Monday, October 25, 2010

#37 and 38

Finish the first weekend of my 37th and 38th MC classes of the season. One more weekend and the season will be finished. I am sure that withdrawal will set in. This weekend two instructors came by the site just to hang out. They were already missing the teaching.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Half way there

Finished my fourth weekend teaching Motorcycles class Saturday/Sunday 7-7 in a row. Four more to go and the teaching season is over. Believe it or not, while a little tired, this is such a blast. My encourage this weekend came during the wrapup of the classes. During the sharing the last bit of information, one of the students interjected with "Jeff, I you are the man. You really know how to teach this stuff. I am going to tell everyone to take this class and try get you" I turned a little rosie in the cheeks and see thank you.

Friday, September 17, 2010

7 weekends to go

The motorcycle teaching season won't be around much longer. I teach morning and afternoon from 7-7 Sat and Sun for the next 7 weekends. Then the season will be over. It's been a heck of a long season but all for a purpose. I am so blessed to be able to earn extra money doing something so fun and important that has also helped me to make a dent in my consumer debt. In the end, I will have taught 38 twenty hour basic motorcycle classes this season. Come November, the Concours will be paided off as well.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Too many classes and generous students

In 9 days, I taught five twenty hour motorcycle classes. 7 of the days were conducted in what felt like boot melting heat. The last two days were in the 90's and happened to be on black asphalt. There was a moment of beginning to feel the effects of heat exhaustion. Lucky for me, it was at 1:00 p.m. when the morning class was ending and we spend the first hour of the 1:30 class inside. I needed that time to cool off and pump up the fluids. I did consume roughly 6 liters of water a day and 2-3 Gatorade's.

Now for the encouragement. For the Monday -Friday 6-10 p.m. classes, I was blown away by Dave, one of the students. 8 of 9 had passed the class and the class was a lot of fun to work with in spite of the heat. We sell shirts and hats to assist with the funding for an end of the year banquet. As we were wrapping up the class paperwork with the students, Dave wrote a $20 check for a long sleeve t-shirt. Dave asked me to step outside with him for just a moment. Once outside he pulls out $160 and I immediately thought, time to give the speech my pay is plenty. However he quickly send there are 8 students in the class and give them all a long sleeve t-shirt courtesy of him. His only request is that I let him leave a few minutes before the others so that he didn't get all kinds of thank you's. We went back in the trailer and Dave left a few moments later. The fellow students were wowed by Dave's generosity as I told them they all get a shirt courtesy of Dave. In these tough times, such acts of generosity will leave an impression on the riders and myself.

Two days later at the end of the morning weekend class, Kevin, another student comments on our tools. We replaced a clutch lever that morning. He asked if he could donate a small tool box to make repairs a little easier. No problem we said. A half hour later he shows up with a 260 piece Craftsman Mechanics tool set in a self contained toolbox with drawers still wrapped in the box. It was more meaningful to him that picking up some t-shirts.

So there it is, lots of generosity that I have to believe is a slight indication to the quality of our instruction. Even though I have taught over 20 classes so far this season (many to go still) I remind myself at the beginning of each class that this is often there first experience ever with a motorcycle. And what an honor it is that I get to be a part of it. Just as important, when remembering that it is such a blast to do what we do in facilitating people to ride a motorcycle for the first time!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cuff links and all

I enjoy the variety of people taking the motorcycle classes with me. I had a first this last weekend. A rider with cuff links. Theo did great in the class and was a pleasure to work with. He did it with style.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Yes I did ride to work

Okay I didn't ride to the full time job. However, I did ride the Concours to the part time job teaching motorcycle classes. I guess that I not only Road to Work but I only got to Ride for Work (riding the demonstrations for the class). I am a lucky man.

Monday, June 21, 2010

In the heat of teaching

Worked weekend morning and afternoon motorcycle classes at King Dr Secretary of State last and this past weekend. In between I burned a week of vacation and taught a M-F 8-12 and 12:30-4:30 motorcycles classes down in Champaign at the U of I. 4 20 hour classes in 9 days. While in Champaign, I had a student suffer from heat exhaustion for the first time. It was scary. Right after a light rain, the full hot sun was out. It was in the upper 80's but over 90% humidity. While in the middle of a exercise, she stopped her motorcycle, removed her helmet and remained on the motorcycle (big no-no). I knew something wasn't right. When I got to her, she said she was feeling really sick. I cut her bike off, helped her off of the bike and got her to some shade. She then began vomiting. I got water and began to cool her off by wetting the back of her shirt and she put water through her hair. She felt better after awhile and we walked her to her car so she could sit in the air conditioning. I called her a few times that evening to make she she was okay.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ready for class

On the last day of our motorcycle class, a student named Victor came ready to ride using his ride to get to the class. My fellow instructor Austin's and my bikes are in the background. Just had to take the picture. Victor didn't ride the bike with the helmet on.
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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Giving memories

