|Trenkamp's wheels get wheels|
|Friday, March 14, 2014 8:07 PM|
BY ANNE COBURN-GRIFFIS
In January 2000, while an 18-year-old student at the University of Toledo, Trenkamp was in a car accident in which his neck was broken. After months of recovery, rehabilitation and confinement to a wheelchair, he entered college at Wright State University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in math. He took more courses online so that he could teach. He now teaches math online through the West Central Ohio Learning Academy.
Trenkamp is making his mark on the world but he wants to do more.
“My parents take my siblings and nephews for rides around our farm. Last summer, my 3-year-old nephew wanted me to ride with them,” said Trenkamp. “Since my wheelchair wouldn’t fit on it, I looked into some options.”
Trenkamp located a body shop in Columbus that makes wheelchair-accessible golf carts but the cost for such a vehicle was high. “My dad asked a buddy of his if he knew anyone that could convert ours. He said he’d like to try.”
That friend was Mark Ricker, the owner of Mark’s Auto Body just west of Ottoville on U.S. 224. He and a crew that consisted of Vernon Etzler and Tony Butler worked on the cart renovation in his rural shop over the recent cold winter months. On Friday, Trenkamp and his father Carl joined them all there for a final fitting. With the press of a button, Ricker lowered the passenger-side door into a ramp. Trenkamp drove his wheelchair up the ramp and locked the chair in place, just as he does in his van, for a perfect fit. Under windy but blue skies, Trenkamp and Ricker took the finished cart out for its inaugural spin.
According to Ricker, Etzler was the brains behind much of the cart retrofit.
“We cut it in two and put steel in to lengthen it out,” said Etzler. “There’s a lot to doing it, stretching everything out — throttle cables, brake lines, putting another seat in.”
When asked how long it took to complete the project, Etzler belly-laughed. Ricker smiled and explained. “It took a month and a half but the first one always takes longer.”
Trenkamp himself located the mechanism that locks his wheelchair safely into the floor of the cart. Ricker explained that the original front seat is now located near the back of the cart. It sits just behind the area where Trenkamp can now drive in and park his wheelchair. A new seat was installed in front. A new steel roof had to be made and installed as well.
“Just for Cory,” said Ricker. “Just for his safety.”
Cincinnati Reds decals personalize the red vehicle, which is street-legal with tail lights, turn signal and a distinctive horn. The cart will run up to 30 mph. It seats seven.
“We can load up with the grandkids and go to Jennings Park,” said Trenkamp’s dad.
Now his son Cory can join them, although he has other destinations in mind. “We don’t have sidewalks near our house, which there should be. Now I can get up to town if I want to. Take it to the game; maybe use it as a bull pen car. You get tired of riding around in minivans.”
Ricker suggested mounting a drop-down television in the ceiling of the golf cart. “Maybe next year,” grinned Trenkamp.