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An Interesting Story

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An Interesting Story
Fri Nov 21, 2008 5:49 am

I received this from John Vickers and thought I would share it.

In 1988, three years after I retired, I was again treated to the thrill of the open road while driving a bus. A local enterprise in Los Angeles had purchased used Trailways’ Silver Eagles in New York and had them driven by retired drivers to the West Coast. As part of that movement, I drove one of five buses from Dallas to Los Angeles.

I had never been in the driver's seat of a Silver Eagle before pulling out of the Greyhound garage in Dallas, and I have since said that I got my training on a Silver Eagle in ten minutes at sixty-five miles an hour.

As the other drivers started their engines and began to move out, I started my engine, placed the shift in first gear, and eased out behind the others, checking controls that were completely unfamiliar. Within the first two minutes we were on the Interstate running 65 MPH while I memorized gauges and checked out switches. After ten minutes, I began to feel comfortable.

I had fun that day, double clutching and shifting that five-speed stick shift. While my bus showed no problems, one of the other five had to stop and retrieve a rooftop escape hatch that had blown off, while another was temporarily down at the side of the road with an overheated engine. With a safe operating range of only five hundred miles, we had to fuel at Monahans. Six hundred and twenty miles down the road from Dallas, we pulled into El Paso for the night.

We were up before daylight next morning and down at the El Paso garage for service -- in time to watch the Mexican prostitutes from across the border abandon their corners and begin their walk back across the Rio Grande. After fueling, my bus wouldn't start, and the bus battery was pronounced dead with no replacement available. Shop personnel jump-started the engine and advised me not to shut it off. How lucky I had been to have it start at the Motel. I took the rear position in the five-bus caravan leaving El Paso. My bus -- while it would run 75 MPH -- gradually fell behind the others, but with more power, it usually caught up on the upgrades. I kept up with the others only by gaining on the upgrades and exceeding the speed limit through town.

Southern New Mexico is a desolate country with signboards the only evidence of humanity for many miles. Our convoy traveled through Las Cruces, Deming, and Lordsburg before crossing into Arizona.

Eastern Arizona also has many miles of desolation, but the monotony is broken by stretches of hills and boulders. West of Wilcox an Arizona patrolman, apparently curious about our caravan, fell in behind for a number of miles, and I throttled down to the speed limit, while the drivers ahead -- noting my sudden reduction in speed -- also eased off.

At Tucson we fueled. With no battery, I kept my engine running. Saguaro cactus with outstretched arms dotted the countryside. Between Tucson and Phoenix, our lead driver tried to pass an 18 wheeler driven by a female. He made the mistake of grinning at the truck driver as he started by. She revved the truck engine and left our five buses far behind.

Past Phoenix, the country again became flat and monotonous with I-10 running straight for many miles. Across the Colorado River, in California, we pulled up at Blythe for the night. I parked my bus on a flat sandy stretch of ground near our motel before shutting off the engine. Next morning a slight nudge, from another bus started the engine. That's the beauty of a stick-shift diesel. With the transmission in gear, a slight push is all it takes to fire the engine. If my transmission had been automatic, I would either have left the engine running all night, or have waited for a battery shipment from Phoenix.

The miles from Blythe to Indio are desolate, but then, over the rise, Indio pops up in the valley like an oasis. The ten-mile grade down to Indio is steep with a warning at the top for trucks to gear down. If I had kicked my bus out of gear, I could have been doing 150 at the bottom.

From Indio west, we appeared to be forever approaching Los Angeles. Thousands of windmills supply electricity to the area and dot the hills immediately west of Indio. Farther west, humanity grows ever thicker. We reached our destination at the Greyhound garage in downtown Los Angeles in early afternoon after many miles in city traffic. I saw nothing that made me want to stay, and I was glad to board the Greyhound bus waiting to take us to the airport.

Back home in Dallas that evening, I reflected on the two and one-half day trip. For a retired bus driver with road dust still in my blood, that drive was a renewal of vows -- a chance to once more feel the power of a bus under my control and to enjoy the beauty of the open road. Old soldiers never die -- and old bus drivers never fall out of love with the bus and the road. I wonder if truck drivers feel the same.
Paul Lawry
1968 Eagle 01 #7443
Silver 8V92 HT 740

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Re: An Interesting Story
Fri Nov 21, 2008 9:50 am

That's a great story, Paul. Thanks for sharing it here. I don't think it matters the vehicle you are in. Once you get the love of the open road you just always have to have it.
Dale Houston
1993 Eagle 15-45
Nashville, TN
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