Grasslands Bus R08 Journal
First, a little bit about me. I am a 52 passenger Bluebird school bus. I was born in 2004 and was purchased by the Grasslands School Board. I have travelled more than 260,000 kilometers moving children to and from schools in Newell County in Brooks, Alberta. I have kept myself in pretty good shape through a steady diet of diesel and the care and attention of my team of school board mechanics and drivers. Sure, I have a few recovered seats but I look pretty good for my age, if I do say so myself.
After years of service, there was talk around the bus yard that I was to be sent to auction. Having been taken out of regular service, it was hard not to believe that the rumors weren’t true. We older buses don’t fetch much at auction and often find ourselves parked for storage sheds or half-completed camping vehicles. It was not a good time in my life.
One grey March morning, I was feeling sorry for myself, when I was unexpectedly summoned to the administration building with another older bus. We couldn’t look each other in the headlights. This is it, we thought. We are off to auction.
A group of humans came out of the building and poked and prodded and kicked our tires. Some of them had some sort of geared wheel imprinted on their clothing. There was some talk of donating one of us to the wheel-people and sending us to Mexico. Mexico? From the geography books left on my floor overnight I knew that if I went to Mexico I would not have to endure another Canadian winter. I silently pleaded, ‘Pick me. Please pick me.”
I learned that the wheel people were called Rotarians. Some of them were from Lethbridge. Those Rotarians have an ongoing program where they collect emergency and municipal vehicles and supplies and convey them to communities in western Mexico that have a need for these items. All of this is done in conjunction with other wheel people – sorry, I mean Rotarians – in Mazatlán. They call this the ‘Los Amigos Project’.
I later learned that the Grasslands School Board deliberated on whether to send older buses like myself to auction or whether to support the Rotarians’ Los Amigos project. You wouldn’t believe how happy I was to learn that I was to be donated to Rotary and be part of the annual convoy to Mexico.
Around a month later, I was driven to the front lot of the Grasslands School Board office. I couldn’t help noticing that a Rotarian was carrying the keys. I couldn’t have been more excited. A driver named Doug Larson took me over to his garage and had his mechanics check me out and make minor repairs. I overheard that he donated this service to Rotary. From there I was driven over to Rotarian Pat Stenger’s body shop. I like to think of it as a bus spa. Pat and his guys painted and fixed the bit of surface rust that I had. They sure know how to make a bus feel special.
Late in June, Rotarians Richard Gette and Calvin Sturgeon drove me from my long-time home in Brooks to Lethbridge. They were nice enough guys but they have a thing or two to learn about turning off my winter heat and keeping my windshield clear. They took me to a storage facility where I was met by bunch of Rotarians who are coming with me to Mexico. One of them, Karl Samuels seems to be the boss. Another one was a mechanic named Henry VanHeirden. I feel that Henry really understands me. Karl directed that a couple dozen wheelchairs be loaded into my seats. I guess I am taking this cargo to Mexico when I go. I love kids but the wheelchairs will be quieter.
After that I was driven to a storage facility at Sunny Side and parked across from 2 firetrucks, an ambulance and 2 Handibuses. I was told we were all making the trip to Mexico together. So, I will rest up here at Sunny Side and get to know the other vehicles a bit. We are all excited and a bit nervous. None of us understands Spanish – just English and a bit of French. Will we end up in a town or a village? Wherever we end up, we know that we will be welcomed and appreciated and we are sure looking forward to that.
Adios mi Amigos