Monday, November 10, 2008

The other day I received a voice mail on my cell. When the call came in, the number displayed looked familiar but it wasn't in my contact list so I let it go to voice mail.

I got a free minute a while later and retrieved it. The voice on the recording said I was cordially invited to a rider class reunion at the dealership where I took my MSF safety class. Free pizza, I bet.

As much as I enjoy free food, worth what you paid for it most of the time, did I really want to go? I didn't know anyone in my class from a year ago and I haven't ridden with any of them since. I don't think I can remember anyone's name.

There were 12 of us in the class. We spent one evening of about 6 hours in a class room and then 2 afternoons of 6 hours each together on the course, a 2 acre parking lot with course lines painted on the asphalt. Not much time to get to know people let alone the ins and outs of motorcycling.

Here's a picture of the "range". Since training season at this location is complete, its full of cars. But every other weekend from May until October the lot is empty except for a dozen riders and at least two instructors.

Like I said, I didn't get to know my fellow classmates but there are some events that were memorable.

A pastor and his wife were there. She had never used a clutch before. On any vehicle. She had a couple of 'fallovers' but toughed it out and completed the course.

I remember her husband, the pastor, in front of me in line to start a timed run for the final evaluation. He waited for about 2 minutes while the rider/coaches compared notes or something. During that 2 minutes, he nervously revved the engine on the Rebel 250 like he was a teenager at a stoplight waiting for the green light. 2 minutes is a long time to listen to vroom, vroom, vroom, vroom. He passed.

There was a young twenty-something lady who was a Honda motorcycle mechanic which I thought was unique. I suppose it is a good thing to be able to test ride the bike you're fixing. She passed.

A husband and wife team were learning together. They were first time riders with a passion for the 'open road on two wheels' dream. Their dreams were only half realized.

The wife dropped out of the class, either out of embarrassment or realization after an incident at the end of the first day on the course. Her story serves as a reminder for me to do a check on my attention and awareness.

Like I said, it was at the end of the first day on the training course. The course, a 2 acre parking lot at this car dealership, was bordered on the back side by cars, trucks, and SUVs that were destined for the auto auction. The vehicles were lined up where the pavement stopped and gravel began and they provided a good visual boundary for the course.

The September day had been hot and tiring. My backside was aching after spending nearly 6 hours in the saddle and I was ready to call it a day.

If I remember correctly, the exercise were were learning required us to accelerate to about 20 mph and on the instructor's signal, serve to the right or left, straighten the bike out and then stop.

Almost all of us had completed the task and were gathered near the staging area about 250 feet away from where the exercise was held. That's when we heard the commotion.

The wife had completed the exercise and was instructed to turn right after her stop and then park at the staging area. For some reason, she never made the right turn and ended up planting her Rebel into the grill of one of the auto auction vehicles.

It was a good thing she only had a few feet between where she started and the cars. She wasn't able to get up much speed. She survived her first crash but opted not to participate in the rest of the course the following day. (To her credit though, she did accompany her husband.)

She wasn't injured and according to her the only thing she hurt was her pride. In explaining what happened, she said she just zoned out. She was hot and tired and lost her mental focus.

At the time, I thought, "Wow. That'll never happen the me." Wrongo, Bozo! When I'm travelling the same road everyday, and am familiar with every curve, seam, patch, and lane change, its easy to let my guard down and my mind wander.

You know you're lucky when you're still upright on your bike but can't remember the last few miles.

Has it ever happened to you?

Ride Safe!


Jeffry said...

I happened to teach 21 Basic Rider Courses here in the Chicago area this riding season. While it's rewarding, it can get rather tense as some riders aren't really mentally ready to ride or are consistently inattentive. I seldom am contacted by any of the students unless there has been a snag in their paperwork and a delay in getting the license waiver.

irondad said...

It's always interesting how the dynamics work. On the first night of class I teach 24 students. We split into two groups of 12 for the rest of the weekend. Usually, we're all strangers to each other. The instructors are sort of the beginning of the bonding process. We have to get the students to trust us in order for them to start having success on their own.

For the most part, the diverse group of strangers forms a temporary bond. It's intense, but brief. At the end of the second day of riding everyone parts company and becomes strangers again. Except for snapshots like you've kept.

I start over every week I teach, which is a lot. Each class is different but just as fun to watch enter the journey. And, yes, it's amazing how quickly a parking lot can become your world!

Classes are also a great place to explore in a safe environment. Not everyone discovers the same things.

Nice post. It made me smile.

Doug C said...

Jeffery - 21 courses is a lot. I've never really thought about the responsibilities placed on the instructors. Teaching techniques and at the same time making certain the students are behaving safely has to be a mental chore sometimes.

I remember my instructor quite well and, thanks to the Internet, have tracked down an old email account on a BMW owner’s site.

Alas, he has never responded to my email queries so I have to bug Irondad (and now yourself) with riding and technique questions.

Thankfully, everyone likes to share their knowledge.

Irondad - Group dynamics are interesting to watch. For years I've been involved with an organization that brings strangers together for 3 days of classes, study, meals and discussions and it is fascinating to watch the participants transform from individuals to close friends before they part and go their separate ways.

Thanks for the comment.

Lance said...

When I took my motorcycle course, it was amazing the variety of riders - some with experience, most with none, some young, some old(er) (me being in the latter category), men, women, it was a pretty diverse group. I am very glad to have passed, and I appreciate those who teach these courses.

fasthair said...

Doug: Quote "You know you're lucky when you're still upright on your bike but can't remember the last few miles. Has it ever happened to you?" end quote.

As much as I want to say no, you know it has but mostly on just the super slab. Two lane highways have a way of keeping you on alert if for no other reason to enjoy the sites, smells, and roads.

I just found your blog and really enjoyed this post as well of your ride report post also. I see Irondad stops by so you must have an enjoyable blog and be a good writer. What I’ve seen so far makes me want to keep exploring your blog. I have to added you to my feeds.


Doug C said...

Fasthair - The superslab is what lulls me to sleep all the time.

Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words. My words have been few as of late. Too much to do and too little time.

Ride Safe!