Time for a Change
As you know, I have been driving a school bus for a while. Much of that time was spent in an area where I used to live and pastor, Lookout Valley, TN (just in sight of Lookout Mountain).
For several years (actually, since 2009) I was what we call a “park out” driver. That means that I was able, because I had the space, and because of the closeness to the schools I served, to keep my bus at home. That was extremely convenient in that all I had to do to go to work was walk out my front door.
But now that I no longer pastor in Lookout Valley, nor do I live there, it is no longer convenient to drive a bus route in that area. It makes much more sense to drive a school bus route closer to where I will now be living (in that parsonage I recently showed you) 30 miles away.
Now, there are no guarantees I will be able to secure a route in the area to which I am moving – that is still a matter of prayer. However, as with the last route I had, the fact remains the same: I want to be a fixture in the community in which I pastor. If it’s God’s will, He will provide the route I need.
It happened before, you know.
If it be the Lord’s will, next school year (2017-2018) I will secure a route on a special needs bus (a small bus) that I can park in the new church’s parking lot. However, that remains to be seen. This summer I will be working as a driver trainer, but I will be keeping my eyes open for whatever opportunities are out there.
In the meantime, I thought I would share with you some photos that tell a little about the era that is passing, the era of Bus 374.
A History In Pictures
When I first started driving for Durham School Services in Hamilton County (the Chattanooga, TN area), I was a “sub” driver. In other words, I didn’t have my own route, a particular route with an assigned bus, that I drove every day. What I did the first couple of years was fill in and drive whatever route needed me, wherever that route happened to go.
As a matter of fact, when I started driving a school bus in Kentucky back in 2001, that is all I ever did – work as a substitute driver. Some of the experiences I had while doing that, especially the part including tennis balls, is detailed in my book. However, I unfortunately don’t have any pictures of my early days driving a bus – I wish I did.
My first route after being a sub-driver was bus 369. I drove the 369 route for a year or so, then went on to drive bus 374. If I’m not mistaken, bus 369 started out as a conventional-style bus (with a long nose) and later changed to a front-engine transit (flat front) …it might have been the other way around, but I can’t remember.
All total I had four different models of buses during my time as driver of #374. At one point I drove a 2007 Thomas transit. Later I drove a conventional-style (long nose) Thomas with a Mercedes engine (my favorite bus out of all of them). After that I went back to a Thomas transit, but a more modern 2011 model. Lastly, I finally ended up with a 2013 International transit with AIR CONDITIONING!
My first ride as bus 374. A front-engined transit with no air – and it could reach 120 degrees around the driver’s seat in August!
The conventional-style Thomas (with the cool Mercedes engine) parked behind the church, the place where I parked all the time during the week.
The next generation of #374. This pic shows an ultra-rare instance of when we in Tennessee actually had to pick up kids in the snow!
A side view of the final incarnation of #374, the unwashed, rear-engined (called a “pusher”) 2013 International. Notice the additional cargo bays underneath.
Over the years I’ve seen a lot of things while driving a bus (and some of that is also detailed in my book) But there are two places on 374’s route that I will miss seeing on a regular basis.
The first is a little pond and the view of it from a little hill on Shanty Lake Road. The view varied with the change of seasons and the angle of the sun. Incidentally, the children on my bus hated it whenever another driver drove instead of me – I was always better at going over that hill without scaring the kids 😉
A view of the pond on Shanty Lake Road from inside my bus on the last day of school (the bus was stopped).
The very same view as above, but as the sun is coming up in January. God is a beautiful artist, isn’t He?
The other view that I will miss is the one seen driving back into Lookout Valley over Cummings Highway across the side of Lookout Mountain. I wrote about this in my book and six years ago in another blog, Ebs and Flows (you should check it out).
Looking down towards Lookout Valley and the Tennessee River from the Cummings Highway bridge – yes, a bridge.
Over the years I’ve also met a few adults while driving in Lookout Valley, not just a lot children (of all ages). There were a few teachers with which became friends, but it was the other bus drivers that helped make getting up in the morning a little easier.
Taken a couple of years ago, here we see Chris (370), Joseph (369), and me at McDonald’s.
Myself and Paul Mashburn (the contract driver of #49). Mr. Mashburn drove my wife on band trips in 1985! And she said he still looks the same!
The last day of school this year we went to Cracker Barrel. Here is Chris (370), a driver from New Orleans, Jean (369), and myself…I should have tucked in my shirt.
The following are just a couple of pictures I wanted to throw in for good measure. The first is me on a day when I wore a wig to keep my head warm – why wear a hat when you can be different?
The second picture is of our little dog, Nugget. Nugget went missing in August of last year, and we miss him terribly. This photo was taken on the day after we first got him. I was driving bus 369 at the time, and I didn’t want to leave him home alone, so I took him with me that day 🙂
A wig can both keep you warm and give you attitude.
Baby Nugget on the school bus.
On the last day of school I pulled up in front of Lookout Valley Middle and High School, along with the other buses there to pick up what kids actually came that day (I had none). Only four or five buses were ever needed to service this small school, so the afternoon lineup became a traditional time to shoot the breeze for a few minutes before the doors burst open.
My final lineup at Lookout Valley Middle/High.
And as you may have seen from other blog posts of mine, Bobble Head Phil always rode on my dash (secured with double-sided tape) and stared at the kids behind me. One time a little girl said, “Mr. Baker, make him stop looking at me!” I replied, “Why? What are you doing?”
Phil has left the building (or bus, rather).
I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future. God willing, Phil and I will drive another bus – a smaller bus – in the area closer to our new place of ministry. But for now, goodbye Lookout Valley and bus 374…we will always remember you.
In the meantime, keep me in your prayers – I’ve got new drivers to train!