Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Laurel's States Visited


Laurel added Maine and New Hampshire during Kellisa's Sweet 16 Birthday Weekend and North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas during our end of the summer trip. This brings Laurel's states visited total to 40. Outside of the four states in the northeast, the other six are pretty well spread out at this point. If all goes as planned, Laurel will visit and hike in all 50 shortly before her 8th birthday in June 2017.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Kellisa's States Visited



With a long 2,300 mile road trip across the northern United States this summer, Kellisa has now visited 47 of our United States. Kellisa crossed off seven new states and we pushiked in 9 different states on our trip. It's probably not surprising that she still needs Alaska and Hawaii, but she still needs Iowa. We've been all around Iowa, but never crossed into that elusive state.  


Friday, August 7, 2015

2016 Wolfson Children's Challenge

Kellisa- January 2009



Yesterday, we received a phone call to tell us that someone at Wolfson Children's Hospital nominated Kellisa and she was chosen as 1 of 55 children to share their stories at the 2016 Wolfson Children's Challenge. We accepted without hesitation. We don't know all the details yet, but Kellisa has a photo shoot scheduled for August 22nd. We will update as we find out more information.













Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pushiking Definitions w/Pictures


We just completed a series of posts defining pushiking with lots of cool pictures on 3Wheels Blazing. You can click on the rating under each picture to see the full post.

                                  ADA Easy             ADA Challenging           Obstacles             Inclines/Declines            Extreme


Monday, July 13, 2015

The Kate Steinle Law

Kate Steinle

A father and daughter are out for a walk when she is killed for no reason by an illegal immigrant felon who should have been behind bars. Her last words, "Dad, please help me". Kate was only 32 years old and she worked for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. As a father, this story breaks my heart and as human, I am outraged that this scum was allowed to walk free to kill in a sanctuary city- San Francisco. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

3Wheels Blazing

Please check out (and sign up for email updates) our new website: 3Wheels Blazing. Kellisa's Path will continue as it has without any changes. 3Wheels Blazing is dedicated to our project of pushiking in all 50 states in only 366 days. The format will be slightly different. We will be experimenting by posting many short blog posts with a picture or two. Each short post can stand alone while still fitting into the overall flow of the complex project. Once we start, in the next week or two, we hope to post at least once every weekday until the completion of the project. Since we will have extra photos, those will be posted on Kellisa's Path.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Mackworth Island Trail

Falmouth, ME

May 23, 2015




Kellisa (and the rest of us) really enjoyed a nice birthday hike around the perimeter of Mackworth Island, just outside Portland. Besides a few little hills and some roots, the trail was fairly easy to navigate with a regular wheelchair.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Maine Narrow Gauge

May 23, 2015




Kellisa  enjoyed her ride on the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad on her 16th birthday. Laurel also had a great time riding the train with water on one side and cliffs on the other side of the tracks in Portland, ME.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Kellisa's Airports Visited (49)

Kellisa has been flying since she was 359 days old. Below is a map of all the airports Kellisa has visited in her travels. It's hard to tell, but she has visited both O'Hare and Midway in Chicago as well as DFW and Love Field in Dallas. Also, Kellisa has been to Tampa's airport many times, but she also flew to and from St. Petersburg, FL when she was in the womb to visit the world's leading TTTS expert.
 



Monday, June 22, 2015

Hiking with Azmia

May 2015
 
 
 
We found ourselves in the Cleveland, OH area to visit family, some from as far away as Kenya. This was our first time meeting Stam and our great niece, Azmia. We had a few free hours and went to a nearby trail for a 1.5 mile hike through some freshly green forest. We had a great visit and maybe next time we can visit and hike/climb something (Kili?) in Kenya!
 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Kellisa's Sweet 16

May 23, 2015


Driving, planes, trains, hiking, swimming, and boats for a sweet 16 birthday celebration. Not bad for a girl who wasn't suppose to live more than a few minutes.








Tuesday, May 26, 2015

States Visited

Laurel
 
With Maine and New Hampshire added during Memorial Day Weekend, Laurel has now visited 30 states:
 
 
Kellisa
 
With Maine, Kellisa has now visited 40 states:
 
 
 
 


Friday, May 22, 2015

Hotel Safety (Part II)

Richfield, OH
May 9, 2015

I should and do know better! Less than two months ago, I even wrote an article about wheelchairs and hotel safety.

