Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Navigational Beacons

I can't believe that it's nearing fall here already. Summer flew by in a blur. The passage of two more sleeps, as Bobskoot likes to say, will bring another birthday for me. These days I'm feeling every one of them. This caught my eye at a recent classic car show. Not only did it catch my eye, but I can feel myself starting to relate. Maybe not chronologically, quite yet, but certainly mentally. I'm old enough that the AARP is very interested in me but I'm not yet planning where to live in retirement.

Have you ever been at a point in your life where things that were so intensely near and dear to you no longer hold the same meaning? This isn't about people, mind you. Those folks near and dear to me will always be cherished. As will friends. Those I have now as well as those I hope to meet down the road. I'm talking about activities. A person can start off having a passion for something to the point they willingly let it take up a huge amount of their time. Then one day this tiny bit of resentment starts to creep in.

You still enjoy the activity but other pursuits and interests have started to intrigue you. The time demanded by the current activity eats up that which could be spent exploring these new paths. The logical question would inquire as to why a person doesn't just simply quit spending time in the old activity and start spending more time with the new interests. That would certainly be a valid question. There is no simple answer, I'm afraid. See, there's this complication.

Passion, aptitude, and a drive to succeed can lead to being pretty good at something. Sometimes that gets noticed and a person is offered a chance to do something new. I'm a sucker for chasing a carrot on a stick held out in front of me. After a number of carrots are chased and caught a person can find themselves someplace they had never imagined they would be. On the one hand that's a pretty awesome thing. On the other, it also means a lot more work and responsibility. The more you advance the farther removed you can find yourself from what you originally loved in the first place.

By the way, this is the first time I've ever tried panning an airplane while it was landing.

Stepping back really isn't an option. I'm not the kind of person who is content to be there halfway. It would be too awkward hanging around the edges and not being involved like I was before. Walking away isn't to be taken lightly, either. A lot of time and effort have been invested in getting me to where I am. In some cases there are only a couple of people who do what I do. Doesn't seem fair, somehow, to leave now. I know the old illustration of putting your hand in a glass of water. Pull it out and see how big a hole you leave. In this case, conceited as it may seem, I think my leaving really would leave a big hole. Not something I want to do to them all at once. Gracious timing feels important to me.

Still, I have to take care of me and mine in the long run. Motorcycle training has been a long, fun, and rewarding ride. As great as it's been there's a real chance this may be my last season. I want weekends free to spend bumming around with Katie. My interest in photography is growing by leaps and bounds. Free time to spend making and processing photos would be nice. I'm enrolled in an online and correspondence photography course. It has economic possibilities. Eventually I could see making a living from writing and pictures. Of course, we'd have to live simply! At least until I can figure out how to write like Jack and make photos like Steve.

Having a built in model to practice on is surely handy, I'll have to say!

It's just hard to know which direction to move in, sometimes. It's even harder to figure out when you live life at a fast pace. There's no time for deep thought when you're trying to keep a dozen candles lit. I know it's not in the same league as things some people are going through. Not at all like the end of life thoughts my grandmother is having with advancing cancer in her 90's, for instance. Not like the constant ravages of a chronic disease. Nor like worrying every day about having enough to eat or a roof over one's head. Nonetheless, trying to figure out where to go from here often keeps me awake at night.

There is that classic struggle between doing what's right for me versus what's right for others.

There are times when we need to take the higher view of things. We need a bigger picture. Rather than details of how to do something we can gain more valuable insight from having navigational beacons. That's what I'm looking for right now. The first thing is to figure out what the eventual destination is. The rest of the journey can be mapped along the way.

In the meantime I've decided to take the blog in a slightly different direction for a while. There will still be motorcycle training content. That's what this blog was born for, after all. While thinking about my personal situation it crossed my mind that a lot of riders are overwhelmed by all the detail. Detail is great but not without a reference framework in place. I have been guilty of sharing a lot of detail. Perhaps it's time to go back and put some of that structure in place. Things make a whole lot more sense if we know how they contribute to the whole.To that end, rather than continue to delve deeply into the "how to" part of riding, I want to spend some time looking at it from a higher view.

Besides, things have been way too serious, here. It's time to have a little fun along the way, don't you think?

I'll share and explore the navigational beacons I've followed as a professional rider. It should be fun and informative. I hope you'll all tag along with me.

Miles and smiles,



RichardM said...

Another problem with too many interests is that it's almost impossible to spend enough resources to get really "good" at it. While reading this post, thoughts of all these activities and interests that I had invested a lot of time/money on and have since fallen by the wayside came to me. I'm afraid it is a frightenly long list. I'm impressed by those that have been able to maintain a life long passion in an activity or hobby and have been able to become masters of that activity.

