Denver Trip

Well summer has once again arrived and that means that I am once again out on long haul trips. These are fantastic to do and allow me to see a lot of the country that I would not normally get chance to do.

This year I headed out to Denver for a mission trip with Holy Redeemer Church out of Marshall. They left Saturday night and myself and another driver met them at 2am part way down the road. This was to make sure that we would make it and still be inside our 10 hour driving limit for the day.

For the first part of my drive I was in a massive storm. Winds blowing like crazy and dealing with rain and, for a short while, hail. The kids managed to sleep through it all though and only woke when it was time to stop for breakfast.

A few of them were surprised when they woke up to find someone else driving the bus and most of them were happy to see me as I have driven this group before. After the breakfast stop we made very good time to the school where the kids would be staying and unloaded everything.

The kids would spend the next week using the school as a base of operations, having breakfast and supper and sleeping in the classrooms. During the day they were assigned a into a group of about five and sent out to a work site in the surrounding area. These could vary from a persons home to a church. They would spend the day doing what ever jobs were needed in order to help out the people. In order to get them there the company in charge of the camp asked the drivers to run shuttle services for them. This brought back a lot of memories for me from my driving days in England. Wrestling a big double decker bus down roads not really meant for it. Well I got to do that all week here. A lot of the work sites that I had to go to were residential houses and a lot of the streets were very tight. The looks on the other drivers faces when I turned down their quiet street in my motorcoach was priceless. I managed the whole week without hitting a kerb or another vehicle.

The look on the faces of the people that the teams went to help was fantastic they were all a little shocked when we pulled up. I dont think that they were expecting such a large vehicle but whenever I collected a group they were always smiling and waving them off. The kids were fantastic. They always got back on the bus tired and smiling after a hard days work. At the end of the week there was a gathering of all the kids involved and they invited all the people that they did work for. A good number came and I decided to sit in and listen to what they had to say. All of them had nothing but praise for the groups that worked there. Everyone was polite and very respectful of other peoples property and did fantastic work. Decks were stained, rooms painted, siding replaced, Roofs repaired, Yards were cleared.,

I talked to the kids on the way home and they all had a fantastic time there. They worked very hard and made new friends and changed some lives. Most of them were asleep about 20 mins into the drive home.

It was a fantastic trip I enjoyed my time and I know that they did as well.

My Day

So I came home today totally bone tired. The sort of tired that walks up and slaps you in the face and says “Go to bed fool cause tomorrow you are doing it all over again”

I was asked earlier in the day what I do all day as it did not seem enough to make me that tired so I thought I would write it all down so it can be read.

Just sit back and imagine this going through your day. Are you sitting down…Good then I will begin

4:15am ish My alarm goes off

4:30am ish My second alarm goes off and I finally fall out of bed and start getting ready for my day.

5:15am to 5:30am I stumble out of the house, coffee in hand and head out on the road to work

6:00am to 6:15am I arrive at work after getting a tune stuck in my head thanks to the local radio station playing it for the last week at the same time each day. Time to refill the coffee cup and head out to the bus

6:30am to 8:30am Route Number One. Taking kids their schools. Depending on the day I drop off at either two or five schools and return to the base to change buses

9:00am to 10:30am Shuttle routes from one school to another. Usually only one child at a time though

11:00am to about 12:00pm Time to take the pre-school age children home. They only do half a day.

12:30 to 2:00pm More shuttle runs from school to school

2:00pm to 4:15pm Taking the kids home from school. This can change from day to day and depends who rides the bus home.

Once my route is done I spend about 15 minutes making sure that nothing was left on the bus and sweeping it if needed. I then have to park it in the correct space and enter my time and mileage for the day so that I can get paid.

4:15pm Drive home

5:00pm Arrive back with my loving family.

Shower, Rinse, Repeat

 

The Window

Ah the window. It can be a good thing and a bad thing. You can display your Christmas tree with pride putting the others to shame around you. You can show off the new 62 inch LCD HD TV so that everyone that walks past the window can see that you love watching those historical documentaries. Or you can do what someone on my route the other day did. It was a fairly normal morning. I was picking my kids up and driving round my normal route having a fairly uneventful day. That is until I got to the window. One of my kids never comes outside to wait as their door is right on the street and they can hear me from inside (yes the bus is that loud). Well as it also happens the window was right into their lounge and with it being first thing in the morning not everyone was paying attention at the time I drove up for my pickup. They had the blinds for the window open and the light on so that everyone could see inside.