Kellisa, Laurel and Azmia
We flew to Ohio late on Friday evening to meet our new niece. As I was driving to our hotel, I told Lisa that I made a reservation at a hotel that is close to her brother's house, but that I didn't have any loyalty status with the chain. I also realized that I forgot to request a first floor room. I told Lisa that I was too tired to fight if they didn't have a first floor room. As I parked the car, Lisa checked us in and of course, they did not have a first floor room because it was so late, so we took the third floor room. What could go wrong?

Like clockwork, Laurel woke up early and wanted to go down for breakfast. As I was staggering around the room to get ready, we started to hear an alarm. It sounded like someone's alarm clock going off in a near-by room. Laurel and I left Lisa to shower and Kellisa to sleep longer. We walked down the hallway and Laurel pressed the elevator's down button. As we stood there and waited, Laurel said, "I smell smoke".

Once Laurel mentioned smoke, I realized that I could also smell something burning. The elevator came and we started to get on when I had second thoughts. To be safe, we went back to the room to get Lisa and Kellisa. We were barely in the room when all hell broke loose. We could hear a man and woman in the hallway, both pounding on doors and screaming, "The building is on fire"!

I know the first and only thought should be getting out safely, but I had two more thoughts as well. First, we need to grab the medicine for the kids. We can't be a 1,000 miles from home without them. And second, we had Kellisa's Hippocampe chair and I wasn't leaving that behind. (I also grabbed our bag with all our electronics)

In less than a minute we were out in the hallway which was now full of smoke and people. A police officer was yelling to get out by using the stairs. As soon as he saw me pushing Kellisa, he offered to help. I knew I could get Kellisa (and her chair out safely) and advised him that we were OK. I told Laurel to go and she ran down the stairs, out the hotel and gathered with the crowd of hotel guests in the grass.

I slowly pushed Kellisa down the stairs as people were backed up and screaming. Normally, she would have loved this activity, but she wasn't really awake yet. I knew I could get down the stairs, but I was worried about people pushing. Not a single person pushed and I even heard a few offer to help. We reunited with Laurel outside and we quickly learned that everyone was out of the hotel and safe. I was relieved for only a few seconds. I did an inventory check of everything I grabbed and realized that I didn't have the medicine.


 

The fire was contained to two rooms, about four rooms down from us on the other side of the hall. I knew our room was safe and if the medicine was in the room, we'd be OK. However, I was worried that I dropped the medicine on the way out and it could have gotten destroyed, ruined or even taken. I had to sweat it out for a couple of hours before the fire chief escorted me to our room to gather our belongings. I was relieved to find all the medicine on the edge of one of the beds. It's must have fallen out of my short's pocket in the rush to evacuate.

The police and firefighters did an amazing job to put the fire out and keep everyone safe and informed. Laurel was very scared at first and several first responders went above and beyond to make her feel safe. Thank you!

We had to move to another hotel and we made sure we got a room on the first floor!



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Serendipity

An Uncomplicated Life
A Father's Memoir of His Exceptional Daughter
 
By: Paul Daugherty

 
 
It should be no surprise that this book caught my eye and I bought it without a second thought. What surprised me and I couldn't explain it until today, something made me put down another book in the middle and start reading An Uncomplicated Life. The reason became clear after reading several chapters about the IEP process. Paul Daugherty shares some of their struggles and successes with the process while offering inspirational words to other families. Since we have a fight, I mean IEP meeting scheduled 12 days from now and I have many hours of training, I mean research and preparation to do, this book has given me new hope and resolve. I've read 22 out of 34 chapters, but would already highly recommend this great book to all families, both in and out of the disabled world.
 
 


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Laurel's 2015 Summer Vacation Wish

May 16, 2015
 
Laurel was working on some homework this morning and one of the assignments was to draw a picture (below) of what she wants to do during her summer vacation.
 
 
Daddy, Laurel and Kellisa pushiking across a bridge under a partly cloudy and sunny day somewhere in New York.
 


