May 1, 2006

week two down...

...and what a rough weekend it was!!! where do i start?? at the beginning i guess...

while i was packing, i made a last minute decision to take the bike. i checked the weather and it looked good, so i decided to take the bike. now i had to pack everything in smaller bags instead of my one big bag. since i'm riding, i also like to pack my clothes in zip lock bags in case it does rain. so there i was, stuffing clothes into zip lock bags and stuffing those into my saddlebag bag. the other "problem" with taking the bike was i needed (wanted) more time for stops. now i needed to leave sooner that i was planning. turned out not to be too bad - i was able to get packed and loaded up in time to hit my earlier ais time... and no time to spare.

the ride out was good. all interstate. okay, maybe not all, but at least 200 mile out of 220 miles... it went quicker than i thought it would - not sure why, but it did. i stopped once to stretch my legs and get a drink. probably only stopped for 15 minutes before hitting the road again. made it to the hotel earlier that i expected. that's a lot better than getting there later!!

i got my stuff into the room, hung out for a bit and then decided to head to class. on my way out to the bike, here comes wally... after exchanging pleasantries, we decide to ride to class together. he's familiar with the area and knows a shorter route. that's good with me!! as we're getting on our bikes, wally tells me he has after-market pipes and they're probably louder than mine. i look at him and just say, "probably." after we get on and start the bikes, i jokingly say, don't go too fast and lose me. he says that if he took off on the twisty roads, i wouldn't be able to keep up with him. again, i look at him and say, "probably."

we finally take off and it becomes obvious quickly that wally doesn't do much, if any, group riding. we get on the interstate and the first thing he does it start switching lanes to pass traffic. of course he's doing this in such a manner that i can't stay with him!!! i make an effort to catch him. at one point, we're jockeying around two cement mixers. finally, wally's in the left lane, the two cement mixers move to the right lane and all i have to do is gun it by the two trucks to catch wally. just as i get to the rear tire of the second cement mixer, i see wally zip into the right lane. he's still got his right turn signal on and now he's giving hand signals (something he hasn't done yet) that he's making a right turn. i scan down the road further and see the exit, which i now presume we're taking... great!!! i don't have time to pass both trucks, and i don't have space to get between them. so now i have to slow down and get behind them. of course i have cage on my butt!! here i am, in the left lane, hitting my brakes trying to get back into the right lane. i'm sure the cage was thinking - asshole biker. and i really can't blame them... well, i manage to get behind the truck just in time to take the exit.

so now we're on back / residential roads the rest of the way. believe it or not, wally was able to lose me three more times. well, maybe only two. the first one, we're riding along about 45 mph. all of a sudden, no signal or anything, he pulls over to the right into a parking lot. not being prepared, i missed the turn. thankfully, there was another turn into the parking lot about 100 yards down the road. so, technically, i guess he didn't lose me that time. we conferred in the parking lot and he told me he missed the earlier turn, so now we have to go back. he pulls out of the parking lot between two cars, not leaving me enough room to follow. damn - separated again. now i was able to catch up to him when he had to wait to make a left turn at a light. but there was a car between us. in true wally fashion, when he gets a chance, he motors out of there, leaving me sitting behind a car, waiting to turn. now i would have expected him to pull over in a parking lot to wait for me - but this is wally... a couple of miles down the road, i see him at an intersection. he had already made his left turn and was waiting for me to make the turn. yeah, i can finally catch up with him... the light turns red, so i can't make my turn yet. as i come to a stop at the intersection, i see wally taking off into the distance. damn, damn, damn... i am finally able to catch up to him at another light - thankfully onto the road that the college is on. so even if he takes off, i know how to get to my destination now. somehow, we manage to pull into the parking lot together. as we dismount, i look at wally and say, "don't do much group riding, do you??"

there would be two more trips between the hotel and college with wally. each one an adventure in itself - wally always looking for the ultimate cut through. it turns out saturday night, when i didn't have to ride with wally, that i found an easier way, which seemed to be quicker. i would have tried to tell wally about it, but since he didn't "discover" it, there would have been something wrong with it... oh well...

so where was i?? oh yeah, class friday night. i got to lead off presenting unit 1, the introduction. i asked if there was anything specific i should know before i got started - nope, just get up there and do it... so i do... and as i'm presenting the material, they have me skip sections. this throws off my presentation because i wasn't expecting it. when i asked earlier, i would have at least expected them to say that they're not going to have me do everything in its entirety. oh well. this was only the beginning. and they did this to everyone. of course the final result was all the presentations looking disjointed, like we weren't prepared and didn't know what we were doing. it's like they had expectations for us, but didn't tell us what those were until we didn't meet them.

