Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Life's a Beach

When you’ve got an annoyingly pesky disease like multiple sclerosis, some of life’s pleasures become a touch more complicated to enjoy properly. Take, for instance, the beach.

Walking aids like canes and forearm crutches suffer in the deep sand. Wheelchairs and walkers? Verboten. And then there’s the heat—hot days, hot sand, hot sun. Even the water can be paralyzing. Literally, at least for me. If it’s cold and I dip a foot in, my whole body violently convulses. So if I were to wade willy-nilly into the ocean, my last words to Mother Nature would almost certainly be something along the lines of “don’t tase me, bro” before I thrash, collapse and then vanish under the froth of two-foot surf.

But there are things one can do to make a beach excursion a bit more enjoyable. For starters, go on a cooler day, or at least go during a cooler part of the day (mornings are good). Always tote shade. Icy drinks and a cooling vest are standard weapons. If you use walking aids like forearm crutches, trekking poles and canes, tips that can handle sand are quite helpful. And coolest of all, borrow a beach-friendly wheelchair. Yes, they exist. Lifeguard stations at popular beaches may have one or two, just ask. That’s what I did on a recent San Diego trip and was surprised to find that the city’s best beaches had both manual chairs (you need a pusher) and motorized chairs available on a first-come, first-served basis.

With huge inflatable wheels that look like doughnuts the size of Homer Simpson’s belly, these chairs just bounce over the sand, inspiring finger-points of envy from every child under the age of 12. To up the awesome factor, aim for the water and you’ll find it floats! (Much to my chagrin, the motorized chairs do not feature a propeller—I’m smelling a marketing idea here.)

I’ll be honest, it was the most fun I’ve had on the beach—and in the ocean—in years and years, way before I even had MS. It took me back to my childhood when I would spend entire summers at the community pool. I was that tanned kid with a big smile and bleached, sandy white hair, the one who rode his 3-speed banana-seat bike in his bare feet anywhere and everywhere. I was free. While my beach wheelchair might have lacked a banana seat, I was a kid again. And I was free again.

15 comments:

Veronica said...

Dave, you are one cool dude....and not just at the beach in one of these fun chairs....What a great read.... Gonna be humming The Who's "I'm Free" the rest of the day. Very happy for you

Dave Bexfield said...

Thanks Veronica. Cool and Dave are not usually used in the same sentence. But I appreciate you trying.

Anonymous said...

What! I always use cool and Dave in the same sentence!
Nice to read. My biggest problems are my thimble sized bladder (no drinks, icy or otherwise) and I'm photosensitive because of my MS medication, and even all my melanin doesn't keep the sun out enough :(

Dave Bexfield said...

Anon, you crack me up. BTW, I've read that drinking more can actually help with urgency, as convoluted as that sounds...

Anonymous said...

Really?
I should start drinking more, then. I mean, in the name of science..

Dave Bexfield said...

Uh, I was talking about drinking more water. :)

My Odd Sock said...

I haven't been to the beach since my MS kicked it up a notch. Always wanted to cruise in one of those wheelchairs--next time to a sandy shore, I'll have to climb aboard! (They always remind me of a monster truck for the disabled!)
Good reading. Keep on trucking!

Dave Bexfield said...

MOS, it is as much fun as it looks. It could romp over sunbathers if need be!

Laura Kolaczkowski said...

Did you happen to wear a seat belt? I see no helmet or goggles and snorkel so I assume you did try to impersonate Jacques Cousteau. I can only picture you being separated from your wheels and being set adrift. From San Diego, if the current is right, you could make it to the Hawaiian Islands without needing frequent flyer miles.

We were at the beach in Florida last month and I lamented the need for a big wheeled buggy to get around the soft sand - now I know what's available.

Dave Bexfield said...

Thanks Laura, a seat belt on a device that could in theory flip in the water and potentially drown you while strapped in. Hey, what are you trying to do to me. :)

Anonymous said...

Where can I rent one of those floating wheelchairs?

Dustin F said...

Thanks Dave. You reminded me of my days at San Diego State U. when I didn't have MS. San Diego has some of the best beaches in the world.

Dave Bexfield said...

Dustin, those beaches are pretty awesome. Anon, in San Diego just go to a lifeguard station and ask. And anywhere else, go to the lifeguard station and ask. If they don't have one, maybe enough folks asking will change the situation.

Lynn Hendrix said...

I ordered attachments for the bottom of my canes that allow me to walk in the sand with a cane. Before the cane tip kept sticking deep in the sand and was impossible in the sandy part.

They recommend two canes -- one for each hand. They are called: SandPad All Terrain Stabilizer Cane Tips. You just pop them on when you want to walk on the beach. they are available lots of places online:)

Dave Bexfield said...

Thanks for the tip, Lynn!