Since 1972, music lovers have gathered at The Kerrville Folk Music Festival, held in Kerrivile, Texas (about 60 miles northwest of San Antonio). Centered around the 1,200-seat Kerrville Municipal Auditorium, music lovers nationwide attend this well-known festival. Since the late 1990’s, Grandin has been making the expedition that is 1,000 miles from Georgia to Texas! Close to 20 hours of drive time and Grandin tows his 2004 Coachman Catalina, a 25 feet long camper, behind his adaptive wheelchair van. The Catalina has one slide-out and can sleep six. “But everybody would have to know each other very well,” Grandin explains. He has modified his camper to make it his own space. “I could have purchased an accessible camper. There are plenty out there. But they are expensive. I modified mine myself. And it works great.”
Camping (and enjoying the outdoors) has always been a big part of Grandin’s life. “Getting outside and enjoying nature gives me a clear mind.” Add music to the camping experience, and for this enthusiast, the adventure becomes extraordinary! “Truly, at this festival, music goes on 24/7 for 18 days! At the amphitheater, there are craft booths and food vendors with big name acts on the weekend nights.” This year, Grandin’s favorites were Emmy Lou Harris, Rodney Crowell, and David Crosby (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) just to name a few. But late at night, the real fun begins. “The lively song circles are where people of all skill levels sing their songs and great music ideas are born. Song circles can be structured and some are more like jam sessions. Of course, the later it gets the more rowdy they become!” Grandin laughs.
The campsites even have interesting names. “There are campsites that set up in the same place each year and they usually have a large tent with chairs, an outdoor kitchen (some even equipped with a bar). While music is fills the night, there is always something being cooked and a lot of socializing.” Grandin also has his favorite campsite, a lot where his neighbor’s camp is referred to as Camp Stupid.
“I have made friends over the years. We combine resources and put funds into a food pool and eat whenever we want! My camp is called Camp Somewhere Else! It is a smaller camp than Camp Stupid but we are growing.” Grandin shared a few more of the creative camp decree. There is Camp Bayou Love, Camp Mixed Nuts, Camp Crow’s Nest. It speaks of the colorful and creative people that the music festival draws.
“It is truly an eclectic mix of people. Everything from people sleeping on the ground to the big expensive land yacht motor homes. People from all walks of life and socio-economic status. Those from the far left to the far right. One of the really beautiful things about this festival is that it seems everybody gets along because they are there for the music. There are also several schools that are offered during the weeks such as ukulele camps, harmonica and vocal instruction.” Grandin lights up when he talks about music. It is almost as if his speaking voice somehow becomes ‘instrumental’ when he speaks of music.
Camping from a wheelchair seems like a huge challenge. But Grandin will quickly explain, “Enjoy the ride! I don't focus on all the things that will or could go wrong. That would just diminish the experience. I don't have to have everything figured out before I leave. As long as I know I can take care of my daily needs and I have somewhere to sleep--and hopefully stay dry--I can make the rest of it work. I guess I look at it as an adventure and figuring out how to make it work is part of the experience for me. I have encountered very few things that I cannot accomplish utilizing the proper adaptive equipment.”
Grandin is the real deal! He has a spirit of a real explorer. Through his years of camping he has witnessed first-hand the generous spirit of fellow campers. “There is always somebody willing to help. My friends are a huge part of my ability to do things. For someone wanting to explore camping (with or without spinal cord injury), don’t be afraid to ask for help. I don't think it is difficult to find people willing to go camping with you.”
Grandin is such a great example of pursuing happiness after injury. This year’s trip presented several challenges - like the rain. “Yeah, the rain did present challenges. Fortunately, it was sporadic rather than constant so I just hunkered down in my camper.”
The biggest challenge presented by the rain was the mud and how to keep the yuck from getting inside the camper. Grandin found a solution. “What I ended up doing was I used my power chair inside the camper and to get up and down the ramp. Then I would transfer to my scooter while I was outside. The wheels on my power chair never got mud on them. I just had to think ahead to know which wheelchair I needed to be on. I also used a tarp to cover my scooter each time it rained. Fortunately the ground at the ranch dries very fast. I just weathered the storms and it was so worth it!”
Grandin…we can’t wait to see what your next camping experience will bring. You bring out the explorer in all of us. Keep exploring and keep sharing!
The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0815/0010