As I was driving to church this morning, I drove past a road that I customarily drive on during the school year. I noticed as drove by, that it was completely torn up. This was not…NOT, a minor repair job. It was completely demolished. My first thought was, I sure hope they have this project finished before the school year starts! HA! fat chance! My guess is, there would be a higher probability of me winning the lottery, than Nutt road being finished before the beginning of the school year, which is only five weeks away. Seeing the road in the condition it was in, prompted a memory from a few years back, when another road project commenced near the end of the school year. Our boss is usually kept abreast of road projects how they will affect transportation and for how long, so we can make adjustments to routes and notify drivers and parents of the changes before they occur. On this project, however, there was definitely a miscommunication regarding the timing of the road closures and the particulars associated with it. We were all aware that the project was going to be taking place, the time and alternate route location however, were slightly off…by one block and by one afternoon.
I had just picked up my elementary students and was driving them home, using the pre approved alternative route, to accommodate the impending road closures and construction. I heard an earlier call on the radio with a driver questioning weather or not she should use a particular section of roadway, and base responded affirmatively . The road was not slated to be torn up and closed until the following morning and to go ahead and proceed. As is usual, I was only casually listening to the conversation taking place on the radio. For me, the radio is like white noise, too much chatter, and most of it does not pertain to me. Much of the time, the chatter on the radio, reminds me of the cartoon, Charlie Brown as he is listening to his teacher speak in class….Wah Wa Wa Wah Wa Wa…Soooo annoying… Needless to say, I was not tuned in to the details of the conversation taking place at that time. Then found myself at that very location sitting just behind bus number 25. Hmm…guess I should have paid more attention to the Charlie Brown chatter on the radio.
Bus 25 radioed in and questioned weather or not he should proceed, and received the same answer that the previous driver had only moments before. The response from base, the second time, was slightly more terse and somewhat emphatic that we proceed on that section of roadway in question. Being that I was directly behind bus 25, I could see why he was trepidatious and questioning bases call to proceed. Allow me to provide a visual as to why we were questioning bases directive in this matter.
The section of road in question, was completely void of all pavement, it had been removed by a myriad of large construction vehicles, which in their wake, left enormous ruts that far more resembled ditches or ravines. I watch as bus 25 made his way across the intersection and up the stretch of paveless roadway. I could see the vehicle vigorously bouncing and swaying, as it jostled its way across. It was almost like being at a monster truck rally as I watched Terry navigate the large, Grand Canyonesque of ruts.
My heart started racing faster as I approached the stop sign and was next in line to tackle the unintended, makeshift, world wide championship, off-road obstacle course. There was no way I was going to call base a third time about the same intersection. I was up for the challenge. I got on my internal intercom and told the kids to hang on. I knew once I got started, I didn’t dare stop till I made it across. I also knew going really slow was not an option. By doing so, I would only have succeeded in getting myself stuck amid the gaping trenches ahead of me. So off I went, and as I maneuvered my way across the deeply grooved road, I managed to glance into my student mirror and saw a couple of children in the very back of the bus bouncing out of their seats as we hit the deepest pits on the road. When we managed to roll onto solid pavement, I felt an immediate sense of relief, but more than that there were feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction, and pride. Off roading in a 13 ton vehicle with 48 kids on board. Now that’s an adventure not too many school bus drivers get to experience. I imagine most would prefer to skip that adventure altogether. As it was, however, we survived, Mrs. Mileti’s, wild ride. There were even cheers of joy and laughter from the majority of my passengers, particularly my older, more adventurous children sitting in the back rows of the bus. They chanted, “Do it again…do it again!” The feeling was not unanimous and one of my younger kids said she did not like the bumps and did not want to do that again. I assured her that we would not be doing that again, much to the dismay of my back row thrill seekers who asked me every afternoon, from that day forward, if we could off roading again.
Shortly after my motocross expedition, my boss went and surveyed the stretch of road in question. Needless to say, he was surprised by the condition the road was in and immediately altered the original scheduled detour route, to bypass the missing section of road until the completion of the intersection and repaving were complete. The detour was in place for almost an entire year.
That was the vision that went through my brain upon seeing the state of disrepair the road was in with its deep ruts and lack of pavement. I’m pretty sure there will not be a repeat of, monster bus off road expedition, any time soon and is quite likely a once in a lifetime adventure.