Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Passion vs. fatigue.

I had a day off on Sunday. My down time from motorcycle training related activities seemed to be hardly a flash on the screen. Mid January saw instructor updates begin. I've already posted about the first class of the year which got snowed out. It feels like I'm already deep in the middle of the season. A lot of weekends are penciled in on the calendar. The marks stretch clear into December. If it holds to the same pattern as years past, the weekends will number into the 30's. We've also got a few days during the coming weeks set aside for motor officer training. This year we'll finally get to play on the track at the new Police Academy. I guess they've finished urinating on all the trees. Having marked their territory well, we'll be allowed to do high speed police training there. There's just so much to be done. Last year between all our classes we trained 7957 students. That's with about 130 part time instructors. Except for a few staff, we're all paid volunteers.

The reason I mentioned this is because I'm starting to feel like I'm at a crossroads of sorts. Training riders is truly a passion for me. It's so important that it's literally a life-saving work. I reap hugely deep rewards. Both on a general level and with individuals I've touched in a positive way. Not to mention the tremendous camaraderie between instructors. The vast majority are truly dedicated to achieving excellence. I'm in a position to help them find that reward as well as being able to work with students themselves. It's so much fun, besides. But tiring. It's that last part that has me at this crossroads. I love what I do but I'm getting tired. The half century mark and I have become close friends. My spirit is as willing as ever but the flesh is starting to feel the effect of working my job plus teaching. I'll end up working seven days a week for weeks on end. I need to ride more for fun with Katie. We need to just go play.

Katie had an engagement for a couple of hours in the afternoon. I needed some time to ponder so I did what I usually do. I went for a casual ride. Although I ended up with a late start. You know me. I stopped by a range. The instructors had been hampered by a combination of problems. Pretty soon they were running a little late. Harassed and harried, they were trying to break down the range and put bikes away then get to the classroom. I spent some time helping fuel bikes and put stuff away. When all was calmed down Sophie and I rolled on.

Water's always good for contemplation. I was weighing the passion versus fatigue and the need to spend time elsewhere. Like with my beautiful bride, for example. Part of what was on my mind was trying to determine exactly why I feel so compelled to be involved in training riders. Why do I do this to myself year after year? Things were especially poignant this day. We've had two rider fatalities in the past couple of weeks. I also came across an account of a young woman. She was a passenger on her boyfriend's sport bike and suffered a big crash. She's come back but the journey was, and still is, very painful. I'll put a link to that account later in the post.

I looked to this young Bald Eagle for answers. It didn't have much to say. The thing acted sort of teenage awkward. They don't get the white head until they're four or five years old. So who knows? That's an advantage of being on a bike. How many people in cars would never even know there was an eagle in the tree?

What I did come away with is that riders are getting killed because of making bad decisions. There's a lack of mental and physical skills. Some riders have bad attitudes. There's probably not much I can do about that. Other riders just don't know what to do so they do the wrong thing. Riders are starving for training. Not all riders will come to us, true. However, a lot of them do. Most of the time they'll be here once. I want to make that time the most meaningful I can for them. We've got one shot. It had better count for something.

I really appreciated a comment that Lucky from Arizona made on someone else's blog. He said that riders can eventually learn on their own, but why not take advantage of the professional training that will shorten the process? You're very wise, my friend! And I want to be there when these riders seek us out.

One crash involved an intoxicated young man who ran from the police on his sport bike. The police hadn't really started the chase. In fact, they were considering not initiating it due to the location. An officer had initiated a traffic stop. The young man had been clocked at a high rate of speed on a 45 mph posted highway between Albany and Corvallis. The rider turned around and headed in the opposite direction. Within three minutes he'd missed a curve and his body impacted a fire hydrant. Dead on arrival.

Not much I could have done, probably. Yet, perhaps. This young man was 22 years old. If a rider's under 21 they have to take our Basic class to get an endorsement. If we can create a safe environment so that a potential rider will feel comfortable sharing, we have a chance to influence attitudes. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

The other crash was on the same highway, coincidentally. A middle aged couple on a 2005 Harley. He was riding, his wife was passenger. The man stated to police that he saw a car on a sideroad and thought it was going to pull out. The time was 6:45 pm so it was dark. The man said he initiated an accident avoidance maneuver, but the bike ended up in the ditch down the road. Sadly, the wife was killed. The woman in the car, which hadn't pulled out by the way, called 911. What this boils down to is an attempted swerve gone bad. Whether the rider actually needed to swerve is debatable. What can't be argued is that he tried something and did it wrong. This isn't meant to degrade the rider. It only serves as an example of how riders just don't know what they need to know.

I can hear you all. There's no way I and my fellow instructors are going to change the world. It's like the story of the guy walking down the beach and throwing washed up jellyfish back into the sea one by one. When someone else says there's just too many of them and it can't possibly make a difference, the first man holds up a jellyfish in his hand.

"It makes a difference to this one", he says.

