Monday, March 28, 2011

Hearty students and brutal conditions

I taught MC classes Sat and Sun from 12-4 and 4:30-8:30.  The conditions were close to be the most miserable than I have taught in.  The high for Sat was 33 and 34  Sun.  In addition to the temperature, there was a constant wind that was 10 to 15 mph taking the wind chill down into the 20’s.  Yet in spite of the conditions, all twelve riders in each classes hung in there.  In spite of the temperatures and numb hands, all made it through to the end of the this weekend’s session.  It was cold enough that I did the long johns, jeans, and chaps (to block the wind) and I was still cold.  I am on the way to work now with a ruby colored face and a nose that is bright red front the cold wind.  The entire class is praying for a nicer forecast to allow for a more comfortable 2nd weekend of the class.

Monday, March 21, 2011

First Aid and turkey time

Saturday was a morning of Red Cross First Aid  with an afternoon of CPR.  My certifications expire this summer, so I needed to get this done.   One of the MC instructors does the training for the program out of his home.  Very interesting person, Gene is.  He works for Exxon and gets month long assignments.  He recently returned from a month in Angola.  The next assignment is Saudi Arabia.  He stays home for a month in between assignments.  For lunch he grilled burgers and what do you think 10 MC instructors talked about, motorcycles.  A couple of my favorite instructors were there so it made for a good day.

Sunday was a day with periods of intense thunderstorms and showers.  The seemed to be a slight window of opportunity late in the afternoon to get outside.  I had originally planned to just right the bicycle to the library and play on the netbook for a while.  I changed into some workout clothes, clipped on my new waterproof pannier on the mt bike, tucked in the netbook along with raingear.  It was 3:30 when I left the house.  As I approached the library, I decided that I would ride along a little farther, maybe down to Old Plank Trail.  Once I made it to the trail, I arrived at a natural point to pull off and make it a nice loop home.  Well, the sun was going to be out for a couple more hours, so I kept going deciding that I would ride to Frankfort.  Around 2 miles east of Frankfort, I came across a brood of wild turkeys.  For almost a 1/4 of a mile there is wire fencing bordering the trail as there are sharp drop offs on both sides.  I slowed as I approached and took out the camera.  I straddle walked the bike right past them and they kept coming closer. 



After several nice shots, I finished riding to downtown Frankfort.  I was thirsty, didn’t have a water bottle because I hadn’t planned on a long ride, and the water fountains were turned off (will have freezing temps for awhile off and on).  Lucky for me the convenient shop was open to get a low cal sports drink.  On the return ride, I fought the urge to ride harder.  A woman on a hybrid bike slowly passed me.  She had thinner smooth tires and was riding in a higher gear.  I was treating my ride like an early season ride, leaving it in 2 on the front, 4 on the back, purposefully working on a smoother higher cadence rhythm.  I knew that I could up the gears and pass her back up.  Instead I reminded myself that I was out for a nice ride and to work on the form along the way. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Slow, but still going

My 45th birthday was Saturday.  I enjoyed a late lunch with my brother at Flossmoor Brewery.  He was up for the day from Champaign.  He and a cousin went to a memorabilia show to get a picture together with Dick Buckus.  That evening Abigail and I kept it simple going to Cracker Barrel for dinner.  This was an un-birthday. What I mean was that is truly was like any other day with the exception of seeing my brother and calls from parents and siblings.  There was a part of me that wanted to feel special, to have cake and a party.  Since that wasn’t the case I locked into it’s my birthday, a good day, living a good life, it’s all okay. Living within a budget there was nothing extravagant to plan while we focus on 3 year debt free plan or a milestone (I have 3 years to plan or at least may sure I save up for my wife’s 60th).

To occupy myself while I waited on my brother, I turned my attention to some bike maintenance.  Bike as in the pedaling kind.  In particular, I hadn’t paid an attention to the mountain bike that I have used to commute to the train all winter long.  The most that I have done is to keep the chain oiled.  The bike got a good wash and the drivetrain took a while to degrease.  There was all kinds of grit in the chain, derailleurs, and cassette.  I ended up sudsing it up and spraying off with the hole some of the debris.  Then came out a bike chain cleaner contraption that finished the job.  I still spent more time with a rag getting the stubborn stuff out of the derailleurs.  After a couple hours of drying, on went fresh lube.  The bike has many nicks, scratches, and rough spots but looks good for a 10 year old well used bike.  With the cleaning a lube, it looks solid and rides smooth.  The bike will get me to where I need to go with a smile as well as take me through a second triathlon.  I somehow am identifying with the bike.

My workouts are increasing a little.  In particular, I know that I am not a runner.  I haven’t been one (a runner) for over 20 years.  I jog a couple days a week.  For the last 2 months I have added long slow (12 minute miles) on the weekends.  I do set the stopwatch to get a sense on how slow I am running.  Being a competitive person, it’s hard to keep the “you should be running faster” monster from harassing me.  I am running 10 minute miles for the short runs.  For the longer runs, I am just enjoying the movement, the process of slogging along.  If I am able to keep up the slogging, I may consider a Tecumsah Marathon in Bloomington Indian.  The entries are around 400, the route is 90% dirt trails while 3800 ft ascending and 3500 descending through 2 state forests.   I did it 6 years ago in 5:30.  For much of the race I was simply running by myself through forests. 

