Flying out to Colorado has become a biannual event for me, in the past 2years anyways. I love flying there as I pick up an extra couple of hours. It was a wicked early Wednesday morning flight to Chicago. Actually the flight was at 740, but I woke up at 4, thinking I was beyond late, as my alarm hadn't gone off. My roommate/ live in aide heard me crashing about, and just as I realized I was an hour ahead of schedule, Marc appears, keys in hand, and announces he's getting tithe car, and walks out the door. I'm in the car before it occurs to me, I'll be sitting the tiny Burlington airport for 2.5 hrs, as I've been throgh it enough now, it takes less than an hour to go through security, and find the gate. So, I sat in the terminal and watched the sunrise, and eagerly awaited the time the coffee cart opened. An hour quickly passed on Facebook, and people watching, mostly Canadians, and trying to decipher their conversations from each rare word I could translate.
One of the 'perks' of a disability, is getting to board first, and not having to feel personally responsible for holding up other frustrated, intolerant passengers, and also the kind, forgiving ones too. This trip I chose to travel with my hiking pack, from a different lifetime. I can walk with it, although I can't recommend carrying a pack, and a cane. People like airport personnel freaked out a bit. I prefer to save a buck wherever I can, and really have little shame about what people will think, so, off I went, trekking about the airports. My loss of peripheral vision is a real asset here, as I don't usually notice gawkers. I have to say my mental vision of using my pack was stellar. Though, I didn't account for the genuine concern, I'd bring upon myself. I chose to use my pack for its vertsatility, comfort, and ease. However, I did not consider that wearing my pack, and walking how I walk might set people off. I didn't consider how offended people can become, when I decline their well intended, and generous offer for assistance. I feel as if I'm rude for wanting to carry my own weight, and for wanting to challenge myself. I checked my bag at the gate, and got it back, when we landed in Chicago. My layover was extremely short, but they brought to a bus which dropped me off at my terminal. This was a very strange experience, as being out of doors, and on he Tarmac just seemed unusual, though, it was very easy. I must say, I was disappointed to have missed the opportunity for lunch. We actually landed early, in Denver, however, only by minutes. I had to set about finding assistance to get to the correct exit, to meet my friend, Kristen. Someone from United, was kind enough escort me, and my pack over to baggage claim. 2 subway rides, and some trekking later, I finally met up with Kristen, a friend I'd made last year, doing an adaptive paddling trip. Kristen was born with a condition called cerebral palsy, which I didn't know anything about. I'd heard unimpressive stories about severe cases, but I lacked a general knowledge regarding cause and effect. I learned that we are both survivors of oxygen deprivation. The difference is how and when. I learned that CP is created when the fetus loses Oxygen for a prolonged amount of time, during delivery. Therefore causing brain injury. Every case, as well as each injury, is different. Kristen is an inspiration for me, in terms of having forged a path through the professional, and academic world. I'm desperate to go back to school, but seem to lack the tenacity, and ability to formulate a roadmap for myself to do so, although, good new I just received medical documentation that I'm of sound mind, for academic purposes. Next, is the GREs!
Getting back on track, we grabbed a quick lunch at Arby's, a place I only know for its curly fries, from the age of 7, or so. Kristen dropped me off at her house, and returned to work for the afternoon. I puttered around, ate my curly fries, and roast beast. I quickly grew bored, sitting around, so I walked all around the neighbourhood. Not much going on. I knew I needed to be very careful, and vigilant of my surroundings, as there were no defining markers to be found. I made 2 loops within the general complex, and decided not to push my luck. I sat on the outside patio, stretching my travel weary muscles, until I heard the garage door open. Kristen had returned, and we created a plan for the evening. I was on kitchen duty, preparing road snacks, and baking treats. After prep. For the trip, the plan was to catch 'Were the Millers' at a local cinema. I haven't laughed so hard in the movies,, since 'the hangover'. So funny!
