Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Airstream Chronicles............Champoeg State Park, Oregon

In late Summer 2004, we were in a rush to find a nice, and nice close campground to visit, with our newly refurbished 1964 Airstream Tradewind. In cruising the Oregon and Washington State Parks websites, I was paying particularly close attention to wheelchair accessibility, since one of the goals of our maiden voyage was to determine how well the Airstream might accomodate us all, two adults, one adult in a wheelchair, ( our 26 year old son Blaine) and two small dogs. We had already detemined that Ainsworth State Park, with its lovely accessible paths, but completely inacessible bathrooms, was not going to work.

I decided to take a short trip out to Champoeg State Park (Sham-poo-ee), by myelf, one sunny September day, to check out the campsites. I had read about Champoeg on the web, and had been there several times in the past, for day trips, group picnics, other events. According to the website, accessible sites are available, and including several in a newly constructed campsite area, with all of the standard RV “full hook up” ammenities, water, electric, and sewer.

The older section of the park, with it’s stands of Alder and other old growth, though beautiful, does not have accessible bathrooms. I drove on to the new sites, which I had noted on the web. As I entered, the newness of this part of the park was immediately apparent. There are great paths, all pavement, perfect for wheelchairs, and, in the accessible sites, large pavement pads for wheelchair users. Excellent! The charm of old growth is not there, but among the rolling hills of green grass, many different varieties of deciduous trees have been planted, and, in ten years, it will be a beautiful, time honored setting. I pulled into one of the vacant accessible sites, to have a look around. The bathroom was close by, so I walked over to have a look. Wow. Not only does this building have comfortable stalls and fixtures in the bathroom area, for a wheelchair user, but...get this....there is also a separate wheel-in shower stall, so that a person who uses a wheelchair could use a waterproof shower chair to shower there.....and....what’s more.....a hand held shower sprayer, just like we have at home for Blaine!

It’s the little things, folks. When someone you love is in a wheelchair, and who, many times, is forced to struggle with inadequate accomodations, this kind of thoughtfulness in making a camp setting more inviting and accessible, well, honestly, I get tears in my eyes.

So we ended up taking a weekend trip to Champoeg, and, to make a long story short, a 125 lb. young man who uses a wheelchair, which will not fit through the door of a 1964 Airstream, a door which is already 2 feet off the ground, is a bit of a challenge. We worked with it. We had fun anyway. But as Marie and I get older, I admit, we look for ways to eliminate as much of the lifting as possible. All in all, I think it’s safe to say that our trips with Blaine, where he, and his chair, are inside the Airstream with us, will be limited. But there is other news!

Many state parks these days have either yurts or little cabins, one or more of which has been build to accessiblity standards, and including one such very nice cabin, at Champoeg State Park! Next time we go, we will rent the cabin for him, and he will be able to have his privacy, and also transfer from his chair to the bed, all of that. We will meet to take our meals at the Airstream picnic table, do a few crossword puzzles, (one of Blaine’s many talents) and walk (or roll) along the picturesque and smooth pavement path which edges the Willamette River at Champoeg. I mean, if I can get him out of that shower!

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