Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Indiana Dunes State Park and the Chair

Sunday, I went to get my Access pass for the national parks. I figured since I was almost all the way there, I would check out the dunes and see what they had to offer. A season pass for disabled visitors cost $18. That's half the price of regular season pass. We parked right up by the Pavilion/bath house and thought we would get something to eat. They have an elevator to the second floor, you just have to ask the ice cream girl or the life guards. The elevator is just inside the middle doors on the parking lot side of the building. Once on the second floor, You notice you are getting off in the back of the kitchen. Wheelchair accessibility sometimes means you get to roll through the behind the scenes stuff.

On the way to the elevator I noticed a crazy looking power chair in a closet. This peaked my interest, so I asked about it. This is a powerchair with tracks on it like a tank. It is meant for beach use and can be checked out if you have your ID and Can give up your chair for collateral. The life guard brought it around and I went for a stroll down the beach with my daughter for the first time in five years.
It was quite an adventure. I first noticed that something was not exactly right with the steering. It kept taking me much farther to the left than I wanted to go. It seemed that if I backed up a bit and tried again, it was alright. Upon further inspection, I noticed the little wheels kept spinning in the track. The track needed tightened up. We went to the sign where the state park meets Johnson's Beach and I thought I'd see if it goes up hill very well. Unfortunately it didn't go up hill very well. The wheels kept spinning... even if I tried to go up backwards. I figured I would turn around and try to go back to the pavilion when I just stopped going anywhere. I stopped going, because the track had come off of the right side.



I thought, "This is another fine mess I've gotten myself into." I was stuck on the beach in a really big power chair. I sent my daughter to the lifeguard station to get help While I just sat and enjoyed the beach. I also met quite a few people. I guess a power wheelchair that has tank tracks on it stands out in a crowd. I don't mind meeting new people, in fact it gives me a chance to talk about the group, give out a card and raise awareness a little. There were many helpful offers from passers by and the people around, however I thought I would just wait for the park officials to rescue me. I ended up using my cell phone to call the park office and request assistance. My daughter got to ride on the back of the 4-wheeler, which she loved. The DNR officers came shortly after. Together with the life guards they tipped the chair and put the track back on. Say "hi" to Officer Brandt and Officer Bruno.
Officer Brandt assured me that they would order new tracks and get the awesome beach char back in working order as soon as possible. If lifeguards are not on duty you can request the chair at the entrance gait or call the park office at 219-926-1952. All in all, it was a good day. Thanks to everyone who helped make it that way.

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Jennifer Aitchison said...

How Cool is that!
Looking foreword to hanging out with you at the beach. Some of the most beautiful days of the year are in late summer and early fall at the dunes. :)

Gary Pierce said...

Joe looks like you had a fun day....it is funny how almost everything we do has a story behind and something funny...
when i went to the bears game i rode my powerchair up a golf cart.

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