Part III (of Three Installments)
I bought a smaller scooter called a TravelScoot three years ago. It’s like a tricycle with a very small motor, and runs on a lithium battery which weighs about 5 1/2 lbs. I have the second smallest model; there is one for people who are less than four feet tall, and a larger model for bigger people. When mine is taken apart and folded down into its four components, the heaviest part weighs 24 pounds, which I can lift much more easily than the 35-pound heaviest part of a Pride Go-Go. It’s slightly difficult to push simultaneously the two bolts that hold the TravelScoot in place in order to fold or unfold it, but I can do it. Applying a little WD-40 once in a while eases this. This one necessary step is easy for my husband who has larger, stronger hands. But the weight and portability have given me more independence.
There are no show rooms where you can try one out; sometimes TravelScoot will give you the name of an owner in your area who might let you try his or hers. You have to buy this scooter over the internet (TravelScoot is made in Germany and has one distributor in the US, in Idaho) and then hope you love it so that you don’t have to ship it back. The scooter and its parts can be (masterfully) fitted into a large duffle bag, but I can tell you that it is not easy to determine how to fit it all back in, once it’s out of its bag! (We stopped taking the bag anywhere.)
The TravelScoot goes up to 5 or 6 mph, and will run for about 10 miles on flat ground (about two hours of constant movement, but generally I’m doing a lot of intermittent stopping). The accelerator is like a motorcycle’s; the right-side handlebar turns counter-clockwise toward the rider, and the amount you turn it determines the speed. A small button on the handlebar switches it from forward to reverse. It does not automatically stop when you stop accelerating, unlike the larger Pride and Golden scooters, and the brakes are bicycle brakes, requiring one or both hands clenched on them to stop. Uphill inclines, depending upon their pitch, afford less speed and more battery drain. On surfaces which are slanted in two directions, especially if steep in either plane, it can be unstable and a little dicey to maneuver. I’ve had my husband hold on to the back of the chair once in a while in these more dangerous drivewaysthat cut through sidewalks, or I get up and pull it along if I’m alone. But I’ve been able to use it on cobblestones (the flat variety) or bricks, though those are a bit jarring. I can also go up short steep ramps and sidewalks, if I lean forward to keep it from tipping back, and get a running start.
At one airport baggage claim area an attendant laughingly told me I got up so much speed that he was going to give me a ticket. He actually wanted to know all the particulars of the scooter, because his mother could use one. I always tell people that it would not be a good choice for someone who has dementia, or doesn’t have a good sense of balance, or has hands weaker than my wimpy ones.
We take it on most of our travels now. When we fly, I ride it right up to the airplane’s door, we take the battery out and bring it into the cabin with our bags, and the airline personnel easily carry the scooter to the hold fully assembled, just like a baby stroller. We rent a car at least the size of a large compact and put it (folded down) in the back seat, with our luggage in the trunk. When the trunk’s empty it easily fits in there. In larger taxi’s such as SUV’s or British cabs, or on buses, we can leave it fully assembled and the driver or my husband just lifts it in, battery included. I am able stand and lift it while assembled just to get it up over a curb when no ramp is available. If the front wheel is lifted up over an obstacle, I can easily lift the back wheels along. I want to reiterate that I am definitely not a big strong person, but I am active and not frail.
Having this trike has made our travelling so much more fun! It used to be that we had to rent a big scooter, or a manual wheelchair, for fairs, large venues and travel. If we got a wheelchair, my husband had to push me all around museums, gardens and festivals, which was a lot of work. Plus, I did not feel independent; I had to shout “Stop!” much of the time if I wanted to look at something or get up and walk around. People pushing wheelchairs can’t always hear us when our heads are three or four feet from the ground and facing away from them.
Now I can go to many more venues with my husband; he walks or rides his bike and I ride, and we see much more of the walkable world together. He’s happy to have me accompany him more often than in the past, so the TravelScoot has improved the activity aspect of our marriage. I even see looks of what seem to be envy on the faces of travelers who are on long walks, and many people with handicapped relatives ask me about my little scooter.
There are other collapsible brands out there; the Travelscoot was simply the one that seemed the most compatible with my needs. I highly encourage anyone with an ambulatory disability to get out there and scoot!