Sunday, July 16, 2006

Champaign -- My First Home

Friday afternoon my wife and I drove to Champaign for a Biking Illinois book signing. I was born there 36 years ago, right after my mom finished taking her final exams. We only lived there for a few years before we moved to the Chicago suburbs.

When we got to town, we had dinner at Famous Dave's Barbecue, which is located in a nifty round barn. I love their barbecued pork salad. Then we happened upon Champaign Cycle, and I figured I'd try to get them to stock my book. Although the doors were still open, it was ten minutes past closing time. An employee flipped through the book, wrote down some information, and promised to look into it. The store is huge, by the way, with lots of space to get around. I'm used to Chicago bike shops where the real estate is too expensive for wide aisles.

The next part of this story is surreal. I was trying to get to University Avenue to get back to the interstate. When I turned onto a street leading in that direction, I realized it was a dead end. As I looked for a place to turn around, I noticed the apartment buildings. Their bricks were an unusual shade, sort of a grayish white. "Oh my God," I exclaimed to my wife. "I used to live here!"

She asked how I could possibly know since I had moved away at age three. "I've seen pictures, and I recognize those bricks." I also recalled my dad mentioning that our apartment was on the west end of Champaign near the interstate, which was exactly where we were. In retrospect, I should have taken a picture, but I was more concerned about getting to my book signing on time.

When we arrived at Borders, there were posters on the front door with my name (spelled correctly!) and a photo of my book. Very cool. (They let me keep them afterward as souvenirs.) I had a table just inside the front door, so everyone saw me as they entered. I had a great time meeting all sorts of cyclists. A guy from the Touring e-mail list told me about his upcoming family tour of central and southern Illinois. I talked with a bike commuter who wanted to broaden his horizons, a woman who loved her recumbent tricycle, a guy who was new to Illinois and wanted to explore the state, and a woman who has been tormented by farm dogs that chase her. All of them bought books. All told, I signed a dozen books for customers and about a dozen more for stock. Since I only sold a couple at my first bookstore signing in Davenport, I was thrilled by the response. And the weekend was just beginning...

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