St. Louis, MO
Posted - 02/02/2011 : 3:58 PM
I got back from speaking at the Idaho STAR Wrap up on Monday and have been extremely pressed for time since. I did want to tell all of you a little bit about the trip. Great people. Great time and, as a city, Boise is the nation's best kept secret. But that's not what I want to write about today. This is:
It's colddd out there! Really cold. Really, really cold. It never got above freezing the whole time I was up there, and I'm a SoCal girl; 50 degrees is cold enough for me. As Kerry Willey told me on the phone, "but it's a dry cold." Yeah, but it's still darn cold.
Everyone told me it was unusually so for this time of year, but all that means is that it's really that cold other times of the year. Then there were those who said, "This is warm. You should see what it's like up north or out in eastern Idaho." No thanks! Though I have to say it's chilly today I had to wear a light sweater in the morning. I suppose I *could* close the window, but I like the fresh air blowing in (ok, so it *is* LA so "fresh air" is relative).
The folks in Idaho, iow, are tough. Really tough. It was hard to find any of the STAR instructors that used an electric vest let alone heated grips and no one said they had a heated seat. I have an electric vest and a lot of my friends down here have heated grips and heated seats. We are wimps or the guys are gadgetaholics or both wimps and gadgetaholics.
All kinds of people I met talked about cold weather rides and swore that they could ride all year round in the Treasure Valley area. They talked about riding through the snow; that was fine, good times, except, they said, when there was ice underneath. I think it was Harry who went out testing the new Renegade motorcycle at 10-degrees above. Yowzer!
They also told me about the first spring and last autumn classes when the students get off the bikes for debriefing and the next demo, frost had formed on the bike seats by the time they got back on and how sometimes they have to wait until 9:30 a.m. for the ranges to be safe for the students to ride in. I kept thinking about them standing out there in that cold for all those hours at least the students were riding. They are the Frozen Chosen.
This wasn't a few instructors grand standing for the SoCal visitor, either. On Sunday, Ron and Beth took me for a tour of Boise and a drive through the mountains and, sure enough, I saw several riders out there cruising along even though it was about 25 degrees outside. Brrrr!
In the summer, instructors said, it got up to 110 in the Boise area. They didn't mind that, either. I kept thinking of the instructors standing out in the heat on that asphalt all those hours. So I'm thinking Idaho is where the worst of the north and the worst of the southwest temps come together.
But it wasn't just their temperature fortitude that impressed me. Cinda, who's husband Tom (IIRC) is a site manager, made a map of Idaho for me from a receipt and marked all the major towns and sites on it for me. They then told me about how they got to one place or another. It seems that there are only two freeways in ID. The rest of the roads are two lane very twisty highways or secondary roads and there's a huge wilderness area where there's no roads at all. In other words, some of them are traveling hours on narrow roads or going out of state to Montana to get to a site in Idaho. That's a lot of driving hours to get to and from the site before and after teaching.
As they related their adventures, they didn't talk as if this was unusual or that they are particularly tough or particularly self sacrificing. It was SOP. It was what needed to be done and they were glad to do it because they believed in what they were doing and that made the temperature changes, the long hours and drive worth it.
When state senator Skip Brandt spoke at the banquet and called them volunteers, a couple people later said the instructors aren't volunteers they were paid. But I think the Honorable Senator had the right of it: Sure, instructors are paid $16 an hour (they're getting a raise to $18 an hour), but it didn't compare to most of their day jobs.
And what, exactly are their day jobs? Here's a partial list: high school teachers, program analyst for the State of Idaho, geneticist/microbiologist, electrical engineer, civil engineer, material engineer, university math professor, real estate agent, accountant, auctioneer, city director of public works, Safety Director for a trucking company, quality control for a bullet factory, IT/web designer/management people, a Sheriff deputy. They work for the State of Idaho, universities, the National Testing Laboratory, Micron, and so forth. There were also a carpenter, school bus driver, framer/youth pastor, service techs, two who work in motorcycle stores/dealers. Only a few of them were retired and three of them were retired law enforcement officers.
I kept thinking that all of this the long hours in less than optimal weather, the long hours driving to and from sites, the professions weren't unusual. Instead, I'd say it's pretty typical for instructors in both snowbelt and sunbelt states. And that got me thinking of what it means to be an instructor anywhere in the country:
Long hours driving for a great many instructors even if they don't have to go to a different state to get where they're going. The first classroom session comes after a long day at their real jobs. Then there's the updates and wrap up. It's long hours and lost weekends.
They do it even though most of them aren't teachers, weren't educated as teachers and it's not necessarily their natural gift. Yet they learn what they need to in order to do their job.
It seems to me that few of them do this for the money. The money just isn't that good to do all that to earn a few extra bucks a month.
And that's why I think Senator Brandt had the right of it they are, essentially, volunteers since most of them don't need this to supplement their income, but many of them would do it anyhow if they weren't paid some of them told me so.
It seems to me from what Tim and Ray and Sherry and Rob have said over the past two years that they don't really understand what it means to be an instructor what these folks are giving up, what they are taking on, what sacrifices it entails, and how most of them really don't need to do this.
They *really* don't need to do this.
They serve at their pleasure, or rather, they serve at their belief.
They believe in what they are doing. They believe it makes a difference. They believe it saves lives. They believe it's important and someone has to do it. They believe in rider *education.*
Without that belief, any rider education delivery system would be hard pressed to come up with enough good instructors to make enough training available and accessible.
That is, unless they offer a whole lot more money like T3RG in Denver does (if the checks don't bounce)to compensate for all the other factors.
I'm sure current rider instructors wouldn't turn down more money but it's not their primary motivation for doing what they do. They have day jobs good ones that would pay even more. The money would have to be superlative to put up with the crap that comes with any job that is strictly commercial and even then, as so many businesses that employ part timers find out the turn over is higher. There's some grief that just isn't worth the paycheck.
Back at the beginning when I first started investigating all of this, someone said that they thought Tim Buche is a True Believer. I agreed and still agree he is a True Believer in rider education as a means to an end, and that end is in a quarterly report, an annual report, in Industry.
Rider educators are the True Believers in rider education for the sake of the students.
There's a profound difference, Tim. One that just doesn't translate into the big box roll up model that you're pushing for motorcycle safety programs.