Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Desert Adventures: Red Jeep Tours - A Wheelchair Accessible Guide with Pictures

 Indio, CA

April 2023

While researching things in the Palm Springs region for Kellisa, the Red Jeep Tours was the one that jumped out at me immediately as a winner and we weren't disappointed. It was hard to tell how accessible the tours are from the website since many involve hiking and I knew we wouldn't have any of Kellisa's hiking chairs on this trip, so I sent an email asking questions. 20 years ago, when Kellisa was just starting to push what's possible for a kid trapped in a wheelchair, I usually didn't ask questions because too often, we would receive a quick, "No" or "You can't do that" or "Wheelchairs aren't allowed." We would just show up and I wouldn't take "No" as an answer and we would figure something out.

I'm happy to report that times have changed for the better, but the disabled community still has a long way to go before total acceptance. A representative quickly returned my email with a few follow-up questions so they could understand what we needed. I took this as a promising sign and summarized our vision of a dream jeep tour. After several more emails and finally a phone call, we decided to hire a private Jeep for the afternoon. We would be pared with the most experienced driver who knew all the remote and rough canyons better than anyone else. Our main ask was for the bumpiest trails possible since that is Kellisa's favorite part of off-road driving. We would not be disappointed.

We met our tour driver as planned and he made the transfer of Kellisa as easy as can be in the middle of a desert. I carried Kellisa from our SUV, and he had a step ladder at the back of the Jeep, and he stood ready to help if I needed a little extra support. He also had a cooler filled with ice cold water and a baggy of snacks for us. For the next three hours, we got the off-road adventure of a lifetime as we navigated narrow canyons while learning about the geology of the area, including the San Andreas Fault. Our driver was also knowledgeable of the local wildlife, including lizards and birds. We were disappointed to learn that we were a few weeks too early to see rattlesnakes on the tour. After getting to know us a little, our driver pointed out several rugged trails that he knew we could do if we ever returned to the area. I'm sure it would have been fun to share the Jeep with other people, but it was worth it to have a fully customized tour with a company that listened to our unique needs and more than exceeded our expectations.

Kellisa had the time of her life and I guarantee we will be back!

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