Over the summer I took my bicycle in to the place I bought it for some long-needed TLC—it’s great to be able to ride around again! The weather here on Thursday and Friday was delightful, so I used it to get to and back from school both days (it’s only about 1.5 miles each way). Since I’m not driving Ben around anymore in the mornings, I plan on doing this at least semi-regularly going forward.
Being on the bike as things at the college crank back up brings to mind a memory from my first year of grad school. Sherman Hall, my dorm, had a couple of parking lots around it for its residents to use, but they weren’t all that big, and demand outstripped supply. I don’t remember if I lost a lottery or applied for a spot too late—all I know is that I wasn’t granted one when I arrived. Instead, I got a pass to park out in the lots surrounding the Assembly Hall, close to a mile away. At least in part to deal with this, I took my bike with me to Champaign. It was plenty inconvenient having to pedal out to the car anytime I wanted to drive around town (or travel back to Kentucky, especially as the weather turned colder), but in some respects this was actually a good thing, as it forced me to learn more about my nearer surroundings, to look for things to get involved in on campus, and, I hope, to focus on my classes.
When I reflect on the few occasions I was driving around during those early weeks in my new surroundings, Double’s semi-jazzy “The Captain of Her Heart” springs to mind. I know it came on in the car as I was trying to navigate unfamiliar radio stations and terrain. Even though it was already up to #24 by the last weekend of August (it would get to #16), it’s strictly an ‘Illinois song’ to me—I have no recollection of hearing it in my final weeks at home. I like it pretty well; maybe I’m a tiny bit disappointed this Swiss duo never hit the US charts again.
As it happens, my future wife and I were living parallel lives at that very point in time. Martha had graduated from Hanover College two years earlier with degrees in math and German, spent much of the following year studying math history in Hamburg, and then took some time back at home to figure out the next step. That turned out to be—just like me—enrolling in a graduate math program, at the University of Louisville, just across the river from her hometown. We both received master’s degrees in the spring of 88. I kept at it, but she was done with school; that summer she began teaching at Midway College (now University), just ten or so miles away from where I would land a little over four years later. It’d be about two-and-a-half additional years beyond that until our paths finally crossed, but one could make the case that fateful moment had its beginnings in August 86.
One week after this show originally played, I went to my first University of Illinois football game. I kinda think that my parents came up to attend it with me, but I don’t know for sure now from this distance. As you can see at the top—by sheer coincidence—the opponent was Louisville. It was the beginning of the second season of the Howard Schnellenberger era at UofL; they’d lured him back to his hometown in the hopes of reviving their moribund gridiron program, as he had at the University of Miami. While he didn’t bring them a national championship, he eventually succeeded in raising their profile and began a tradition of winning that’s generally lasted to this day (they weren’t anywhere near that on the day I saw them, however; even though the Illini would limp to a 4-7 record, they still pasted the Cards 23-0).
My time in parking purgatory only lasted through the end of the first semester; I found out when I returned in January that I’d graduated from the waitlist and had gotten a spot across the street from Sherman Hall. While it wasn’t a horrendous winter, I was plenty glad to reserve bike use for more pleasurable pursuits going forward.