The Geneseo Bike Ride

(This is the last of 10 archived Blog posts from #35’s Waste of Space featured this month. It’s a special one.

Portions of this post were taken from both my original Blog and a column I wrote for Northern Illinois Sports Beat. The “Bike Ride” took place on May 8, 2002. This was written 10 years to-the-date later.)

Has it really been ten years?

I was young, lost and stupid when I was a freshman in high school. The latter two got me in a big quagmire while attending Sterling schools. If you read my entry from three weeks ago, I didn’t want to move from Rock Falls to Sterling because I didn’t want to lose all of my friends. I never did gel well at Sterling.

I mention all of this stuff for a reason.

One day I was riding my bike around in Rock Falls and took in a little league softball game. The girls I thought looked around my age. Three girls I recognized right away: Emily, Alisha and Ashley. I went to school with them at Merrill. It was great to see them again. Eventually they played more games and I got to know the rest of the girls. I remember Ashley was always happy to see me.

So that’s the story of how I got to know the Rock Falls softball girls. I had never seen them lose a game in little league play. I don’t know if it was that, or something else, but the thing that really grabbed my attention was when they started nicknaming themselves after me.

They called it the “Cutter Cousins.” There was Mody McButter, Toady StaStaStutter, Odirapsodi Puttutter, Blody Mudder, Jody Cutter, and (this one still baffles me to this day) Hody Slutter. I’m sure I’m missing a few. I thought it was the weirdest thing in the world.

But deep down inside I thought it was an honor. I have no idea what I did to deserve such notoriety – was it jumping into the creek in Rochelle and retrieving foul balls? At any rate, at a time when I didn’t feel all that great mentally and emotionally, and was terribly shy back home, these girls were the closest thing to friends that I had – but I didn’t see them often. There was a great deal of respect, so much that I persuaded my grandparents to take me to Chicago to see them play. I handed out these fan cards (the cheap Hallmark kind) to them to show how much I enjoyed seeing them play and thank them for being a friend.

These girls were terrific softball players and won many state titles in little league, once making it a game short from the World Series. That success carried over to high school.

I would attend Rock Falls events when I wasn’t managing anything at Sterling. I had a better vibe within the Rock Falls student section than I did in Sterling’s. I had more chatter on the south side of the river. That’s how I got introduced to ICQ (the first instant messaging service), and eventually the closest thing I ever came to a date with a girl (which is another story for another time).

I had tried out for baseball during the spring of my freshman year and got cut. But I went over to Optimist Park to watch the freshman girls (Emily, Ashley, Alisha, Jen, Joi, April, Korby, Kassandra, Jessica, Jennifer, Thea, Stephanie and I forget who else was on that team) play whenever I could, riding my bike from SHS across the bridge and into Rock Falls. The older girls that I knew (Bree, Jessica, Whitni, Cally, Jennifer, Haleigh, Jen and I forget who else was on that team) also played at Optimist Park as sophomores, and when their game got over I would race on my bike over to the varsity diamond to see the last couple of innings of Marilyn’s game. The only regret from that year was that I only got to see Molly play once, as she was the only one of the girls to go to Newman.

One Saturday morning, I was completely bored. Here’s the story …

The freshman girls had been doing pretty well in NCIC play. They knew that Geneseo was going to be the toughest conference opponent of the year. The date was a double-header AT Geneseo. The girls knew that they did well when I showed up at their games, but common sense told them that there was no way I was going to be able to see this big double-header on the road. I had no ride there, and didn’t think of asking one of the parents for one.

That Friday night, I had a crazy idea. They know I’m not going to be there, but what if I WAS there? The only means of getting there was my bicycle. I know the way to Geneseo, as we (SHS) had played football there that year. I had been on big bicycle rides before: Dixon, Polo, Lyndon, Prophetstown, Morrison, and Coleta. I debated this over the night as I fell asleep.

I woke up, and knowing I had nothing planned for the day, I decided to do it. I got dressed, took a shower, put on my sunglasses and told my parents that I would go on a bike ride. I never told them where. It was 7:30 a.m. when I departed my house on my bicycle. I had just wanted to make it to RFHS to wish them well. I went to the school and didn’t find them, so I rode over to P-Town Road and found the van going down the road.

Let’s do it.

It was around 8 a.m. when I left Rock Falls, going down P-Town Road toward the Riverdale School area. When I rode past the street that led to the Meier house, a sudden thought came to me. I kept riding on, but I had to think to myself – What will happen if the softball parents see me riding my bike along the road? At this point I had crossed the Interstate. “Oh crap!” I thought, “I’m gonna get an ass-chewing.” But I kept riding and hoped that no one would see me. Then a thought came to mind: I’ll just tell them I’m riding to Prophetstown for the garage sale days, and think “oh what the heck” and go on. There.

Sure enough at one of the big curves on P-Town Road I saw the Wolber van drive by. I could tell by the plates. I was expecting a sudden sound of brakes, but it drove on probably not noticing me. I didn’t see anything else as I made my way to Prophetstown. The garage sales were in full bloom. I exited Prophetstown, hoping that I didn’t see any of my mom’s relatives.

At this point, it was video game mode. Evade glass on the concrete, softball parents and P-Town relatives – or Game Over. Leaving Prophetstown, I knew my uncle Butch’s place was in this little hamlet of Portland. When I got there, I went pushed my pedals as fast as I could to bypass the place and hopefully not get noticed.

No familiar cars were seen between Portland and Spring Hill. But that Isuzu commercial was stuck in my head: The one where the man drives the Isuzu and God whispers at him to “Go farther.” (YouTube it). Why stop now? I had no track of time on me, so I didn’t know if the first game had started or what. At least I would make the second game. The thought of the return trip NEVER entered my head, probably because it was simply natural for me to take it easy on the way back home.