The next morning we set off for the drive to Telluride. Picking up, another friend Kristen's, nearby. George is a connection of Kristen's, through the paraolympic training facility, for cyclists. He's blind, which meant I had to be extra contientous in my speaking abilities. It's hard enough for sighted people who try to read my lips, to better understand my speech patterns.
It was a 6-8 hour drive to Telluride, where the summit was. I was quite travel weary, when we arrived, around 5. By the time we got there, I'd realized the quad cane I carry everywhere was missing. Big oops! I had the great fortune of seeing Ellen Weinmeyer, whose a great family friend, as well as wife to one of the original founding members of No Barriers, Erik Wienmeyer. Always kind, and thoughtful, she immediately noticed something was missing. She kindly offered to see what she could do to find me a stick to use for the duration of the summit. As we parted ways, I sincerely hoped we'd find each other again. I headed into 'innovation village', and immediately saw familiar faces, at the Push America tent. It was great running into Kyle first off. I figured I'd see him there, but I couldn't have had better luck running into him, as he volunteered to walk me over to registration. Losing my cane wasn't much of a problem, when theres a handsome man offering you an arm to get around. Yes, that was my plan all along... Kyle helped find the dinner area, after I got my registration materials, and then headed back to his tent. I found more exceeding helpful people, wanting to fix my dinner plate, and help me to a table. As I looked for a place to sit, I heard a familiar voice call my name. I looked to see who it was, and recognized Bob, a man who volunteered to asisst me while doing the summit hike 2 years ago. It was great to reconnect with him, as I'd hoped to see him again. If my memory serves me, Bob is a retired physical education teacher from California. He's very sprye, and chipper, and was wonderful to sit, and catch up for some time.
After dinner, Ellie somehow found a trekking stick I could use as a cane, for the duration of the summit. I was so grateful, although, a bit concerned I may accidentally impale a stragner, weiding a sharp pointed stick around, thankfully, that did not happen. Opening ceremonies were held after dinner, and I was able to reconnect with Kristen and George there. I've been so fortunate to get to know so many people from adaptive programs, it seemed a bit surreal, being recognized by so many different people. I seem to recognize people auditorily, more than by sight. Although I finally see well again, my memory doesn't hold onto visual images too well. I literally need to meet most people 4 or 5 times, before I can easily recall their names, and how I know them. I've thought that was a detriment of my injury, as its been so difficult to remember so many new people, for so long. Although, my mom wisely pointed out that I meet so many new people, everywhere I go, it'd be difficult for anyone to keep straight. Whichever it is, I still feel exceptionally rude when I'm not able to recognize someone.
Opening ceremonies began, and I once again found Kristen, who'd gone back to the condo she'd rented in town, for a number of us to share.Kristen, George, myself, and a mother couple, of whom we saw very little. Mark was retry sociable, although I only met his wife once in the 3 days we were there. I was tod we had great digs, and then eagerly focused on the introductions, and the incredible stories I heard from truly amazing, and thought provoking people. I remember 3 speakers clearly, Dr. Hugh Herr, whose disability, I cannot recall, I want to say spinal cord, from divi to shallow water, though I'm not certain. I believe he's a very prominent physicist, from MIT. There was a young woman, named Kate, who'd made a name for herself, as the first female collegiate football player. She'd been raped by a teammate, her sophomore year at Colorado state, had a quite unsettling story of how her life had been derailed e from that horrific experience. The speaker I was most stricken by, was Bob Woodruff, anews-reporter from ABC, who'd received a brain injury in the middle-east, while covering a war story.
Every brain injury is different, as every brain is different, and so on. Although, he was one of the only I've heard, with somewhat similar complications, from compromised vision, to limb spasticity. I'd hoped for an opportunity to meet him, though he was only there that evening, and there was no real opportunity, sadly.
We headed into the Colorado night, bound for quiet, downtown Telluride. Thankfully, it was a 10 minute trip. The condo was modern, and quite spacious. Quite a switch from the hotel room, at the resort, I'd planned to be in. My bags were already in the room, when I walked in. Amazing! I was so thankful, as I was so tired. I couldn't wait to get out for my paddling adventure, the next day.