Somewhere deep down I knew Las Vegas wasn’t going to let me leave without one last metaphorical bitch slap, but I naïvely assumed I’d earned a drama-free Date Night. Silly me. All it took was a five-minute ride from the Rio to Harrah’s to illustrate just how crucial a precision-fit wheelchair truly is.
Things like custom seatbacks and specifically placed armrests come in rather handy when the rickety shuttle bus with the blown suspension you are riding in rounds a corner at top speed while simultaneously hitting what feels like a 5-foot-tall speedbump, sending your upper body flailing wildly like a club hopper at a rave. Fortunately, Claire was there with catlike reflexes to grab me before I suffered any permanent damage. With another crisis averted, we were free to navigate the human obstacle course that is The Strip towards the Bellagio for what turned out to be a mind-blowing experience. I’ve come to the conclusion that if it weren’t for my snow skiing accident, I would definitely have been paralyzed auditioning for Cirque du Soleil. Those people are nuts.
We got back to the hotel late and crashed hard because I had to get up early for the second day of the conference. Turns out these things are pretty neat when you show up on time and stay for the duration. I met people from every corner of the country, got to talk up The Here and Now Project a bit, and came away more inspired to continue the work of connecting people whose lives have been affected by paralysis. It’s so cool to see that many people united for one cause, I’m already hatching plans for a road trip to DC for their next event in June.
But as I rolled out after the event, I could feel some serious pain in my shoulders from the previous night’s debacle. With a few hour drive to the Grand Canyon ahead of me, I knew something had to be done to prevent even further damage. Good thing I’m dating a smoking hot lady who was recently certified in occupational therapy, huh? Between her and Alicia — an absolute OT-ninja, herself — they rigged up an incredibly secure positioning aid with nothing more than a pair of men’s suspenders and a purple pool noodle from Wal-Mart. Suck it, MacGyver.
The ride into Arizona was infinitely more comfortable thanks to the girls’ mad adaptive skills. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon State, so driving past the Hoover Dam and into the Mars-like terrain was a treat. We pulled into Peach Springs late in the afternoon and finally got to relax for what feels like the first time since day one. It’s been a long few days, and the whole crew is physically and emotionally exhausted. While checking into the hotel, we decided to grab some handmade bracelets they had on sale at the front desk. It’s a good reminder of how many hands have contributed to my survival these last few days. I don’t know where I’d be without Claire & Bobbseys, that’s for sure.
Tomorrow it’s off to the Grand Canyon. Cross your fingers that I don’t fall in.