Friday, May 8, 2015

Travel Goal Getter

Pushiking in ALL 50 States
4/7/15
 
 
 
 
A nice little write-up about our goal of visiting and pushiking with Kellisa in all 50 states before her 18th birthday (May 23, 2017) can be found here: (Travel Goal Getter).
 
 
Current Statistics (States Visited/Hiked and/or Pushiked):
 
Kellisa 39/31
Laurel 28/22
Chris 46/37

Monday, May 4, 2015

Miccosukee Indian Village

South Florida
 
March 2015
 
We ended our 2015 spring break trip at Miccosukee Indian Village. Laurel heard the captain on our boat tour of the Everglades explaining what life was like for the Indians who lived in the Everglades and she tried relating it to the Indians and Pilgrims she learned about in school.  After the boat tour, Laurel had millions of questions about Indians and she expressed a strong desire to meet some Indians. After a quick search, we found a tourist trap located in the middle of the Everglades, but it had real Indians. It also had alligator shows which I'm not a huge fan of, but both girls really enjoyed the action. However, the highlight for both girls was holding a real life alligator. We also enjoyed the rest of the village: a museum, archery for kids, and boardwalk complete with a Totem Pole. 
 
      
 
 



Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Anhinga Trail

Everglades National Park
 
March 2015
 
 
 
 
The Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park never disappoints with it's beautifully accessible paved trail and boardwalk that is surrounded by birds and alligators.
 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Backcountry Tour

Whitewater Bay
Everglades National Park
 
March 2015
 
Both girls enjoy a nice ride on a boat tour, so it was an easy decision to book the Backcountry Tour of Whitewater Bay in Everglades National Park. Boarding the boat was on a first come first board basis, so we were at the end of the line since we couldn't be as fast as everyone else when the boat pulled up to the dock. I was watching the boat fill up and we were going to be stuck at the front of the boat with little room for the wheelchair and in the direct sunlight, which is a trigger for Kellisa's seizures. The boat tour was almost 2 hours and I knew Kellisa would have a seizure. I was thinking about backing off the boat to see if we could reschedule for the next tour when people at the back of the boat offered to relocate for us. If we don't absolutely need this kind of random act of kindness, I will usually decline the offer, but I was quick to agree to the switch. I was even more appreciative when we were caught in a sudden thunderstorm during the tour. I think the heat and lack of wildlife viewing prevented Laurel from maximizing her enjoyment. However, her mood quickly changed when the captain asked her to steer the boat when we reached the open waters of Whitewater Bay.
 



Sunday, April 26, 2015

Eco Pond

Everglades National Park
 
March 2015
 
 
 
 
 
It was hot, very hot, but we enjoyed the short (.58 mile) Eco Pond trail just past the Flamingo area of Everglades National Park.
 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Flamingo Visitor Center

Everglades National Park
 
March 2015
 
Picture by: Laurel
 

 
 
 
 
Accessible perhaps, but you better have a strong helper and/or good brakes!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Friday, April 10, 2015

"Things that Go Growling in the Night"

 
 
After writing an article on wheelchairs and hotel safety for abilities.com, I was asked if I was interested in providing another article. I was excited at the additional opportunity and I proposed (and it was accepted) writing about a trip Kellisa and I took to Grand Island National Recreation Area in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan back in the summer of 2013. We spent three days and two nights on the island pushiking, backcountry camping and working on Kellisa's speech therapy. I also had a middle of the night encounter....
 
The full article with pictures can be found (here).

Thursday, April 9, 2015

West Lake Trail

Everglades National Park
 
March 2015
 

We hit the jackpot when we observed two american crocodiles in the wild when we went to hike the West Lake Trail. First we found the baby and then it didn't take long to find the momma standing guard. It's estimated that only 500-1,200 remain in the wild in south Florida.
 




Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Flamingo Campground

Everglades National Park
 
March 2015
 
 
As part of our Spring Break 2015 trip to South Florida, we spent our first night in Everglades National Park camping at the Flamingo Campground. This was Kellisa's 3rd visit to the park and Laurel's 2nd. We picked a walk-in site to get closer to the water and the cool breezes. We had front row seats as we viewed many large birds in their natural environment. It's amazing how quiet both girls can get when observing wildlife in the wild.
 


