PUBLISHED: 5:58 PM on Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Ride out the weather with a new skill
One of the first things I learned in my motorcycle education class is that the most dangerous time to ride is during the first half hour after it starts raining. The oil on roads mix with the rainwater to become especially slick. "Have another cup of coffee and wait a little while," the video narrator advised us.

Of course, you don't need to wait for the rain to stop entirely. If you did, I doubt you'd see more than 1,000 registered motorcycles in Juneau.

Christopher Lucas photo
  This photo is of me practicing a newly acquired skill on a rare sunny day last week. Don't worry Dad: I wasn't going fast and there was nobody else on the road.
During a recent Saturday's downpour, the eight students in my Juneau ABATE rider education class mounted bikes for the first time.

As the rain pounded down, we learned to shift gears and turn, make tight maneuvers, swerve to avoid obstacles and stop quickly. We arrived at class in full rain gear and tried in vain to keep our visors and goggles from fogging up.

The rain didn't damper the thrill of first taking off or the surprise of discovering that the bike really does turn left when you press on the left handlebar. By the end of the weekend I had learned the basic skills of riding a motorcycle. I was exhausted but my hands still tingled with adrenaline.

"This is the most fun I've ever had in the rain in Juneau," one of my classmates said.

I had to agree: nothing brightens a dismal weekend like learning how to do something new. In the coming months, we'll probably have a lot of dismal weekends and, thankfully, a lot of opportunities to take up new hobbies.

Many people don't have a choice but to do something new in the fall: school takes care of that for some, seasonal work for many others. But for those working year-round jobs, fall won't feel like a season of rebirth unless you go out of your way to make it one.

After a summer like this one, I have a feeling fall will seem endless and we'll be impatient for snow to usher in a season of winter sports. There's a lot to be said for learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby right now, to keep us active and inspired as the days get shorter and shorter, the rain keeps falling, and depression looms.

Non-degree seeking students can still register for classes at the University of Alaska Southeast. Visit for a class schedule and registration information.

The Canvas in downtown Juneau offers a variety of art classes every month, from drawing to ceramics to flower arranging. See the schedule at

There's no reason to wait for snow to be active. The Treadwell Ice Arena on Douglas is already open. Visit

At Dance Fest on Labor Day weekend you can learn dances from the tango and waltz to hip-hop and belly dance. See and watch for the preview in next week's CCW.

If it's cold and raining, it's easy to make excuses to stay home. Just don't mope away the entire fall.

Have another cup of coffee, wait a little while, then get out and learn something new.