Maybe a few days early but Happy Birthday!


Bryce said...

"Have you ever been at a point in your life where things that were so intensely near and dear to you no longer hold the same meaning?"


"This isn't about people, mind you.I'm talking about activities."


Step Dan, way back. When did you NOT spend your weekend time instructing new motorcyclists?
Now assume that activity was either denied or taken from you for whatever reason. What then, for you to occupy your weekends?

You're married to Katie, however she has probably found her own way to spend weekends without you.And the AARP wants you? So am figuring maybe closing in on the double nickel in age?

Due to one or two of us who suggested photography, you've found a new activity; writing and journalism. I did same after leaving the education field and it was lucrative, for me.

Now you're older (only in rough chronological years); your daytime, major income position is a wide-ranging profession, maybe management is in your future? Doubt it from your writings. If your employer came along with a nice fat retirement package would you take it? Let's say you take it.
Then what?
Your photography is quite good,
far more in tune with the world than many. However pictures are only part of the equation. You have to learn to write such that an editor will look, review and accept your jotttings.

Ask Jack Reipe, he is somewhat verbose, however his writing is polished. It takes time however & you're on the right track.

You know what a bucket list does? It makes you think and write; carry a small note pad with you and write down those thoughts. Much like a certain Vespa rider's blog from Pennsylvania

Again am at a great geographic distant from you so can only proffer suggestions. And birthday
celebrations are milestones for others. You don't change after a personal birthday, you're still the same, yet different.

Let me give you recent history:
May 30, turned 65. June 4 contracted severe cellulitus in my lower left leg resulting in an
ambulance ride and five weeks in hospital and June 19, my 94 year old mother died. Only the cellulitus I have come to understand; Mum's pssing an my birthday propells me into an aged feeling although am still fighting a somewhat enlarged lower leg and numerous deep leg ulcers, all under close medical treatment. The other items are mile stones, for me. Your experience may differ. when Mum died, my brother handled the affairs while I was indisposed. My birthday was not a celebration, more a true personnel passage of time.

Think what you will do in one year, five years, ten years and beyond. Then do which you feel will be beneficial to you and to your wife. Oh, and happy birthday old man!


Lucky said...

I think Bryce just called you old, Dan.

I'd say take a season off teaching, take lots of photos of airplanes (lots!), write a bunch, hang out with your family more than you have been, and see how you feel the next teaching season. I imagine if you keep in touch, the powers-that-be at the school will gladly take you back if you decide you can't live without teaching. Or maybe you'll have a book deal and a lucrative photography sideline.

There's nothing wrong with taking a bold step in a new direction!

Geoff James said...

From my personal perspective, changing priorities and passions are a completely natural process. In fact, it's maintaining the same balance of priorities and passions which should be called odd!

Motorcycling has been my passion since maybe 10 years old but it took a back seat when I got married, was raising a young family and developing a career. Competitive sailing was the order of the day at that stage. The death of a close friend/fellow competitor made it lose its gloss and I stopped.

As the kids began to leave home, I started riding bikes again and my wife and I did a lot more stuff together and still do into retirement.

From what I see you've contributed a huge amount to motorcycling over the years and it's time for you and your wife to get out for a bit of "ME" fun time with absolutely no cause for guilt or regret. It's time for the next stage in your lives and very best wishes for that!

bobskoot said...

Mr IronDad:

only two more sleeps . . . happy birthday ! in advance.

I was sort of like you, busy with many clubs. Car clubs, photography clubs, car shows, socializing and often our time was dictated by others and circumstance. Over the past 5 years I have gotten rid of many activities and I now do, more or less, what we plan to do. As Mrs Skoot does not ride, I also do not ride on Sundays. I think it would be selfish of me to use all my free time for myself excepting for my planned yearly bike adventure.

I used to do a lot of things for other people until one day about 10 years ago when I needed a favour and no one stepped up to the plate, so I am not so fast to offer my services until I know they are appreciated. I have been doing photography all my life since elementary school. I have worked in film labs and had my own commercial darkroom hand developing B&W film. I have worked in camera stores. I continued to do my own printing and developing at home but now with digital I have had to start over. My past experience has wasted away. Perhaps if I had more time . . . There is never enough time and you cannot turn the clock back. A minute wasted is a minute lost forever. It cannot be recovered. In my eyes you are still young and it is time for you to start living and experiencing things you dream about. Take road trips, bring your camera and enjoy your hobby. Build memories instead of resentment. Time is your enemy and progresses faster than we realize. Like you, I am trying to make up for lost time

Riding the Wet Coast

david said...

It's spring here, and i've just decided to really start pushing my motorcycle training agenda. The wheel turns :)

Reading your post leaves me with one overwhelming impression, and it's that you must do what you are passionate about, always.

peace and love and happiness irondad :)

PS: My birthday is also autumn (early may), a good time for it i think ;-)

bluekat said...

