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From time to time members of Indiana Trails Community Board Members, Staff, and Guest Authors will write articles of concern and interest to the organization and community of trail users in general.  Indiana Trails Community in general are welcoming of articles to be published on our web page and Facebook page.  In addition, we hope you like these articles and find value in them.  Submissions are welcome at

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Team Triumph

by Jim Garlits

In my quest for bicycle miles in preparation for RAGBRAI L, the 50th iteration of the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, I hoped to join my local Saturday morning cycling group
“Liking for Biking” for some morning miles.  Well, they had taken Memorial Day weekend off.  We coordinate our meetups through the Band smartphone app, and in place of the normal ride I saw a post from Todd Schindler inviting runners and riders to join MyTeam Triumph on the Wabash River Trail, the route my usual group takes.

“I just want to get a ride in,” I thought to myself. “I’ll go with anyone who is game.” So I headed down to Alley Cat Outfitters, soon to be Wabash, Indiana’s newest business catering to outdoors people. I didn’t know that my entire worldview was about to get a big adjustment.


Team Triumph on the Wabash River Trail


When I got to the Alley Cat’s parking lot, Todd was readying two adaptive, pull-behind cycling chairs for two clients of The Arc of Wabash County, which assists individuals with disabilities with a range of human services, including housing, education, and employment.


Team Triumph on the Wabash River Trail


The first thing I noticed once my rider Kim’s adaptive chair was attached to my Specialized Allez Sport’s rear axle was that there is a noticeable interplay between the bike and the chair. Let's call it push-and-pull. Once you get your bike up to speed, the sensation diminishes a bit, but you’re constantly reminded that you’re part of a team.


Kim and I rode from Alley Cat to the comfort station in Lagro, Indiana, which is about seven miles away. Once we got there and rested, we switched Kim’s chair over to Suzanne’s bike so she could try it. After fourteen miles of fun and conversation, we ended at White Rock Recreation for ice cream.

I can’t explain the fulfillment I felt from having taken part. Adaptive sports of this kind are relatively new. I talked with Todd for a bit on the way back from Lagro, about MyTeam Triumph and how he got involved. The conversation drifted to the recent passing of Rick Hoyt.

The Hoyt Foundation website tells how they first became involved in distance sports. “In the spring of 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a Lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Far from being a long-distance runner, Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair and they finished all 5 miles, coming in next to last.  That night, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.”


The team racked up more than 1,000 races, including marathons and triathlons before Dick passed away in March of 2021, but their legacy is now vast. Todd said that Team Triumph drew its inspiration from Team Hoyt and the Hoyt Foundation.


I will be doing more events with Team Triumph, you can be sure of that. But aside from my epiphany, what is the larger issue as Indiana Trails Community (ITC), the Hoosier Rails to Trails Council (HRTC), and the Indiana Trails Fund (ITF) expand our advocacy to press for connected non-motorized, pedestrian, and bike-centric, ADA-compliant trails, paths, and lanes?

I think it is this: We have to get away from the domineering mindset that views our transportation assets, including bridges, as simply high-speed avenues for cars and trucks. Such thinking must become a thing of the past that our grandchildren will scratch their heads over. Before Kim and I teamed up for our ride, ADA compliance was only a concept to me. It ceased to be so on Saturday, May 27 th , 2023. Kim and I flew together down a path that fifty years ago would have been impossible to build. Twenty-five years ago it would have been possible but unthinkable. Ten years ago it still got plenty of NIMBY blowback, but perseverance won the day.


Team Triumph on the Wabash River Trail


Today, Indiana boasts hundreds of miles of rail trails, river trails, and accessible paths through nature preserves and state forests. The momentum continues to grow through initiatives such as Next Level Trail grants, the work done by our own ITC, ITF, and HRTC, and regional and national advocacy groups such as the League of American Bicyclists and the Rails to Trails Conservancy.

I’d like to end this by encouraging you to consider two things. First, find a group near you like MyTeam Triumph and the Hoyt Foundation. If you want to know what if feels like to be an angel, use your bicycle to give wings to someone who would otherwise never fly. Second, keep pressing forward for the full range of motorized transportation alternatives: pedestrian and bike-centric facilities, and most especially ADA compliance across the whole range of transportation planning and execution.