I passed Spring Hill, staying on course to Geneseo. However, I debated whether to take the diagonal road or the numbered routes to Geneseo once I reached the Henry County line. This Spring Hill Road that I was on intersected with Route 92, and most people took the right and then the immediate left on Route 82 to Geneseo. However, there is this cross road called Ebenezer Road that went from Spring Hill/92 to a T at Route 82. It was a shortcut of a few miles, but one I had never taken before. Knowing time was short, I made Ebenezer Road my course.

After Spring Hill is a small cemetery with a decrepit church building on it. I had relatives buried there, namely my grandpa Roselieb and my uncle Willie. I was tired. I was thirsty. I didn’t even have breakfast when I left home. There was a water pump at the far end of the grounds and I tried to get water out of it to no avail.

Then all of a sudden I looked to the right toward Spring Hill. There was a big white truck driving by.

That truck looked familiar. Chills went down my spine.

I stared at it and tried to make out the front license plate. Sure enough. The spacing was right on. It looked like JP AG 1. It drove by and I turned the other way. I looked back, and sure enough it was JP’s big white truck. Korby’s dad. It kept driving on, and I was just as white as the truck. If I was spotted I would NEVER, EVER, EVER (!!!!) hear the end of it.

The only water I could find was a puddle. As gross as that seemed, these sips of water helped. I soldiered on, but was slowed down because of the simple fact that JP drove by. That scared me into “what ifs.” What would have happened if I didn’t stop at the cemetery and he saw me riding on?

At some point, probably when I reached the 92 intersection, I had to tell myself to go harder and faster because I had no sense of time. Getting up the Ebenezer hills were tough.

Go …

Go …

Go …

I made my way to 82 and felt a sigh of relief once I passed the Geneseo sign. I had finally made it. The high school was just to the left.

But no softball diamond. I looked around for cars. No white truck. No red van. No Chevy Astro. I was confused beyond belief. Tired, scared and now confused. I was wondering if this bike ride was really for me. Then I saw a man and asked him where the softball field was. I was to go down this Ogden Avenue and take a right and the T and follow that all the way down. I also asked the time. Luckily, it was around noon and I knew I had missed the first game. If I could get there quick enough, I could make it for the second game.

Because I had been huffing and puffing for four hours on a bicycle, in 80-degree heat, for 40 miles, I wanted to take it easy because I knew for sure where the diamonds were.

As I got deeper into town, the nerves started to rise in me. How on Earth am I to explain all of this to everyone. I had to stop at least three times and think it over. God was I nervous. I saw the diamonds, with all of the familiar cars parked, and the girls all playing catch. At least the second game didn’t start yet.

Now what? How was I to make an entrance? My idea was to try to sneak by without anyone noticing.

Didn’t work.

I don’t know who spotted me first, but I didn’t look toward the girls. All I could hear were cries of “OH MY GOD!!!!!!” “CODY!!!!!” “HE RODE HIS BIKE TO GENESEO!!!!” all tangled with one another. I don’t know, but I think I remember hearing an “I LOVE YOU!” somewhere in the mix.

This stunned everyone. It stunned the parents more than the players. It stunned Coach Frank even more. And I’m sure the Geneseo players were absolutely confused at all of this.

I made my way to this rock pile at the end of the driveway. Slammed my bike down like a touchdown celebration. Threw my glasses down too. Ashley ran over and hugged me, and Jen followed with another hug. Pretty soon I was bombarded by the girls. They led me over the the Gatorade. I don’t remember much after that until the game because I was drinking a lot. I guess I answered a lot of questions and such.

I remember coach Frank inviting me to sit in the dugout. However, I declined because I knew I was going to be a distraction to the girls. I had learned that they lost the first game.

I think Emily wound up pitching both games of the double-header because Korby was injured (and why JP was late to the game). I don’t recall any other pitcher on the roster other than those two (and remember Joi pitching in one game her freshman year). The only big hit I can remember is someone hitting a double, and then someone making a great catch in either center or right.

Rock Falls won the second game. Apparently I motivated them?

After the game, Emily’s dad offered to give me a ride home, putting the bike in his car trunk. But before we departed, we went to have lunch at Subway. My lunch was on the school’s dime. I sat across from Joi, who was still in absolute shock that I came.

After all of the good-byes, I rode home with Emily’s dad, and told him to drop me off at my house. It was close to 4 p.m. and I had been gone since 7 a.m. on “a bike ride.” Now to explain everything to the parents.

“I was riding up and down the Canal when my bike broke down. I saw one of my softball friend’s dad’s and he offered me a ride home,” I said.

Three days later the truth came out. My mother felt she still had the power to ground me to the house after school. While I had to battle internally with lying, someone told me I had been elevated to God status at RFHS. I don’t think so.

While this was a big moment of my life, it caused me a great deal of pain when it came to what other people thought I was doing. Rumors started flying of all different kinds about me.

What have I done? I don’t think anything was the same after that. The girls became as successful as ever, and I wanted to see my friends play. For the rest of high school I saw an undefeated sophomore season, the varsity win the RFHS softball program’s first regional title (with the girls a year older than me) and all of the girls won a state trophy in 2004.

We all went our own separate ways after graduation, and I was invited to three of the girls’ graduation parties. Jen played at Sauk and I saw a couple of her games. Emily and Korby played at Quincy and I saw one of their games. Marilyn played at ISU, but I wasn’t able to see any of her games.

The girls still have softball in them, and always will. The girls have a lot to be proud of, and it was a joy growing up with them.

Ten years since the bike ride.