A perfect day in Bend when you’re rockin’ a wheelchair
This week’s post is brought to you by our special guest, Kipp Wesslen. Kipp is a happily married guy who loves swimming, handcycling (on road and off), ParaTriathlon, Bend’s culinary scene, and competitive wheelchair racing.
Neuromuscular ataxia may have thrown him some curveballs, but that hasn’t slowed Kipp’s roll. In fact, it’s given him a unique perspective on what it’s like to navigate Bend from a wheelchair. Or a handcycle. Or a sit-ski. Or…well, we’ll let him tell you about it.
And to learn more about Kipp’s perfect day in Bend, keep reading!
Kipp Wesslen’s perfect day in Bend
Recently, I was asked by my good friends at Oregon Adaptive Sports to write up a bit for a guest blog post with Visit Bend, the subject being: My Perfect Day in Bend.
Uh….just one day?
As someone with lofty ambitions of being outdoorsy, and also being a wheelchair user and adaptive sports junkie, it was a perfect match when I connected with Oregon Adaptive Sports a few years ago.
My intro into their special brand of epic-ness was trying an off-road handcycle for the first time at an adaptive cycling clinic. In the months to follow, I was able to spend a day with them up at Mt. Bachelor trying downhill sit-skiing for the first time.
I also got to be a last-minute fill-in on an adaptive relay team for the Pole Pedal Paddle, and to do an amazing group ride at Phil and Ken’s trail complex as well as another handcycling ride from Mt. Bachelor to Bend participating on one of ten adaptive relay teams competing in the annual Pole Pedal Paddle.
So, if I must, let’s narrow down my perfect day in Bend to cover the renowned Pole Pedal Paddle.
6:00 a.m. Rise and shine, time to get those wiggles out
Rarely, (as in, next to never) am I the one to wake up my pup. We rolled into Bend for the pre-event potluck with Oregon Adaptive Sports to meet my relay teammates and go over briefings/logistics.
Being a last-minute trip, hotels that are both ADA accessible and dog-friendly were mostly booked up to accommodate the mass of racers coming into town for the weekend. After calling around, we found one remaining room at The Oxford Hotel that fit both the accessibility and our sheepadoodle. As an added bonus, it’s situated downtown, providing rolling/walking distance to all of our favorite stops.
The Oxford is pricey for sure, but they were incredibly accommodating, providing a bench for the roll-in shower, dog bed, and food and water dishes from Ruffwear (our favorite dog gear company, also from Bend).
After an eventful evening of socializing, we were surprised to hit our alarm the next morning, rather than having the furry four-legged alarm clock wake us up. A tired dog is a good dog, and Sally was tuckered from the excitement of meeting new people and other doggos the night before. We always appreciate how dog-friendly Bend is.
After a quick load-up and stop at Strictly Organic Coffee Co. for some breakfast and pre-race fuel, we made our way up to Mt. Bachelor for the start of the race and then the start of my hand cycle blur down the mountain.
9:00 a.m. – Gentlemen, start your engines
Let me tell you, this is up there in my top three favorite rides of all times.
The first bit of hill climb, at altitude, hurts. After that, it’s a blazing fast descent shooting past upright cyclists and hitting a top speed of 54 MPH. Plenty of adaptive athletes do this on a variety of handcycles and recumbent trikes.
In my opinion, my personal low-slung racing handcycle actually feels far more stable than what I’d imagine an upright two-wheeled bicycle would be.
For most of the ride, they have the downhill lane of the road closed to vehicles. Closer to town, there are huge, ample shoulders along the road so you can let it rip without too much concern. Literally, I didn’t touch my brake until having to slow for the finish line.
11:00 a.m. – Rolling and Representing
After waiting for my wife to make it down the mountain with our truck, we headed to Les Schwab Amphitheater to cheer on my team and the other racers at the finish and after race party.
When it’s not hosting events like the PPP, the amphitheater boasts tons of great live music, and it’s all ADA accessible. You can learn more here.
3:00 p.m. – Refresh and Refuel
With the festivities wrapped up, It’s back to The Oxford for a shower, quick nap for Sheepadoodle Sally, and a roll over to Jackson’s Corner for Elbows & Cheddar washed down with a Boneyard Backbone Stout.
While it’s not through their front door, Jackson’s Corner has an easily-accessible ramped entrance and wheelchair-friendly restrooms. We’ve always received extremely friendly service, along with amazing food that has yet to disappoint.
6:00 p.m. Celebrate the Sweat
Meet up with the other Oregon Adaptive Sports athletes from the Pole Pedal Paddle at Deshutes Brewery for a pint of their classic Black Butte Porter, along with mouthwatering appetizers, reliving our achievements of the day. Bend boasts many a fine brewery around town, but given the proximity to the main hub of activity and complete accessibility, Deschutes is always a favorite gathering place. Be prepared, though—it seems many other people feel the same, and good things come to those willing to wait.
9:30 p.m. Look how far you’ve come
After a conga line of wheelchairs down Bond Street (we can thank Deschutes Brewery for that!) future plans and farewells are made with the giant Oregon Adaptive Sports family.
The hotel seemed much closer earlier in the day, for these arms are tired and every push brings back brings into focus the thoughts of the welcoming, comfortable bed waiting for us back at The Oxford.