The Romance of the Accessible Road Trip

Dana and her husband Michael (center) aboard their first roller coaster ride together.

I rode a roller coaster with my husband. I never thought that would happen. But, it did.

It was Space Mountain – at Walt Disney World in Orlando. My very strong brother-in-law helped me transfer Michael into the roller coaster car. I sat behind him, and held oh-so-tight to his shoulders.

I know he was scared. I cant imagine being a quadriplegic on a roller coaster. But I love that he’s always up for adventures, and trying new things, together.

Our trip to Orlando was perfect. We drove from Virginia Beach in our wheelchair accessible van. The van was a gift and to say it’s been a blessing would be a huge understatement.

Last Summer, before we got the van, we drove from Northern Virginia to Arkansas, stopping in Nashville in between. Lifting my husband and his wheelchair in and out of my SUV got old, real quick. It’s hard to feel like you’re on a vacation when you’re weightlifting at every stop.

Lifting my husband and his wheelchair in and out of my SUV got old, real quick. It’s hard to feel like you’re on a vacation when you’re weightlifting at every stop.

But this trip, I got to feel like a wife. And it felt like we were a team – tackling the road trip together. We stopped at Savannah on the way down, and had a romantic date night. I even wore a dress. That is not optional when you have to do those transfers! On the way back, we stopped in Charleston. It was raining, so we just drove through downtown and around the waterfront, on our own drive-by tour.

In Orlando, getting to Disney World, and going outlet shopping were a breeze. Letting the ramp down, and tying my husband’s wheelchair in and buckling his seatbelt is a process we’ve mastered. Not to mention everything we can fit in the van and still travel easy! I dont even have to break down his shower chair. I just roll it right in! We had no trouble fitting everything we needed for a week, and even stopped and did a mega grocery store run on the way home.

Sometimes, because we juggle a disability in our marriage, the fun and independence of being spontaneous escapes us. I think thats one of those tensions thats hard to put your finger on, you can feel it – but you just cant explain what’s wrong.

But then, when I think about things like taking a trip on the open road – windows down, soaking up the sun, and listening to the mix CDs my husband made – I don’t feel so bogged down under the constant weight of my responsibilities.

When I think about riding that roller coaster, holding his shoulders, laughing at our picture in the gift shop afterward, all is right with the world.

We are young, we don’t have kids yet. We can have romantic date nights, and adventures, and we can meet our family four states away and have a good time.

And I don’t have to be a hot, sweaty mess. I can be a girl, in a dress.

Oh how sweet it is.

About Dana Brown Ritter

Dana Ritter and her husband Michael share their experiences in life and marriage through their blog, www.lovelikethislife.com. Dana is a television news producer and primary caregiver for her husband. They live in Virginia Beach, Virginia.