Best wishes and Happy Birthday.

It's hard sometimes, making choices between all the wonderful things that fill our life. Not always easy to figure out. My passion in life is art and drawing, but right now I rarely pick up pencil and paper. Creativity is sucked out at work or funneled into secondary endeavors (photography, blogging). Maybe some day the time will be right and I will return to that first love.

My coworker is a photographer and took a five year break from photography. In his case it became more of a chore than a passion, and the cameras gathered dust. Eventually he returned to photography, as a profession and a hobby. He loves it now and does great work.

Sometimes we just need a break. Or sometimes it's time for a new direction. That's what you get to decide and agonize over.

bobskoot said...

HAPPY Birthday to IRONdad:

By my calculations this is your BIG DAY. Happy Birthday BIG GUY, and lots more to come. Today you are KING, do what you want, snap your fingers and your wish will be my command. phone in SICK and ride around taking photos.

luv always, xox

Riding the Wet Coast

irondad said...

What you say is all too true! Do you get really good at one thing or enjoy several to a lesser degree? I find I've dedicated most of my resources to mastering riding and training. It has also taken a lot of my personal fuel. I think it's time to see what else is growing in the garden.

Thank you for the birthday wishes!

Take care,


irondad said...

Like I wrote, my meditations are nothing like what some, like you, deal with on a regular basis. Let me offer my condolences on your mother's passing.

Three, five, or more years down the road is where I'm looking. What I want to see then will provide the navigational beacon now.

Take care,


irondad said...

Thank you for weighing in. Wise advise.

Taking bold steps in a new direction is still fun. Kind of like taking up riding a scooter later in life, isn't it? :)

Take care,

irondad said...

P.S. to Lucky,
By the way, how is the job change working out now that you've had time to experience it for a while?

irondad said...

Geoff James,

Thank you for taking the time to share your perspective. I find it helpful. Seriously.

Take care,


irondad said...


Thank you for the birthday wishes!

You have pretty much nailed the crux of the matter in one of your statements, Oh Wise One!

Too much time spent doing the bidding of others. Exactly what I'm feeling.

Your strategy is worthy of emulating.

Take care,


irondad said...


Thank you for dropping by. From reading your posts you have own frustrations to deal with there in S. Africa.

Hope the Toy Run and everything else works out well.

Take care,


irondad said...


Thank you for the happy wishes.

Like you touched on, I think it's a combination of burn out and the fact that we spend so much effort doing what needs to be done that the days go by without much fulfillment.

I hope that things work out for you to start exploring your own creativity in the near future.

Take care,


irondad said...


Yes, today is the big day. Thank you for the second message and thinking of me. Love you too, man! Ironically I find myself alone in a hotel room in Portland and tending to the blog on this specioal day.

I'm conducting a prep session tomorrow for newer instructors wishing to move on to teaching the classroom. At least I got to ride today.

Take care,


Allen Madding said...

Reading this post reminded me of exactly what I have been experiencing during the last year. Remember my season of Life post in June? (

I can totally relate to what you are thinking and experiencing. If I had any advise to toss out, it would be to move bodly with discontinuing something that has dominated your life and free up the time. Then take your good sweet time deciding what other interest to pursue full tilt. Dabble with the things that have perked your interest but you never had time to fully research. Kinda like taste testing.

Once we get past the mid-life mark, having a scheduled that is jam packed and keeping us running looses its appeal. Definately make some time to spend with Katie. No one ever died saying, "I wish I hadn't spent so much time with my family".


Circle Blue said...

As I read your post I was reminded of how important Sabbaticals are. It is a stepping away from time. I was, also, reminded of growing up on the farm at a time when we rotated crops so a field didn't get depleted. Of course, now no more rotation they just hit with more fertilizer.

Other then offering the term Sabbatical to the mix I have nothing to add.

Happy Birthday, young'un.

Brady said...


Good luck on the new direction. It sounds like you're in the market for some change. You're not the first person to get that feeling, especially near their birthday. It was near my birthday that I bought my first motorcycle, after all.

So happy birthday, belated, and best of luck. I know that it's not ALWAYS a motorcycle story, I have the same thing going on with my blog. A good story is a good story.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Orin said...

Happy Birthday Irondad! Many happy returns.

You are certainly not alone when it comes to things near and dear. There have been many passions in my life that have fallen by the wayside. It's the shifting of the sands, the passage of time. Someone once said, if you're the same person you were 10, 20, 30 years ago, something is very wrong.

