Man wheelchairs around the lake |

Man wheelchairs around the lake

Jill Darby

He did it – Mario Solis rode around Lake Tahoe in a brakeless, gearless, dented-rimmed wheelchair.

The secret to his success? Sheer determination.

Solis set off on his journey Tuesday morning from Strange Brew Coffee Lounge and returned Friday around 12:50 p.m.

“It was awesome. I just got back about an hour ago,” Solis said Friday afternoon from Strange Brew. “It was the most challenging, most beautiful thing I’ve probably ever done in my life. It took me 18 hours to do the whole lake. For my first time doing it, I think that’s pretty good. And I’m feeling strong right now.”

Solis, who fractured his spine in a 1998 skiing accident, rode around the lake, in a borrowed wheelchair, in hopes of raising enough money to purchase his own chair and pay off some medical expenses from his accident.

Collection stations were set up at Strange Brew, Planet Hollywood and Nutritional Warehouse and an account was opened for Solis at U.S. Bank. As of late Friday afternoon, he was not sure how much he raised in donations and sponsorship, but said he was certain it was enough to at least buy the wheelchair.

“They told me right now I have enough for a wheelchair and that’s what I really need,” he said. “That’s an extension of my body and I’ve never had one of my own. I’ve always borrowed them from people.”

Solis has very limited muscle function in his lower body and said he had to rely on mental focus and arm strength to make the 76-mile trip.

“The hardest part, energy wise, was climbing to D.L. Bliss with no gears. That was pretty intense,” Solis said. “But the most careful, strategic, scary area was coming into Meek’s Bay because there’s no shoulder at all on the road. So that took some planning to do it safely. We were doing 35 miles per hour down those hills, on unknown road.”

Solis had a bicyclist in front of him and one riding behind him at all times to ensure his safety.

“We had to keep up with the traffic,” he said. “We had to time everything very carefully.”

One of the proudest moments of Solis’s voyage came Friday morning, he said.

“This morning, to still have enough energy to wake up and go seven and a half miles up 1,500 vertical feet, that was pretty awesome,” he said Friday. “That was a mental game. It wasn’t as steep as Emerald Bay but it was a never-ending climb.”

Splitting the trip into four days meant a few nights of camping for Solis, who said he didn’t mind “roughing it.”

“I camped each night and I really felt close to the lake,” said Solis, who once stated he doesn’t believe in age. “I believe this lake has a spirit to it. It can comfort you or reject you but I really felt something. She was good to me and I was good to her so everything went well and now I’m back safely.”

So what’s next for a man who just accomplished one of his biggest goals?

He wants to do it again.

“Next year I’d like to do it again and invite some people to do it with me,” Solis said. “I think that would be really cool. It was my dream to do this and I did it. I hope this inspires some people to get out there and charge.”

Mario Solis still hopes to raise enough money to cover some of his medical bills. There is an account set up for him at U.S. Bank. Donations of any size are appreciated. Make checks out to: Mario Solis Disabled Athletic Fund.

A video of Mario’s journey will be played Oct. 19 at Strange Brew; Resort Sports Network’s coverage should begin airing on cable TV this week.

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