(High Point, NC) – When it comes to adventure, I’m no Indiana Jones. I’m sort of tepid on the whole idea of a big round boulder chasing me from a temple. Particularly a temple of doom. My bar is set much lower than that. So last week, when I was driving a very used bus from Oklahoma City to Houston, and heard BANG! Whappetywhappetywhappey… I felt no sense of adventure, just a sudden certainty that I would not enjoy the next few hours.
And in accordance with that prophecy, I did not. At 4PM, I was tooling along I-45, about two hours north of Houston when the tread stripped off a right, inside tire. Of course, I immediately pulled over and called my company, asking what I should do. The company has been in business for many years, so I expected they would immediately have the solution. They did not. I carefully whappety-whapped a mile further where, just by the grace of God, there was one of those truck weigh stations. It was closed and abandoned. But there was a stone picnic table and a bit of shelter. And that’s where I camped out for the next three-and-a-half hours. Just waiting.
There was, apparently, a lot of negotiation that took place among the various parties who might have been able to do something: the transport company for which I work, the dealership in Oklahoma from which I picked up the bus, and the dealership in Texas to which I was supposed to deliver this sorry-ass school bus that very day.
The upshot of all this is that I waited, on the side of Interstate 45, for three-and-a-half hours for someone to come and get me out of this predicament. And someone finally did. It was Ricky from a tire and road service place in Centerville, Texas. Oddly enough, he was not nearly as happy to see me as I was to see him. That’s probably why he seemed a bit standoffish when I hugged him.
But within 25 minutes, Ricky had jacked that bus up on this little thing that didn’t look like it could hold the weight of a school bus, pulled the outside tire off, pulled the afflicted tire off, put a new (actually used) tire in its place, put the outside tire and wheel back on, and I was on the road again.
Because of the delay, though, I didn’t get the bus delivered until after 10 o’clock that night. And because there was a good bit of road construction in that area, my GPS seemed quite confused as to where the bus should be dropped off. So I drove for 20 or 30 miles in suburban Houston until I found a parking lot full of school buses.
“Eureka!” I shouted. Or would have, if I were given to such exclamations. As I took a closer look, though, I discovered that this lot was where some school system parked its buses for the night, and was not at all where I wanted to be.
Within half an hour, though, I did find the correct place, and pulled in. There was a guy there… at 10:00 on a Monday night, doing some mechanical thing to a car. He was quite friendly, and signed the bus in for me. But there were no lights there. Complete darkness.
When I drop off a bus, I have to drop off the Bill of Lading (which strikes me as an archaic term… What on earth is “lading?” And why do you have to have a bill for it?) Then I have to update the Drivers Log Book. And then, take off the license plates (they belong to the transport company, and I need them for the next trip,) pull the DOT placards off the sides of the bus so I can use them for the next trip, clean the bus up a bit, make sure I have all my stuff…. the whole thing can take half an hour.
By 10:30, I was done. Exhausted. Beat. I got my phone out and used the handy app to contact Uber for a ride to the Motel 6 near Hobby Airport. The ride took more than a half hour, because my driver missed an exit. By the way, don’t forget to ask me about Uber. I think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Anyway… got to that Motel 6. That’s when I discovered that I had left my GPS on the bus. In the dark, I had not seen it. But a call to Southwest Bus Sales confirmed that it’s there, waiting for me.
Tomorrow, I set out on the exact same trip: High Point to Oklahoma City… drop off bus… get used bus… take it to Cypress, Texas. Same days of the week, same route, same everything. I’ll get that GPS and fly home. Unless there’s a big round boulder intent on crushing me to death.