Scootin' Old Skool is approaching its 5th anniversary, and while I would love to get a phone call from some big media company offering a princely sum, I'm not holding my breath. So for now I continue to wrestle with the direction my journal should take... I sometimes worry about whether there's anything more to say. Knowing such luminaries as Mike Royko and Jimmy Breslin often sat staring at their typewriters asking, "what in the HELL am I going to write about today?" is comforting, most of the time.

I look forward to your continued contribution to the blogosphere.

Scootin' Old Skool

American Scooterist Blog said...

First of all, Happy Birthday, old man (I still get to say that) ;)

There are windows of opportunity through which we really cannot see. But the light is bright out there. It beckons to open the door and explore. You should make the move which seems best to you. After all, it's your choice to make.


Joe said...

"It's time to have a little fun along the way, don't you think?"

I do! Have all the fun you want, Dan, and I'll be here for the ride!


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Irondad (Dan):

There was a time when I loved nothing as much as I love trout fishing. Getting started, all I needed was a $25 license and about $50 bucks worth of gear. When I finally stopped, I had about $5,000 worth of gear and six shelves of tackle boxes. But trout fishing homed my love for he outdoors, and I moved to the woods.

There I discovered deer hunting. Deer hunting is a pastime for the thinking man. It's chess with the elements of nature. Did you know that 80 % of the deer were taken by about 5% of the hunters? And all I needed was a $25 license and a $179 shotgun. That was my first shotgun. A cheap shotgun has all the advantages of a cheap divorce lawyer. When I quit deer hunting, because I had moved from the woods and my hunting friends had scattered, I had 17 rifles and shotguns, the average value of which ran about $1500 each.

Then there was the model trains. You can really build a nice starter layout for about $14,000. There was not enough money in the world to ride motorcycles and play with trains... Not in my world.

Tastes change... Circumstances change... People change... It took an 8 hour day, twice a month, just to oil those guns properly. It takes three or four hours to clean the tracks of that model railroad, and a course in electronics to run the new trains.

And well, there is the motorcycle.

Sooner or later, you simplify your life to enjoy what's left of it. I am flattered that you and others (not Bryce) like my work. But I want to very truthful about one point. While I have earned a living at this for 35 years (putting a kid through college and paying two alimonies), I start every day thinking, "Who the hell would pay 5 cents to read this shit?"

I am always surprised.

I know five writers out of work, and three professional PR photographers who are making 20% of what they made in 2007. The internet really ruined what used to be a good thing. I am thrilled that you are enrolled in an online course(s). It may lead to the most surprising developments.

And as far as teaching the crowd how to ride a bike... Maybe all you need is a year off to learn a few lessons your self. Good luck... Let me know if I can ever be of assistance.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

PS to Bryce — KMAMF... (It's kinda like a word game.) LOL! Figure it out and win a prize!

irondad said...


I actually did think of you while putting this post together. Our situations are really similar but opposite, in a way.

If I remember correctly you went from editing a newsletter or some other editorial function to being more involved in helping people in their lives.

I'm already heavily involved in teaching motorcycle safety that has a big effect on people's safety and well being.

I guess that's what makes it so much harder for me to decide. To go from something that makes such a difference to something less meaningful seems a bit frivolous.

Thanks so much for your support, Sir!

Take care,


irondad said...

Circle Blue ( Keith )

There is certainly a value in taking a breather and coming back fresher. Maybe it is time for a sabbatical. It's certainly much easier to think clearly without pressures of the moment.

Thank you so much for the birthday wishes!

Take care,


irondad said...


Thanks for the well wishes. Sounds like you have some changes going on in your life, as well. Perhaps the secret is to simply go with the flow and enjoy the trip!

Take care,


irondad said...


Congratulations on the 5 year anniversary of the blog. Sounds like you've come a long ways since our lunch date so long ago.

May Scootin Old School live long and prosper. May the same be said of its author!

Take care,


irondad said...


Thanks so much for the call the other day. It's very comforting to know that someone we haven't actually met in person cares.

I found our long conversation very refreshing! We seem to have many values in common.

Take care,


irondad said...


May you find some fun yourself as you settle into the new school and meet the latest class in Joe's awesome classroom!

Take care,


irondad said...


Weirdly enough, you've sort of hit the target fairly accurately. One day you're a devoted fan of a pursuit and the next finds you a slave to it.

I am looking for emancipation. Or should I say the freedom to pursue what I want to just because it intrigues me, not because of obligation and responsibility.

I know the answer to your word puzzle. Firstly, because I have told people to do the first three letters. Secondly, because I have done the last two with the mother of my children. However, I still have the cherished Mag Lite flashlite I won somehow on your blog so somebody else can claim my prize.

Take care, and thank you so much for commenting. A blog guru such as you has plenty of demands upon his attention so I am humbled by your visit!

Take care,