Thursday, January 03, 2008


It's still raining. It's rained for thirty of the last thirty six days. I'm not speaking against the rain here. Nor am I complaining. Not when I read that Southern Michigan is getting record snowfall, for instance. Merely setting the background for this post. Monday and Tuesday brought two fairly dry days. The last time we had two dry days in a row was well before Thanksgiving, according to the weatherman on Channel 6. After my last post, I decided I had better get out and ride. It doesn't pay to mess with the Weather Gods. When they give you a break you'd better take advantage of it. Snubbing Them can lead to punishment beyond your wildest dreams!

I pushed my luck with Them on Monday by not riding. Sunday night's rain had frozen onto the roads overnight. Print and television news were filled with pictures of crashes and vehicles upside down. There was no sun, only grey, cold, fog. Things didn't look to improve so I stayed put. Tuesday was better. By 1 PM there was a teasing glimpse of sunshine. It was still cold, being in the upper thirties. There's snow in the low foothills. Climbing two hundred feet in any direction would take me to it. My point and shoot digital camera just won't zoom enough to take good pictures of the snow covered trees. Maybe it's time to upgrade.

Speaking of pictures, I had this almost out-of-body experience. I was sitting on the edge of the road just communing with the landscape. It was quiet around me. To my right was a grove of filbert trees. I guess you all know them as hazelnuts. It was cool looking at the branches. No leaves or fruitage, just branches. I took the picture you see below. Soon my gaze moved left and I saw this big puddle. Reflected in the water were the empty hop vine supports. Suddenly, as if the spirit of Steve Williams was filling me, I saw it. Here was a chance to actually Make A Photo!!

It was a lot of work, let me tell you. First I had to ride Sophie around the corner and park her on the wrong side of the road. Then I walked clear back to where I started, fervently hoping the road would stay quiet of traffic ( it didn't ). Once the Sears delivery truck passed, I used what little I know of setting the stage, then pressed the shutter button. Sophie looks like she's heading into the picture and the horizon's in the upper third. That exhausts my knowledge. Things didn't turn out too, bad, I have to say. Then I had to walk clear back to Sophie. A gentleman in a red Chevy pickup came by and stopped. He asked me if I was ok. God bless him and his giving spirit. May it be returned to him with interest.

I've set the photo as the desktop for my laptop. Seems fitting at the first of 2008 to reflect a little while looking at the scene. Like many of you, I'm not much for New Year's resolutions. If a person's going to make changes, there's got to be a compelling reason. That reason can happen any time and that's the time to make the change. Right then, not waiting for January 1. Still, there's a couple of things on my mind I'd like to share. One's a reminder and the other's a slight shift in focus.

The reminder is to keep looking at the big picture. As in riding, we tend to go where we look in life, too. Think about people around us. Some focus on petty and small things. Compare their disposition and accomplishments to those who have a larger picture. Maybe you could even call it vision. Staying focused on a distant target keeps us heading where we desire to go. Details are important, of course. The trick is keep them in a supporting role and not let them become the actual target.

Looking into the picture of the trees, for example, the small branches are just filler among the larger branches. The larger branches lead to the trunks. Individual trees, in turn, are part of the larger landscape. If we were to solely concentrate on the little branches we'd end up lost in them. Trouble is, our human natures seem to keep wanting us to focus on the little branches. We miss out on all the rest of the good stuff if we don't keep reminding ourselves that they're just branches. Here's an example from my life.

I spend a lot of time among other drivers. I'm continually frustrated by them. Having always been one to hold to high standards, I expect the same of others. Not content to be merely "good" I try to be "excellent". Sure, I can't master everything at once. So I prioritize a long list. Things like driving, riding, and interpersonal relationships are high on the list. Mastering html and making this blog look a lot better are lower down. By the time I'm 232 years old I figure I'll be through my list if nothing else gets added.

An ugly fact is that most drivers aren't very good. At best, they're incompetent. At worst, they're felony stupid and dangerous. Try as I might, I can't fathom why they don't feel any urge to get better. After all, they're at the wheel of a potentially lethal weapon. Shouldn't that be a reason by itself for learning to actually control it well? There's also a lot of riders who fall into the same category. Unfortunately, those folks tend to take care of the problem by accidently removing themselves from the gene pool. Car drivers don't always pay such an immediate and high price. So they continue in their lackluster performance.

As much as I'd like to shake these drivers awake, I know I'm not going to be able to change them. Getting frustrated and angry only robs me of energy better spent elsewhere. At worst, showing anger to one bad driver can distract me from protecting myself from the other bad driver. I'm renewing my resolve to accept the situation. I'll treat them as a hazard on my radar and let the rest go. There's an old redneck saying,

"Never try to teach a pig to sing. It annoys the pig and wastes your time".

Besides, Katie says if I don't quit my bitchin' she's going to whack me up alongside the head with my own helmet. She'd probably do it, too. After I bought her diamonds, and everything, too! Which, by the way, she really liked.

The shift in approach has to do with leadership.

