Winter driving

Here in the Northeastern part of Colorado, we don’t get a lot of snow. When it does snow here is only lasts about two to three days and it’s all gone. Driving a bus in winter here is not much different from driving a car, except it’s bigger, heavier and has a crap-load more people in it. Our first heavy snow of the year was slated for October 31, yup, Halloween. I was fortunate enough to have route two that day with flat, fairly straight roads. As the snow moved in, traffic slowed. Wouldn’t you know it, the snow moved in just as rush hour was beginning. With all the students at CSU trying to get out of the various parking lots and home, made for a really slow bus ride. As the afternoon progressed things only got worse, to the point of trying to leave the transit center later than the time I was supposed to be arriving. Other routes were having trouble as well but not as bad as me, so, one of the supervisors decided maybe I should be switched over to route six. Route six always has trouble in the afternoon and this snow wasn’t helping.  

I’m sure Peggy (the regular route six driver) was relieved to have me take over her route as she was in need of a break. After sitting for a bit, I started running route six on time from CSU. No sooner had I turned onto Shields the traffic came to a dead stop. The roads were becoming very slippery and our forward motion was hampered by cars bumping into each other. I was doing my best to keep my passengers updated as to what I could see in the traffic through the driving snow. By the time I reached my turn onto Stuart, I was close to twenty minutes down. The lady to my right asked if we were going to connect with Fox Trot ok (the bus to Loveland), I told her we would probably connect with the next Fox as he had already left. Funny, when people understand they are no longer going to connect, their attitude changes and they just don’t seem to care anymore.

Not long after the turn onto Stuart the road starts an uphill grade. Part way into that hill is a bus stop. Wouldn’t you know it, one of my passengers needed that stop. After I had pulled over and let the passenger out, I eased down on the throttle. As I eased on the throttle, the bus started going sideways. I let off the throttle and allowed the bus to roll backwards a bit to get onto some fresh snow. Again I eased on the throttle, again we slid sideways, the bus got very quiet. One of the passengers behind me asked if I was stuck, to which I replied “not if I’ve got anything to say about it!” I set the parking brake and put the bus in neutral. Got up out of my seat and dug a bottle of “kitty litter” out of the rear storage compartment behind the wheel well. A few people were offering to try to push us out, I thanked them for the offer but told them I had a few things I could try first. Kitty litter in hand I jumped off the bus. Hand-fulls of kitty litter were then spread out behind the bus where the wheels would go. Back in the bus folks were starting to look concerned, I stowed the kitty litter, locked myself in and started the bus rolling backwards. After about six or eight feet I stopped, looked back at the passengers and said, “shall we give it a try?” I got a thumbs-up from a couple of people as I slipped the bus in gear. As I eased on the throttle the bus started to slide sideways but forward as well. The more forward, the more sideways until we crested the top of the hill. Once over the top the whole bus cheered! That cheer just made my day. We were able to make the last Fox Trot and I was put out of service at the Square (South Transit Center). 

By the time I was out of service, Peggy had gotten stuck on that same piece of hill I was just on. Several drivers called her with suggestions to try and get her rolling again but nothing seemed to work. I got my bus turned around and started back to see if I could be any on-site help right about the time Peggy got rolling again. With a sigh of relief, I again turned my bus around and headed towards home. For me the day was over.


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Copyright 2009 Pokie Parmidge