Guest blog post by Bob Vogel
Summertime is finally here! Time to hit the open road, vacation in the sun, leave the familiar routine behind and enjoy new places, sights, sounds and adventures. Summer travel also presents challenges ranging from having enough gas to make it to the next town to remembering to apply sunscreen and bug repellent before we get burned or bit. Being a wheelchair user adds a few additional challenges. As I embark on into my 27th year of road-trip vacationing as a T10 para, I’ve developed a mental list of tips and tricks to make a smoother trip, as well as a few hidden dangers to watch out for.
1. Get a US National Park Golden Access Pass
If you are planning on visiting a US national park be sure to obtain an Access Pass (also called Golden Access Pass)—free to any US citizen or permanent resident that has a permanent disability. The Access Pass provides free entrance to all National Parks. Since the free entrance applies per vehicle, it makes me feel like a big spender when I’m riding with friends on camping or scuba trips—when we get to the entrance I get a kick out of whipping out my card and saying “I’ve got this!” I’ve found the access card also provides a 50 percent discount on camping and other services.
2. Join AAA
Travel with a cell phone and car charger and be sure to join AAA. For $51 a year you get a “Classic” (basic membership) membership in AAA, which provides good piece of mind knowing that just a phone call away is an AAA driver ready to fix a wide range of annoyances from getting keys out of a locked car, dead battery, flat tire, and, if the problem is more serious, free towing up to five miles. I suggest moving up to the AAA Plus plan at $91 a year which extends the free towing range to 100 miles and if you run your car out of gas, will send a driver out and put 7 ½ gallons of gas in your car to get you to the next station or town. I learned about the gas coverage when it was my shift to drive on a vacation with friends and I ran the car out of gas on a long deserted stretch of road in Nevada. An AAA membership is also a great way to get discounts from hotels and restaurants, to shopping entertainment and attractions.
3. Use kayak.com for booking travel arrangements
When it comes to discount travel sites for hotel, rental car and airline travel, in my experience, www.kayak.com works best—the site synthesizes fares from all other sites into one list. A word of caution—from my own experience—after booking a hotel or rental car reservation on the site, be sure to follow-up with a phone call to the hotel or rental car agency and double check they have the reservation. Most importantly, double check that they have any special requests like wheelchair accessible room, and/or vehicle equipped with hand controls. I found out the hard way that these requests can and do get lost in the shuffle, something that is prevented by a follow-up phone call.
4. Don’t forget to protect your skin
Sitting in one place on a long drive is a recipe for skin pressure so be sure to sit on a proper cushion in the car. Many people find the easiest way to do this is to sit on their wheelchair cushion. For me, the cushion I use on my handcycle, a ROHO® LOW PROFILE® Dual Valve Cushion, works great as a car seat cushion as well.
5. Check the water temperature of hotel showers and bathtubs
An important word of caution when using a shower or bathtub at a hotel (or while staying with friends), hot water can quickly cause third-degree burns. Although the ADA says the maximum bathtub or shower temperature should not exceed 120 degrees, a 2004 national survey found 78 percent of hot water temperatures in major hotel chains exceeded this. To put this into perspective, the human pain threshold is around 110 F. Water of 124 F will cause a second-degree burn in two minutes, and at 140 F it will cause a third-degree burn in five seconds!
Test water temperature with an area of skin that has sensation before getting into a tub of water and never let warm or hot water run on skin with no sensation. Always have part of the stream on skin that does have sensation. I learned this the hard way when I had the temperature on my hot water heater set too high. While taking a bath, I added hot water and I wasn’t paying attention. Thirty seconds later the hot water had scalded my foot and I ended up in the hospital with a third-degree burn. Last December, on vacation in Florida I was almost burned again—I was sitting on a bench in a hotel’s roll-in shower I moved the stream of water onto my legs while I lathered up my hair. When I moved the water rinse my hair it had gotten quite hot and the skin on my legs was bright and hot! I immediately turned the water to the coldest setting and ran it over my legs for five minutes. Luckily, I caught it in time, and the cold water helped prevent a burn. For additional information on hotel hot water dangers see “Travel Matters: Hotel Hot Water and Rental Car Burn Dangers” in New Mobility Magazine.
6. Protect your skin in the shower while traveling
Last, but not least is protecting your skin when faced with less than ideally accessible bathrooms like the kind I encounter when staying with friends. For me, the most dangerous are the knife-like tracks on the lip of a tub that has sliding shower doors. A close second is the type of shower with a single knife-like lip that the shower door closes on. In a pinch, a bath mat and/or bathroom towels draped over the lip of the tub or shower works well. I also sit on the bathmat or towel to protect my skin on the floor of the shower—especially from the shower drain with its “cheese grater” like surface. However, I find it much easier and safer to use my ROHO ADAPTOR PAD®. I drape the ADAPTOR PAD over the side of the tub to protect my skin during transfers—and then sit on the pad in the tub or floor of the shower. The ADAPTOR PAD is also a great option to protect skin while sitting on the hard surface of roll-in shower benches.
Wishing you fun, fulfilling and safe summer vacations and adventures!
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. The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of Bob Vogel and do not necessarily reflect the views of The ROHO Group. You can contact Bob Vogel by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.