Being a motorcoach driver now as well as the school bus I get chance to do longer trips with the teams. These can include overnight stays and even all night drives.
I have already done a couple of trips on the coach but this was to be my first overnight. I was to drive with the guy that trained me (also a state trooper WIN) and it was a BIG trip.
We would leave our home base on Thursday evening and travel to Brookings SD, about 60 miles. Not that far I can hear you say… well wait a moment that is just the first leg.
From there we were to travel to South Bend, IN. Now that’s a heck of a trip. 740 Miles and 11 hours 53mins without stops. That’s why we needed two of us. We have to trade-off the driving. And we needed to.
The drive down was not as fun as it should have been. We had to deal with bad road conditions but we are both skilled drivers and nobody noticed it when we made mistakes. I didn’t cover as much as I should have done during my stint behind the wheel, but I got us to the changeover point in one piece.
Now you may be asking why we are going to South Bend. The more internet savvy of you will already have googled it and discovered that it is the home of Notre Dame.
That’s right this bus driver has gotten to go to Notre Dame.
This is one of the perks of being a driver. I am getting to visit placed that I would never normally get to see. Yeah i also have to go to places that I visit every day but you take the rough with the smooth and sometimes you get a really good deal on things. The company that I work for look after you while you are away and they look after their customers very well so that they come back.
I had been talking to other drivers about the trips and had heard all sorts of stories from the good to the bad and had decided that I would just ask questions and not really listen to any horror stories that they may use to try to scare me off and they had plenty of them. Usually during the snow the bus would end up in the ditch and this did not help me at all as the snow was really starting to come down. But the day we had to leave things seemed fine.
I had been given the day off by my boss and was very happy about this. We left for Brookings and the weather was not the best but better than it had been. By the time we had arrived it was snowing nicely and we had wind to deal with as well. While we loaded the passengers and their baggage I asked my co driver how we would run the trip down. He said the he would do as much driving as he could and then hand over to me and take a nap then when he was back awake he would take over as soon as I was ready. I decided to take a short nap and that way I would be fresh for the drive.
The change over happened at Albert Lea, MN. It was still snowing but the roads were good. Once I started into Iowa , though, that soon changed. I was constantly battling the wind and the roads went from bad to worse. I was always aware of my cargo and played it safe. Some points along the way I was only doing 30 instead of the 55 that you can do. That didn’t stop other car drivers from passing me at high-speed. I always stayed aware of the other drivers and drove at the speed that I thought was safe.
My stint at the wheel was very tiring and I was very happy to see the changeover point. I didn’t think that I would sleep at all on the coach but after that driver I was so tired it didn’t take me long to fall asleep.
My co-driver drove the rest of the way and we arrived safe and sound at the hotel. We both thought that we were done for the day and lay down on our beds for a well-earned nap. How wrong we were!
About 10 minutes later the was a knock at our door and the group leader informed us that we were moving hotels as they had found bed bugs in all the other rooms. YIKES. We both leapt off the beds and grabbed our bags and moved hotels. fortunately we found another hotel close by that was willing to accept the group and stayed there for the weekend.
During the days my co-driver and I were not needed that much so we were able to do a little bit of sightseeing and if the weather had been better than we would have done more. I was amazed at the place and took whatever chance I could get to look around. I was not able to get into the football stadium but was able to walk around the outside of it.
The basketball team that we brought down made it to the first round of playoffs and that took place in the main arena. It was quite a sight to walk in there and see it. Everything was laid out just so and you could tell that if something had been moved the caretaker would know straight away. Sadly the team did not win that game. But it could have been partly to do with the fact that they had only 15 minutes of rest but their opponents had not played anyone since 9am that day (it was now 6pm. We asked if they wanted to travel back that night as that was the plan if they went out that day. The group leader thought about it for a few moments and firmly said that he would prefer to travel the following morning. So we set a departure time and turned in for the night.
The trip back was a compete contrast to the ride down. The weather was good and the roads smooth. Everything went according to plan and we arrived back at the home base safe and sound.
I picked up a lot on that trip, little tricks for starting the coach in cold weather. How to park it in a confined hotel parking lot (they really need to think when they lay them out) and finally that my co-driver has a thing for Starbucks coffee.