(Princeton, WV) — Today was the beginning of my first school bus delivery trip for Safeway Drive-Away, Inc. I now work for TWO school bus transport companies, so I can make some money (which I need for a car, a place to live, and an alpaca ranch. I lied about the alpaca ranch.) And it started off in spectacular fashion. I left High Point about 6:30 this morning, intending to stop at the Safeway office in Richmond, Indiana, and then tomorrow complete the journey to Princeton, Illinois. But apparently, that was not part of the Grand Plan.
I got as nearly as far as a rest area off I-77 just south of Rocky Gap, Virginia. I pulled in, accomplished what I had stopped for, and got back in the bus, only to discover that when I went to release the brake, the little release button was gone. Missing. And there was a little metal rod hanging down where it shouldn’t have been. Most of these buses have air brakes, which I like. And they make that cool air brake sound like the big trucks. But this one, for some reason has hydraulic brakes. And I couldn’t find that little button, and I reached up as far into the panel as I could… but there was no way I could put the thing back together. And this is a BRAND NEW BUS. Only 160 miles on it. So I called the office, and the dispatcher told me to call the Thomas-Built Bus customer service line. “They’re amazing,” he said. “They’ll be able to help you,” he said. “They always do,” he said.
The Thomas guy was very nice as he told me, “That’s a new one for me!” And he contacted his supervisor who was also very nicely stumped. They gave me the Freightliner help line number, because the bus chassis is made by Freightliner.
That help line wasn’t very helpful, and we all decided to send a truck mechanic. From Roanoke. About 100 miles away.
I waited at that rest stop for more than five hours. There were vending machines, but I opened up a can of kippers… smoked herring… and that was today’s meal. At long last, a big purple truck pulled up beside me, and today’s hero, one Larry Brink climbed out. It took him an hour or so, but he was able to fashion a makeshift fix, that would allow me to release the brake. Not putting on the brake is not an option, either. Although these buses do have automatic transmissions, there’s no “park.” Just neutral. And the bus will roll. Today, at least, Larry Brink is my favorite person in the world.
So at about 4:15, I pulled back onto I-77. I decided that, since I could deliver the bus on Saturday instead of Friday, I’d pretty much call it a day, and checked into the Days Inn here in Princeton, WV. It was only after I’d gotten nicely settled in that I realized I had made a huge, absent-minded mistake. I have reservations on the 7:49 AmTrak train from Princeton, Illinois to Chicago on Friday night and a flight from Chicago back to High Point on Saturday morning. What was I thinking? I was thinking that I could take a nice drive of less than 400 miles tomorrow, and another, similarly relaxing short day on Friday, with a stop in Richmond, Indiana.
To my chagrin… huge chagrin… I am faced with a drive of 664 miles tomorrow… from this Princeton to that Princeton. Google Maps says it a 10-hour drive. Which means it’s actually closer to a 12-hour drive. By law, I can only drive 11 hours a day.
It’s now 6:30. I have to get to bed almost immediately in order to get some sleep, get up around 3:00 AM, and hit the road by 4. This does not make me happy. But, as they say, it is what it is. Depending on what “is” is.