Everyone loves the beach; it’s a very happy place all year round! This past fall I got to go to Florida. My dad retired at the end of the summer, and most of my family (my parents and my sister, Sarah) decided to take a trip to celebrate. We hadn’t been to the beach in forever, so we thought this would be a perfect time to return. I have a really good friend whose family owns a house on Anna Maria Island; after hearing her and her entire family rave about it, we decided to check it out.
So, the last week in September, we headed to Anna Maria Island. Of course, we had to fly, which is complicated in our situation. (If you want to hear more about my experience flying, scroll down to read a blog about my trip to Zion National Park.)
When we arrived in Florida, it was super sunny, which made me ecstatic to be there!
We got the car my parents had rented for the week and drove to our rented house. It was all on one level, which was awesome. The house had one tiny step to get in, but that was no big deal. Because we had my smaller wheelchair, we could get into the house easily. I actually brought my two smaller wheelchairs, one is just manual, and the other, called The Eagle, has the option to drive with a joystick. The joystick can come off, so it’s easy to transport. This is an awesome product for traveling, I can fold it up to make it compact, but I can still have the independence of driving myself around.
After we spent a little bit of time getting settled, we decided we were hungry, and it was food time! My family and I walked to a restaurant near our house called Sandbar. Sandbar was right on the beach and had a breathtaking view.
Our house was super close to the beach, so we were able to walk. Also, my parents rented a beach wheelchair, and thankfully, there was wheelchair access right by our house. If you haven’t seen a beach wheelchair, it’s basically a wheelchair that has huge rubber wheels.
My family and I got into a pretty good routine. In the morning, we would go down to the beach and just chill. I loved beginning a beach-day by sitting in the waves with my dad. My dad and I would take beach chairs down to the water’s edge and just sit. We were living our best lives! It was wonderful to sit there with waves after waves crashing over us. I love the feeling of the water washing over me. My mom and Sarah were wondering around the beach looking for seashells and they found a bunch. But at the end of our trip, we only took some home; my mom wouldn’t let us bring them all, so we had to pick our favorites.
Another favorite activity of mine is reading. Reading is something I really enjoy, and especially love reading with the sound of waves and the touch of an ocean breeze. Reading can take you to another world, and you can experience a different life through the character’s point of view. Since it’s hard for me to turn the pages of an actual book, I have a program on my iPad that reads to me; it’s called Bookshare. This program is amazing! Bookshare reads the words to me, and it even highlights the words so I can follow along. I highly recommend looking into it.
After a little bit of reading and some lunch, it was back down to the water. But now, it was a different adventure, I went out into the waves with my dad and Sarah. First, we put my life jacket on for extra support. Then, the hardest part was getting past where the waves break. We had to make little advances and slowly inch our way out into the ocean, eventually we did! We were riding the waves! It was a blast being out there with my dad, and with Sarah giggling, and all of us having a great time. Coming back in was a bit of a challenge because we had our back to the ocean. Once, my dad and I got knocked down by a serious wave. Luckily, Sarah acted quickly and pulled me up, and my dad was able to get himself up. That ocean can be powerful, but we love it.
My family and I also took walks on the beach. My dad pushed me in the beach wheelchair along the shore, sometimes my mom or Sarah would also push it. I enjoyed everything about these walks: watching all the seaside vacationers and seeing amazing ocean birds like seagulls, terns, and skimmers.
In the afternoons, we would chill by the pool. I really enjoyed coming back from the beach and going to the pool. Most days we ate lunch at the beach, which was super nice, since I got to look at the ocean while I ate. That being said, when we got back to the house, I would go straight into the pool.
I love to swim! I was thrilled that I was able to do it every day for a week! The only complaint I had was about the pool water temperature; I wish it was just a tad warmer! I was shocked that the ocean water was warmer than the pool water, but since it’s so hot in Florida, I guess it makes sense. I like to do two different things in the pool. First, I like to walk and swim around. I can’t move my body that much on my own, so I feel like swimming gives me the opportunity to move more without assistance and it’s amazing! The second thing I enjoy doing is floating! My favorite floaties are the ones with a seat but my legs are still in the water. With these, I use my legs to move around and steer.
There was one day we didn’t go to the beach. We thought it was going to rain, so we took a break from the beach to go shopping. (Ironically, it turned out to be a beautiful day.) My family and I walked all around the island checking out the different shops. I rode around in my Eagle. Lucky for me, most of the stores were wheelchair accessible. I bought some souvenirs, like a T-shirt and a sticker to put on my wheelchair. I also brought an adorable bear figure. He sits on my dresser, and I love him.
At Night, my family and I explored the island. My parents had rented a golf cart for the week, so we would have a way to get around the island besides the car. Riding in the golf cart was pure fun! Since it was a small island, that was a great way for us to get around (especially since we walked and swam so much during the day). The golf cart had no doors, so we had to take extra precautions to make sure I didn’t fall out. My dad got some velcro to put around me, that, combined with the regular seatbelt and Sarah holding on to me, seemed to be enough to keep me in my seat. We zoomed all around the island, through all the neighborhoods looking at all the houses. Some of the houses were massive, I'm pretty sure some of them had 5 or 6 bedrooms. We were just in awe!
Some nights we would take the golf cart to the boardwalk and then just walk around. My manual wheelchair was, thankfully, able to fit in the golf cart trunk. One night, we saw people who caught a baby shark, that was pretty incredible. Another one of our night activities was getting ice cream. Our favorite ice cream shop – with a wide, wild flavor variety- was called Two Scoops. (I can’t exactly remember my absolute favorite – they were all that good!) A funny story about this ice cream shop is the first time we went there, the manager challenged my dad to a Rock- Paper- Scissors Challenge and said that if my dad could beat his employee - we could get free ice cream. Surprisingly, my dad won and we ate ice cream for free!
Anna Maria Island was amazing and I’m glad we got to go there to celebrate my dad’s retirement! I intend to return one day.