. . .


Jim Garlits is an ITC board member

My Thoughts on Bridges and Why I Walk Them

by Mary Emmrich

When we focus on bridges as devices that allow us to overcome obstacles, they not only become multimodal, but they also become less about transportation and more about the journey.  Keep in mind that transportation itself can be an obstacle for many of us, so non-motorized accessibility is essential to allow the structure to serve the most people.  Bridges need to "bridge" all forms of ground transportation to better serve all of us.


On the recreational side, bridges offer us different views of our worlds - author Kurt Vonnegut wrote "I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over.  Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center."  Walking across bridges allows us to experience that view from the edge, whether it's the edge of water, a ravine, or a railyard.   Bridge walking allows us to enjoy being outdoors in rural or urban settings, on foot, with assistive devices like canes or wheelchairs, or on any variety of non-motorized wheeled items.


Mary Emmrich at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Building new structures that address all forms of ground transportation from the start is essential, while repurposing existing structures to create recreational functions is reaffirming.   Look upriver to Cincinnati and Louisville to see how repurposed bridges can become inviting destinations.  Both the Purple People and the Big Four draw pedestrians and bicyclists and serve as transportation platforms for commercial and tourist use.  The Purple People Bridge can even be rented for parties and receptions!


Bridges can create niche tourism for communities, as well.  Both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, Michigan welcome tens of thousands of folks that need lodging, food, and memorabilia on Labor Day weekend every year when the bridge is closed for hours to allow pedestrians to "walk the Mac and back."  The Golden Gate Bridge Conservancy operates a gift shop for tourists who visit simply to drive, walk, or bicycle across that structure. 


Bridges serve as testament to man's ingenuity and resourcefulness.  Bridges overcome all sorts of obstacles.  For my part walking bridges is how I deal with my fear of heights.  It's a glorious hobby!  I've crossed the Mississippi, the Ohio, the Kankakee, the Straits of Mackinac, the Wabash, the Soo Locks, and San Fransisco Bay on foot.  I've crossed rift valleys in Iceland, literally walking from North America to Europe.  I've walked from Indiana to Illinois and Ohio to Kentucky. I've walked to Canada. I've crossed so many small bridges I can't name them all.  I've learned about different bridge structures, visited communities all over the country, and met wonderful people on every trip.  Bridges are the grandest adventure I can imagine!

. . .

Mary Emmrich is an ITC board member

What is a Jeep Doing On My Rail-Trail?

by Jim Garlits

What are the odds that an Indiana Trails Community board member will come in contact with local trail leadership in the wild? The odds improve significantly when said leadership is as active as Steve Gough, treasurer for the Nickel Plate Trail, Inc., the not-for-profit that oversees and maintains the 44 mile rail trail in north central Indiana.


During a recent down-and-back ride from Peru to Kokomo, I spied a jeep ahead of me on the trail near the Blake Street trailhead and wondered if a motorist had taken a wrong turn. But upon closer inspection, the vehicle's occupant repeatedly emerged with a pair of loppers in his hand.

Steve was doing vegetation management, and appeared pleased to chat with me as I stopped to drink some water and examine his work.

Steve Gough.png

Steve Gough and his Jeep

It has to be one of the greatest "jobs" in the volunteering world, rambling along at a slow cyclist's clip on a beautiful spring day with an NPT volunteer placard on your Jeep's windshield, getting more exercise from pruning back errant branches than from pedaling or strolling.


We talked a bit about the trail's history, and our mutual acquaintance Richard Vonnegut, whose involvement with the NPT's acquisition and expansion was crucial at a time when there were few bike and pedestrian trails in the state.


I continued on my way, reached the outskirts of Kokomo and headed back, passing Steve again with a wave near Bennett's Switch where the trail crosses Indiana 18.


I'm sure we'll see each other again soon, as I plan to once again make the NPT a part of my weekly outings now that I'm back in Indiana full-time.

. . .


Jim Garlits is an ITC board member who has been using and enjoying the NPT since 2008

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