Spent the night at my Father's outside of Oakwood, IL. My brother, his wife, and 4 of their boys were there. I was able to give each one of them a decent ride. Josh, the oldest and in the picture, rode with me out to my Aunt and Uncle's in Sidell, IL by way of Westville which ended up being 52 twisty country roads. We followed my Father who was in the car. 2 of my brother's were there with their kids, my daughter with my special 2 granddaughters were there as well. I don't see Josh (or my brother Dennis and their kids) as they live in Lexington, KY. So I had to make of the most of this visit. More later on the hot ride home.
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stereotypes and the motorcycle classes

I just finished a 3 day BRC class. The class began Thursday evening and was classroom only. 3 friends and another student all sat together with sporty riding jackets. Two of them had icon helmets with nearly black shields and shark fins down the center. During the introductions, they shared that they all had street bikes and were hear to get legal. All of them have sport bikes. There was a side of me that said, oh this is going to be difficult and they are going to want to do their own thing. I apologize for my pre-judgement. In past classes, it's those experienced riders who aren't as receptive as beginners even though they are taking the Basic Rider Course.

I could not have been more wrong. They were some of the easiest guys that I have ever worked with. They were receptive to coaching and really added some skills that will help them on the roads. I thank them for humbling my improper judgements. Here are a few clips of them riding Ex 13, Cornering. Yes I did ask for there permission for making the clips and posting them on the site.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wind and cold

Thursday of last week I rode the Connie from Homewood to Champaign after I got off of work. I needed to ride over to Indy for the day with my brother to do a few things for my mother around her house. The ride down was sunny and in the 50's, great weather for the overpants.

Saturday I really needed to get back home. It was overcast, in the 40's with a solid 25-30 mph coming at me at the 10:00 position. I stayed on the open highway for around 15 miles but was not enjoying the ride. Even fully loaded and with a full 7.5 gallon tank, I was being pushed around. Feeling a cold wind running from left to right under my chin (wearing my full face helmet as always) and consistently having a sensation of my head lifting and being pushed, I switched over to the old US HWYs and country roads. Knowing that there would be a tree line among much of way dictated which roads I was to take. I've been on all of these roads before. For those not in the Midwest, along many US HWY's running N to S, you will find scattered tree lines on the west side of the road. This helps to keep some of the drifting snow banks off of the road. In this case, it eased much of the ride home. Instead of a quick 1:45 ride, I took 3 hours getting home and included a stop at a great small town motorcycle shop "Watseka Motorsport". As I lament the closing of my local MC Shop, I will probably being bringing my Connie to them for service. They have a seasoned mechanic who should be familiar with the Concours.

Anyway, getting off of the superslab provided led to a much more enjoyable ride (especially with Gerbings gloves and jacket liner). I will be seeking this type of riding as time permits for a slower but more meaningful experience.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Success rates vs successful MC classes

I just finish teaching my second MC safety class of the season. My co-instructors were great and both classes were taught and coached in the manner that should generate success. I believe in the 1st one, 5 of 9 passed and the 2nd one, 3 of 7. Of those who didn't pass, I believe that they all could in pass the riding evalutation in time. I encouraged each to get right back in another classes as soon as possible (which will be easier with the abundance of classes that lack 100% confirmed students).

As an instructor, it's frustrating to focus on the end numbers. At the beginning of the last day of riding, my co instructor was a sub for someone who was sick. I shared and he confirmed early in the day that probably 3 of the 7 would pass. The other four weren't endangering anyone, but they weren't progressing to the point that they would be able to pass the riding evaluation. Most importantly, the would be a danger to themselves and other if they were to go on to the street at this time. The 4 who did not pass learned a tremendous amount both on and off of the motorcycle. They just require more development time than was available on a single class.

So in the end, I am blessed to be part of the program and I enjoy the whole thing. The success rate is a point in time for everyone in the class that in only an immediate gage in the process of become a safe/good motorcyclist.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rebel in the real world

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera on me this afternoon. I staff the library's reference desk from 5-8 this evening. On day's like today, I like to take a walk through Hyde Park around 4:00. Parked on the street adjacent to the library was an electric blue 250 Honda Rebel. All of the chrome was shiny. It had two rear view mirrors and even all of it's signals. I can hear you saying so what! Honestly I am not used to seeing Rebels in such conditions. The Rebel is one of the bikes that we use in the UIUC Motorcycle Rider program. Each site normally has 2 Rebels and a mix of Honda Nighthawks and Yamaha Dual Sports. The Rebels are there to accommodate the height challenge riders. The Rebels that I am accustomed to are scratched, dented, missing signals and mirrors. Next time on the teaching range, looking at the bruised and battered Rebels, I will remember how they were meant to look.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

2010 Motorcycle Teaching Season

I attended our motorcycle instructor update this past weekend. With a few changes to what I had requested to teach, I have ended up scheduled to teach 26 Basic Rider Courses. My stepson Neil has been scheduled to range aid for 45 classes this season. The first class of the season for both of us begins April 3rd at South Suburban College. The goal for me is paying of 2 credit card accounts with the money made this season. Neil saves the majority of his money to last the year, buy his college textbooks. He is a miser (in a good way) with the money he earns.

