You have the bike and the will to use it. But what to wear on a 50-degree day in February? How about what you have on? Maybe add a helmet and pants clips. And double-tie your Sperry Topsiders; you don’t want to stop to extract loose shoelaces from between chain and chainring.
After all, you’re on a flat, relatively short ride to a place that no longer exists, The Hub ballroom in Edelstein, Illinois, which featured a 5,000-square-foot, maple dance floor and, back in the ’40s, the top names in the swing business: Calloway, Ellington, Miller, Goodman.
Goodman. In Edelstein. Not 25 miles south in Peoria, the second-largest city in Illinois at the time, but Edelstein, which today comprises a couple dozen small houses, an even smaller post office and an oversized warehouse and storage yard for diesel generators.
The Hub continued to burn for at least three weeks after the fire that destroyed it in 2009, but its days of empire had long been over. Just as Rome continued after dispensing with the lions and aqueducts, The Hub continued, on and off, for years. And just as Rome depended on the church and tourist trades, the Hub depended on bar bands and beer specials.
Today, The Hub is once again a flat piece of ground, just north of the old Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe right of way. Mile-long intermodal freight trains still follow the tracks, but they don’t stop, they don’t slow down, and they no longer rattle the old windows of the dance hall.
Few people remember swing when it was changing the landscape. I certainly don’t. But that doesn’t keep me from hearing the echo of a wild clarinet every time I pass a certain vacant lot.