That's the point. One rider at a time. For each crash, I'm positive there's many that didn't happen due to the rider being able to get good instruction. So my passion drives me. This is why I stay so active as a trainer. Still, though, I need to listen to my body and find a balance. Next year I have to back off and be more selective. I've seen this coming for a while, which is why I'm pouring so much effort into helping the newer instructors. Some of them are looking kind of like me when I started. That's has a bright side and a dark side!!

On the other hand, we could be living a life of idle distraction. Look at the contrast here!

I'm pretty sure I'd rather be doing what I'm doing. At least I feel I'm making a meaningful contribution. Be warned, though, my fingers aren't as tired as the rest of me. This blog may become my outlet for what I'm missing out on by teaching less! In fact, I think I'll do a post on swerving in the next couple of days.

Here's the link to the story of the young woman. Some of you may have seen this before. A beautiful young woman becomes permanently disfigured. One picture is a little graphic. Her story will make you feel for her. Some bad decisions were made, especially in their gear selection. Either way, she's living with the choices now. It just reinforces why I'm so driven to do what I do. Read it at your own risk. For me, it's motivation.

Click here.

Miles and smiles,



Tinker said...

I knew her story of course, but had not seen all the pictures they included this time. I think she is quite brave in how she is handling this and I don't say that lightly. She is quite young, to have experienced such a live-changing event (the knowledge that you can DIE, out there is rather life changing) as this and to turn it to doing some good for others says a lot about her and her family. I wish her all the best.

Charlie6 said...

re finding a less full training schedule, perhaps Dan you could concentrate more on just "training the trainers" and less on new students? Let your experience flow through the junior instructors perhaps.

just a thought, there's too many riders out there without formal training, as you well know.

Conchscooter said...

More posts! Yum! Education in all areas- thats why I like to pay my property taxes. And people think I'm joking when I say that. Education makes every aspect of living better. Thats another reason why I look forward to more posts.

irondad said...

Totally agree. She could have fallen into a self-excavated hole and stayed there. What's sad is that it had to happen in the first place. That was the point to me. I'm still driven to do whatever I can to help riders have great skills and make good decisions.

You've nailed down my objective, oh Wise One! I figure by concentrating on training the trainers I can get far more leverage for my efforts. I figure a lot of people have greatness in them. It just needs to be coached out.

You've probably gotten an inkling that I'm also a proponent of education. That's why the trainer in me keeps creeping into the blog. It's just not enough for me to limit myself to telling stories here.

Take care,


Krysta in Milwaukee said...

First, I agree about focussing more on TTT & police training as a way of lessening your load.

Odd you should choose now to write about making a difference to one person...

Yesterday (Thurs.) about 5pm I was driving my son in the sidecar. We were on a 35mph city road, 2 lanes each way, big median islands... piled 8' high with snow.

I saw some cars waiting in the median, but being in the left hand lane to turn soon (and, of course, those car drivers not really looking for cross traffic) I wasn't visible enough. [Yes, even with headlight on & The Suit. See the new picture on my profile.]

A sedan pulled out in front of me, heading across the street, maybe 20 yards ahead. (There's that 2-second reaction time.)

All I could see was Neill (my son) hitting the rear wheel on the passenger side of the car. Wasn't worried about myself, or what Karl would say about the bike being wrecked, I saw my son being hurt.

Lucky for me, when the driver saw me he didn't try to stop. If he had, we would have collided, but he kept going & I swung left behind him into the median. (Thank you, inertia!)
[For those who haven't had the fun of piloting a sidecar, when you brake it pulls to the left.]

The training I've had, from many sources (including some of your discussions, Dan) helped me 1) notice the obstructed sight lines,
2) be thinking ahead, then
3) (when something happened) react correctly, quickly, and not freeze,
thereby 4) saving one very important person - my son - from harm (and me, too, yes).

I'm nowhere near having your superior skills as a way to avoid using luck, but I think I had a good balance of both come into play.

irondad said...

I am SO ecstatic things worked out for you and Neill! If anything I've posted here helped out then that's better yet. The most important element, though, is that you've taken responsibility for yourself when riding. Which includes internalizing what you've come across. You're a great example!


irondad said...

I checked out the photo on your profile. With the red bike, silver sidecar, and the Hi-Viz suit, you're stylin'!!!


Krysta in Milwaukee said...

"With the red bike, silver sidecar, and the Hi-Viz suit, you're stylin'!!!"

The bike is mostly silver; fairing is red 'cause I managed to... um... slightly crunch the silver fairing & it needs to be repainted. (On 2 wheels, I lost my balance @ a stoplight. The indignity!)

We're upgrading to a more powerful bike that gets better mpg (& will have oodles more power for heated anything), so sometime this summer the rig will be all silver above w/ black lowers... and riders in that g'dawful high-viz. ::grin::

Heinz & Frenchie said...

We think your passion for teaching is a gift and you should treasure it. Dedicated teachers in all fields are so needed. Thanks for all the things you teach us thru your blog. Brittany Morrow's story is intense. Thanks for sharing it with us.