Last year I attended the regional school bus roadeo because my daughter's bus driver was competing and we wanted to cheer her on. The drivers made it look so easy, that I decided to become a bus driver myself. One year later, here I am as a nervous competitor.
The months, weeks, and days leading up to roadeo were filled with hours of after-work and weekend practicing. We didn't know which buses would be used, so we practiced in all the types we had -- 37 footers, 40 footers, Bluebirds with horrible turning radius, Thomas buses with weird mirrors... each was so different to maneuver, especially when every inch counted.
The roadeo was being held 80 minutes south of our district, so I had to get up at 4am and be at base for a 5am departure. We rode together in a little bus, one of our coaches driving us. I was a nervous wreck. Even though I'd watched a roadeo, I'd never competed. Each year the roadeo is in a different location, and events are in an unknown order, and you just hope the bus they give you is a type you have driven before.
The driving part wasn't even the worst of it. There was pre-trip inspection where we had to orally describe parts of the bus and pre-trip routine using very specific terminology ("cut" not "cracked" for one thing, but "cracked" not "cut" for another, and "damaged" for one thing, but "worn" for something else. Mix up the adjectives and you fail). It was similar to what we had to do for our Commercial Driver License test, but this was given in random sections, out of order. Unfortunately there were two sections that both had "driver" in the title, and I got the two sections mixed up, so I failed. Well, I got 51 out of 100 points, which was the 5th lowest overall, which was pretty dispiriting for all the studying I'd done.
Thankfully I did better than I expected on the driving maneuvers. Out of 23 drivers only 7 managed to score ANY points on the parallel parking (I was one of them, though I had some deductions), and at the back-in stall only 11 managed to get ANY points (again, I got some points, not all)... the others got zeros.
There were blinding shadows, inconsistencies on the course set-up between contestants, and volunteer judges who weren't doing what they were supposed to in order to be fair, but apparently this happens every year and is just accepted.
I wore my number 3 shirt, because that was what I was aiming for, 3rd place in the Rookie division -- and that's what I got! I knew I didn't have a chance of getting in the top overall, given that some of the drivers had been doing roadeo for decades. Overall I came in 17th out of 23. Not great, thanks to my low score on the oral pretrip, a few goofs on the course because I didn't understand or couldn't hear the judges, and then one event where a judge wouldn't let me set up properly, even though other drivers had been allowed to.
Overall I am happy I participated and feel I have become a better driver for all the training I underwent to compete in this precision driving challenge.
The roadeo was supposed to be fun, not just nerve-wracking, so here are some scenes from the day:
On the way home we stopped at a drive-in and got fruit slushies. Don't tell the kids that we had them on the bus!
Then, we collapsed, many of us sleeping for the ride home.
Me included. ZZZzzzzzz