One week before the schools closed for the summer break we had what appears to be the annual
end of year driver’s get together party…… a sober affair as there was little drinking, apart from myself
who had a designated driver!
While on a smoke break, Joan, one of the other subs suggested I give Aramark a call as they were
looking for drivers for the summer season at Mesa Verde National Park. Sunday morning and I fill in
the on line application. Joan rings a bit after 7 and says I should ring her boss….. NOW !
Monday morning and over at their HQ filling in all the forms and it seems the game is on. Some quick orientation, the mysteries of the “Time Clock”, which I have never once used in my working life and I’m working on Saturday straight off the bat.
The tour buses
Saturday I’m riding shotgun on one of the tour buses so up the mountain and see how this goes. The morning is a 4 hour guided tour with an on board park ranger and we tour various sites with the party
getting on and off and looking at the progression of Indian development finishing up with a one hour
trip through Cliff Palace. The afternoon trip is similar but 1/2 an hour shorter. At the end of all this I get
to drive the bus back down the mountain.
The tour bus picks up at the Far View Lodge
Monday and time to learn some of the other tasks which I start out on with the Shuttle. The Shuttle is
the employee bus and takes the workers up and down the mountain to their various places of duty.
The morning run starts at 0500 ferrying cooks, servers, bottle washers and uncle Tom Cobbly up the
hill to the 3 mainstay facilities of the operation called Far View Lodge, Far View Terrace and Spruce
Tree Terrace. 5 runs up and down the twisty tight mountain bends on the morning shift also acting as company mailman between all the sites and several visits to the Girl’s Dorm to pick up the
housekeeping ladies and yet more bottle washers. The shift goes on until 1430 when we hand over
to the night “B” shift.
The 22 seater employee Shuttle
The interesting drive up and down the mountain
No surprizes then when I’m shotgun on Tuesday night’s B Shuttle where we do basically the reverse operation in the evening bringing down all the day workers and taking up the night restaurant team
for the upmarket dining in the Metate Room in Far View Lodge. The last run up leaves at 2130 and
then waits until all the staff have finished cleaning up and then we can set off down the hill in the dark
usually ending up at around 2330.
Waiting for passengers at Spruce Tree Terrace
The rest of my week is spent on this B shuttle. The next week I’m on the B shuttle ALL week as the
normal driver is away ……….. and then the schedule comes out for week 3 of my three weeks with the company when I see I’m on this bloody B shuttle AGAIN !! ………. time for a “meeting of the mind’s” so
I explain I didn’t join to do a night driving job, don’t like nights…. period, hated night flying when I was
in the RAF,…… and it’s not good for business here at the RV park. I also added that having spent
most of my working life as an Instructor that I thought my services would be best utilised on the tour buses………. eventually that seems to have got through and I now have this Fri/Sat on the tours, 2 days
off and then 2 days on the butt of dawn A shuttle.
One of the stops on the canyon edge
Two days on the Tour Bus came and went and very enjoyable they were too as you certainly feel you
are on the coal face with the customer. The whole scene, which is open to interepretation, as nobody
really knows what exactly happened or why, is very interesting so after much research and listening
to many Park Ranger’s takes I have formulated my own “layman’s’ ideas.
The Park Ranger gives most of the talk, but I can interject here and there with other points of interest
and best camera shots as we trundle along the edge of the canyon. As many of the visitors are elderly
I tend to assist with unloading and boarding and walk with them and give them the talk if they can’t
keep up with the main party. All this of course can sometimes be reflected in the “tip” which we we
may accept even though the ranger can’t.
At 0745 the daily tour run begins at the Lodge picking up the guest lists and boarding the first group
of clients. From there over to the Terrace where the second group and breakfastees should be. I then
give them a short talk on bus safety followed by personal aspects such as lack of oxygen, 7000′ etc, everything is an effort, altitude sickness, sunburn and dehydration. All this with a bit of humor
explaining that as I’m both British and American I will be driving on BOTH sides of the road !
We then move to an area for a geography lesson, it is called “far view” for a reason, and then off on
the Top Mesa Loop hoping to spot some wildlife along the way. We start at “Pithouse” circa 600AD
which is a home in the ground dug out with sticks. Next on the loop is Square Tower from about
1100AD and is a cliff dwelling. Now time for 3 Cities which is a collection of homes built one on top
of each other over a 200 year time frame. Clever excavation shows all three homes and their
improvements through time. Another stop on the side of the canyon to view all the cliff dwellings and
point out Cliff Palace which they will be going through with a different ranger. Down the canyon edge
and stopping for photo ops at the many spectacular sites.
Cliff Palace from the overlook platform
The Ranger briefs the customers on the “do’s & don’ts”
Another potty break and they assemble ready for their 1 hour tour of Cliff Palace. Meanwhile after
seeing them off I move the bus to pick them up when they re-emerge all puffing and red faced
having climbed all the ladders and stairs to get out of the canyon. Only 30 mins left on the tour and
they are quite pleased there is no more hiking and all the rest will be “drive bys”.
Tour Bus moved and ready for the red faced out of breath clients when
they make it out of Cliff Palace
Being a quick learner the techniques for being a “tour bus operator” and what the customer wants,
and that “extra mile”, are being moulded and so far the results are very promising and lucrative!