As a founding member of the Joliet Bicycle Club, Bill Lang has coordinated many Fourth of July bike rides.
This year the 71-year-old Frankfort man won't participate because his extended family will be in town. Ordinarily that would not keep Lang from the ride.
But this may be the last time Lang will gather with all of them.
"I've got multiple myeloma," Lang aid. "I've been fighting it for 13 years, so I am at its end; it's over. I stopped taking chemotherapy, I'm currently in hospice. The doctor says I have maybe three or four months."
However, Lang has not stopped biking, although he now rides a recumbent adult tricycle. And he loves it.
"I [recently] rode two miles around the parking lot where I live," Lang said. "The day before that, I rode into Frankfort to meet the group. I socialized with them and they went on their ride.
"Then I just hung out in Frankfort for while to see the other sites and people I know. That day, I did a little extra. I rode 20 miles that day and that night I was in a fair amount of pain."
Was it worth it?
"Any time I am on that trike is worth it," Lang said.
Because of the medication he's taking, Lang said he won't drive a car. But he feels perfectly safe riding a bike and plans to continue as long as he is able.
"It's a much slower speed and I feel I have things under control," Lang said.
Lang said he also tries to consider the feelings of Char, his high school sweetheart and wife of 52 years, since she cares for him when he overdoes it.
"If I'm in pain, I can take pain medicine," Lang said. "But it's the caregiver who pays the price."
A life of many rides
Lang said he first started riding bikes when he was 4 and continued riding through his growing up years. At the time, Lang mostly rode alone, especially once he reached junior high and riding a bike was no longer "an in thing," he said.
He felt blessed to have parents who gave him the freedom to ride. Lang said he'd typically bike three or four miles one way and he often biked to downtown Joliet.
"If I needed anything from the stores, I jumped on my bike and rode downtown," Lang said.
Lang helped co-found the Joliet Bicycle Club in 1973. In those days, the club was part of the Greater Joliet YMCA and ran announcements of its upcoming rides in The Herald-News' "News in Brief" section, he said.
"We would meet at Pershing School," Lang said. "And whoever showed, rode."
The first 100-mile ride was in the fall of 1973. Over time, the club held its Century Ride in the fall, its Sudden Century Ride in the spring, an annual Fourth of July ride and a four-day Around Illinois Bicycle Ride that attracted about 125 people, Lang said.
In addition, various members will host rides throughout the year. Rides are posted on the Joliet Bicycle Club's website at jolietbicycleclub.com.
The website also has a listing of more than a dozen area bicycle rides and rides hosted by other clubs. There's photos, videos, mileage logs, meeting times, membership information, a beginner's guide to biking and a guide for properly fitting a bicycle helmet.
But the Joliet Bicycle Club also provides information on biking safely. Visitors to the site can take quizzes checking their knowledge or learn the proper way to drive in traffic, negotiate signaled intersections, using left hand turn lanes and making u-turns.
The many benefits of traveling by bike
"It was a good way to meet people and I liked doing that," Lang said. "And it was a good way to see the country. I have biked across the states. I did that in '93 and '94. I couldn't get enough vacation time to do a complete trip, so I did some of it in '93 and some of it in '94."
Biking also connects riders to people in the communities in unique ways.
"The things you see and the things that happen out there when you're riding is exceptional," Lang said. "You always meet a lot of people and you learn that in the world, 95 percent of the people are very good people, regardless of where they live. I have met a lot of them and it means a lot."
People generally feel comfortable among those traveling by bike.
"When you're riding, you do not pose a threat to people. You re the vulnerable one," Lang said. "So people will open up to you and talk to you. They want to know where you're writing to, where you're riding from, and they're always interested in you, the cyclist. Therefore, they don't worry about you if you're going to attack them or rob them or anything like that."