“Trail Voices” highlights the work of rail-trail supporters around the country. Our interview subjects are anyone from high-level urban planners to local volunteers, and no contribution to the trails, walking and bicycling movement is too big or too small–dedication comes in all sizes. We could never tell all the personal stories that make rail-trails a success, but we can share a few of the voices behind the movement.
For April, we tracked down Noel Keller, who graduated from active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps at the grade of colonel in 1987. Two and a half months later, he suffered a bad landing while strapped into a sailplane called the LARK. He wasn’t able to walk after the accident. His wife Marjorie obtained the best spinal surgeon around, who Keller says “did a fine job of putting me back together.” Though he still suffered permanent spinal damage that affects how he moves his legs, Keller learned to walk again with the aid of a cane.
In 2002, he found a special tricycle that suited his physical needs and began exploring as many trails as he could–and he’s been busy. As of January 2009, Keller has pedaled on trails and roads in 29 states, and he’s submitted reviews and photos for 55 trails listed on Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s TrailLink.com. His goal is to ride, review and photograph rail-trails in each of the lower 48 states and Alaska.
How did you discover your tricycle?
I learned about a tricycle from a friend and tried it out. Found I could pedal it, but it was too low to get out of it. Then I found a tadpole TriCruiser, made by Sid Gowdy, that had a high seat. After a couple test rides, I bought one when I learned I could load it in the back of a minivan. From Sid’s Web site I discovered Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and joined, for the publications and the information on rail-trails.
How do you coordinate your solo trail rides?
My procedure for riding trails, since I have to provide my own SAG [Support and Guidance], is to unload my TriCruiser at a trailhead, ride a distance one way, then turn around and ride back to the trailhead. Then in the afternoon I go the other way and return. I first carried a Garmin eTrex Legend GPS that I loaded with trail and trailhead [GPS] coordinates. This gives me a countdown on the miles to the turnaround and trailheads.
Now that you have a wide experience on rail-trails, what are some of your favorites?
Well, I really like the Elroy-Sparta State Trail in Wisconsin, as it was my first one. The one with the best scenery is definitely the Route of the Hiawatha in Idaho or the Mineral Belt Trail in Colorado. If you are looking for interesting activities in a short distance, I would recommend the Yampa River Core Trail in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. And I met the most people on the Katy Trail State Park in Missouri.
On your TrailLink.com reviews, your tagline is Twirlymaker. Where did that come from?
Twirlymaker is the name on the fake license plate on the back of my TriCruiser. I also use a train and a spinner above my head instead of a flag, so I make twirlys.