Tuesday, August 12, 2008

In the end.

Consider this fair warning. The Road Warrior is going all philosophical here. Read at your own risk!

I've ridden by this sign quite a few times. Always when I don't have a camera along. Once I got the Givi rack mounted on Elvira it was time for Katie to try out the pillion spot. She's a lot more comfortable with a backrest. For Katie's first ride I decided the destination would be to take a picture of this sign.

On the one hand it's humorous. On the other, the two signs are thought provoking. I'm going to take a minute to describe the photos so I won't have to do it during the rest of the post.

There's a small gravel road that leads to an old graveyard. You'll find these little graveyards dotting the landscape here and there. Oregon was one of the last frontiers in the Westward migration. The little burial plots hold many of the original settlers. Sometimes, when the land is still in the same family, new additions are made to the cluster of headstones. As you can see from the photos, the land is still being actively worked. I wondered if the field fires ever get out of hand and sweep through the graveyard.

Someday we're all going to end up on our individual versions of Cemetery Lane. Actually, my own goal is to live forever. So far so good! Seriously, though, that time will come for all of us.

Knowing our eventual future, a lot of people propose living life to the fullest. For the most part I agree with that. That's certainly one of the reasons I ride a motorcycle. Riding provides a much richer experience as I travel towards my last day on Earth. I don't want it to be all about me, though. Yes, I want to leave having lived a full life. Just as importantly, I want to leave knowing I did something for others, as well.

Katie and I watched "The Bucket List" a while back. In case you're not familiar with it, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson play a couple of older guys stricken with cancer. Having been given the "short time to live" pronouncement, they make up a Bucket List. As in, things to do before kicking the bucket.

In the movie Morgan tells Jack about an Egyptian belief regarding entering the Afterlife. Two questions are asked of the individual.

"Did you find joy in life?" And, "Did you bring joy to others?"

I believe I can answer in the affirmative to both. Life is certainly ours to enjoy and celebrate. It's about us, but not ALL about us. In my own humble opinion, a lot of people miss the second half. If you were to ask people around you what would be on their Bucket List I'd bet you'd find the vast majority of the lists are made of things they want to do for themselves. Seeing places or doing some sort of recreational activity always seem to come first. That's all well and good but it seems to me there should be more on the list.

Let's take a minute here to clear up one point. I am not, nor have I been, a truly altruistic person. Burying my own wants and needs in order to totally serve others hasn't been something I've been motivated to do. I've been a man of action. A person seeking adventure. Someone continually seeking opportunities for greater personal accomplishments. Despite that, though, in the back of my mind has been this question.

"Will you leave this world having given something back in thankfulness for the blessings you've received?"

I feel truly blessed to have been able to both receive and give in our two-wheeled world. There's no need to list all the great things I've enjoyed through riding. My list wouldn't be totally relevant to you, anyway. We share some things in common while finding our own personal expressions, too. Just think of your own list and you'll have a feeling for mine.

When I became a teacher of riders, it really wasn't because I was looking for a way to give anything back. It was a new goal, a new skill, and a fresh adventure to try out. Once I got good and involved a subtle change in thinking happened to me. My gaze started to include a picture that was ever growing bigger.

At first I was concerned with my own personal growth as an instructor. It was all about getting the cones in the right place, coaching the right thing in the right way, getting students safely from one point to the next on the range, etc. Eventually I got to where I could actually focus on the students. Novel idea, huh? There was joy in their faces albeit it somewhat hidden behind the stress of learning a new skill. It was neat to see that I was finally able to share my own joy of riding with so many others.

Once I'd been an instructor for long enough, I'd once in a while hear from past students. They'd share how they were sure something they'd learned in class saved them. Eventually the picture became bigger. Not only was I sharing the joy, I was probably helping to save people from severe injury and death. Friends and families of riders were being spared grief and suffering in the process. Is it something that can be quantified? Not at all. Who can accurately say exactly how many accidents were prevented? What I do know is that we touched 8,000 riders last year and expect to touch more than that this year. The law of averages says that has to amount to a lot of good stuff.