so saturday after lunch all hell breaks loose. and i think it was because two guys from the "state" office were observing us friday night and saturday morning. they left shortly after lunch. after they left, we were told how frustrating it was for them to watch us performing so poorly. they may have even said we were the worse class they've ever had. now i can go and get all defensive, but it may just sound like excuses. i have these thoughts - when you're in a class and one or two students are struggling/failing, it's probably the student. when the whole class is failing, it's the instructor. however, our instructors weren't willing to accept any responsibility.

saturday afternoon they pulled us off the range and back into the classroom. one of the instructors wouldn't even return to the classroom. the other one was saying that the reason we weren't learning may have been because when they were trying to teach us out on the range, there were always side conversations going on. this is true. however, what they failed to realize that most of the side conversations were because the instructor not teaching the lesson would start conversations with the students. in addition, the instructors would give the students conflicting instructions. we would ask one instructor how we should present something and he would advise us. after completing it the way we were told, the other instructor would say we shouldn't do it that way. of course neither instructor would stand up and say they told us how to do it.

another example that comes to mind... now the instructors have "preferences" of what color cones to use in certain exercises. bill and i were setting up cones. we had them set up and we were getting ready to walk away when bill suggested we change a set or orange cones to red. i was hesitant. and i told him that if we made them green, they'd tell us they wanted them orange. but if we left them, then they would want them green. bill laughingly agreed. i told him we could switch them if he wanted - but he said we would leave them orange. so we headed back to the staging area. not twenty feet away from the cones, here comes bob. "now this is only a bob thing, but i like to have green cones at the entrance point." i looked at bill, smiled and said "weren't damned if we do, we're damned if we don't." bill just laughed. we couldn't win... no one in class could win...

so i mentioned that one of the instructors wouldn't come back into the classroom. well that was up until about five minutes before class ended. at exactly 6:00 he announces that class is over - we should go home. one of the students asked a question. he said that he's been given a hard time for keeping classes longer than the designated time, it's 6:00, class is over. he wouldn't even answer the student’s question. i can't recall that last time i saw such unprofessional behavior from an instructor.

so saturday night we, the students, went out and bonded over a bitch session. i think we all needed it...

sunday morning didn't start out much better - we picked up pretty much where we left on saturday... we got the bikes out to the range and the instructor tells us to warm ourselves and the bikes up by riding the perimeter and doing weaves on the long side. so we're all out there, riding in circles doing our weaves - round and round we go... we stage after getting the signal and here it comes - the lecture... i expected it to be run this way, you guys weren't doing this, you weren't doing that, blah, blah, blah. as i was sitting on the bike, i started looking over to the parking lot, thinking, i should just walk over to my bike, hop on and ride off without saying a word to them... i honestly don't know what kept me there.

later in the morning and into the afternoon, we ran through all the exercises in order. we broke them down, showing where the bikes would be at the start of each exercise. we talked about the objectives, the instructions, how the demo was to be run, how the simulated exercise was to be run. after that we moved the bikes to the transition point between exercises. then we set up the range for the next exercise. as we were doing this, i kept thinking to myself, here it is, sunday afternoon of the second week and we're doing this. we should have been doing this the saturday of the first week!!! i talked to a couple of the other students and they agreed. i know if i would have said something to the instructors, they would have said that we did do that the first saturday. and i guess in a way, they're probably right - the only problem was it was so choppy and we kept doing in different directions that it never seemed that way!! either way, we know it wasn't the fault of the instructors...

actually, running through the exercises in the manner we did help. i think the instructors were pleased with what they were seeing and it helped boost our spirits. after we were done running through the exercises, it was time for the skills evaluation. by chance, i got to be first. they run all the students through each evaluation, i just got to be the first in line... i didn't do as well as i should have. and i could make up a bunch of excuses, but i'm not going to - i just didn't perform as well as i could have. however, i did pass. everyone passed - so that was great. there wouldn't be any retests!!!

the rest of the afternoon was spent in the classroom, reviewing the pre-course questions and preparing for the knowledge test. i'm a bit nervous about the knowledge test, but i'm figuring at a minimum i can guess my way through the test.

so after class i hopped on the bike and headed home. the ride home was good. i was concerned that after the class i would be tired and the ride home would be long. it didn't turn out that way... the ride home, actually, seemed rather quick. and i enjoyed being on the bike more than in the cage. after one stop, for about twenty minutes, to fuel up and grab something to eat and drink. then back on the road for the rest of the trip. traffic was good, so i didn't have to worry about any idiots... ended up putting over 500 miles on the bike this weekend. after one more trip like that, it'll be time to take it in for its 10k service.

so, weekend was good and bad. or more like bad and good. while the class definitely had it's down moments, overall i think it turned out to be a good weekend. i got to ride the bike - finally. if the weather holds, i'll do that for the remaining weekends. and as a class, we really bonded saturday night. the instructor's behavior gave us a real reason to come together more as a team. and i think we've become stronger. now, as long as the rest of the weekends aren't like that!!!

okay - enough for now... another update to follow...

ride safe