Monday, December 08, 2008

Training class. In December?

3:25 AM. That's what the glowing red numbers on the alarm clock show. I keep telling myself not to look at the clock. Myself doesn't listen to me. I've got this thing about time. I have clocks tuned into the atomic clock at Boulder, CO. There's this running clock in my head. At any given time I know within about a minute and a half what time it is. It's a sickness and a curse. The alarm is set to go off at 5. Please let me go back to sleep until then, my body begs of my brain!

Have you ever seen one of those sodium vapor lights when it first starts up? My brain started a small glow of activity. Gradually it warmed up. This was not going to be good for sleeping. The glow grew steadily into the light of full activity. Dang. This happens way too often. Maybe if I just lie here for a while. No such luck. Neurons are twirling and nerve endings are in full spark. There's no hope for sleep left now.

Katie's snoring gently beside me in the bed. I mean that in the most feminine and sexy way, my dear! Once I'm wide awake there's no way I can lie perfectly still. It's time to go fire up the coffee pot and start the day.

Outside it's below freezing. The weather guessers had predicted freezing fog. Looking at the lawn I see they were right. Back in the house with a steaming cup of coffee in hand, I contemplate my day. It's Saturday. On a day when most people would be still asleep this early, I'm thinking about work. There's a training class scheduled for this weekend. The last one of the season. As I look at the window at the dark, the fog, and the cold, I have to wonder about it all.

You have to question the sanity of people taking a motorcycle training class in December. What kind of people are these? Truthfully, they're probably folks who wanted to do it earlier in the year. Due to the ever growing demand, classes are booked way in advance. What of the instructors? We don't need the class to get our endorsements. Most of us don't need to work on weekends for income. Yet, here we are. A dozen instructors up and down the I-5 corridor between Portland and Eugene. All probably looking out their windows and thinking the same thing. What's the matter with us?

By 6 AM I've got Elvira loaded and ready to go. She fires up with hardly a protest. One of these days I'm going to have to wire her for my electric vest. For now, though, it's just a sweatshirt under the Darien jacket. The Darien's not Hi-Viz but I make up for it by donning a retroreflective vest. I want to be visible in the foggy darkness. All the way up the freeway Elvira's thermometer shows me the 28 degree (f) reason I feel a little chilled. Despite the cold, I'm sweating a particular stretch of freeway. There's some hills just South of Salem. The freeway takes a five hundred and forty eight foot rise. It's just enough to make the difference in ice or snow. I've hit black ice there a couple of times on a bike. The heavy fog makes it likely to happen again.

Not having a crystal ball, I have no way of knowing that this will actually end up being one of the best classes of the year. That knowledge is still in the future as I face the 35 mile ride North.

As you can see by the picture, Elvira and I arrive without incident. The only casualty was my breakfast. I'd stashed one of those "Oatmeal to Go" bars in a side pocket of the black bag you see on the bike seat. The bar was so cold I could hardly gnaw off a bite! Dunking it in coffee from my thermos helped a little, but not much. Not many insulated containers do well inside a bike saddlebag in freezing weather.

Here's the group near start time Saturday morning. There's still some fog but at least daylight is coming on. My good friend and fellow instructor, Al, had decided not to ride. He lives exactly 1.1 miles from the site. I, on the other hand.... The good news is that I established immediate credibility with the students! There were several comments of "You're the man!", including one from my fellow instructor. It's well worth enduring freezing temperatures to have my ego stroked!

Saturday's weather turned out to be a blessing. The sun came out and burned off the fog. We could still see our breath for most of the morning. That's Al over in the sun by the students. For some reason, my instructor positions always seemed to be in the shade!

The guy in front is wearing the new First Gear Kilimanjaro jacket. They've ventured into high visibility. This jacket is pretty effective at that task.

Sunday's weather wasn't quite as promising. I rode through a light rain on the trip up. It didn't do a lot of positive things to my outlook for the day. I'm not enjoying teaching in the rain much these days. Of course, that means I wouldn't teach much around here. So I deal with it. Fortunately, with the exception of a little sprinkle early on, we seemed to hit a pocket of dry, but cloudy weather. A half hour after we had the range picked up and the bikes put away, it poured. Oh well. I rode to and from in the rain but it was dry for the important part.

This class was one of the most personable I've had in a long time. There was a mix of experience levels. A couple had never been on a bike before. A few had permits and some riding time. Then there were a couple of riders who had been riding but needed to "tidy things up a bit", if you get my drift. To a person, they were very coachable. The more experienced riders were good at encouraging the newer ones. They were all committed to applying themselves. The whole weekend was a great mix of work and fun between the students and instructors.

