About ten years ago my oldest son was exploring a creek north of Phoenix and came across a couple of guys testing and taking videos of an amazing off road wheelchair. The minute he saw it, he knew I needed it. He introduced himself to the fellows and talked to them at length about the chair and it’s capabilities. As soon as he got home he called me to tell me all about it and how it would be able to get me down to the waters of a nearby lake so that I could fish again. After looking the chair up on the internet I knew I wanted one, I just didn’t think I needed one that badly. We had a budget and that budget just wasn’t going to allow for an expensive item that would only be used to get me to the shoreline to fish. But I didn’t forget about the chair.
A few years later we moved out of the city to our small three acre farm, put up a barn and filled that barn with miniature horses. I had a manual wheelchair and an inexpensive power chair to help me feed, water and groom the horses, but no way to go out into the corrals to train and play with them or take them out into the sand of the dry wash to exercise them. I remembered the TankChair, made an appointment with the fellow that invented it and a few days later he brought one out to the farm for me to test drive. Here’s a link to a video taken the day I met the TankChair that Billiam would dub “Sherman”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZdkxCstY3o
Since childhood I have preferred outdoors to in, since childhood I’ve hated shopping and loved the wild yet peaceful freedom of the countryside. My soul was not engineered for a life lived on pavement. As I grow older, this need for being outdoors does not lessen, but rather grows stronger. I do not wish my last glimpse of life to be at a ceiling or walls, but a blue sky with puffy white clouds framed by leaves and limbs.
I could have given up the horses because of my handicaps, but I wouldn’t have really been living. I could have confined myself to only where a manual wheelchair could take me, but I’d only have been breathing. Many, do not understand my deep need for living in this manner, but that’s okay, I don’t understand their ability to adapt to places where they cannot see a horizon and only touch pavement and not earth. For people like me, however, ponies, TankChairs, a view of mountains and the sights and sounds of the natural world are what make getting out of bed every morning worthwhile.
Video William and I made of how well Sherman helps me on the farm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOmTlEwatEI
The TankChair was created by Brad Soden, of Phoenix, for his wife Liz. Liz was paralyzed in an accident and her outdoor loving life came to an abrupt halt. She was stymied from enjoying camping trips, hikes and playing in the snow with Brad and their children. In true DIY fashion Brad knew he could do something about that and set to work in his garage to build a freedom machine for Liz. He also invented the seriously awesome Speedster wheelchair for in town travels. The speedster gets a wheelchair bound person above “butt and crotch” level. Trying to look up from someone’s crotch and carry on a serious conversation has been one of the banes of my wheelbound existence, nevermind the exposure to noxious fumes from behind when queued up for a restaurant table or movie. If I ever win the lottery, a Speedster will be mine, because it would definitely make the time I am forced to stay on pavement much more acceptable.
Brad and Liz Soden and the Speedster