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The Tentacle


February 19, 2008

The Passion of a Lifetime

Nick Diaz

Enough math education for a while, folks. If you’ve been reading my recent contributions to thetentacle.com, you may well conclude that education in general, and mathematics education in particular, is the focus of my existence.

Not so. I like math education, enjoy thinking and writing about it, and do it for a living. For me, it’s been a good profession, one that I’ve grown into for several decades of successful practice, and one that has provided me with a decent living up ’til to now.

It is not, however, what I really like to do. If I were independently wealthy, I would quit teaching in a heartbeat. I‘m told that math education is a “passion" for me. Not really! It’s only a transitory activity which will end the second I step out of the classroom for good. I’m not prepared to do that yet, mostly for financial reasons. Very often I get the following question:

“You’ll never stay away from teaching. What are you gonna do with yourself when you quit teaching?”

This statement/question implies that anyone who has demonstrated continued success in a given field, (and obviously enjoys performing the duties demanded in such field), is automatically condemned to continue practicing in that field – like in marriage – “until death do us part.” Nonsense.

What some people describe as a “passion,” isn’t really a passion; it is, instead, a predilection, an affinity, an inclination. Passions last forever. My days as a math educator are numbered. Someone better than I will replace me, and life will go on.

Will I miss it? Probably, for about a minute, which is the time it takes me to walk to the school parking lot toward my motorcycle, put on my helmet, turn on the key, and ride off into the sunset.

Passion is what I feel for my family, my religion, my friends, and yes, folks, my life as a motorcycle touring rider. Those passionate feelings will remain with me until the man upstairs indicates that my time is up.

I’m not the teacher who rides a motorcycle; I’m the motorcycle rider who teaches for a living. When I turn 62, God willing in less than two years, I will no longer be a teacher. I intend, however, to continue to be a husband, a father, a grandfather, a Catholic, a friend, and yes – a motorcycle rider.

Toward the end of 2007, when I wrote my first piece on motorcycling for The Tentacle, I asked myself how many total miles I’ve spent on motorized two-wheeled contraptions since that infamous day in 1970 when I taught myself to ride a little Honda 90 on the quiet lanes of Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.

Having a fairly good memory for times, places, and names, I proceeded to reconstruct my motorcycling history since my “cemetery days.” Eleven consecutive motorcycles owned, for a total of – drum roll, please – half a million miles. Goodness, time and miles go by quickly, don’t they?

500,000 miles – not all of them safe, as an unfortunate relative of Bambi found out one day.

500,000 miles – not all of them enjoyable, having ridden through lots of rain, frozen rain, snow, wind, strange roads, speeding tickets…

500,000 miles – which I wouldn’t trade for anything…

So, I’m going for my million miles. One has to have a temporal goal in order to keep oneself happy, focused, alive, alert, and healthy. I’m going to shoot for one million miles on two wheels.

Will I attain that goal? Probably not. 500,000 miles in 38 years translates to a little over 13,000 miles per year. Considering we live in an area where riding year round is not realistic, that’s quite a few miles for every earthly revolution. It would take me another 38 years to reach 1,000,000, or 10^6, miles, which would put me at 98 years of age by that time.

Not very realistic, eh? But, what the heck, my passion for motorcycling will take a new turn, starting now, and continuing even stronger after that magic S.S. age of 62.

So, I will have to make it a point to ride more. Ride more miles, more often, more of what my friend Jim Ford calls “invisible roads” into which I’ll do my best to disappear.

No interstates – four lanes are for making time; two lanes are for making memories.

Instead of 13,000 miles per year, at 18,000 it will take me less than 28 more years to achieve the million-mile goal. 60 plus 28 = 88. Oh, well, maybe I’ll go for 20,000 instead. The key here is to go. Riding is not a destination, unless the destination is a hidden famous diner in the middle of nowhere. Riding is the end, not the means.

So what if the bulk of my riding years and miles are behind me. That thought would make others sad; not me, it inspires me to go on.

One mile, one year, at a time, with passion…



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