Side note, I ran across a coyote on the side streets while riding the bicycle to the train this morning.  It was almost like it thought I was chasing it for a moment until it made a quick exit after running for a block in front of me.  

Monday, March 7, 2011

Douglas / Saugatuck Michigan

My wife has been home for the last 7 weeks covering from a full knee replacement.  Her progress has been amazing to watch.  With today being her first day back to work, my friend offered up his weekend getaway home in Douglas, MI.   Wanting to miss any traffic, we left Friday mid-morning for the 2+ hour drive.  The weather held out and waited to rain after we arrived.  The weekend was very low key.  Staying at Paul’s throws one off for a little while as there is no cable TV.  However he does have Netflix and wireless throughout the 3 level 2 bedroom home.  To simplify the weekend (at keep costs down) we made a Wal-mart run in Benton Harbor. Our only outing of the weekend was a brewery tour of New Holland Brewing Company in Holland, MI.  The tour was fun although all of the standing wore on Abigail’s leg.  While most all of our eating was done at the house, we did go out to eat at our favorite place in Douglas, the Wild Dog Grille.  The food is great along with the modern setting matched with African animal photos and stuffed game heads. We both has Tilapia fish tacos.


I was happy to have a relaxing weekend with Abigail.  The view from Paul’s place adds to a sense of peace.  Both mornings there were 4-5 deer grazing right next to the house.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Let there be Range Aids

Now that all of the instructor updates are finished, the Range Aids in the program are able to sign up for classes to assist with.  This will be my step-son Neil’s 3rd season as a Range Aid.  Range Aids make around 8:50 an hour and get paid for 16 hours of work for each 20 hour class.  RA assist with setting up the range, getting the bikes ready, bringing bikes out and putting them up, swapping bikes out during an exercise, etc…  Neil has become quite the pro at changing out broken clutch and brake levels from when the students drop the bikes or have a crash.  It’s great for Neil while he is in school.  He is actively working around 15 minutes per hour.  The rest of the time he can stay in the shade and study (he is in a criminal justice program at our local community college).  Where RA make a big difference is while we are teaching on the range.  In between exercises, a RA can take up the cones from the previous exercise while setting up the cones for the next exercise.  This allows the two instructors to focus on debriefing the riders, breaks, and providing the instructions for the next exercise.  During my first two teaching seasons, I never had a RA and it just meant a little for work, but totally manageable.  RA allow the instructors a little breathing time.  Of the 27 classes that I am teaching this year, Neil will be working with me a RA for 20 of them.  He may assist me with ones during the weekdays depending on which classes that he gets into for summer session.  Of the 36 classes that I taught last year, Neil was my RA for 30 of them.

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That is pretty much the basics of the Range Aids in the program, but doesn’t provide  what prompted this post.  I will have been married to Abigail (Neil’s mom) for 8 years this August and we dated for 2 years before getting married.   Neil turned 20 two weeks ago.   While Neil does make mistakes in life or needs to be prodded to take care of a few things, I have not ever had an arguments with him.  I can really say that he is a great kid with a more than pleasant personality.  Such a contrast to me being a pain to my own step mother who married my father when I was in Jr. High School.  What I get from teaching the classes and having Neil be my RA is time with my step son that most parents never get with their children at this age.  Like any relationship, time spent in common provides the substance that needed to know and enjoy the other person.   In the midst of teaching the program, we can talk, laugh, find out what he is doing while not at home, etc…  I do look forward to the time when he decides to go through the instructor prep program.  Teaching classes with Neil as a peer will only enhance the experience with him.


I have be believe that Neil is just a little more safety conscious than other 20 year old motorcyclists.  Not just because of being with the Motorcycle Rider Program, but because he has seen the effects of even low speed crashes.  In particular, I don’t believe that he will ever were anything short of a full face helmet.  He was right beside me on a nasty crash during the braking evaluation.  The rider over applied the from brake, the bike went to the right and she went to the left.  The primary impact was facial on the rough asphalt parking lot.  The gash between her nose and mouth went all of the though the skin into the mouth.  There were also a few loose teeth but none lost along with scrapes on other parts like the hands and knees.  The rider wasn’t going any faster than 15 mph however the rider made the choice to wear a 3/4 helmet.  Had the rider choose a full face, it would have averted the facial impact altogether.  Half of the other riders in the class suggested that riders in the class should have to wear full face helmets for the class on the class evaluation sheets. 

Side note: The face crash rider already had taken deliver of a brand new HD and was determined to get their licenses.  Even as the rider was taken to the hospital by their spouse, she let us know that she would be back.  About two months later, she stopped by a class that I was teaching at another site.  She gave me a big hug and reported that she had retaken the classes and passed.  She healed up pretty good with a little assistance from a plastic surgeon to minimize the scaring.