Of all the reasons to want an off-road chair, romance might not be the first that comes to mind. But for Todd Lemay, a wheelchair user with osteogenesis imperfecta, it was a missed romantic opportunity some 20 years ago that motivated him to move beyond the pavement. He was living in Arizona, dating a girl from the Midwest who had never seen the ocean. “I was pretty high on life at the time ’cause I got my own car and I can drive and I got a girl,” he says. They drove to San Diego. “We got to the beach and went to the end of the parking lot, and I’m like, ‘Well there you go, there’s the beach, there’s the ocean.’ And after about 10 or 15 minutes of enjoying it from there, she said, ‘Hey, do you mind if I go and walk along the beach?’ I went from cloud nine down to cloud two, ’cause now she’s able to go down on the beach by herself and I’m missing that moment.”
Even though that girl is now his wife, that missed experience is something Lemay never forgot. About five years ago, he was looking online for a power chair that could get him on the beach, and he came across the Terrain Hopper — a four-wheel drive mobility vehicle that looks closer to an ATV than it does to a power wheelchair. The company that made it was based in the United Kingdom. It took some negotiations to get them to send one to the U.S., but once it got to him, it was everything Lemay was hoping for. “I took it on the beach, I took it hiking with friends, I went out with my nieces and nephews and just had a great time,” he says.