If I put my wheelchair on the highest speed, I can sometimes can feel the wind in my hair. If I am smiling, I may even get a bug on my teeth. My chair can go quite fast. However, I know I am not even close to feeling the freedom of the open road. There is no comparing 60+mph on the back of a motorcycle to the 7.1mph that my chair tops out at.
The love of motorcycles runs in my family. My mom has a VStar and my dad has a Victory. My Uncle Mike also loved motorcycles. When he passed away, my dad received his motorcycle. When I was a teenager, my dad put me on the back of my Uncle Mike’s motorcycle and took me for a short ride on our land.
That short ride meant so much to me. To share this memory with my dad meant so much to me. It also was so liberating being able to do something that able-bodied individuals get to do. I did not think I would not be able to ever feel that again. I knew that as I grew it would be harder to get me on a motorcycle.
This past summer my mom and I talked about trying to find a way for me to have that experience again. I recently wrote a Fall Bucket List. I decided to start adding “able-bodied” experiences on my seasonal bucket list. So I included the wish to once again be on the back of a motorcycle.
It is too easy to opt out of experiences because of my disability. I don’t like the word “can’t”, but it has been a part of my vocabulary. I remember in the past my mom would take me to adaptive (and sometimes not so adaptive) activities. I took judo, gymnastics and my mom even held me up on roller skates at a birthday party. As I grew, I lost that drive to do non-accessible activities and my mom lost the ability to lift me. We both decided to be committed to finding resources and using creativity to once again squash the word “can’t”.
I am blessed with a supportive community of friends, family and even strangers. My dad put the word out to his friends. Mark Wilkes from the Souls of Honor stepped forward and volunteered his trike motorcycle. A small army of my dad’s friends were on hand to help lift me on the trike.
I have to admit, it was a bit unnerving at first to be lifted by strangers. However, this group of guys made me feel safe and comfortable. They communicated well with me and each other. Soon I was sitting on the back of the motorcycle, ready to roll!
Because this was my first ride in a number of years, there were safety precautions in place. First and foremost, I wore my mom’s helmet! I was strapped to the seat and another strap went around my torso and attached to the trike. Mark was wearing a vest and I was able to hold on to the back of his vest as we rode. Additionally, several people stood in spots throughout the parking lot. If I slipped or there was a problem, someone would be close by to help.
I took the first few laps with Mark. After the first several laps, my dad and others joined in on their bikes. It truly was liberating. When my dad joined in and rode with me, it was amazing beyond words. Riding is a huge part of my dad’s life and for this brief moment got to do it with him.
After the ride, Tommie Swenson, Ron Worthey and Mark Wilkes presented me with a Souls of Honor patch. I plan on buying a vest to have it sewn on. When I look at that patch, I will remember this moment for the rest of my life. I can’t effectively express my gratitude for all everyone did so I could have this experience.
My mom had reached out to her good friend, Raul Quintanilla to help me realize my dream. Emily Wocelka responded to Raul’s Facebook post. She set up a trike ride AND a ride in a badass Mustang!!
I am so lucky to live in a community where strangers do the most generous acts. I had never met Joseph Wendorf or his dad, Dave Wendorf. However, they took the time to meet with us and help me experience not only a trike ride, but also a ride in the Mustang!
Friends gathered to help me up on the trike. This time I decided to be a bit more daring and went without the straps. Each time around the parking lot we went faster and faster. I am happy that it was chilly because my wide smile was a bug magnet!
Next I was lifted off the trike and into the Mustang. I could never do justice in describing how beautiful this car is! Joseph got in and off we went. We took off to some of the back roads by my house. Joseph definitely gave me the full experience! My CP prevented me from holding on for dear life, so I held on to my pants instead! I have to admit, I had a touch of motion sickness afterward. However, it was beyond worth it! Riding in a car without being in my chair was so much fun. For a moment, I felt like just a normal twenty-something guy cruising with a friend.
I can’t thank Dave and Joseph enough for not only the rides, but for reminding me that there are incredible people in the world and my community. People get busy in their lives and we all have so many obligations these days. I am so blessed that a group of friends, family and strangers took time from their busy lives to help me realize my dream not once, but twice!
Additionally, I learned to look beyond accessibility. I am permanently disabled and will always be a wheelchair user. However, that does not mean I limited to only experience life from a wheelchair. Pushing myself outside my comfort zone was hard, but so rewarding. I will be adding more “non-accessible” activities to my future seasonal bucket list. It will take creativity and help from the community, but we already proved that it can be done!
Until next time, Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’!
I would like to extend a thank you to everyone who made this possible…
Ride One: Meryl Kelch (my dad), Mark Wilkes (Trike Rider and Souls of Honor), Ron Worthey (Souls of Honor), Tommie Swenson (Souls of Honor), Josh and Nikki Ford, Steve Collins, Brenda Wiseman, Don and Zoa Osmitz, Mike Kislow, Becky Morris, Jay Bird Graap, Joe Strebig, CJ Rickman, Paul Wirth, Ron Madson, Tiffany Schmitt, Dave and Krystal Sillars and Sandi Kelch (mom and photographer)
Ride Two: Dave Wendorf (Trike Rider), Joseph Wendorf (Mustang Driver) Emily Wocelka (Organizer), Raul Quintanilla, Dave and Krystal Sillars, Randy Trulen, Adam Little, and Sandi Kelch (mom and photographer)
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