- Associated Press - Sunday, May 17, 2015

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - Glen Shoemaker’s 50th birthday was one to remember, but not in a good way.

There was no extravagant surprise party or trip to celebrate. Instead, there was a hospital bed, doctors and bad news, The Daily Republic (https://bit.ly/1F5FHW2 ) reported.

That day in January 2009, Shoemaker, a Mitchell resident, was informed that, as a result of a botched back surgery he had recently undergone and ensuing infection, he was paralyzed. Not long after, Shoemaker became a double-leg amputee, leaving him confined to a motorized wheelchair.

Six years later, Shoemaker, 56, has found a way to push the boundaries and once again drive a motorcycle.

On April 29, Shoemaker was fitted with a motorcycle customized specifically for his condition at Sabers Victory Motorcycles in Mitchell. The following day, Shoemaker took his motorcycle on its maiden voyage.

“I’ve just been waiting to get on the road again. Every time they’d come and meet at my house and go for a ride, I’d just sit there and watch them drive off and think, ‘Man, I wish I was going with them,’” Shoemaker said. “I’ve been waiting every day for the call that says to come get my bike.”

Although not an avid motorcycle rider before surgery, Shoemaker said he rode occasionally with friends in the years leading up to his surgery. He has since become involved in the Wolf Pack, a motorcycle group his brother, Tom Shoemaker, helped start. His involvement in the Wolf Pack sparked his interest in becoming more active in the riding community.

“It’s nice having a group to hang around with. I’m excited to be a bigger part of it,” Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker said he heard about handicapped motorcycles last year and began researching them on the Internet. Eventually, he was able to test drive one as it passed through Mitchell on its way to Sturgis. The owner stopped at Cabela’s in Mitchell and offered Shoemaker the opportunity to take the bike for a spin.

“They took pictures of me riding it with a big smile because I was so excited. It had been a while,” Shoemaker said.

The bike, a three-wheeled tricycle model, was ordered from MobilityWorks in California, a company that specializes in building wheelchair accessible vehicles and equipment.

The staff at Sabers worked for the last two months to personalize the motorcycle for Shoemaker. The floor of the bike had to be adjusted because it was designed for non-motorized wheelchairs, and different handlebars were put in to make it a more comfortable fit for Shoemaker.

“It’s a really well-built machine. It’s not just pieced together,” said Blake Sabers, owner of Sabers and head of the project.

Sabers said the project was a unique and special one for him and everyone else involved.

“We do the same old stuff all the time here, so to do something different was good,” Sabers said. “More than that, it’s good to be able to get somebody on the road on a motorcycle. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

There was no shortage of grins and giddiness among Shoemaker, his brother, Tom, and friend, George Stainbrook, as Shoemaker revved his engine Thursday afternoon and rolled out of the driveway at his home. Tom said it was a sight he thought he would never see.

“I’m excited as heck about it,” Tom said. “It’s cool for me, because I never thought I’d be riding with either one of my brothers. Then my youngest brother got a bike and I thought it was cool riding with him. I never really imagined Glen riding with me, because he’s wheelchair-bound. Now I get to ride with both of them. That’s about as good of a thing as I could hope for.”

Shoemaker said he’s happy with his motorcycle, but his fellow members of the Wolf Pack have one complaint: the stereo isn’t loud enough for them to hear on their own bikes when they’re out riding.

The stereo volume, which is loud enough, according to Shoemaker, is the last thing on his mind. He is just happy to be able to do something that six years earlier seemed out of reach.

“It’s fun. You’re not confined just to your chair,” he said. “You can get out and ride, and ride with a group. It’s freedom.”


Information from: The Daily Republic, https://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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