The 16th annual Motorcycle Sunday took place at Phillips Park in Aurora last Sunday. I’ve been going to this event since roughly 2007—I’m no longer certain of the exact year. I do know that I had thought about attending this event for a couple of years before I actually went. I just wasn’t sure if it would be right for me. This seems ridiculous in hindsight, but at the time, I wasn’t sure if a Honda-riding Catholic boy would be welcome there. So I stayed away. But then a friend of mine told me the event was great, that I would indeed be welcome there, and that Fox Valley Cycles, my favorite Honda dealer and sponsor of the Illini Free Spirit Riders (aka my local Honda Riders Club of America chapter), was a regular exhibitor at the event. So I went, I loved it, and I and haven’t missed one since.
I’ve gone on bright, sunny days. I’ve gone in nonstop torrential rains. I’ve gone in the steel gray miserable chill that can sometimes grip Chicagoland at this time of year. I enjoy going. Sometimes I drag friends along and I see a number of friends, old and new, at Motorcycle Sunday every year. I’ve collected some pretty cool stories along the way, too. Let me tell you a few.
In 2010, probably feeling like an idiot about my unfounded former fears, I sent a Facebook Message to the event founder, Pastor Randy Schoof of Warehouse Church.
Hi Randy, I felt compelled to share this with you. I only began attending Motorcycle Sunday a couple or three years ago, mainly because I ride a Honda and wasn’t sure if that would be okay. But also because I’m Catholic and I wasn’t sure of that was okay, either. Came to discover all denominations are welcome, in more ways than one. Now I wouldn’t miss Motorcycle Sunday for the world.
The only thing that could keep me away would be if my dad’s health takes a turn for the worse. He is 88 years old and has been in failing health for some time. Otherwise, see you there!
Michael G. D’Aversa
Pastor Randy replied…
Michael, thanks so much for writing…. it’s so cool that you are now a MCS regular! I ride a
Honda too – a VTX 1300 Retro… And it’s cool that you’re a brother in Christ. God’s family is big… and we’re committed to making it even bigger.
I’ll be praying for your dad too!
Blessings in Jesus,
Randy never said a word about our differences, nor has he done so in any of the six years that have followed. Rather, he pointed to our common ground, and in so doing, he earned my respect and struck up a friendship. We are brothers in Christ as well as biker bros, brethren of the open road.
I love telling that story. Here’s another…
My friend and fellow past president of the Illini Free Spirit Riders, Eddie Cullins, loves to tell this story. As sometimes happens, we found ourselves at a cool, damp, rainy Motorcycle Sunday one year. It seemed as though the rain would never let up.
Attendance was better than one might have expected for such a rainy day, but then Motorcycle Sunday has its diehard fans. I should know; I’m one of them. Hours went by. Phillips Park was quickly turning into a mud field. Then came time for the centerpiece of Motorcycle Sunday, the bike blessing.
We all meandered, stumbled and trudged over to the parking lot and stood by our bikes. A number of area pastors were on hand to assist with the blessing and pray with attendees. Randy Schoof took to the music stage, grabbed the main microphone and began to pray.
Now you have to understand, Pastor Randy is very good at what he does. When he prays over people, as he does every Motorcycle Sunday, Randy doesn’t recite words; he pours his entire self into it, with feeling. It’s a very positive experience in general, but more so on this occasion. As Eddie likes to tell it…
It was pouring rain when Randy started prayin’, but as he went on, the rain just got lighter and lighter. By the time he finished his blessing, the rain had stopped, the sun came out, the temperature rose, and everything (and everybody) began to dry out. And it never rained again that day.
That story gets told every year and it makes people smile every time. Nobody brings down a blessing like Pastor Randy.
Last Sunday I added a new story to my collection. My dear friend and riding companion Ann had driven down from Wisconsin so that she could experience firsthand this Motorcycle Sunday of which I speak so highly. I had so badly wanted Ann’s first experience with Motorcycle Sunday to be one of the sunny, warm variety, but it didn’t quite go that way for us. It had poured rain all day Saturday, but I had it on good authority that Sunday would be dry, if a bit cool.
Temps were in the low-to-mid 40’s when Ann and I left Plainfield, and it never got past the low 50’s all day. We were dressed for the weather, so we stayed relatively comfortable for the most part. Once on site at Phillips Park, we did our best to stay warm by moving a lot.
We walked the vendor booths, listened to some live music, ate a little, drank hot coffee, and otherwise managed to enjoy ourselves, Plenty of friends were on hand and I enjoyed introducing them to Ann. Most of them said the same thing, “Well, at least it isn’t raining!” Ann and I soon discovered that any time we stood still for very long, we got chilled. What to do?
In addition to providing a pleasant park setting for all visitors, Phillips Park also offers a zoo, a water park, and a golf course. We opted to check out the zoo, something I had not yet done, despite the years that I had been attending this event.
What a blast! The zoo turned out to be a nice place to visit and features primarily American wild animals. One of our favorite zoo stops was the reptile house. It was quite warm inside and many of the animals were quite active. They also had a couple of alligators in there, one of which was really, really large.
Not long after Ann and I walked back to the Motorcycle Sunday celebration, it was time for the bike blessing. As we walked out toward the parked bikes, one of the ministers on hand to assist Randy offered to bless our bike. And so it came to pass that on that day, Miss Scarlett, Ann and I were blessed at least twice—first by this gracious minister who prayed over us directly, and then by Pastor Randy, who did his usual stellar job.
During the 1:00 PM hour, a 60-mile ride through the countryside was conducted and Ann and I were there for it. Somebody had put together a nice route through the surrounding countryside. With the heated seats and grips on, the windshield up slightly, and my tunes playing, Ann and I remained relatively comfy aboard Miss Scarlett. We peeled off from the group during a gas stop in Newark, though, so that we could get back to Plainfield in time for Ann to head home—a 2.5 hour drive—in a timely fashion.
Despite the cold temps and relative lack of sun, Ann and I had a great time! We laughed a lot and shared some really fun moments. It was also great introducing her to some of my biker friends. Call me an optimist, but I think she’ll be back for Motorcycle Sunday 2017. Time will tell.
All photos by Ann M. Fischler and Michael G. D’Aversa