We joined the Illinois Prairie Path folks at North Central College in Naperville Monday for the official installation of the IPP archive. It’s an amazing collection of photos and filmstrips, some of which had starring roles in our Illinois Trail Corps campaign.
There was no bigger star than the shirtless Phil T. Hodge, the “crazy engineer” who designed and led the construction of Volunteer Bridge near mile marker 0 in downtown Wheaton. We were delighted to meet Phil, who drove up from Tennessee for the event, in person for the first time Monday. We brought Levi Borreson of Legacy Frameworks and the prototype Scout, a fast touring and trail bike Levi’s designing that Phil and Volunteer Bridge helped inspire, to let Phil take it for a spin.
After a quick tutorial on SRAM’s slick brake lever shifters (SRAM donated the group and 650b wheelset), Phil was off. As in gone. We lost him for about 6-7 minutes, long enough to nervously joke about him coming back. When he did, Phil was all smiles and thumbs up for the Scout.
(Levi, with help from Illinois Trail Corps donor Glen Sczypka, SRAM and Blue City Cycles, will donate the first production Scout to Trails for Illinois to sell in support of our trail work; more here. It will be christened the Phil T. Hodge with its own Illinois Trail Corps color and graphics, and hand built to fit the buyer. Please get in touch with us if you have room in your life for a beautiful, fast, and comfortable hand-built-in-Chicago trail machine.)
Teddy Roosevelt provided a guiding value statement for me, “Do your best, and do it now,” and Phil embodies this. He confirmed that although he was a civil engineer, he had never built a bridge before when he decided to build Volunteer Bridge over active rail lines. Instead of asking permission, he decided to inform agencies about his actions. “I told them what I was doing, and told them what I needed from them. I never asked if it was okay.” Good luck and truly being ignorant about why he couldn’t build the bridge both played big roles as well, he admits.
Phil has his own engineering firm in Tennessee now, and he and his wife travel extensively worldwide. It was energizing to meet him, and to hear how he missed most of the end of our Illinois Trail Corps video because he was bent over laughing at the “Do we have to wear shirts?” line.
If you’d like to see the IPP archives, contact Kim Butler, North Central College archivist, firstname.lastname@example.org.