Getting over it
By Mike Leifheit, Columnist
I ran three times a week for more than 20 years. I used to take my van down to the YMCA and start from there. In the old days, I would run five miles on Monday and then seven on Wednesday, and so on every other day. Sundays I took off. There is nothing that will clear your head like exercise. When your whole world seems like it is coming down around you, a five-mile run can set it straight.
I am starting to have problems with my knees, and it has brought my running career to an end. I still need to exercise, so I get the old Japanese 10-speed out of the basement of the Irish Rose and take it down to Bike Path Outfitters, where Tom Rzyski (the owner) makes it like new for only 70 bucks. The day I get it back, I set out for a ride. Down the bike trail past the Symbol, past my ex-mother-in-laws, through Martin Park past the lagoon, where Dennis Christianson and I used to shoot slingshots at the turtles, down Pearl Avenue past his father Lyles house, past Grand Avenue, where Uncle Frank lived when he was mayor of Loves Park.
Then the misting turns into a driving rain, and I get soaked riding back. I stop at the Water Street Café for coffee and breakfast. There is a trail of water wherever I walk. Victor and Jack Pitkin (Steves son) make me eggs. I feel as though my world is in order again. The physical effort has brought me some degree of peace. The eggs and coffee have restored my blood sugar. The distress of a relationship tuning sour is beginning to pass.
Sunday comes, and I call my friend Izzy. I want to do the great hamburger run. Its an idea I have for an article. I want to start in Ridott Corners, go to all the places west of Rockford that serve great hamburgers, and do an article about the experience. Izzy says she will call me back. When she does, it is to say that she cant go today. I understand. I call Jenn Geiger, but all I get is her answering service. I call Elisha Williams, but she is just getting up, and she says she will call me later.
I need some substance for a story, so I decide it must be an alone day. I fire up the Yamaha and head north. Its the best kind of fall day for a ride. I drive up North Main Street. I stay on it all the way to the Rockton turn-off, the street that takes you into Rockton. Im not sure of the name of that street, but it is the old Highway 2. I turn right at the crumbling Wagon Wheel, and then left over the bridge that takes you into the old downtown. I circle my motorcycle and pull up in front of Ye Olde Pub.
When I walk in, Chad, the bartender, recognizes me and says hello. I order a shot of Canadian Lord Calvert and a Miller Lite. Then I just sit back and watch Rockton for a little while. My cell phone rings, and its Jenny. What are you doing?, she asks. Im at the Ye Olde, I answer. OK, she says and hangs up. Then she comes over, and we sit and have beers and talk. Jenny says that time is precious, and most people dont get it. She looks outside at the wind blowing the trees and remarks that it is wonderful, and everyone should appreciate just living. If you were to die tomorrow, wouldnt you want to have done everything you wanted to do today? Thats my friend Jenny.
I make a move to go, but Jenny seems to want to continue to hang out. I suggest we go somewhere to eat. I am starving, and she agrees. We decide to go to the Club Ballyhoo. I havent been there since John Agustsson and I were just two lonely Easter guys. The kitchen was closed that day, and I didnt get to include it in the story. We take her four-wheel drive vehicle leaving the Yamaha In front of the bar. We drive up Highway 2 into Beloit. When we get there, the whole of the downtown is torn to pieces. It is confusing about where we should go. We make jokes about four-wheeling in downtown Beloit. Then we see a Cajun restaurant, B Bs King of Cajun. We go four-wheeling again. We are going to park in the torn-up street and walk across the construction, but then I think better of this plan, and we wind up going around several blocks to get there.
When we pull up in front of the restaurant, Jenn says that she thinks her father insures this place. We walk in. It is just carryout, and we want to sit down, but we decide to buy something anyway. We stand patiently waiting for the attendant, who is watching television in the kitchen. He never comes. Finally, we call out to him. Still nothing. Then we call really loud, and he jumps up suddenly. He had been sleeping.
We get some greens and take them back to the car. Jenn feeds me a mouthful with a plastic fork as we continue on to the Ballyhoo. Ill tell you all about our visit next week.
Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheits Hanging Out In Rockford reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are also available on his website: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.