Carl Schlenke of Murrysville can remember walking down to the railroad tracks on the southern side of Route 22 and watching steam engines load coal for transport to Pittsburgh.
Now, that railroad bed is part of the Westmoreland Heritage Trail, and Schlenke, a resident at Redstone Highlands in Murrysville, got a chance to traverse the trail through the Joy Riders program.
“He’d come down and watch the trains, and now he gets to see the whole thing,” said Jill Wolfe, lifestyle director at Redstone.
The Joy Riders is a collaboration between the nonprofit Veterans Leadership Program and local
triathlon training groups the Mighty Tri Girls and Total Chaos. After raising about $20,000 in 2018, they purchased two Duet tandem bikes, manufactured in Oakdale with a passenger seat in the front, and the cyclist pedaling in the rear.
The group put up its kickstands for the first time in summer 2019 before having to put everything on hold just eight months later because of the coronavirus pandemic.
This week, they met with Schlenke and fellow Redstone residents Yu Cai and Beverly Bertolo for a Joy Riders trip along the trail between Murrysville and Trafford.
Co-founder Karen Primm of Smithton said this is one of the first larger events the Joy Riders put together.
“We kind of just limped along (during the pandemic) because we couldn’t do training or take people for rides, but we did get to do a few rides,” Primm said. “If we had someone who was already trained, and someone who was also part of their ‘pandemic bubble,’ they could still go for rides.”
Primm said one of the Joy Riders volunteers was able to take his daughter out for several rides.
Bertolo, a new resident at Redstone, threw her head back and laughed after being asked when she last took a bike ride.
“We’ve been down (to the trail) before, but I’ve only seen part of it,” Bertolo said. “I’m excited to see the rest.”
Joy Riders has widened its volunteer base over the past two years. Dianne Stuckman of Ben Avon is part of the group based closer to Pittsburgh.
“I saw it on Facebook when the Joy Riders were doing an event in Rostraver,” Stuckman said. “It’s just a combination of passions. I love biking and I like looking for ways to help people.”
Redstone Care Partner Megan Henninger said, for the residents she works with, the Joy Riders program is almost a way for them to be kids again.
“For that 45 minutes of being on the bike, they just get so much enjoyment out of it,” she said.
“They’ve basically been cooped up for 14 months, so just the chance to get out on the trail and enjoy nature is great,” she said.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, email@example.com or via Twitter .
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