Monday, April 6, 2015

Biscayne National Park

South Florida
 
March 2015
 
 
With our Spring Break 2015 trip to South Florida that included a quick stop at Biscayne National Park, Kellisa has now visited 21 National Parks and Laurel has visited 12. Biscayne is mostly a water park and best viewed by boat. For reasons I'm still not clear on, the concession boat was not operating the afternoon we visited, so we decided to hike the short nature trail on the mainland.
 
The nature trail was an out and back with a total distance of .84 of a mile. It started out with a nice boardwalk and ended with a sand and crushed seashell mixture. I was worried about getting a flat, but we ended up OK. Towards the end of the trail we found several nice little secluded areas to enjoy the water. It didn't look safe for swimming, but the girls enjoyed getting their feet and hands wet to cool off a little on a blistering March afternoon.
 
A quick look at the park map revealed an island with primitive camping...we will be back!
 
 


Sunday, March 22, 2015

National Parks Visited

With a visit to Biscayne National Park during Spring Break 2015, Laurel has now visited 12 National Parks and Kellisa has 21.
 

Complete Lists (Multiple visits in italics):
 
Laurel- Biscayne, Carlsbad Caverns, Congaree, Cuyahoga Valley, Death Valley, Everglades, Guadalupe Mountains, Lassen Volcanic, Mammoth Cave, Redwoods, Rocky Mountain, Voyageurs
 
Kellisa- Arches, Big Bend, Biscayne, Canyonlands, Carlsbad Caverns, Congaree, Crater Lake, Cuyahoga Valley, Death Valley, Everglades, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Guadalupe Mountains, Joshua Tree, Lassen Volcanic, Petrified Forest, Redwoods, Rocky Mountains, Shenandoah, Voyageurs, Zion

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Escaping with our Lives (A 1st Anniversary Story)

March 18, 1990

This picture was taken 26 years ago. But, this is the story of what happened (and more importantly, didn't happen) one year later:

We were young, had no money and it was March in northern Illinois. Three good reason NOT to go camping, but we did to celebrate our first anniversary. This was our first overnight trip beyond Chicagoland together. We somehow managed to buy a small tent, a stove and maybe a few other items, but we didn't have the money for sleeping bags. Instead, we threw a few blankets in the car and drove off for a happy weekend. I should mention that we had a 1977 Chevy Caprice that we had no business driving so far from home.

We drove uneventfully to Apple River Canyon State Park in NW Illinois. We were the only campers, but that didn't bother or scare us (at first). It didn't take long to set up our meager camp. We probably went on a hike before cooking a simple dinner. I remember it got dark fast and it was very cold, so we retreated to the tent. Before we could fall asleep, we heard footsteps and were scared to death. Then we heard branches breaking near the tent. Since we were the only campers, there was only one logical explanation for the noises we were hearing. We were convinced there was a murderer in the campground. We ran to the car and drove off into the night leaving behind our camping possessions.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Special Olympics

St. Johns County Summer Games
Menendez High School
 
March 7, 2015
 

 
 

We can now say that Kellisa is a Special Olympian after she participated in the 2015 St. Johns County Summer Games. Kellisa trains with her friends from school and her amazing teacher. She was entered in two events, the 50M Assisted Wheelchair Race and Tennis Ball Throw. She came in first in both events. It did help that she was the only one entered in both events, but we'll take the 1st Place finishes just the same as it allows her to participate in the "Area" Summer Games.
 

Monday, March 2, 2015

No, I'll Take the Room I Reserved, Thank You

Kellisa at Abilities Expo- Atlanta 2013
 
 
I was recently asked to write an article for Abilities.com, the premiere resource for the disabled community. I've become very familiar with this organization since I attended their 2013 Abilities Expo in Atlanta with Kellisa and Laurel. I did not hesitate to agree to submit an article. I was given the opportunity to submit anything for consideration as long as it somehow pertained to the disability community. I had already shared my thoughts on the importance of getting first floor hotel rooms when traveling with Kellisa on this website, but I still feel strongly about this subject, especially since most ADA hotel rooms are NOT on the first floor. I reworked and expanded my initial thoughts for the article I submitted. I was honored when Abilities.com agreed to run the article because I knew it would not only reach a lot more people, but it would reach my target audience. Thank you!
 
