Tuesday, May 22

Ride Report: Kankakee, IL: “Ride like a River”

In anticipation of DD (darling daughter) coming home Saturday, I took a short ride on a bright, beautiful, breezy and clear Saturday. Away from Lake Michigan, temps climbed beyond 80 degrees.

Before heading out, I stop by Motorworks to have new foot pegs installed. The racy blue metal pegs are hugely annoying—feeling buzzy through my boots—on rides over 100 miles. While there, I decided to have Queenie washed, which would save me from doing it later. Besides, Queenie would enjoy the ride better if she were clean. With new pegs and a new shine, we headed south for Kankakee, IL, taking some less traveled back roads.

I follow Historic Rt. 66 to Harlem Avenue/IL- 43 south to reach IL -171 south. This is a familiar route to me given my trip last season to Kankakee State River Park. I remain on IL-171 until US-45 S and there I stay for about 40 miles. This is a fast, nice road that the farther south one goes, the more the landscape becomes rural. Lots of farms and open land mixed in with swanky new homes and old country houses up and down yonder. I wanted to pick up CR-8 but took an unexpected turn that led to more backloads. Eight miles or so later, I was in the hinter areas of Kankakee.

I want to photograph two Kankakee Frank Lloyd Wright homes. They are on Harrison Ave. Like many river towns, this one splits streets. What doesn’t go through resumes on the other side of town. But it’s a curvy street-town and the pick up points can be tricky. Harrison is like that. It is one way going north. Indiana Ave is one way going south, where the Lemuel Milk Barn sits and sounded like another photo opportunity. Harrison is one street east of Indiana. I rode around a number of times trying to find my way. Eventually I did, but Harrison isn’t the kind of street on which one can pull over easily. I can’t be certain if I spotted the Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes, both of which now are privately owned. I did see two homes that might have been FLW’s but I didn’t stop to photograph them. In retrospect, I am now certain they were indeed Wright’s style. I did find the historic Court House, the historic public library but no Lemuel Milk Barn or the State Hospital, which according to the town’s website is worth a look-see. I ended up not caring much about the sites and enjoyed riding around more than stopping and shooting. I made a brief visit at the state park again.

By 6:00 p.m., I was tired and hungry. I called the house and learned that DD had missed her flight and would be arriving Sunday, which meant a visit home of less than 24 hours before leaving for the University of Madrid. I caught I-57 north. Although the northbound traffic was light, my presence must have bugged someone because a car passing in the left lane threw a soda can (with soda in it) at me. It was no accident. The can was hurled back just as the car passed me. I watched it flying backwards, hitting the ground after lightly bouncing off my lower leg. I’m good at not panicking. I did not swerve, I did not duck, I did not freak—any of which can be disastrous on two wheels. I did imagine possessing a radioactive laser that could project from my front turn signals that I could activate
and incinerate the car and its occupants.

About 25 miles later, I stopped at a Borders Books to pick up the June issue of Rider (my complaints that my June issue never arrived only resulted in an extension on my subscription—not a June issue replacement). I came across an apt editorial by Mark Tuttle, Jr., called, “Ride like a River.” He reminds us to enjoy the ride, don’t worry about getting lost, or even fret about running out of gas. Tuttle says, “The river ebbs and flows, and in riding like one so should you. ...if you don’t care where you’re going, you’re never lost, but even if you do care the exact route just isn’t that important…And if in taking the impromptu way the only thing that ends up separating you from your goal is a chain-link fence, well…there’s always wire cutters.”

I know we’re supposed to avoid it if we can, but I like night riding. Anonymity has its advantages. At 9:00pm I headed home, fully enjoying the dark pre-summer night, as the beam from my single headlight led the way.

Total distance: 160 miles
Saturday, May 19, 2007