To a certain extent that happens with every class. This one just seemed to rise to a higher level. It was a pretty sweet way to end the teaching year. We start up again the first weekend of February. I taught the first weekend this year. We got snowed out on Sunday. For now, though, it's time to take a rest from teaching. I'm glad it ended this way.

Here's a photo of our happy class at the end of their riding time on Sunday. It might be hard to tell with the helmets, but two of the eleven are gals.

They've all passed the skill evaluation on the bikes. Now they're off to lunch and will finish up in the classroom with Al. It's not common for everyone to pass. I believe our pass ratio is somewhere around 85 percent. Our goal isn't to see how many riders we can put on bikes. Our goal is to do the best job of teaching and coaching we can. Ultimately, though, it's up to the students to show us if they're ready to ride by passing the skills test. There were three perfect scores in this group. One perfect score is unusual. Three is really exceptional!

I guess the takeaway for me is this. It's a good reminder for me not to be too quick to prejudge. Things don't always end like they start. I started out looking at this weekend like a chore to get through. As much as I like teaching, I'm a little tired by the end of the year. Remember, my teaching weekends are on top of a full time job during the week. The same thing has happened with riding. How many times could I have decided not to ride to work because of the weather or other circumstances? How many times did I end up so glad I rode because the day turned out better than expected? How many times have I had some wonderful experience I would never have known if I hadn't been on a motorcycle? This applies to life outside motorcycling, too. As if there actually is life beyond riding.

Gemstones are often found in some of the most unpromising places!

Miles and smiles,



Dean W said...

I actually really appreciate the season-end classes (early spring or late fall). Most of them realize the weather's a crapshoot, and if they're dedicated enough to show up, seem to do really well under the conditions. Many of them find that motorcycles lack many amenities, but do come equipped with a hand warmer, even if it can only be used at stops.

Bryce said...

Appreciate the comment on the temperature of 28 degrees (f). Especially for those of this world attuned to Celsius that 28 degrees (C) is rather warm. Somehow I wish it was here rather than minus 1 degree Celsius. With snow and ice underneath on the ground. Pictures were with the D40? And your former e-mail address is bouncing.
Is young son still riding his new to him machine? And, what's the status of Sophie, snugged down for the winter?
So, what do you do with yourself on these "free weekends?" House chores
Shopping with Katie? Getting caught up on your sleep? Christmas with your many children and their families? And an non-motorcycle question, has the recession affected your life?

-Tim said...

Nice write up...Is that an old honda twinstar I see on the range, or is it a CM400?
Once again, I rode in the snow ego was stroked enough for one afternoon.

Steve Williams said...

Dear Maniac: I'm curious what the following actually means in terms of management on a freeway:

Despite the cold, I'm sweating a particular stretch of freeway. There's some hills just South of Salem. The freeway takes a five hundred and forty eight foot rise. It's just enough to make the difference in ice or snow. I've hit black ice there a couple of times on a bike. The heavy fog makes it likely to happen again.

I've negotiated black ice on secondary roads with no traffic but not on a freeway. What do you actually do?

Please, I need instruction.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Dean W said...

Tim- Probably a Suzuki GN125. TEAM OREGON got rid of it's last TwinStar a couple years ago, but the GNs just won't die- and I wish we could get more of them.

irondad said...

Dean W,
You described this class exactly. There was a class on a cold and rainy weekend. I thought I'd killed everybody when I saw every student bent over the gas tank with their arms hanging down. I was relieved to find they were only using the internal combustion "hand warmers".

The secret is to think Fahrenheit. You will always feel warmer! These particular pictures were with the point and shoot Kodak. I rode Sophie several times last week. Look for photos in an upcoming post taken with the Nikon.

Clint rides rarely now that the weather took a downturn. I may have to go ride the VFR for him.

My first priorities for the free weekends will be to sleep!

So far the recession hasn't affected my life too much. I'm pretty lucky for now.

Like Dean comments here, it is a GN125 Suzuki. Riding in the snow? You're an animal!

I'll put that in the next post. In the meantime, don't ride unless the temperature is over 40 degrees.

Take care,


Steve Williams said...

Don't ride under 40 degrees? That pretty much takes the fun out of winter.

Heinz N Frenchie said...

We have a hard time getting motivated to ride when the temprature is below 60. Geez you guys are talking below 40? What would that be with the wind chill? Can't even think about it without shivering. Stay warm.

The Snark said...

*does the "I have year round riding weather" dance*