AWAY DAYS

AWAY DAYS

AWAY DAYS

As the school year draws to a close its been a very busy time for sports teams and activity trips. I
seem to have been getting my fair share taking track & field teams from all three school districts to
various locations and over the last week I’ve been on a bunch of “cultural visits” including  a chain saw carving demo, a trip to the Durango-Silverton train, a bit of hairy mountain driving through the Mesa
Verde complex to see the cave dwellings and finally last weekend a 3 day trip to Grand Junction for a
variety of tasks.

The trip for Mancos school to Durango for the train ride was seriously over subscribed with a lot of
parents joining their children for the adventure. The tour bus, which only seats 50 was sidelined in
favor of Sharon’s 71 seater Bluebird and even with that it was crammed full!

My 70 strong load of passengers are away on the choo-choo-puffer

I get to sit, and wait……..

5 hours later they are back

A trip to Mesa Verde was well worth the effort for both the elementary kids and myself. I didn’t realise
it was 20+ miles off the main road up and down some really challenging mountain cliff roads made
even more fun with rain and snow ! The site itself was quite amazing and I took time out to do some
exploring while the Park Rangers and teachers took them round and out on a hike.

The cave dwellings at Spruce House Mesa Verde

Very impressive !


Firepit with reflector plate

The following day I’m off with Cortez Middle School on some sort of cultural visit to Grand Junction
which is also hosting the “Regionals” of Track & Field for all the Middle Schools, which is what I
thought I was going on !

Thursday morning, bright and sunny, with temps already cresting 70 I turn up at the school with
Vonda’s newish superbus. I must admit she does keep it in pristine condition and quite rightly gets
very pissed off when it goes off on activity runs and she has to drive a spare.

Vonda’s fairly new pristine bus

27 students and 4 teachers are on the trip with 2 teachers taking a car with lots of goodies and
sleeping bags. The Day 1 plan is to get to Grand Junction, some 200+ miles to the north and find the accommodation at the United Methodist Church ?  Well, fortunately for me I get a motel room so I don’t
have to endure children 24 hours a day for three days.

Today’s routing will be via Monticello and Moab in Utah and then the freeway to GJ crossing back into Colorado and a lunch stop at the Colorado Welcome Center. One hour in and the first duty pee break
at Monticello and then onward to Moab where the others are now insisting on another bathroom break.
All the wind has gone and its getting quite warm and very pleasant. The Utah portion of the freeway is
deadly dull but the kids manage to persuade passing truckers to sound their air horns as they rocket
past the school bus limited to 60 mph.

Lunch stop complete, trundle on to find the church and get them settled in. Afternoon mission, a visit
to Mesa State University which seems to go well so having run them back to the church time for me to
find my motel and get settled in. 8.5 hours driving today so the bed at the “cheap & cheerful” motel is a welcome sight.

Pulling into The United Methodist Church in GJ

Friday and today is a long one as the plan is the Colorado Monument, picnics, hikes, multiple stops
and then an evening shopping trip to the Mall. Roll up at the State Park entrance and lady ranger
knows all about our trip and says another Ranger is at Devil’s Kitchen and waiting for us. I miss the
ultra tight entrance turn to the Kitchen and end up driving about 3 miles up the switchback mountain
road before I can turn the bus around. Well if its all like this then we are in for some fun!!

Devil’s Kitchen picnic area

Finally back at the Kitchen the group depart on their hike while I enjoy the mountain sunshine and go
rock hunting. I can visualize some superb trials sections from Ahrma through National modern and
walk a few and collect a rock sample which turns out to be 1.8 billion years old !

Good sections here !

Nearly 80 degrees when the hot, thirsty team get back and the picnic begins. Now time to tackle the “twisties” in the school bus for 20 miles to the visitor center. Quite a challenging road with all the switchback turns up the mountain and then very tight turns along the rim taking you right out to the cliff
ledges with perilous sheer drops if you make ONE mistake. Several stops along the way to take in
the scenery and marvel at the power of water and wind erosion.

