Russell, a quadriplegic, and his wife, Darlene, make a trip across the United States.

I first must tell you my wife takes care of me and my needs every day.  Each morning starts with a cup of coffee for her before she can function.  Trust me, I require her to have her coffee BEFORE she begins her daily routine on me.  She then must cath me, do my bowl program, shower me, put me back in bed to dress me for the day, then get me into my wheelchair using a Hoyer Lift that we must take along as well as a shower chair on our travels.  I can not perform these tasks myself.  It’s now time for her to get herself ready for the day.  All of these tasks require about two, two and a half hours each morning. 

Getting on the Road

Now our day begins with her packing up everything and loading our van, and then breakfast either at the hotel or on the road at a Cracker Barrel.  She loves blueberry pancakes.  Our van is set up for me to drive but my arms will only allow me an hour or so behind the wheel.  My wife must move the driver’s seat so my wheelchair can get behind the wheel.  This is a hard task and she would just as soon drive as change the seat out.  I drive very little on our trips.

On our last cross-country trip, I phoned eleven Hotels we planned to stay for the night to make sure the bed was on a normal bed frame so the legs of my lift could go under the bed.  Most hotel bed frames are built on the floor and of course, the lift legs can not go under the bed.  So many of the “desk” employees I talked to had no idea what I was asking about so I did get to talk to housekeeping employees and some managers.  Guess what, everyone said they could accommodate us.  (but stay tuned folks)

We start our first day at 4 AM.  The van has been packed the night before except for the shower chair and the Hoyer Lift.  We have a carrier that fits in the hitch of the van that holds both the shower chair and the Hoyer Lift.  She gets me in my wheelchair at about 6:30, loads the chair and Lift, ties them down, and puts the cover over it that we had made for it when we travel and we‘re off.

I made a doctor’s appointment in Nashville on our way.  We leave Nashville at ten AM headed for our next stop in Fallon, MO, Comfort Inn.  We arrive that evening and check out the room to find it will accommodate us just fine.  We found a nice place to eat and then settled in our room.  My wife takes into our room only what we will need in the morning.  A nice night’s rest, nice breakfast in the morning, and get on the road again about 9AM for Oakley, KS, Comfort Inn.

Get to Oakley, Kansas after a long day on the road with NOTHING to see.  The first thing my wife checks the room to see if it can accommodate us and finds it will work.  Unloads what we will need in the morning and go find a place to eat.  Back to our room to rest up for the next day’s travel.  Get started early,  my wife changed out the seat so I could drive.  She knew I like to drive when I can but it is a lot of trouble for her so it doesn’t happen often.  We are on our way to Grand Junction, Colorado  this morning.

I get to drive on the Interstate which is easier on me.  I can use cruise control and give my arms a break.  We had coffee this morning but it’s now time for breakfast.  We see a Cracker Barrel sign and head straight to it so my sweet wife can have her blueberry pancakes.  We have a great breakfast, my wife changes the seat back and she drives on to Grand Junction.  We are on I70 and when we get West of Denver, Colorado the mountains are beautiful.  So much so we had to pull over at a rest stop to just LOOK.  We took some pictures with one of the disposable cameras but lost it somewhere along the way.  We still have our memories of God’s fantastic creations.  Just WOW!

We arrive in Grand Junction, Comfort Inn to find they can not accommodate us.  I spoke with the manager on duty to find out they didn’t know what I was asking for standing there talking to them face to face.  I explained I had talked to a manager when I made the reservations but that didn’t seem to bother them in the least.  They didn’t even try to help.  After a while, we realized they could care less so we drove off looking for a place to stay.  We spotted a Best Western that looked like it had been there a long, long time but we had a long tiring day and stopped to see if they had a bed on a regular frame.  They did, we took it.  It didn’t have a roll-in shower but a quickie with a washcloth isn’t bad once in a while.  We were so unhappy by this time I don’t remember where we had dinner or even if we did.

