Image description: A fat guy in a wheelchair with the wheels leaving a blazing trail behind him.

So, I wanted to take my new muscles, the ones no one can see but I can certainly notice, out for a spin. When not travelling and when not at work, I exclusively use my power wheelchair. I have a few trips coming up where I’ll be using my manual because only someone who really hasn’t any other option would take a power chair on an airplane. I know someone who sat in his seat in the airplane, waiting for assistance to get off, and watched his power wheelchair get squashed under the wheel of the plane in the next berth as it backed up. And, of course, I haven’t figured out how to easily rent a wheelchair van – my one attempt was an expensive disaster. Oh, hold on, I digress …

My goal was to see if my morning exercises, which are all aimed at arm and shoulder strength, would have increased my speed, my distance and my ability to handle slopes and curbs. We decided that we’d do this by stopping at a grocery store and doing our weekly shopping. I got out of the car and into my chair and Joe decided to go to do some banking as we’d parked directly in front of the bank. I sat for a moment, to wait for him, and then decided to head out on my own.

I had to round the back of the chair and push my chair in a straight line behind the other parked cars. This was, or would have been, difficult because there was a significant slope and gravity wanted to pull the front of my chair directly down into traffic. I had to hold the chair straight and push myself in a straight line, I noted that this was the first time in my life I was working really hard to be completely straight.

I made it to where I could turn down and go with gravity towards the store. It’s at this point that Joe caught up with me and we went together to the store. The store seemed to be frightened of disabled people because the disabled entry gate was locked with a big firm chair around it. There was a green button to push that would call someone from deep within to come and let us in. A man arrived, looked out, scowled and went off in search of a key. We were let in. I had to tell myself to just let it go. I didn’t of course, I mentioned it to three different store employees who didn’t see the issue.

But I needed no help, I did every aisle, I was dexterous getting around barriers and people and people who were barriers. Finally I reached and aisle with no on in it, and I decided to take a quick run … if I had hair I would have felt the wind through it. It was awesome.

I’m ready.

I’m going to work at getting stronger, but when we touch down in Oregon in a few weeks, my manual will be ready to go with a newly tuned engine.