Monday, November 13, 2006

Passions, Part II

Last week I was writing about my trip to Swan Island. Despite pouring rain and primitive surroundings the enthusiasm level was unabated. What is it about riding and being a part of motorcycling that stirs such deep feelings?

Our students were on their own journeys which started in this parking lot. For the rest of us it was a chance to sharpen our swords. We're a group of long time riders and instructors. Like the students, all of us have our unique reasons for being on this pathway. What we have in common is our desire to strive for excellence in this journey. I'm there get a head start on a training program for our program's instructors which we'll implement next year. The out-of-state instructors are here to investigate a program that may be more useful to their riding students.

I guess I should go back to further clarify one statement I made in the preceding paragraph. I should say I'm STILL here because I found I couldn't give up teaching. You may remember recently I mentioned that I applied for a position with the Washington State Department of Licensing. The folks who administer Washington's motorcycle education programs work under the auspices of the DOL. I was actually offered the position. It would have been great to be working full time in motorcycle safety. The only catch was something I found out later in the process. So I turned it down.

Since Washington contracts out their training programs, as a representative of the DOL I would not have been allowed to teach students directly. There's that old favoritism thing when an administrator participates in a contractor's program. To avoid that situation, the DOL people can't teach, even for free. I found that I couldn't give up the teaching. The passion still burns too brightly, it seems. There's just too many things I'd miss.

Today I stopped at Safeway on the way home. Full gear and soaking wet. Katie's been filling in for someone and working longer days. I had a lighter day and decided to put a roast in the oven for supper tonight. Rhonda works in the floral department. As soon as she saw me she called out for me to come talk to her. Rhonda was one of my students in 2005. She's telling me about all the riding her and her husband did this summer. Rhonda was on her own bike. She started on a 650 V-Star and now has the 1100. Since she took the class she has 14,000 miles of riding. Her co-worker's husband was also one of my students. Now the co-worker wants to start riding, too. Their enthusiasm made my day. How could I give up this kind of thing, I ask you?

Our program is a single entity with a central administration. It's a lot more work for our Director but the situation makes it easier to keep reaching for higher standards.

Speaking of higher standards, passion's driven us to offer the best we can to our students. This is a brief history lesson in how Oregon's program got where we are today.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has been the entity to administer rider education. By this I mean that they are the ones who developed the programs and materials. States could purchase their materials and deliver the MSF's classes. A few years ago the MSF announced that they were coming out with a new beginning rider course. The way this announcement was delivered was to the effect that a state either needed to adopt or be left out in the cold. Materials for the previous courses would no longer be available after a time.

Oregon decided to check the new course out rather than just blindly adopt it. I had the privilege of being the chair of the task force that did the study. We field tested the new course and compared it with the course we were currently offering. Long story short, the recommendation of the task force was to not adopt the MSF's new curriculum. After studying the data it was clear to us that Oregon's riders wouldn't be well served.

Now we're between the proverbial rock and hard place. We can't stay with the old course because materials wouldn't be available. The new course just didn't cut it for us. The logical next step was to develop our own curriculum, which we did. Timing was such that we had a couple of years or so to do it in. The task was a heavy one but extremely interesting. Passion kept us going. We wanted our creation to serve the riders of Oregon to the best level possible. I sort of think we succeeded.

Despite some interesting exchanges with the MSF, the change has been a good one for us. Oregon has also been recognized nationally. Take a look at this link:

http://gtconnect.com/articles/2005/04/18/news/top_story/mon01.txt

Being rated number one in the nation isn't a bad reward. Still, though, we're driven by a passion to serve our riders. They're still what's it all about.

Other states have expressed an interest in our curriculum. We're making it available with some stipulations on how it's implemented, etc. That's why these instructors were standing in the rain with us. These folks are the ones who will take this and make it theirs if it happens. It was fun to watch them step in and teach with Carol. The program was new to them but teaching surely wasn't. Their passion for sharing was extremely evident. For three of them, being administrators, it was the first time they'd been able to actually teach students in a long time. Picture a fine horse that's been hobbled for what seems like forever. Then picture taking the hobbles off and watching the horse revel in the pure joy of running again. It was so cool to see.

You know, we're so lucky to be a part of motorcycling in whatever capacity we find ourselves. There's riders who ride once in a while and decide that's not "good enough". More opportunities are found to go wear off some tire rubber. There's those who decide that commuting in a cage just isn't "good enough". We ride to work as much as possible. There's those who decide having a few skills just isn't "good enough". These ones seek out more training. There's rider trainers who decide that being average just isn't "good enough". Instead of settling for "good enough" they strive for excellence. Passion's a powerful force.

Like I asked before, what is it about motorcycling that stirs this passion in so many riders? There's no simple answer as you fully realize. Whatever the reasons, though, we're extremely fortunate to have found something to feel so deeply about. May you continue to find your passion for many more years and miles!

Miles and smiles,
Dan

6 comments:

Steve Williams said...

Like I asked before, what is it about motorcycling that stirs this passion in so many riders?

I've wondered this question as it relates to my own life as a rider and blogger. It's triggered a passion that I am surprised by. I don't question it now, just ride along and see where it takes me.

steve

Combatscoot said...

I can't really put it in words, but I do know that I NEED to ride about as much as I WANT to. It's like breathing. Reading and commenting on your blog and several other's has inspired me to take a baby step and get my own commuter blog. Looking into being an instructor may come later. Thanks. I'll be leaving comments here as Combatscoot rather than ScooterGuru from now-on.
John
Crawfordville, Fl

irondad said...

steve,
Exactly. Like Mr. Honda said,"If you've never felt it I could never explain it to you. If you have felt it, no explanation is necessary."

combatscoot,
Interesting handle! Send me the link when you get your blog going. Since it sounds like you're commuting on the scoot, I'll put a link to your blog on this one. Good luck with it. It's been fun and rewarding for me to do the blog.

Dan

dan_durham said...

That bit about the WA DOL job is really a bummer. I would have signed up for your class in a heartbeat...

I can't blame you though, since teaching riders on the course is so personally rewarding for you. To work "behind the desk" would not have the same sense of accomplishment.

Dan

Combatscoot said...

Erm, don't see an e-mail addy for you, so I'll put the link here:
http://www.combatcommuter.blogspot.com/
Working on getting some pics up. Also want to e-mail RideToWork for a possible link with their commuter blogs page.
John
Crawfordville, Fl

irondad said...

dan,
I could have put up with some desk time, although one of the things the current director here tried to use to talk me out of going was the "cubicle" thing. If I could have gone out and did some classes and stayed "on the ground", as it were it would have balanced.

Like you say, teaching is too rewarding for me to give up.

Dan