Next morning, the same routine.  My wife gets my needs taken care of.  Then hers packs the van and off to the next Cracker Barrel.   Great breakfast then on to St. George Utah, Comfort Inn, a brand spanking new hotel.  We went into this great big lobby, asked to see our room and wouldn’t you know it, the bed was on a box, on the floor.  When we told them we couldn’t use the room and why, the lady in charge of housekeeping overheard our problem and told us to show her. 

We got to the room, otherwise was big, and had a nice roll-in shower, everything was just great except for the bed.  When she understood our problem, she told us she would fix it.   A few minutes later she came back with two men doing carpenter work for the hotel and had them get a couple of 4X4’s to fix our bed.  This lady bent over backward to help us.  We stayed two nights, had a great breakfast and we for the first time felt appreciated as a customer.

After resting for two days we took off for Las Vegas.  Again the bed at Bally’s was on the floor but the staff fixed the problem with phone books.  Not stable but it worked.  My wife put me in the bed very carefully.  The roll-in shower was kind of small but it worked.  We got there early in the day and drove over to Hoover Dam and did the tourist thing.  Went to a great place for dinner.  Can’t remember the name but you can see the sign from Bally’s front door.  Prim Rib was so big, it covered the plate, with hardly room for the baked potato.  If you’re in Vegas, look this place up.  You’ll like it.

The next part of our trip was to my High School Reunion in Encinitas, CA.  Once again we had reservations at the Comfort Inn at Cardiff-By-The-Sea, CA.  As we were staying five nights, we had a High School friend go check it out for us.  We had a nice large room, a nice roll-in shower, nice bed, couldn’t have been better.  We had a catered dinner at the Del Mar Fair Grounds/Race Track one night, dinner at Tony’s in Solana Beach another night, Had a day at a classmate’s home with food, and drink, wonderful way to visit old friends. And you can’t be in California without going to the beach one day.  Moonlight Beach in Encinitas was our hangout in High School.  Another plus was a guided tour of our old High School by current students.  A very nice way to see the school from younger eyes.  It was even wheelchair friendly.

After a wonderful time with old friends, it’s time to head east this time.  We go to Tucson, Arizona., to visit the Pima Air museum.  After that tour, we head north to Phoenix where we had made plans for dinner at a great restaurant called Fajitas with some family members and friends that winter there.  The big surprise for us was that twenty-three people showed up.  Was fantastic.  People we had not seen for some time.  Guess my nephew got the word out that we were going to be there.  A great-great time.

It’s getting late and we haven’t checked in at the Comfort Inn (of course).  We got there to check in as we had reservations but guess what?  No bed or room that could accommodate us but they were so sorry that they got on the phone and called around to another Comfort Inn that had a bed off the floor that we could get by with.  The next morning we slept in until about check-out time, had breakfast somewhere, and hit the road.  This time headed for Santa Rosa, NM without reservations.  Bad move, nothing is available.   On we go to Tucumcari, NM only to find a cute little local motel on old Route 66.  Hurray, the beds were on normal frames.  They sent us to the best homemade Mexican food restaurant you would ever want to eat at.

The same old routine the next morning.  Pack the van, and drive a short while to another Cracker Barrel for brunch.  We are now on our way to Tulsa, Oklahoma to visit an old Air Force buddy.  We arrived at our Comfort Inn only to find the roll-in shower was great, bed, and room, were all very nice.  Almost had a panic attack.  All is good, called our friends, and went to a casino for dinner and entertainment for the evening.  Back to the Comfort Inn for the night.  The next morning, stopped at our friend’s home for a light breakfast and say our good by’s before hitting the road again.  Heading East for home.

We drove to Dickson, Tennessee, we heard on the radio of a wreck a few miles ahead on up I40 it was getting late anyway so we found a Hampton Inn that was very nice and could meet our needs for the night.  We got a bite to eat and went to bed.  The next morning drove to our final Cracker Barrel before getting home so my wife insisted on having breakfast there.  We had another fine meal and headed home.  About a four-hour drive and we would be home.

We had a wonderful trip except for always worrying about hotels.  Even when you call ahead to make sure everything is like you ask for  —  it often isn’t.   Happy Travels everyone!

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