Friday, April 23, 2010

Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

In the very early ‘90s, after getting my pink-slip from the Army due to Graham/Rudman downsizing after we won Desert Storm, and while we were in the Reagan-recession, I could not find a decent job in my hometown of SLC, Utah. I made contact with an old school friend who had joined the Navy who was then working at a recruiting station in Raleigh, NC. This was before Al Gore invented the internet and email was something being toyed with at certain universities so she used the US Post and sent me the Sunday classifieds to show me the plethora of jobs available in the Raleigh/Durham (RDU) area. I packed-up my car, drove across country, and was gainfully employed with great job within a week of arrival.

I would end up spending the next 10 or 12-odd years in the RDU area and became quite an expert on the roads and highways. When I first arrived, however, I was greatly confused by the ‘beltline’ that circles Raleigh and how it seemingly shifts from “South on the beltline” to “Northwest” without any signs or indications. More than once I found myself circling the entire city because I was told to head north when the exit I needed was only a few miles in the opposite direction. This became very frustrating; even more so when I, much to their schaedenfreudian amusement, shared my misadventures with my co-workers and friends (who were also fairly recent transplants to RDU and had suffered the vagaries of the beltline).

After a few weeks, I had what I thought was a brainstorm and answered an ad in the paper (remember, pre-internet) for a weekend job delivery flowers from a wholesale warehouse to local florists. I figured I might as well get paid for learning my way around the area and use someone else’s gas at the same time – I was honest about being beltline- challenged when I interviewed; the boss said ‘no worries’ and gave me good directions when I made my deliveries.
A month or two of weekends later, I could find almost any strip mall within a 20-mile radius and was an expert on the ways and byways of the greater Raleigh area.

I had a similar experience recently here in TK when I was tasked to drive the 18-pax bus that ferries soldiers from one side of the base to the other – with occasional stops at the Dutch Compound, the refueling point (FARP), and the ammunition supply point (ASP). Except I was not getting paid extra; and I did not volunteer; and it was GIs, not geraniums I was delivering.
My delivery schedule began at 0800 and ended at 1900 with a generous 30 minutes to grab some chow. My mission was to continuously drive the horseshoe route from the area where the soldiers live in the RLBs, around the airstrip to where most of the soldiers work at either the hangar, the motor pool, the warehouse (where I work), and the command center - the hangar has its own stop just past the stop where the other work areas are located.

The circuit is a bit over a mile long and even at 30 kilometers an hour (that’s 18 MPH to you metric-phobes) only takes about 8-9-minutes. It was a bit different and fun at first – the bus is standard and it had been 15+ years since I had used a clutch – but after the first 10-20 iterations it became a tad monotonous and after the 40th and 50th iteration, my butt was sore, my calves were cramping from keeping a steady position on the gas and from the clutch (I used 2nd and 3rd gear only), and I was bored to tears.

At first I was a bit put out when a soldier (US, Dutch, or Australian) would ask me to take them outside of my set horseshoe path to the Dutch Compound, the ASP, or the FARP, but I soon looked forward to these requests as something to break the monotony. And, it gave me the chance to learn where most everything was located on the base.

I soon intimately knew each curve, bump, and seemingly every stone on the road; I knick-named the larger rocks. Coming around the bend I would mentally salute Barney Rubble, swerve slightly to give a little fright to Fred Flintstone, and mentally paid homage to the TK Stonehenge as I passed-by.

Oh, you might be wondering why soldiers need a bus to take them a mile when they could walk it in 15-minutes. One, when you only have less than an hour to get from your place of work to the mess hall (pardon me, Dining Facility) it is a bit of a bother to spend half the time left-foot-right; two, it does get a tad warm here so even an un-air conditioned ride is appreciated; and three, soldiers are supposed to always have at least one Battle Buddy with them when moving about the base and this can sometimes be a challenge due to work requirements and such so having a bus addresses all the issues.

Since I had the duty it has been changed to two eight-hour shifts to extend the hours of service and to cut-down the driving time from the 11 hours I performed. There is also talk about roads being shifted and rerouted in order to move traffic further away from the airstrip. This means there will be a new route for me to learn, but, one thing about having duties in the Army, they always come round and round.


  1. Hmm, so whom exactly is your battle-buddy while you are driving around an empty bus?

  2. Hmm, Good question, Alex. I think the driver detail is an exception to the rule such as when one drives a fork-lift or other vehicle. I would ask my chain about it, except I do not want to be the one to cause a doubling of the soldier requirement for the detail.