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The Dirt Bike Lesson

Teachings of a Child

by Hal Evan Caplan
October 9, 2011

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The Dirt Bike Lesson

My Child is my teacher and the classroom is any environment in which the lesson is taught. Clean, muddy, loud, quiet, inside or outside, there is no choosing the lesson location or situation. Over the years I have learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to my teacher's lesson plans. Usually they are presented and I am totally caught off guard because of it. He makes no apologies for the timing of these lessons that I am to learn because I am his student and learning from him is constant ? period.

One of our family hobbies is to go dirt bike riding. My teacher, my wife and I love it. We go as often as possible. We are part of a riding group appropriately named, "The let's get dirty dirt bike club". There is a large group of people associated with the riding club. Some ride dirt bike or foul-wheelers while others ride Razor 4 x 4 vehicles. It is not just an adult group; there are a good handful of kids, so this always makes it fun. It also makes it very interesting for the adults as we have to be careful that the kids don?t try and show off in front of each other resulting in an undesired outcome. Knock on wood... we have been lucky thus far.

The way the club works is most weekends there is a ride scheduled at one of the many local off-road parks. This is usually a day trip. In addition to the local rides, twice a year, there is a ride scheduled in Atlanta, where we rent cabins and stay for 2 nights and ride for 3 days. For these trips, most group members participate and the average number of people attending is in the neighborhood of fifty people, including kids.

During a recent outing to a local riding park, 11 members joined in on the fun. There were 7 adults and 4 kids. We rode from 9:15am until 4:30pm. Don't get me wrong, we took many breaks and came back to the vehicles for snacks and water breaks as well as lunch.

During one of the runs, my friend decided he was going to do his best impression of superman when his front tire hit a large rock and he flew over his handlebars. The clutch lever on his dirt bike broke and he was banged up a bit, so he ended his day early and went home. My teacher was the first kid to come upon this situation as he saw my friend getting thrown over his motorcycle. I was in the rear of the pack and did not see any of it other than my buddy picking up his bike. And just for the record, we all wear protective gear!

My teacher was a little worried because Ricky did have a bad spill and I could tell that my teacher was concerned. I asked my teacher if he was okay and he did answer that he was, but he had this scowl look on his face. That bothered me because he usually didn?t have that type of look. I continued to ask if he was doing okay and to ensure nothing else was bothering him. He told me that he had a headache, but he wasn't acting like he had one.

During a break just after lunch, I noticed my teacher still had that scowl look on his face as he was sitting in a foldout chair sipping a cold Gatorade. I walked up to him and again asked if everything was okay.

"I noticed you were not hanging around your friends." I pointed out.

No respond.

"Are you okay?" I inquired.

"Fine." He countered.

"You just don't look fine." voiced.

Again, no response.

"Well okay then." I said as I walked away.

I knew that we were at the dirt bike park, hanging out with friends and enjoying the day, but I had no idea I was about to be taught a lesson in the middle of it all. This was certainly the last place and time that I ever expected to learn a lesson from my teacher. But then again that is what makes the lessons so interesting. I have no idea when or where they will present themselves.

I heard some footsteps approaching from behind me as I stood in a small circle under a tree, in the shade, talking about the day's college football game with my friends. I turned around and saw my teacher standing about three feet away from me.

He motioned for me to follow him; he turned and took five or six steps away from the group. Once I reached him, he whispered and asked that I please bend down. I knelt down to his level.

"Dad." He softly spoke.

"Yes." I replied, knowing I was going to get the answer to the question I had been asking him for some time.

"I don't want to ride anymore." He uttered.

"It's only 2:45." I brought to his attention.

"I don't care about the time." He indicated.

"I don't understand. Anytime we ride, you are the last one to stop." I reminded him.

"Not today." He claimed.

"Can you tell me why?" I probed.

And then, like a Mack truck, the lesson hit me.

"Dad, I'm just tired and I don't want to get hurt." He admitted.

"That is VERY smart. I'm not mad at you, I promise." I reassured him.

He hugged me tight, looked up at me and smiled. We walked over to my truck where I helped him get his riding gear off and he changed into shorts and a t-shirt. Then he ran over to where the rest of the group was hanging out.

Because it was Saturday and the college game was on, several people decided to hang out and listen to the game on the radio. It was the first official game of the season and a lot of people in the south take that very seriously. Luckily, one of the benefits of having this group of riding friends is that we can rely on each other to help out, like with watching the kids. My teacher stayed with the group at our main base camp area while a small group of us continued to ride.

When I returned to the base area from the ride, I noticed my teacher sitting in that same chair just relaxing and eating a snack. I took off my helmet, chest protector and gloves and went to him just to "check in".

"Dad, our team won the football game." He remarked.

"Great..." I paused.

"Are you better now?" I asked.


"Are you bummed that you didn't go on riding with us for the last part of the day?" I probed.

"No, I know that I made the right decision. Safety first!" He boasted.

"I am so proud of you!" I commented as I hugged him again.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I was reminded of that day was: You need to know when to stop with whatever activity you are doing so you don?t get hurt.

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Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke
Published September 28, 2010

A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

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Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
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A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

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