Everybody's National Parks | ENP 24 Grandma Joy’s Road Trip: Accessibility in National Parks
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  • ENP 24 Grandma Joy’s Road Trip: Accessibility in National Parks
    03/16/2020
    Grandma Joy at Badlands National Park, South Dakota

    “You just can’t imagine until you get out there and see these wondrous things....It just changes your outlook on life.” -Grandma Joy (Ryan)

    In this episode, Danielle has the honor of chatting with Grandma Joy Ryan and her grandson Brad Ryan of Grandma Joy's Road Trip. They started their national park adventure together 5 years ago when she was 85. They have visited 53 national parks - and counting! They share their favorite scenic drives in national parks and top ten list of national parks for accessibility.


    Adventure - And Wisdom! - At Any Age

    Grandma Joy and Brad Ryan at Acadia National Park, Maine
    At the age of 85, Ohio native Joy Ryan had never laid eyes on a mountain or an ocean. “It struck me as this tragedy that I felt I had an ethical and personal responsibility to correct,” says grandson Brad Ryan. So, in 2015, he set out to do just that. Five years later, Grandma Joy’s got her own social media hashtag and is only nine parks shy of seeing every national park in the country. While her gait may not be as quick as it once was, Joy’s mind is sharp and her appreciation for the small wonders in the grandest parks is infectious. An accomplished adventurer, Brad says slowing to his grandmother’s pace has transformed his park experience. “Being more present, being more in tune with the intricate details knowing that the pattern on the back of a beetle or an arrangement of lichen on a dead stump is sometimes every bit as magnificent as the view from the top of a summit.”

    “You know, my relationship with nature used to be ‘how many mountains can I climb in five days? How fast can I climb them?’ I was trying to fulfill a different part of what was missing in my life at that point. I think that with her, slowing down, walking at a pace that’s comfortable for her and having conversations about the little things that we’re seeing along the way has opened up a whole world of nature that I was just speeding by.”  - Brad Ryan [8:25]
     
    Grandma Joy at Glacier National Park, Montana
     

    Mobility & Accessibility Built Into The National Parks

    Grandma Joy and Brad Ryan departing hometown of Duncan Falls, OH
    From Shenandoah to Hawai’i Volcanoes, Brad and Grandma Joy have plenty of favorite parks and accessibility tips for travelers with mobility challenges. By design, most parks offer scenic loop roads and overlooks, making it easy to explore by car or park trams. The National Park Service also boasts many wheelchair-friendly trails and short nature walks with multiple rest areas (see individual park information for listings) as well as dedicated accessibility rangers who can make recommendations and answer questions based on visitor needs. And don’t dismiss camping! Numerous parks have a limited number of ADA-compliant campsites available for those planning to stay within the system — but remember to reserve your spot in advance! If roughing it isn’t feasible, consider lodgings in a centrally-located “gateway” city. Brad recommends El Paso, TX for prime access to Saguaro, White Sands, and Guadalupe National Parks.
     
    Grandma Joy and Brad Ryan at Big Bend National Park, Texas

    “I know she doesn’t like to talk about herself in this way but, you know, I see her as an extraordinary woman from a very ordinary place.” - Brad Ryan [1:01:27]
     
    Grandma Joy at Hawai'i Volcanoes


    Sites Set On Alaskan Parks

    Grandma Joy and Brad Ryan at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
    What’s next for this dynamic inter-generational duo? While Joy prepares for knee surgery and another birthday, Brad’s writing a book and plotting their Alaskan adventure. “If all goes according to plan, we’ll be heading there this summer and probably spending between six to eight weeks travelling all around. Then road-tripping back through Canada.” Even with the challenges that have popped up on their 40,000+ mile journey, Grandma Joy’s just happy to still be along for the ride. “I want everyone to look at the glass as half full and not half empty,” she says, “And don’t regret not doing something you wanted to try.”
     
    Hawaii VolcanoesHawaii Five-0
    "Hawai'i Volcanoes was actually our 50th US National Park... didn't make the connection until we got here." - Brad Ryan

    Follow Grandma Joy’s adventures on Instagram and Facebook. Check out the NPS All In! initiative for further details on park accessibility.
     

    Discussion Includes the Following:

    Grandma Joy and Brad Ryan in front of General Sherman, the world's largest tree, measured by volume. Sequoia National Park, California
    Grandma Joy at Saguaro National Park, Arizona Grandma Joy at Saguaro National Park, Arizona
    Grandma Joy at the top of Clingman's Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee Grandma Joy at the top of Clingman's Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
    Grandma Joy's first night in a tent, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee Grandma Joy's first night in a tent, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
    0:02 - Introducing Grandma Joy Ryan and Brad Ryan: CBS This Morning Interview
    1:55 - Reunited: From losing touch to regaining Joy Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Old Faithful, Redwood National and State Parks
    5:08 - The adventure begins
    6:47 - The life-changing magic of slowing down
    10:15 - Age, accessibility, and Grandma Joy’s “best of…” list: Mammoth Cave National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park
    13:10 - Shenandoah National Park
    15:09 - Driver’s delight: Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona’s Painted Desert, Historic Route 66
    17:54 - Diversity in the desert: Saguaro National Park, Joshua Tree National Park
    19:52 - Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, The General Sherman Tree
    21:15 - Saguaro National Park and environs: Desert Discovery Trail, El Paso, TX lodging/Hyatt Hotels, White Sands National Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
    22:44 - Tales from the passenger’s seat: Badlands National Park, Yellowstone National Park
    26:14 - Big Bend National Park
    28:30 - Grand Teton National Park
    29:47 - Arches National Park, Zion National Park
    31:12 - Sunrise over Grand Canyon National Park
    33:01 - Glacier National Park, park shuttle service, Going-To-The-Sun Road
    33:40 - Fishercap Lake, a moose encounter, and a wildlife reminder
    35:42 - A veterinarian’s viewpoint
    38:02 - Bear aware, Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Cades Cove Scenic Road
    40:35 - Gatlinburg, TN, Clingmans Dome
    41:45 - The glittering aspens of Rocky Mountain National Park
    43:00 - Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
    43:41 - Assessing accessibility challenges: Channel Islands National Park
    46:40 - Practical logistics
    48:06 - Trip tips and ranger recommendations
    50:09 - A Wind Cave National Park coyote story
    51:42 - Bad weather/good mood: Why attitude is everything when travelling
    52:15 - Isle Royal National Park misadventure
    55:44 - Adventures counted in moments, not N.P.s: Craters Of The Moon National Monument, Dinosaur National Monument
    56:56 - Transformative travel rewards
    59:02 - What’s next for Brad and Grandma Joy: Brad’s book, National Park of American Samoa, Alaska’s multiple parks and places
    1:01:11 - The power of Grandma Joy’s example
     

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