There are a few changes for our region this year. All of the basic classes are the MSF Basic Rider Course. The BRT out of Team Oregon is no longer being field tested. This was announced at the instructor banquet to the major disappointment of instructor who became fond of the BRT. The region is refocusing on the BRC and getting everyone to follow the standardization of the delivery of the course. Many instructors haven't taught a BRC for a few years because of the field testing of the BRT. I have my own opinions and there is no perfect curriculum. Whatever is being used is what I will teach.

We will be on a tighter schedule with less flexibility at some of the sites. The region has been tasked to increase last years total from 4200 students to over 7000 students this year. One way of achieving this is overlapping classes. 2 classes do the 4 hour classroom together on a weeknight. For Saturday and Sunday, 1 class has the range from 7-1 classroom 2-4, the other has the classroom from 10-1, range 2-7. I am sure it will work as we stay on target. It's hard enough getting people to show up for the 8 am classes with some showing up late and being dismissed. I am teaching mostly classes that will begin on the range at 7 am. There may be an increase in the number of students being dismissed for tardies although I sincerely hope not.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My local shop's doors are closed

Well I hadn't been to my local motorcycle shop for a few weeks. 3 weeks ago I went to their website (which was a hosted site) and it said that the dealership is not longer using this webservice. I called the shop to see if they we open since the website was down. They answered and said that yes they were open but not longer using the webservice. I rationalized that they stopped using the site because they dropped their dealership status and were getting rid of their new bikes. Unfortunately the snowball continued to roll down hill and they have closed down.

Since buying my motorcycle from them in 2005, I had been treated very well. Prior to the housing bubble and credit crunch, they employed over 35 people. When I worked for them over the summer as a demo ride escort, the sales folks were always saying that people were interested in the bikes and some had down payments, but they couldn't get financed. At the time they announced that they were dropping their dealership status (Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki) late this fall, they were down to 6 employees. They were hoping to make it as a motorcycle service center until the market improved. The timing of trying to may payroll as just a service center in the winter in Chicago.

I wish everyone there well and hope that they are able to find employment. Besides missing the staff, I will miss the money that was already paid for prepaid maintenance. I had 2 years left on my Concours and 2 years left on Neil's Ninja 250. Alas, life is this good.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Setting priorities

The girls have been gone for almost two months. They are doing fine btw. Without the responsibility of caring for them, my daily schedule has been initially quite open. Even before they returned home, I knew that the pending free time would provide me with the opportunity to reevaluate my priorities and commitments.

Motorcycling will continue to play a role in my life of course. As my wife and I are committed to reducing our consumer debt, I will be teaching many motorcycle classes and putting that money toward my debt. At least 3 weeks of vacation will be used to teach weekday daytime motorcycle classes. It means that I am not planning any real adventures or long trips (with the only exception being a work conference in Washington DC that will be a subsidized motorcycle trip).

Last week I resigned my "Safety Officer" position with the Shadow Riders club. I was starting to resent feeling the obligation to attend meetings and to write a safety article for the club's monthly newsletter. The club is a good club, but it is not something that I am feeling impassioned to participate in. The resignation lifted an emotional weight off of my shoulders.

The only major addition to my lifestyle is related to physical activities. The week after the girls were gone, I committed to swimming 3 days a week in order to build up to completing (surviving) a triathlon in August. The swimming has been more than a challenge as I have never had any swimming lessons or swam laps for workouts. After building up a little distance and comfort during December, I joined the Masters Swimming group at the University of Chicago with the plan of improving form, workouts, efficiency. I will still swim 3 days a week, but probably only be able to fit it one workout a week with the Masters group. A swim coach is present at there workouts and they have been good at given one things at a time and per workout for improvement. It's been seven total weeks of swimming and I was able to finish a full level 3 workout (lowest level) which was 2600 meters. Besides having a coach around for the group workouts, I get an email with workout plans for the week so I have great workouts to try on my own.

The triathlon that I want to survive sounds more like a small adventure. It is the DINO (DO INndiana Off-road) Logansport Triathlon in August. The distances are somewhat reasonable and the number of participants don't seem overwhelming. The swim is a half mile swim in an open quarry lake. The biking is a 10 mile mountain bike ride on trails (which means I don't have to buy a road bicycle). The run is 4 miles on trails.

Somehow I will balance the workouts, free time, and riding the motorcycle this year. I did start up the Connie and let it run for around fifteen minutes. Took is around the block to take it through the gears.

Always a pleasure,