheelchair. And people face that every day.
We had another “adventure” when we dined at a local restaurant for our anniversary. It’s an old restaurant with a pebble stone parking lot and cobblestone walkway. Aside from the bumpy terrain, the handicapped parking spot was not level. I guided Arthur into the spot as best I could but it still wasn’t stable. Arthur transfers out of the driving seat into his wheelchair then begins his descent down the ramp. My worst fear – his wheels hit the uneven pavement and he pitched forward in his chair.
He’s holding himself up with his arms, keeping his face off the ground and supporting the weight of his wheelchair on his back. I yelled for help and one of the servers ran down. The outside diners turned their heads to look, then continued with their meal. I admit, that surprised me. The server and I lifted the wheelchair up and righted Arthur. Although he had no bruises, Arthur’s neck hurt and my back hurt. The chair wasn’t damaged but we were both shaken. We took a minute to calm ourselves, then I ordered a glass of wine and we ate our lunch.
We are grateful that we live in a time where handicapped accessible rooms are available and we have laws that govern pedestrian crossings.
We know we are lucky because we are benefiting from improvements due to ADA – like handicapped spaces.
With each adventure, we learn a little bit more about what works and what doesn’t. We are a team – the “A” team!
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