TruckStruck: The Day the Wheels Came Off the Bus
By: Lynn Bolster
This month let’s take on a new adventure – a journey into the world of tour bus driving because it’s that time of year! We know our hearts are with the truckers but face it, anyone who can drive 47 passengers in a bus for multiple days and not want to scream in frustration must be a special type of driver. Jim was once my husband. He was also a trucker but decided to get back into tour driving, because as he used to say, you can see lots of neat places, get more respect than truckers get and best of all the freight unloads itself – even though it talks back!
We never knew what type of group we would end up with until the tour began. This day we were sent to pick up a senior group which would be traveling through West Virginia. Our route had us crossing the New River Gorge Bridge, which is the third highest bridge in the US. Now I don’t know about you but I’m a little squirrely on bridges and this one is incredibly high, 876 feet above the New River. That is scary enough but what happened next sure didn’t add any security to our crossing. As we rolled along, our group of elderly women began to shout, “Mr. Jim, Mr. Jim!” Jim glanced into his rearview mirror into the back of the bus, saw nothing amiss so just continued on. Their shouts became louder to the point where he got on the sound system and asked what was wrong as he checked his side mirror. Then he realized what all the distress was about. One of our rear tires had come off and was rolling alongside of the bus, keeping pace with the bus! Luckily we had two wheels on each rear side so we weren’t at a total loss. So not only are we having bridge height anxiety but now one wheel down, also creating a safety hazard for other motorists and freaking out the passengers! Other vehicles were blasting by us so fast and no wonder, they may have thought other wheels might follow suit. Since the lugs were obviously not torqued tight enough, we were astonished this hadn’t happened sooner. How we didn’t have a total wreck is a miracle. All we could do with the runaway wheel was to let it run itself out, see where it landed, and go retrieve it. So that we did and were able to limp the bus off the bridge to get it serviced.
On another trip, we were dispatched to pick up a church group to go to Atlantic City, NJ. It turned out to be mostly senior citizens, which once again was fine with us because they were usually more polite and clean about the bus. They brought a number of food coolers with them which wasn’t unusual, until we announced it was time to leave.
Then came the yelling, “Where is the spirit chest, we got to have the spirit chest!” We figured it was some part of their church practices as we witnessed several men loading a foot locker onto the back seat. With that, we fired up the bus and took off. The trip was fine until about an hour in the chest was unlocked and things began to get a little wild. Well, the spirit chest was just that, full of liquor, oh, THOSE spirits – we never saw that coming!
And finally, what do you do with a busload of very privileged boys who were acting, shall we say rather bratty? They had trashed the bus on the way to their skiing destination with gum on the seats, garbage everywhere, spilled drinks, you name it. Jim wasn’t having it so he read them the riot act about respecting other people’s property. Obviously, the chaperone wasn’t doing his job so upon arrival we told them they would have to clean the bus. And that they did. To seal the deal, on the way home, we hit an icy patch. As we slid just about sideways down that steep mountain in the dark, Jim expertly guided the bus to safety (he knew exactly what he was doing and why) while the boys screamed and cried out. When we dropped them off, they were very respectful to Jim apologizing for their behavior. Lesson learned – never anger the man behind the wheel who is in charge of your life. This trip was a good example of people creating their own storms and then getting mad when it rains.
Three cheers to all our tour drivers out there!