October 7 & 8, 2017, I taught my last MSF Basic Rider Course (I) of the year. This coming summer, I’ll officially be 70 (although I’ve called myself “70 years old” since I passed 68 1/2) and I’m having a hard time imagining myself teaching kids and middle-aged students motorcycling at that age. 70 is REALLY OLD and I’m feelin’ it. After one of those half-day classes, I can barely move. Guys younger than me say that their day is finished after a morning or afternoon hiking around the BRC range. I’d still be up for the old 2PM to 7PM classes, but we don’t run those often anymore: not enough students. Getting up at 5AM to get to a Cities’ range at 7AM isn’t my idea of a fun way to spend a weekend. Early in the season or late, driving or riding in the dark is far from my comfort zone.
Teaching motorcycle classes was a terrific income-filler when I first left the medical device industry in 2001; before my consulting and repair businesses took off and the college teaching gig became an actual income-producer. Yeah, I enjoyed teaching people about motorcycling and getting to ride the state’s motorcycles for money, but it was always close enough to “work” that I wouldn’t have done it without the money. It’s actually a lot of work. In the early years, 2002-2010 or so, I did 20-something courses a summer; pretty much every weekend of my whole summer for a lot of years.
From 2007 to 2011 I made space for at least one several week long trip every season: Alaska in 2007, Nova Scotia in 2008, the Rockies with my grandson in 2009,. North Dakota ghost towns in 2010, the Lake Superior loop with my brother in 2011. I decided on different excitement at the end of 2011: a hip replacement. I followed that up with a heart attack and a stent implant in 2012. I retired my businesses and from my college instructor gig after the spring semester of 2013 and turned a simple RV retirement trip into a miserable VW repair extravaganza. We moved to Red Wing later that year, sold our house in the Cities in early 2014, and . . . that’s about it. The only trip left on my bucket list would be a run down South America’s Pacific Coast Highway. That’s not gonna happen.
Since 2014, more than half of my classes scheduled at Red Wing’s site, Southeast Technical College, have cancelled. Most of the classes I’ve taught have been at Century College in White Bear, about 50 minutes from our home. I have spent a lot of my life arranging my work and home to minimize commuting time and distance (in that order). I’m not going to stop now. I compulsively calculate my actual hourly rate, after 50 years of billing customers for work, and I’m making about $18/hour in real dollars, pre-tax, with the motorcycle classes. Not awful, but certainly not great.
That last October weekend, I worked with one of my favorite co-instructors: John Wright. If anything will convince me to put in another year or two at this gig, working with John would do it. One of the unexpected benefits of the motorcycle teaching gig has been the people I’ve taught with over the years. The list is long and memorable: motorcyclists and instructors who have not just taught me about motorcycling and teaching, but a whole list of subjects have been explored and appreciated. My first year teaching was not that much fun. For a while, that first year, I wouldn’t have bet much on my lasting another year. Oddly, a guy who ended up getting fired a few years ago was the first decent, experienced instructor I worked with: Steve Lane. He taught, mostly, at Dakota County Technical College which is often referred to as “the Wild West” by instructors from other locations. It’s a little more controlled now, but for a lot of years DCTC was where motorcycle instructors went if they wanted to blow off the rules. It was a wild and crazy place to work and I didn’t like it that much. Since then, I’ve worked with several experienced coaches who are not only a lot of fun, but educational, interesting, skilled, and good people.
Now, after 16 years, I’m in a similar place. I don’t need the money. I don’t like the early morning travel. The work is hard on me and will only get harder. I don’t like scheduling my spring and summer seven to eight months in advance; instructor course sign-up occurs in November and December, depending on the school where you work. I’m in no hurry to make a decision. At least until the course sign-up meetings begin, I can put the decision off for a while. For that matter, I can just do fill-in work next year and put off the decision until the new BRC 2 kicks in.
We’re training for the new program, the BRC 2, this coming summer. That is a two-weekend commitment and I suspect it will be a make-or-break event for me; and lots of other trainers. The rumor was that about half of Wisconsin’s trainers quit during and after their BRC 2 training (Transitional RiderCoach Prep or TRCP). If history repeats itself, it could be hard to find a Minnesota motorcycle course after mid-summer.