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My Personal Side

By Craig Hastings
Seventeen years ago, when I held my oldest son in my arms never did I imagine in my wildest of all thoughts that I would one day hear him say to me: “Dad, do you want to ride the bikes (motorcycles) to Champaign Saturday?” Two things to know here: one, I was 44 years old when I had my Payton, and, two, 17 years later (today) I would be 61. What 17-year-old son would ask their 61-year-old dad to be seen with him riding motorcycles? Well, this scenario played out this past Saturday. Saturday afternoon I met up with Payton and one of his friends to ride to Parkland College.

Motorcycle riders usually do not mix and match styles of motorcycles. The Sport bike crowd will usually stick together as do the Cruiser class riders. Well, as anyone might suspect and expect, Payton and his friend are riding sport bikes, and, me, I’m riding a cruiser style some call an older person’s motorcycle of choice. I’ve done the Sport bikes years ago, and, no, I wouldn’t want to ride one very far today. I did ride Payton’s home a few weeks ago after having it serviced in Urbana and at about Tolono my right leg began to cramp from having to be stuck behind me instead of way out in front of me.

So off we go northbound on North Prairie Street extension. I knew right a way I would be playing catch up the rest of this afternoon. It’s not so much that they ride fast but more that I prefer to ride slower. I’m used to a deep and mellow rumble from my exhaust that sounds like my motorcycle is moving fast but isn’t. My son and his friend’s motorcycles have a raspy and high rpm sound and when you hear that sound you know speed is the need. I long ago outgrew (got too old for) the need to travel fast on two wheels. My good sense finally won over my bad sense of “It won’t happen to me”.

Any of you that travel the North Prairie extension know as you approach the Pesotum outlet to Rt. 45 there are two short twists in the roadway close to one another. I’ve ridden through them both more times than I can remember. Today I was reminded how I used to ride through them, say, 25 years ago and how lazily I have been riding these twists ever sense! Again, I’m not saying the boys rode the twists like crazed idiots. Actually, I was able to watch how well they ride their motorcycles from far behind where I was currently moving at a turtle’s pace.

So, already I had to catch  up. Leaning to the left on my cruiser style bike; no problem. Leaning to the right on my cruiser style bike and….scraaape! The duel exhaust on my Harley are stacked on the right side, so the bottom pipe will scrape if I press the bike to lean right. On to Rt. 45 and onward to Champaign. But, not before we must pass through Tolono. The boys were riding in front of me, and I was hoping they remembered that Tolono is most of the time being monitored by the local police with stationary radar! Noah appeared to in plenty of time remember but, Payton was slowing to the required 35 mph very quick and I worried. No worries, no police, we all made it, and it was on to Savoy. Not before I played catch up as we left Tolono’s 35 mph back to a 55 mph legal speed limit.

If only my V Twin 103 inch motor was as fast as it sounds. It’s no match for the much smaller and high revving four-cylinder Japanese sport bikes. I’m not implying any of us were traveling at crazy speeds; its just a fact that these light weight motorcycles the boys were riding can zip from 35 mph to 60 mph at the blink of an eye, where my bike doesn’t zip and requires maybe ten blinks of the same eye that only required one! So, now we’re in Savoy, and the traffic has picked up by ten and through four lanes instead of two lanes. Following on a motorcycle behind another motorcycle requires much more heads up attention than one car following another car.

We are now moving from one stoplight to another stop light and timing is everything if the three of us want to stay together. And me bringing up the rear keeps me on the throttle not to be left behind. I have no idea what route they planned to take to the Parkland College property either, so I’m at constant catch up speeds now. At each red stoplight we cook from the heat rising up from the motors! It’s 85 degrees outside, and I won’t usually ride in these temperatures for this very reason. As long as you’re moving at a brisk pace all is well; slow down and worse, stop, and you bak,e not only from the motor heat but also the sun.

Through Champaign I get to watch these boys zip through traffic with ease and grace on their lightweight and nimble motorcycles as I attempt to replicate their movement with my own tubby and awkward Harley. We made it to Parkland and stop for a brief break and cool down. Soon we’re off again and unbeknownst to me we are taking a different route home. In no time we are riding through a neighborhood I’d rather not be. It’s daytime, which makes it better, but if it were after dark I would have sounded my horn and turned this herd straight south and quickly out of here! Trust me, the boys would have been playing catch up to me had it been dark!

About half way through Champaign it happened. I managed to get squeezed behind a car in four lanes of traffic and the upcoming stoplight controlled intersection caught me red. I had been managing to accelerate through yellows to keep up, but this time I was trapped. I managed to catch up to the boys just as we reached Florida Avenue and now eastbound to Rt. 45. Once on Rt. 45 I decided to ride my own pace and, should they leave me behind, so be it. They didn’t, and we all rode together the remainder of the distance home. We turned off of Rt. 45 in Pesotum onto the North Prairie extension, through the twists again, and southbound home.

Just as I thought the surprise events of the day were over…I was mooned! On a motorcycle! Oh, have I mentioned yet that Shannon was a passenger on my motorcycle the whole trip? If so I would have I told you about the numerous times she would offer her opinion in my right ear about everyone’s negative driving skills? But only the same complaints I have any time I ride with her in her vehicle!

I went home and collapsed in the air conditioning, and, as soon as able, I showered and left to pick up Pate’s brother from work. It was an enjoyable afternoon riding with these two boys but what was most satisfying to me was that they even bothered to invite me on their ride. I certainly have never and wouldn’t ever feel slighted not to be invited after all I’m like 61, and they are….much younger and certainly don’t need the baggage of an old guy cramping their style!

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