I normally only drive vintage buses but on this occasion I found myself at the wheel of (for me !) a modern coach. I’m not sure if this is on par with Bob Dylan picking up an electric guitar or not! How did this come about? Well just helping an old friend out. I was in Shrewsbury after a short holiday with my wife in north Wales when I picked up a Facebook message. “Dave. Are you around on Tuesday?” “Yes. why?” I really must stop answering these messages! It turned out that Tom Pearce of Tamar Coaches was desperate for a driver to take a party of school children from Plymouth to Go Ape, Exeter. (No, I had to Google it as well!)
So once safely back home, time to check out the route on Google Streetview. Didn’t look too difficult, always a worry that, so I set the alarm clock for an unearthly hour and retired.
Tuesday morning and at 7:30, I’m at Tamar Coaches yard. I’ve been allocated a Volvo B10M/62 Plaxton Premiere coach. I does cross my mind that the last time I sat behind the wheel of a similar coach was eight years ago on my PCV test! But, much like riding a bicycle, it soon comes back to you. Paperwork sorted, walkround check completed and off I set, still feeling a tad nervous. The run out to the school was fairly easy and gave me time to become accustomed to the coach. Very smooth ride, especially compared to the buses I normally drive, and quite a good turn of speed. The coach has a 6 speed manual gearbox but with synchromesh of course, and power steering.
Pick up time was 9:00. The school has a large parking area for buses but I waited outside to let the regular school buses come and go before entering. I had already been accosted by a teacher enquiring if I was her coach so once inside and turned around, I waited for the party to gather. About 40 pupils and several teachers. Soon I was given the ok to proceed and I set out for Haldon Hill, just before Exeter. Easy drive there, once I’d got out of the side street and onto the main road, then the A38 dual carriageway.
About an hour later and I’m at Go Ape. A marshall there greets me and asks if I’m staying or just dropping off? There’s a £15 parking charge for coaches but I’ve been advised to head back a mile to the service area where there’s free parking, and a chance to grab a cup of coffee. I have a three and a half hour wait so I’ve brought a book to read! A murder mystery with an apothecary as the hero. Right up my street!
I do find myself reading the book with one eye and the other keeping a watch on the clock!
Time up and back to pick up my passengers. This time there’s no sign of a marshall which means I have to move some cones to reach the drop off zone. Everyone gets back onboard, and the children are still well behaved! I do realise though that the five rear seats are much prized and the teachers have to sort out a rota.
Then back to Plymouth but not straight to the school. No, we’re off to Super Tramp. Now I thought they were a rock group. But turns out this one is a trampoline park. While the children enjoy themselves, I park outside and finish my book. (No, I didn’t work out who the murderer was!) One hour later, they all troop back and onto the coach. Then back to the school. One of the teachers enquires if I’m driving tomorrow. They have another trip but I told her this was a one off.
Only thing left was to return the coach to the yard. Unfortunately, rush hour has started, along with roadworks closing one lane of a busy road. My left leg was starting to ache by the time I got back!
Just the tacho to sign off and complete the defect book. Quite an enjoyable day and a change from my usual mode of transport. I’m back behind the wheel of an open top VR on Sunday.