As we drove away my rider commented that it was a good thing that no body had walked by although they did see someone shut a bedroom door real fast when they realized that the window blinds were open

Airport Pickup

“Could you go to the airport and pick up the band that is returning tonight please” asked my boss one morning
“Of Course” said I. It sounded like an easy run and I could use one of those.
Well it turned out to be a very interesting run.
Myself and two other coaches drove out to the airport and went to a small part of it that i did not know existed. A small private terminal out at the end of the main runway. We pulled up just by a gate in the fence and walked into the, very expensive looking, small reception area. The smell of coffee drew us all over to find a fresh pot in the process of brewing and a friendly looking gentleman in a very expensive looking coat. He introduced himself as the manager of that section of the airport and explained to us what was going to happen.

“We are going to have you drive out onto the apron here and wait. Once the plane lands we will guide you into position and load the bags on your coach for you and if you could stand by the door to your coach and identify which one you are (we were numbered one and two) that would be great. Once everyone has gotten on we will escort you off the apron and back landside”

Yeah, we were going out on the tarmac where the plane was going to be and wait for it to arrive. This was something totally new to me and I had only ever seen it in movies and here I was about to do it!

We were guided out by a guy driving one of the baggage trucks and carefully parked away from where the plane would stop. After waiting a short time the plane arrived and taxied around to its parking area and we were waved up. I had to learn the arm signals very fast so I did not hit anything I was not supposed to, like the wing, and once stopped I jumped off and opened the baggage doors and went to help load the bags. I found out very quickly that I was not needed as the guys had already started to unload the plane and load my bus. I went back to the door and waited for my passengers. They got off the plane looking a little disorientated and confused having been up for a very long time and almost everyone asked where each bus was so they got on the right one. By the time the last person was on the bus the bags were loaded and the doors closed and we were escorted through the security gate again and back onto the road.

It was a very efficient operation and was amazing to see close up how these things happen.

Bus Driver On A Mission

So I am sitting here writing a blog post (that will follow shortly) when my computer bleeps and tells me I have an email from a marketing department.

I look at it and realise that it is not an automated buy this email. It was a person asking me to help them with their book.

I said that I would look at it and I am already up to chapter five and am finding it a very good read so far. I will post a review on the site and here once I have finished it.

Its called Tommy Transit’s Bus Tales: How to Change the World from 9 to 5

It will be on sale for the Kindle on the 23rd, 24th and 25th Dec 2013 for only 99cents

Have a look and try it out.

Snow

Yes it is that time of the year again when the white stuff falls from the sky and half the people say “Ohh isn’t that pretty” and the other half go “ugh time to clean the driveway”

It is also the time of the year when the bus drivers are watching the sky almost as much as the weather people. We have to be alert at a moment’s notice to take the children home from school in the case of a sudden blizzard. We had a good snowfall a couple of weeks ago and I watched experienced drivers turn into novices who were dangerous because of the snowfall.

The golden rule when there is any kind of slippery stuff on the ground is to take it easy. Slow down and allow yourself plenty of time to stop. The professional driver will double the gap from the car in front of them to allow for sudden braking and to give themselves time to react and stop safely. There have been way too many accidents caused by drivers following to close behind a school bus. My district had almost a dozen last year caused by someone being too close to the bus in front of them and not being able to stop. Please give us room. If you are too close behind it also means that we are not able to see us. Remember if you are unable to see the side mirrors of a bus then the driver cannot see you.

 

We had a goodly amount of snow here a couple of weeks ago and while it was nice to see it on the ground it did cause chaos when it came time for the kids to get to school. The number of cars that were on the roads seemed to double around the school and everyone seemed to be letting their kids out in the middle of the street. Please do not do this. If you are taking the kid to school at least drop them at the curb. The school bus is still the safest way to travel to and from school even in the bad weather that we get here every year. The volume of cars that were around the schools simply made our life harder. I saw everything that day from kids running out in front of the bus to get to their parents car to the adult getting out of their car that they had stopped in the middle of the road and walking into the school to collect their child and holding up traffic for ages. (Yeah I was stuck next to that one) It all made for a very careful drive for me my eyes constantly moving from mirror to road and back again. That day I don’t think I got over 15mph and I was glad because at times while taking bends in the road I could feel the bus wanting to slide and I did the sane thing and got off the power. Yes my trip took longer than expected but all my kids got home safely and I didn’t have to call base with the ever hated “I need to be pulled out of a ditch” or the even better “I just hit something” Both of those happened that day.

