Thursday, June 30, 2016

Handicapped Traveler - Orange Beach, AL

Orange Beach, AL
The vacation at the beach is one of the best family traditions in the good ole U.S. of A.  There are about a bazillion choices to spend a week at the beach and Florida is by far the most popular beach destination in the southern part of America.  White sands, gentle breezes and surf swell that rarely exceeds 4 feet all make for a fantastic get-a-way.  But there is an up and comer that is going to challenge that dominance.

Mr. and Mrs. Brobst
This year the selection process was made much easier by niece.  She has always wanted to get married with sand between her toes. Instead of choosing the crowded sands of Florida, she chose Orange Beach, AL.  Her wedding was held on the beach and the reception was at the very nice State Park pavilion.  It was simple, elegant and magical.

Orange Beach is a much more family oriented place than the party atmosphere of it's neighbor to the east.  There are lots of restaurants and things for the kids to do beyond the shore line.  We took our three year old to a park with rides and go-karts.  He had an absolute blast.

For the shopper in the family there is an enormous Tanger Outlets just up the road in Foley, AL very close to the world famous Lamberts, the home of the thrown roll.  All of the usual touristy type of shopping spots like Alvin Island and SurfStyle are numerous.

What'd ya catch - Red Snapper?
For the outdoorsman, fishing is always available.  I did the big party charter for cheap.  It is straight down fishing for Red Snapper and even though the Captain kept changing spots to get a "different species"...riiight, pull my other leg, it plays Jingle Bells, everyone kept reeling in Red Snapper.  Let me say this, I am not being critical.  Red Snapper were fun and plentiful.  There is nothing like a tight line and you are virtually guaranteed to catch them.

For the hard core fisherman, there are plenty of private charter captains available.

Now to the stuff you want to know about.  How does someone with a disability fair in Orange Beach?

The city and area was very accessible.  I was gladly surprised that every restaurant we visited was accessible and had seating that was convenient for me in a wheelchair.

Perdido Key resort
The hotel accommodations were a bit trickier.  I chose an enormous resort thinking they would be better equipped to handle someone with accessibility needs. The Perdido Key Resort was beautiful. The room was large and could easily accommodate my needs.

The only problem was I had booked via Hotels.com and made double certain that the room would have a roll in shower.  I even stayed on hold while they called the resort to check on this.  But upon arriving, to my dismay, not only was the shower not a roll in, but there were not ANY rooms with a roll in shower on the entire premises.  This struck me very odd as they host business conferences there all the time.  The toilet was a handicapped sized commode, but there was barely enough space to get on and off of it.

Oops, a wheelchair can't go in there!
After speaking with the manager on duty and some concessions being made, we were given a shower seat and made it work.  They were very gracious about the circumstances but until they upgrade there "accessible rooms", we will not return to this property even though it was stunning.

There are plenty of big box Hotel chains on this beach and if you reserve early enough, you will get what you want instead of having to settle for something that is less than ideal.  Okay, enough of this, let's get to the good stuff.

Beach Power Rentals
The winner of the week by far was Beach Power Rentals.  They rent custom electric beach scooters.  They delivered  the chair to the resort so that it was available to us once we signed the paperwork.

I have played around with a lot of beach solutions for the disabled and this by far was the best I have ever been on as far as handling the sand.  The foot stools were a bit too high and were uncomfortable after long stents of sitting in the chair but they are like that for a reason.  This chair was straight up master of the sugar sand.  The Florida/Alabama coast has some of the finest sand in the world.  It has a tendency to bog down beach solutions, but not this one.  I went wherever I wanted to go!

Being a powered chair, you cannot get it wet, which is understandable.  I had so much fun watching my little boy in shore break and searching for shells.  We had a blast.

The price of the chair is super reasonable.  For two days we paid about $140  They charge a $40 delivery/pickup fee that was strange to me at first but as Ben Franklin said, "Time is money."  The guy that delivered the chair walked me through all of the aspects of it and I didn't have to worry with returning it, so the fee seemed well worth it in the end.  No hassles was worth the $40.

Book a trip to Orange Beach.  You are going to love the place!  There was much more to do there than we had time or budget for so, scour the internet and find what you want to do.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Deer Season Prep - Small Impact Now for Big Impact Later

As the 4th of July is approaching, it means  that deer season in America is right around the corner.  The daylight will decrease from now on as the summer solstice has come and gone.  The NFL will begin their camps by late July, so this is indeed the time to begin thinking about the upcoming fall hunting season.

One of those components is to begin being active in your hunting area.  This is a great time to cut those shooting lanes and walking trails. Put some trail cams up and set a feeder or two.  Hinge cut some trees to create travel corridors to funnel the deer where you want them to go and supply some excellent bedding cover for them.

It's important to begin making a little noise now.  All too often, hunters wait until just before season to begin doing this stuff. The disturbance can drive the deer to move nocturnally and avoid the hunting area.  I am a firm believer in making the deer comfortable with your presence, your noise and your scent now.  This way when the fall arrives, they have grown accustomed to you and won't freak out when you show up October 1st.

Every time we have cut a walking trail in at this time of the year, within a week, the deer begin using it as a highway.  Tracks can be found all over it, and is a great spot to put a trail cam.

This is also prime time to place new stands and pop-up blinds.  Placing them now will give the deer a few months to grow acquainted and comfortable with a new object in their environment.

One awesome tip I picked up, is to spray non-estrus doe urine around new objects that you are placing in the hunting area.  This causes deer to relax.  The smell of other deer has a calming affect on them.

