Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Who's craziest?

I'm always up for a challenge. One day that may be my undoing. Believe it or not, we held our first training class of the year this weekend. Well, at least half of it. You see, we got seriously snowed out. I ended up driving nearly 80 miles in heavy snow. But what an adventure!

The demand for classes seems to grow every year. Last training season we had 7957 students come through the program. Somewhere around 6000 were in the Basic class. Throw in some advanced classes, track sessions, and police training, and you end up with a lot of students. Our instructors number about 150. Most just teach a few classes a year. Which means some of us are really busy. New instructors are added each year. These folks go through an internship with experienced Mentors. That's where I came in this weekend.

Some of last year's new instructors ran out of training time before completing their internships. When this year's assignments were scheduled the interns were slotted in first. Then the hunt for Mentors begins. I received a phone call asking me if I'd travel 47 miles South to Eugene. There was an intern scheduled that needed a Mentor. Of course, I said. Remind me to be more careful, won't you? Actually, I'm what the MSF would call a Chief Instructor. Which means I'm certified to train and sign off new instructors. I'd been impressed with this particular new instructor right from the very beginning. It would be neat to actually work with them in a class.

Saturday went well. When I'd introduced myself to these 12 students on Thursday night, I made this statement.

"I don't know who's crazier. You all for signing up for a class this early or me for teaching it. Either way, we'll have a lot of fun together."

We did have fun on Saturday. It was typical Oregon Winter weather. That is, 39 degrees (f) and a cold rain. You couldn't have asked for a better bunch of folks to share this experience with. They were psyched for adventure. Several of the students were guys who'd last ridden a couple of decades ago. We had a mother and her son taking the course together. There was a married couple. One gal had gotten her permit from DMV. Her husband promptly sent her off on the Sportster. She then promptly fell down and broke her ankle. Time to regroup and do it right. There was an age mix from late teens to late sixties. My students had great attitudes. They were almost borderline sassy. My kind of group!

Classroom ended Saturday afternoon. There was a threat of snow for that night. You know how these things go. Sometimes everyone makes a big fuss and it turns out to be a non-event. I'd hate to cancel class based on a possibility. Like I told the students, I was walking a fine line. On one hand, I didn't want to waste this opportunity for them. On the other hand, I assured them, we wouldn't ride if it wasn't safe. My instructions were to show up on Sunday morning and we'd decide then based on actual circumstances.

I freaked Katie out Saturday night. My gear was laid out like I always do when I'm getting up and riding early in the mornings.

"You're not riding tomorrow, are you? Today was bad enough but it's supposed to snow tonight!"

Isn't it neat to have someone who cares enough to worry about us? Reluctantly giving in to circumstances, I fired up the truck Sunday morning. After 11 miles of just a cold sprinkle I began to think it was all much ado about nothing. I should have ridden. In another 5 miles I'd changed my tune. The snow kept getting heavier and heavier. By the time I got close to Eugene I was driving on packed snow. On Interstate 5, no less!

Arriving at the range, ( that's a fancy word for the parking lot we practice in ) I found it covered with a few inches of snow. As it was still snowing heavily, it looked like we had no choice but to cancel. I'd have done classroom first to see if it would somehow melt off by lunchtime but that just wasn't going to happen. Time to start making phone calls to see if I could catch students before they headed down. Some of the students actually showed up! I caught a couple who'd looked out the window and gone back to bed.

We'd pulled bikes out since they needed to be refueled for the next class. Then we got distracted. All the while the snow kept falling. You get an idea of the amount that fell. You know, I almost ran the class with a modification. We had a few dual sports. A couple of the bikes in the picture are Yamaha TW200's with those huge knobby tires. I figured to just rotate the students among those bikes. But then we kept losing cones in the snow! No, we didn't really do that but it would have been interesting.

After everything got settled it was time to make the 47 mile trek back up the freeway. Surprisingly, everyone did pretty well. It was basically a one lane road. The slow lane had two mostly clear ruts. Once in a while someone would try to pull to the left and pass. There were some pretty wide eyes when they found out how bad the traction was over there! Soon they'd slip back into line much more content to just follow.

As it turned out, the total snow fall would be around 9 inches. It was the most snow that Eugene had experienced in over a decade. Figures it would be in the middle of my class.

Things have settled down. We got a cold rain today that washed away a lot of snow. I'm sitting in a hotel room in Kirkland, Washington. That's very near to Seattle. The drive up was much better than Sunday's run. Next weekend I have an indoor gig. I'm running a training class for new instructors in how to present the classroom material. Then I get to go home and have Sunday off. Just in time to snuggle with Katie and watch the Super Bowl. That's the kind of thing sane people do isn't it? You'll have to tell me because I wouldn't know!

Miles and smiles,



Heinz & Frenchie said...

When we read about the weather and your classes, we don't think our scooter class was so bad. We were also in a parking lot called a track, but it was like high 90's cooking off the cement. We had to have long pants and long sleeves and helmets and gloves for the class and we felt like we were in a sauna. One has to take frequent breaks to rehydrate and apply sun screen on the little skin that is showing.

Lucky said...

Man, you were almost my new hero. I mean, ONE guy riding in the snow is pretty cool, but some guy riding in the snow and teaching a bunch of new riders to ride in the snow...

Oh well, I guess it's good that reason won the day and you all made it home safely.

Bryce said...

Dan..I would expect given your geographic location when snow is received it is generally wet sloppy
snow. Which in turn means it will pack quite well when pressured by walking on it or by driving on it. Conversely if it's really wet, it should melt quickly, or then freeze real solid!

Ah the joys of motorcycling!
It's still deep cold winter here, and will be for at least another
two or three months, yccch.

Balisada said...

I had heard that the class this last weekend at LBCC was canceled this last weekend, and was surprised that classes would be held so early. Then I remembered that you guys were holding classes until November last year.

I bet those students learned a lot during class.


Steve Williams said...

There you go, raising the bar again. And while I am growing more and more happy curled up on the couch reading a good book.

Can't imagine a class in the snow. Those students won't realize what they have received in experience and confidence until the have ridden awhile. You gave them a gift. You are the master!

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

SheRidesABeemer said...

I really enjoyed this story and pictures. I posted a link on my blog and yearroundriders.com - bunch of folks there will like it too! Thanks for getting out there and riding for the rest of us! Gail