Chapter After Chapter — Catching Up With Stef Finds New Roads

It has been quite some time since I’ve written here. While I have been sharing my journey on social media, it’s been a while since I’ve taken a deep dive into any of it. Today, I’m changing that! 

A Lot Has Happened Since the Last Chapter

In my last blog post, Chapter 2, I looked back on my partnership as a whole with the North Country Chevy Dealers. I pointed out some of the highlights of our first two years together and ended with a sentence that points right to where we are now. 

“I know that in this chapter, we will look back on the roads already taken, and on the new roads to soon be traveled.” 

Since that time, there have been many new roads traveled.

First, I moved to the West Coast! I spent one year living on my own in southern California. I learned to drive on those five-lane freeways (a far cry different from the back roads of Vermont I am used to), learned how to weave through traffic using my hand controls, and gained the patience to sit in silence in the driver’s seat when there was literally no room on the road to move an inch forward. 

Stefanie outside her California home.

I learned to transfer my wheelchair into and out of my car in a matter of minutes. I will say the lack of any real weather out there at all, helped make this a bit easier, and cleaner.

And, I mastered the day-to-day tasks many of us take for granted. 

  • How to grocery shop as a wheelchair user.
  • How to unload the items purchased on a shopping spree in one single trip from car to apartment.
  • How to clean, cook, live, and simply be on my own again.

I gained new experiences, like modeling for major brands in Los Angeles, being flown to Europe to model internationally, as well as going to sporting events, concerts, shows, and more with my friends.

I lived and laughed a lot. I made a lot of mistakes. And learned from them too. Then, I made the decision I knew I needed and wanted to make. I decided it was time to move back home.

Well, not home home. Just, back to Vermont. This was when I found a job at the University of Vermont Medical Center, purchased a condo nearby, and began to plan the move back to the Green Mountain State.

New Roads Lead Back to Vermont

The weather was great in California, working in LA was a dream, and my friends and life out there kept me busy. So, what was it that made me come back to Vermont? The answer is fairly simple… Vermont is home. 

You can take the girl out of New England, but you can’t take New England out of the girl. 

I missed the cold, grey skies, and even the bad weather too. I do like a snow day, even if it makes my wheelchair, and myself, slower, colder, and messier. 

I missed my family. And, I really missed my dog, Oliver. 

No sooner had I started thinking about a move when it all came together quickly. The job offer came in, the realtor found an accessible condo, my offer was accepted, and I was left with little time to actually plan the move.

One phone call to my family, a few texts to the North Country Chevy Dealers, and it was planned: I was driving cross-country. 

My mom and stepdad flew out to CA, helped me pack up my apartment, filled up a UHAUL, attached it to my Chevy Equinox, and then it was time to go. 

Stefanie's fully adaptive Chevy Equinox packed and ready to travel home.

I told them, I would start driving, then we could switch when I got tired. 

I never got tired. 

On the first day, I drove a 10-hour stretch. Drove 10 hours the next day too. Then we got the idea: Wouldn’t it be cool to say I drove the whole way home? So that’s what I did.

Using my hand controls in my adapted Chevrolet Equinox, I drove through Palm Springs and Arizona, up some very steep mountains, through Texas and Missouri along stretches of Route 66, all the way back to Vermont in just five days — just in time to get ready for Christmas.

A diner along Route 66.

Home Sweet Home

Coming back home was a full-circle moment, filled with both the painful and the sweet memories of everything I have been through in the past five years. As I moved into my new space, surrounded by my family, I treasured my new-found independence, but at the same time I couldn’t help but think back to everything that came before this. 

Some of it was hard to remember, while other memories made me laugh. 

I thought of all the surgeries, the pain of course, but also how my family traveled with me and turned them into road trips filled with joy. I thought of physical therapy, and how hard I have worked. I thought of the times I wondered, “Who am I now? What am I going to be able to do? How will I get through life with these injuries?” These questions that I have now found answers to.

I, and my family, have both been through so much to get here. 

And, all of you have been with us through it all.

I am thankful to this North Country Chevy family — the dealership owners and staff, the followers of these pages, and my trusty Chevy Equinox.

It has been the ride of a lifetime these last few years — with the highest of highs, lowest of lows, and some pretty entertaining stops along the way. I am thrilled to be back in my home state, starting over once again. 

And, I can’t wait to share everything that happens with all of you. Stay tuned, keep following along, and let’s drive together through this trip we call life.

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