The bendy road through the park. Devil’s Kitchen bottom right, Visitor
Center top left

The bendy road takes you very close to some perilous drops

At last the relative safety of the vistor center and the kids are now off for more hikes and a spot of
sketching to remember all they have seen. All students accounted for time to go down the cliff edge
road and get off this mountain. Ultra tight downhill turns and I’m well pleased I have the 4 stage
retarders to keep the speed under control. A brake failure on this road is NOT an option!!!

Back to the church, and let the girls shower and change for the shopping trip. Suitable vetting for inappropriate clothing and now we are ready to depart. Next problem a wallet has gone missing so a
square search of the church begins. No sign of the missing wallet or money……. did it ever exist? did
he actually bring it with him? etc, etc? Everybody chips in and he now has more cash than he
supposedly started with.

1730 and all dropped off at the Mall, time to refuel bus and self. Last night was my favorite Chinese
so tonight something different and lo and behold I stumble into Red Lobster in another section of the
Mall. Well of course I could really use a beer or two but again, not an option, as I’m driving but when I
get the little souls home I have seen a bar that backs onto the Motel and I’ll be heading there when we
are done.

Driving round Grand Junction its a bit like New York with all the yellow cabs but in this case its a sea
of school buses from places I have never heard of all going somewhere or waiting for students to
finish eating, shopping or whatever else was on their itineraries.

All aboard for the run back to the church and its 2115 already. We don’t get far when one girl
remembers she has left all her shopping in Target ! Back we go but it cannot be found. Around 2200
I’m back at the Motel and the bus is locked for the night and I enjoy a couple of well earned beers
sitting outside in the warm evening air.

Saturday morning and back at the Church it looks like the plan has changed as there is little urgency
to get the show on the road. Eventually they, and their kit, are all onboard and its off downtown to the
science center.

Outside a class is experimenting with rocket technology, maybe these boys are off to NASA in a later
life. A whole load of interesting exhibits inside and 2 hours is spent looking at all the wonders.
Meanwhile a mini thunderstorm arrives and washes out the planned picnic lunchstop which now
takes place inside the science hall.

Yes, this is rocket science

The route home will be Delta, Montrose for chocolates at Russell Stover’s, bathroom break in
Ridgway and a final stop on top of the Lizard before rolling into Cortez around 1830. I buy some of
the discounted Valentine’s chocs (3 boxes) and put them with my luggage in the overhead rack
behind me……. more of this later!!

Time for candies and icecream

Ridgway and up and over the two passes and soon we are on the Lizard for final group photos for
what they think was a worthwhile and enjoyable trip.  Shortly after 1800 we pull into Cortez Middle
School and unloading begins including trash removal.

10,000′ up on the Lizard with fresh snow

As we arrive there is much crunching of chocolate box paper and small fat boy deposits same in
the front trash bin. Strange I thought, that he too, would have bought Valentine’s chocolates ?  I check
that all my luggage is still in place including the Russell Stover’s bag which I notice is light by ONE
box of chocs ? It appears “fatboy” has eaten the entire box while sitting one row behind his teacher.
When questioned on the subject he claims someone threw the box at him ?????? ….. this still does
not account for how it magically jumped out of my bag, unwrapped itself and  fell in his mouth ????
The school was taking disciplinary action on Monday as this is THEFT whichever way you look at it. It
also begs the question if you are going to steal the Driver’s chocs you are now also Prime Suspect for
the missing wallet.

The end

TONY DOWN

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Comments
  • 6/2/2011 10:43 PM Jose Ludwig wrote:
    Your sidebar about the fat boy and the chocolates had me chuckling. I ‘ve been driving High School Teenagers down from Boulder to Arapahoe County (Private Jesuit School), but it’s only an 18-pass Bus. I feel all better after reading the stories of your escapades on the tight mountain roads.Although teens on a bus present a unique set of challenges.
    See you at Steamboat.
    Reply to this
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