I've always been one of those natural born leaders. I also have an ego. I know, hard to imagine. What happens is that I do big things. Call it hotdogging, swashbuckling, or whatever. Ride in the snow? No problem, just watch. Too cold for you? Move aside, lightweight. Hustle an ST1100 flat out around the racetrack? Try to keep up. I'm one of three people in the state certified to do anything our training program does? What else you got? You can see my ego peeking out when I say I really like being larger than life.

Others follow my lead. Mostly what I hear is "I want to be just like him when I grow up!" A lot of my leadership has been in getting others inspired to follow in my footsteps. There's more to it than that. It's that "more" that I want to explore this year.

I came across something this fall. Somebody said that a great leader was one who brought out the greatness in those around them. A lot of people have greatness inside them, they just need to have it coached out of them.

Each year there's a crop of new instructors looking for that greatness. There's more experienced instructors who still haven't found it. I spend a lot of time working at training folks. We have experienced folks who act as Mentors to newer ones. Less experienced people are always being shown the way by those with more experience. Much of it takes the form of "Let me show you what worked for me".

My goal is to slightly change the process. In other words, I'll still leave footsteps for others to follow. Along the path, though, we're going to work on finding greatness on your own, rather than just have you follow me. Instead of a directional beacon, I'll act more like a mirror where you can assess your own progress. In turn, you will help someone else find their own greatness. A subtle shift, but so powerful.

Our children, people we work with, new riders, folks in civil organizations, the list is endless. All seeking a way to find and show the best in themselves. There's no shortage of opportunity.

Make no mistake, I'll still be a hard core Road Warrior and hot-dogging Cowboy. That's not likely to change anytime soon, I assure you. I just have this desire to concentrate on being a more effective Mentor and leader.

2008 looms ahead of us. It's exciting. There's some neat things to look forward to. Life will bring its own share of stories. Adventure beckons!

Miles and smiles,



Charlie6 said...

you continue to be an inspiration for my riding in any kind of weather, Dan. Glad we dont get rain these months, the damn water would freeze on the roads and make it a bit hazardous for my and my RT. Just dug /shoveled my way out of my snowpacked neighborhood and am riding at last....feels good. Happy New Year.

David said...

Dan, it sounds like you've just "matured" a bit more. I hesitate to use the term "grown up" since we all must grow older, but I refuse to grow up! :)

The pics are good. I'd crop the mud out of the reflection photo, but that's just me.

I too teach, mostly leather work, although I've done a bunch of teaching computer stuff back when I was a paid geek. (Geek to truck driver, and it's as a driver I feel at home.) The highest compliment a student can pay you is to surpass the teacher. Leading others to find their own greatness is a talent few have. I'm glad you discovered it in yourself.

BTW, The rain is back, the roads suck (went over Santiam pass then back from Redmond, OR via US26). My wife told me tonight to remember, each day brings us closer to summer.

Ride safe
Dave T.

Steve Williams said...

Like charlie6 says you still remain an inspiration to me as well. Almost every time I am faced with the should I ride or not question I think about something I have read here. For good or ill you are in part responsible for my venturing out after the weather goes bad. Thank you for opening that door!

I told Kim about the Steve Williams spirit descending and she just looked perplexed and wondered what the hell I was talking about. I can't take credit for your pictures. I think having a moment alone to look at things has more to do with the sudden inspiration and recognition of a picture possibility.

We have rain on the way here again but Monday promises to be clear, at least right now. I have taken Monday and Tuesday off and plan to ride at least one of those days. The forecast calls for temperatures approaching 60! Woo hoo!!

irondad said...

Thank you for the positive feedback! With a few adjustments, a bike can be used as viable transportation more than they are now. It's always great to be back on the bike after forced inactivity, isn't it?

God forbid I should be maturing! Maybe I'm just getting old enough that I'm tired. Energy needs to be conserved more than it used to.

Weirdly enough, I originally cropped out the mud. My printed copy doesn't show it. For the blog I left it in. To me it's sort of a symbolism that Winter riding is unique. There's both the pleasant and the unpleasant aspects. You find the beauty among all of it. So much for my stab at philosophy, huh?

It has been interesting seeing you get bolder as time gets on. :)That's a neat thing about our blogging neighborhood. I think we all inspire each other. Each of us has a unique quality that is highlighted in our approach to our blog. We become encouraged to enlarge our perspectives. Mostly for the better, I hope!

Take care,


Biker Betty said...

Your posts always inspire me. I'm always gleaning knowledge and, as it's applicable, I apply it to my riding. Since I consister myself a beginner to almost intermediate rider, I am constantly trying to learn/practice riding skills. I'm not happy with where I'm at and want to practice to be the best, of which I do have a long ways to go.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge as an instructor with us. Wish we were in the same state and that I could take the MSF Experienced RiderCourse from you. This summer I hope to take that course, as I feel I am ready for the next step.

Take Care and Happy New Year,
Biker Betty :)

irondad said...

Biker Betty,
Thank you for the positive feedback. You're to be highly commended for wanting to improve your skills. For any of us, our skills will only stay at whatever level we practice them to.

It would be cool to have you in one of my classes!