Every time I ride Luton Park I’m reminded of my good friend, coworker and mentor Jon Muller. Jon and I use to commute to our schools in Rockford together from our homes in Alger Heights, discussing and dreaming along the way of one day giving students a chance to experience one of our passions; cycling. Although Jon is no longer with us, his legacy continues in a small but extremely meaningful way.
Rockford Public Schools offers many intramural sports to students, mostly free of charge, in hopes of giving kids a chance to experience something new and challenging. I was extremely honored to take on the role of leading a mountain bike group each week in hopes of sharing what I love outside my classroom walls. While I purposefully train and race most weekends throughout the spring, summer and fall, simply getting on my bike and sharing the experience with others is what makes the sport worthwhile. It has brought me great friendships and community that I otherwise would not have.
Our club meets on Mondays. The first week, about 15 students showed up along with a few parent helpers. By the second and third week, we had more than 30 students, almost filling the parking lot off of 10 mile. Our group ranges in ability, from high schoolers who can ride the entire loop in an hour, to my normal group of 4 who ride a short distance, stop for a water break and take in the wonder of the changes leaves. Our group has both boys and girls with bikes from department stores to Rockford’s very own Speed Merchant. The coolest part about these Mondays after school really isn’t the riding or the challenge of getting through an obstacle that may have tripped someone up the week before, its the idea that riding a bike can bring together kids in a way few other sports can. A bike is a basic machine, but allows those who are willing, the freedom to simply be present and stress free. Every time I get on my bike, I’m reminded of my childhood and the carefree life that once was. My hope is that students get a feeling of this also. And maybe, one day will remember how much this sport can offer when they are older.
While Luton has changed and grown with the addition of the new parking lot, I still find myself taking the long way and heading into the trail off of Kies. There’s a plaque that sits at an entrance to one of Luton Park’s loops dedicated to Jon Muller. Jon started this club. Many of the students he began with are now high schoolers but still come on Mondays. Legacy’s aren’t always just born but built over time. Jon’s legacy continues to grow.
ed. note: Wow, very cool. It is weird how this blog has taught me so much about our own riders. Ernie’s MLive article was another great example of this. Thanks for sharing Jeremy.