Home, home on the chains, where the cogs and the derailleurs play….

So, I meant to write this some time ago, but one thing led to another and then THOSE things led to finals, which is always a confusing time where up is down, black is white, and the concept of any regular circadian rhythm is cast irreverently aside in favor of figuring out how to do all the things I never understood the first time someone taught it to me, but seeing as we leave tomorrow and anything I post here on out is likely to be typo laden as a result of being typed on a phone, I figure I might as well get around to typing it now. I’d come up with a thing to write about before arrival of finals, and now that they’ve passed (with minimal harm) I suppose it won’t come with same perspective as it originally would have, but in any event, I’ve some thoughts and if you care to read them I suppose I’ll share them with you.
The Ol’ University of Illinois campus is kind of a strange place, geographically. Surrounded for miles around by open fields and quaint Midwestern towns, it arises out of nowhere into high rises of twenty-somethings. Given a large portion of the University hails from the greater Chicagoland area (I’m on the far western rim of it myself [corn to the south and west, cities to the north or east]), it on occasion gives, to me anyway, the impression of a miniaturized version of Chicagoland relocated around 3 hours south (to which I’m sure some of those from the southern and central Illinois are greatly irritated, but that’s just a dynamic that sometimes arises between the factions). Anyway, it’s an isolated little pocket of urban life in an otherwise pretty rural part of the state, that to people like myself who grew up in the shadows of shopping malls and the glare of streetlights, doesn’t seem all that odd. There’s traffic and sirens and rows of shopping centers up on Prospect, such that the country that lies between up north and Champaign is often little more than a blur at “55 *cough cough*” miles per hour during travel from one to the other. Everything you’d ever need is either on campus or a short drive/bus ride away, so it’s easy to remain on the small island of concrete, go to class, get some work done, have some fun, go to sleep, and do it all over again the next day.
But this spring (once it finally decided to warm up enough) provided a bit of a different experience, being part of an organization that regularly takes to the road to get off of the urban island and surge forth into the countryside on two wheels and the notion of doing something perhaps a little crazy this summer. In the course of training for I4k this spring, we’ve all spent our fair share of time on seldom traveled country roads, battling the wind (Oh, God, the wind…), water, and hell hounds (well, maybe they were Corgis, but Kara, Connor, John, and Jordan would back me up that there was at least a quarter Cerberus or wolf in there…) in the name of making a difference. And for those accustomed to Suburbia, or even those hailing from the country themselves but marooned at the University for several months, it’s something different.
Pages of textbooks replaced by the dappled gravel of old asphalt, drywall clad rooms replaced with newly green grass and trees with budding leaves, florescent lighting replaced by the warm glow of the sun; it’s enough to make you forget about that whole “school” thing we’re all supposed to be down here doing. And when I say forget, I mean it. Despite often having 19458623 other things to be working on, those several hours on a bike on Saturday or an early Wednesday morning moved any thought of work or stress from my mind, and as much as it seemed like a less important thing than finishing a lab report when getting ready to depart, as soon as we’d hit the road it was clear that getting out and doing something, seeing the open air, breaking out of the textbook prison; that was really what was important.
So while we’re all sitting on bike saddles this summer, even if you, as the reader of this post, aren’t with us, I recommend you do the same once in a while. Get outside and find a stretch of the middle of nowhere, and you’ll find that when you think there’s nothing much to look at, you can see everything just a little bit clearer.

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