May 03, 2013 3:19 pm • By VALERIE WELLS | Business Journal Writer
FORSYTH — Jim Peck calls himself a “fair-weather” rider.
He likes sunny skies and mild temperatures for riding his 2007 Harley-Davidson Road King, and so does his wife, Lisa. “It has to be over 50 (degrees) for me and over 70 for her,” Jim Peck said with a chuckle. “And we love weekend stuff. Our thing is kind of to stay off the interstate, to stay on the two-lane, back road stuff. We like to go to the Grafton and Alton area a lot. We like the wine trail. We’ve been to Milwaukee (where the Harley factory is).”
Those whose only mental picture of a “biker” is the black leather jacket and club patch of a member of Sons of Anarchy, as seen on the TV show of the same name, and the matching bad-boy behavior, might be surprised to learn that most riders are regular folks who just enjoy riding.
Jim Peck works in the nuclear medicine department at Decatur Memorial Hospital, after spending many years working at Sims Lumber. His hours start and end early because the medicines must be made right before being delivered to patients but, of course, that leaves much of the afternoon and evening free for other activities. “It’s a whole different field,” he said. “I’m surrounded by very young, very energetic brainiacs.”
Lisa Peck is a registered nurse, also at Decatur Memorial. “The kids are all gone and we’re empty nesting,” Jim Peck said. “It’s working out pretty good. It is different at first. I didn’t know what to do.” Riding is something they can do together that they both enjoy, he said. A motorcycle allows a close connection to the passing landscape that a car doesn’t, and a typical ride might end up at a roadside diner in a town they’ve never visited before.
“We just kind of piddle,” he said. “When we go, we have an area in mind, but we don’t have a set agenda. We just go.” Reggie Mitchell has been riding for about six years and rides her 2000 Harley-Davidson Sportster in all kinds of weather, unless there’s thunder and lightning. Cold is not a reason to stay home. “(Fiance John Sauter) taught me to be an every day rider,” Mitchell said and indeed, Sauter is known to his friends as “Polar Bear” because of his willingness to ride even with snow on the ground.
Mitchell’s daughter Kristina Rosati also rides, borrowing her mom’s bike on those occasions, and both women took the safety course for new motorcycle riders offered by the Illinois Department of Transportation. “It’s not just a hobby,” Mitchell said. “It’s a way of life.”
When she signed up for the safety course, there was a waiting list and some people even came to the class who weren’t registered, in the hope that someone who was would fail to show up and make room for them. Now, Mitchell said, the classes aren’t filling up. She can’t imagine why. And she sees very few women riding. Other than her daughter, she only knows one other woman who rides with any regularity.
“It’s freedom,” she said. “I just like to be in the wind. I’ll keep doing it as long as I’m physically able.”
Karen Harlin began riding because she couldn’t see around her husband when she was on his bike behind him. “It’s like having macular degeneration,” she said. “I couldn’t see anything in the front, only on the sides. Finally a friend of mine who rode — and she was short, like I am — and she said if you get the right bike, you can ride.” Her first motorcycle was a Honda Shadow, and now she rides a Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail. She’s been to Canada and Niagara Falls on it, ridden around Lake Michigan and to the in RallySturgis, SD and even rode to her radiation treatments when she went through breast cancer a few years ago, to squeeze some fun out of that. Her doctor put a notation on her chart about her good attitude when he heard that.
She didn’t get a motorcycle license until she was 55, and now, at 64, can’t ride as often due to her husband’s illness, but still manages to get out and take rides when she can. She’s a member of the Land of Lincoln Mot-her-cyclists group for women riders. “I think I like being outside,” she said. “It’s just the freedom of being outside in the wind. I like riding by myself and the escape of it and then I like riding with a small group of people just out for the day.”