The full article with pictures can be found (here)
 
 
 


Friday, February 27, 2015

Bayard Conservation Area

 
 12 Miles South of Jacksonville, FL
 
February 2015
 
 
Laurel and I had a rare few hours to ourselves and she wanted to go for a hike (heart stops to melt moment), so we went to Bayard Conservation Area. Bayard is my favorite place to hike within 30 minutes of home. It's a huge protected area with many miles of trails offering countless loop and out & back hiking options through several different forest types and one trail even ends at the banks of the St. Johns River. Since we didn't have Kellisa, I was able to take Laurel on a trail that features a very cool, but too narrow for any kind of mobility chair, boardwalk. The rest of the trails are wide, flat and usually free from mud. We didn't see any wildlife, but Laurel was ready to learn how to follow a trail using painted blazes on trees. (More pictures)



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A is for Abigail

An Almanac of Amazing American Women
Lynne Cheney
Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
 
A is for Abigail is another important book written by former Second Lady of the United States, Lynne Cheney. Even though Mrs. Cheney wrote the book to share the story of American women with children, I was able to learn a lot as I read the stories to Kellisa and Laurel. The book is full of brilliant illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser.
 
Mrs. Cheney does a great job featuring women of all backgrounds as they achieve wide ranging accomplishments. Women who fought for equal rights are included. Also, women who excelled in education, philanthropy, sports, science, math, exploration, and many other fields are featured. As a father of two daughters, this is the history lesson I want to share with them as it lays the foundation for future learning and goal setting. I want Laurel to know that she can do anything and this book proves it far better than any words I could come up with on my own.
 
Even though we only live about an hour north of Bethune-Cookman College, I had no idea that it was founded by Mary McLeod Bethune, a daughter of former slaves. I love reading about mountaineering and since Kellisa was born, I've found myself reading everything I can find about women mountaineers. Mrs. Cheney shares the story of Annie Smith Peck who in 1911 was the first person to summit Mount Coropuna. Annie planted a "Votes for Women" flag on the peak. Mrs. Cheney sets the example herself and through her writing...now it's up to the parents to help their daughters follow in so many footprints.
  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Our 50 States

A Family Adventure Across America
Lynne Cheney
Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
 
Our 50 States by former Second Lady of the United States, Lynne Cheney is an excellent introduction to America for young children. Mrs. Cheney wanted to share all the beauty and variety our great country has to offer in a fun and educational way. And she succeeds in telling the story of America with magnificent illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser.
 
Besides a great history lesson for kids, I love that a main theme throughout the book is a focus on our National Parks, a subject both my daughters enjoy. And, what kid doesn't love animals? Mrs. Cheney has that covered too! Native birds, animals, and reptiles can be found on every page of this inspiring book.
 
Our 50 States can be used in the home for educational purposes and/or planning the next family Great American Road Trip! I knew Teddy Bears were named after President Teddy Roosevelt, but I did not know that the first bear was made in Mississippi by Rose Michtom in 1902 after the President refused to shoot a bear in the woods of Mississippi.
 
Kellisa and Laurel get excited learning about places they've already visited as it ignites their memories. They may get even more excited learning about new places to visit. High on their list is a cave you can drive through in Missouri and seeing the world's most active volcano in Hawaii.
 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Trembling Earth Nature Trail

Stephen C. Foster State Park
Georgia
 
January 2015
 

After our animal encounters afternoon, we still wanted to get a nice little hike in, so we headed to Stephen C. Foster State Park in the southwestern portion of the Okefenokee Swamp.

I love this picture of Laurel. When she's not pushing Kellisa, she's usually leading the way. The boardwalk portion of Trembling Earth Nature Trail abruptly ended in the swamp- leading to Laurel's "confused" hand gesture. We were only able to hike 1.04 miles of the usual 2.5 mile trail. We still enjoyed the boardwalk, trail, and swamp as the sun was setting fast on this crisp January afternoon.

We ended our visit by walking an additional .43 of a mile along the park road looking for alligators. Surprisingly, we didn't see any and both girls were disappointed. I had to remind them that they got to pet an alligator earlier in the day. That fact didn't help as much as seeing the family of deer feeding on the roadside grass as we were leaving the park.
 
More pictures can be found (here).