A word of warning, all of this activity needs to balanced with not making too great an impact on the area.  One season, in my favorite property, the hay was standing about three and a half feet tall.  It was brutal trying to get through it.  We made the mistake of cutting the entire field.

Shortly after we had it cut, the rains stopped coming in and we hit the late summer dry period. The hay never recovered and grew back to only a height of about six inches.

Before we cut it, you could see walking lanes through the deep grass where deer had been moving through.  Afterward, it was a desert.  We had made a critical error.  Cutting a lane would've been great and leaving the rest wild and wiry.  We had cut there cover.  The deer did not like this at all and were only seen inside the tree line that season.

So balance your efforts and make calculated changes that benefit both you and the herd you are hunting.  I have found some of these times to be just as much fun as doing the hunting itself. There is just nothing like prepping, working hard and then seeing your work pay dividends later.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ashlee Lundvall - Speaker, Writer, Outdoorsman

You know, in this life, it is really about who you know and not what you know.  I am always on the look-out for others who are doing the "Handicapped Outdoors" thing.  I saw a picture on a social media platform and chased down the individual in that photo.

Courtesy of AshleeLundvall.com
The Lundvalls
After a few emails back and forth, we settled on a date to do an interview.  I am thrilled to bring you the interview with Mossy Oak Pro Staffer - Ashlee Lundvall.

Let's start with a little background.  Ashlee grew up in Indianapolis and was athletic.  Although at the time, she was not an avid huntress, she loved the outdoors.  Her story is one of seeing what is possible and then going for it.  Whatever you do, be inspired by this interview.

Handicapped Outdoors (HO) - How did you land in a wheelchair?

Ashlee Lundvall (AL) - I was 16 years old at the time of the accident.  I was attending a camp at a ranch in Wyoming for the summer.  One of those cool experiences where you learn about ranching while doing the work too.  Anyway, there were chores.  I had to give the steers some hay and I had climbed up on a hay rack to fork some hay out for them when I lost my balance.  All I could think of was to NOT land on the pitchfork, so I got it away from me.  Unfortunately, I still landed on the handle of the pitchfork directly on my back.  My T-12 vertebrae was damaged.

I immediately knew something was wrong.  I couldn't move my legs and just felt an odd tingling sensation in them.  The doctors later confirmed that indeed paralysis was the outcome.

HO - Wow, a pitchfork? How did you react to this news, I mean you were only 16?

Courtesy of AshleeLundvall.com
Off-Roading
AL - Everyone hears of the process of mourning a loss of a loved one or in this case, the ability to do something.  I found myself continually going through that process it seemed.  Depression, anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance and then starting it all over again.

HO - So, what was the turning point? How did you get out of the funk and into living again?

AL - So many people go through a phase of trying to "fix it".  They look for anyway possible to overcome their situation.  I think I had an edge over them because from the beginning, I just accepted that this is the way life is going to be and so I rose to the challenge of "A Life Redefined."

HO - Hey, that's the name of your book.  Tell us how that came about?

AL - First, the ratio of people who are paralyzed is largely male.  I found that I was the anomaly and didn't have anyone to talk to about my situation.  So, my Mom and I just began making up ways to live and to do what I wanted to do.  I typically did it big too, my first flight after being paralyzed was to Maui.  I kept a journal of all the stuff we did to overcome the situations that we encountered never thinking that anyone else would be reading that stuff.  I really kept it so I could remember what worked and what didn't.

I also wanted to help others in the same situation and so I began speaking to groups.  It was actually my speaking coach who looked at me one day and said, "Write a book, here is the deadline for it to be completed."  Nothing like a deadline right?  So I did. A Life Redefined was birthed.

Courtesy of AshleeLundvall.com
Brown on the ground
HO - So, tell us how you are connected with Mossy Oak?

AL - That started with my husband and I moving to Wyoming.  I fell in love with hunting and fly fishing.  I knew with my speaking and having authored a book that I wanted to make an impact in the outdoor world.

HO - The outdoor industry can be a tough nut to crack.  How did you do it?

AL - I have to give credit to John E. Phillips who interviewed me for an article with Wheel:Life.  He is an outdoor writer and knew the people I needed to talk to.  I contacted company after company, sending presentations and inquiries.  I went through all the no's, or in my case many of them didn't reply at all, likely not because they weren't interested but just busy.  If you don't have a thick skin, you may never break through in this industry.  Mossy Oak was the first company that reached out to me.  I am grateful for their response because they are a wonderful company and a leader in camo design.

I attended the 2016 Shot Show in Las Vegas this past January and will also be featured in the NRA's - All Access show next season.

HO - Very nice!  Ok, let's get truly serious for the readers now.  What is your best fishing tip?

AL - In fly fishing, going to the local shop in the area you are planning to fish is truly the biggest tip I can give.  They will know spots to fish, which flies to match the hatch and what techniques will work best.

Courtesy of AshleeLundvall.com
530 yards - Wow!
HO - And your best shooting tip would be?

AL - Foundation!  I shot my first bull Elk in 2013 at 530 yards.  I could never pull the trigger if I wasn't confident of a humane kill.  Your base is critical to your success whether it is a rest or a shooting stick.

HO - Great stuff, I wish I could shoot like a girl! Any final thoughts or words?

AL - Yes!  I would love to speak for your group.  Please go to ashleelundvall.com and send me a request.  Also, if you are someone who just needs to ask a question and don't know who to ask, shoot me an email.  I will answer as promptly as possible.

Wow, there you go sports fans!  What an amazing story from an amazing lady.  Grab her book and support her in her quest in the great outdoors.  Thanks Ashlee for spending time with us and we support you in your journey.

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