As my skills as an instructor progressed I was invited to teach experienced and professional riders. This gave me a chance to help riders at a different level. Then I was offered the chance to become a teacher to the teachers. Now I was able to touch riders directly in classes I taught and even more through the instructors I've helped on their own journeys. That part is especially rewarding. With very few exceptions, motorcycle safety instructors are just folks with a passion for riding and who want to make a difference. It's been so cool to help fellow instructors find their voices.

Some who comment here express concerns about me working so much. That concern is much appreciated. Eventually I'll back off. Katie's looking over my shoulder and rolling her eyes. I know, I've been saying that for years. It's still too compelling right now. I have a lot of fun despite the hard work. I love the synergy that happens between the instructors and students. I love being around motorcycles and the people who ride them. The number of folks turning to two wheels these days is going up all the time. Scooters are becoming hugely popular. Attitudes badly need to be influenced for these people. Scooters are fun and practical but they're not toys. They demand to be treated with respect. The need for education is great. Those of us who teach riders are sorely needed right now. I know some of you reading this are instructors yourselves. You know exactly what I'm saying, don't you?

One day I'll end up on some version of Cemetery Lane. Will there be an official day of accounting? Who knows? Some say yes and some say no. Whether it be of Divine origin or from people who knew me, I hope it's said of me,

"He got a lot out of life on a motorcycle. He also put a bunch back into motorcycling. Debits match credits. The ledger balances. Account closed, and may he rest in peace!"

Miles and smiles,



Joe said...

Didn't realize you're an instructor. I can't praise the guys who ran the course I took highly enough. They were fun, highly organized, well skilled, extremely professional yet as friendly as could be. After 25 years in the classroom they taught me a thing or two about teaching. My hat's off to you, Dan, and to all the 'cycle instructors out there doing a job that probably affects more lives in a positive way than you'll ever realize.


Allen Madding said...

Is that a weber grill on the back of the new bike? That is a novel idea. Stop in a shady place, cook a few burgers for lunch. I'm liking it! Could I have mine with a slice of American cheese? :)

Steve Williams said...

I saw the Bucket List and thought a lot about the notion of finding and giving joy. I like what you've written about both.

I too see more and more scooters around. This past Sunday morning while parking the Vespa in town a young woman buzzed up to park next to me and had a helmet but was wearing shorts, t shirt, no gloves, tennis shoes. She told me she has had it one day and already crashed...

Oh well. I told her to be careful and consider an MSF course.

irondad said...

Like I wrote, most instructors have a deep desire to master their craft and do something meaningful. Sounds like yours have ahcieved that. Thanks so much for the positive feedback!

Geez, no matter how I try to disguise it, observant people like you spot it right away. Don't you know real motorcyclists go Swiss cheese, though? The holes make it lighter to carry on the bike!

You're way ahead of me when it comes to distilling life down to what's really important. There's a lot I still don't totally understand. I just know I want to leave having made the world a little better than when I arrived.

The gal managed to go most of the day before her first crash? One has to look on the bright side, you know. Here's what I say to riders who wear helmets but not gloves.

"Have you ever tripped, fallen down, and stuck your face out to catch yourself? What makes you think, then, it will be any different when you fall off your bike?"

Take care,


Anonymous said...

"debits match credits" ????

Unless there's something Really Bad in your past, I think there's a bit more on the 'credits' side.

Doug C said...

In the end, titles are great, but I think I'd rather have testimonies like what you've garnered...

Great post!

irondad said...

Thanks! I'd like to think there would be much more on the credit side. Life itself, though, is such a gift it's hard to say.

Have you ever heard the song by Randy Travis? "It's not what you take with you, it's what you leave behind." Something like that. It's clear that you feel the same way.