Even professional drivers can make mistakes and the difference then is how we deal with them. I have lost track of the number of times I have been asked my advice on what I would have done in a situation. All the drivers at my garage do this when they make a mistake. They find another driver and talk it over. They use another person’s point of view to help them see through the problem and identify what they did wrong and how to correct it. I am always happy to help in this process as it helps me to avoid the mistakes as well.

Above everything else we are constantly learning and evolving to make the bus ride even safer for the children. My goal is always to get the child from the home to school and back again safely. If that means I have to go slow then I go slowly. It is a sign of a good driver when they will take everything that they have learnt and add to it. There were a couple of drivers that day that had never driven in the snow before and the following day they came to me and asked my advice on what they could have done differently. I did my best to help them and I hope that they will continue to learn.

I am sure that there will be more snow to come this year and I can only hope that everyone will learn each time everyone learns a little more and respects the weather I know I do.

 

Football

I travel a lot with both high school and college teams to their football games most of the time I am hauling the team. Naturally we are supporting whoever we are carrying and most of the time that is a good thing. We have a great time and we get looked after very well but more on that another time.

Once in a while we get the chance to take a group to a NFL game in the twin cities and this can be fun for the driver and the passengers but they also have to be careful about what they do before the game.

I had a group that wanted to go to the game last year and it was fun for all but one.

The trip started off well enough. I was to collect the group from the nearby casino several hours before the game and while everyone else was ready and waiting (i was early) there was one person that was late. There is always one. No matter what the age group or where we are going there will always be that one person that is late no matter what.

When he finally arrived he seemed to have a little difficulty getting up the steps into the bus. I though nothing of it as he was older than most of the riders that day and the steps were kinda steep anyways.

They were not a loud group so the trip to the stadium was fairly normal.  Just the normal loudness of a group of football fans gets to when they are on the way to a game.

The group had paid for the whole experience and had even arraigned priority parking for the coach, nice, this did mean that I had to clear two seperate check points to get close to the stadium. One of those had two city trucks parked in such a way that I had to zig zag a large bus through a very small hole. Not fun. I watched a city cop turn pale and move his car out of the way despite there being plenty of room for me.

Once I was parked right by the doors that the group had said I let them off and they went in for a luxury lunch before the game. I had the wonderful task of securing the coach and then finding myself something to eat. I didnt really mind that they had forgotten the driver as it gave me chance to look around in an area that I had not been in before and I went of to find some food. No less than five minutes later I got a call on my cell. It was someone at the stadium asking me to return to my coach to meet a member of my group. I had no idea what was going on and nicely asked if I could get something to eat first as it had been a long morning for me.

Once I had returned to the bus I saw a couple of security guards holding up a very intoxicated older gentleman.

“He says he came here on your bus” said one

“Yes he did I remember him” he was the one I wrote about earlier that had trouble getting up the steps

“The NFL has very tight regulations on this sort of thing. We cant even allow him in to watch the game and we have no where for him to sit it out so could he wait on your bus” said the other

“Do i have a choice?’ I asked them as they escorted him onto the bus and after a few attempts got him into a seat near the bathroom

Oh well. At least i didnt buy a ticket for the game I thought to myself as I sat down as far away from him on the bus as I could manage and put in a movie to watch. The guy was, to start with, trying to be friendly but in that half drunk way. After a very talkative 30 minutes he finally fell asleep and started to snore very loudly.

When the rest of his group arrived back at the bus after the game the first thing that the leader did was apologize for his actions and for me missing the game.

Everyone was very quiet on the way back to their hotel and kept saying sorry for the problem that they caused. They even had to carry the gentleman off the bus and back to his hotel room. It was a struggle for them because he really did not want to wake up at all and started to fight them, it was a good job that he was still half asleep and they were able to subdue him and left.

I was walking through the bus, making sure that none of the passengers had left anything important behind, when the group leader came back out to the bus and knocked on the door. Once I had opened it he started apologizing again for the trouble that his friend had caused.