Last week I began a story about driving my school bus route on a drenched day with flash floods occurring. That column ended with…”What lay before me were the dark churning waters of an angry river trying to find its banks. Who could tell if the bridge still existed in one drive-overable slab?”
As I figured it, I had two options. The first, attempt crossing the low-water bridge by aiming for the middle of the road and jetting through the water without changing course, keeping my sights on the middle of the road emerging on the other side. That would work if the bridge had not been replaced by a deep creek bed of gooey clay mud. Option one was quickly eliminated after I decided not to risk driving on a roadbed I could not see, despite the increasingly louder suggestions from the remaining riders to “Go for it!”
Option two seemed safe enough, considering I had high schoolers in the back more than happy to give advice, as were the first grade girls seated directly behind me. I could back up the road to the only turnaround I could think of, the golf course parking lot. So I began the backward retreat slowly with my attention alerted to the soft muddy ditches on either side, aware of the crescendo of the backup beepers added to the helicopter whirr of the defrosters, the drone of the diesel engine, and the wind and the rain and the thunder.
Having to back up over two hills began to worry me. Rarely did I encounter traffic on this particular road, but there is always that possibility, and it was getting later in the afternoon. I wasn’t as confident in my knowledge of the traffic patterns, going backwards in a storm on a road that had only one safe lane, the middle.
Option two needed revision. The landscape seemed unfamiliar backwards, though I ran the route forward twice a day, five days a week, thirty-six weeks a year. It was not until I eased by a residence with a reasonably wide gravel driveway and considerable flat terrain beyond it that I thought about turning around and heading out forward. I had three such turnarounds on my regular route. I did them with ease, so this revision seemed sensible, safe, and serene. The complaints from the riders about how long it would take to get them all home were getting louder. Those complaints, along with the tone of the backup beeper, the helicopter whirr of the defrosters, the drone of the diesel engine, and the wind and the rain and the thunder, made the decision seem wise.
To get the landowner’s permission to use his driveway as an emergency turnaround, I sent one of my high school riders to secure it while I radioed base to explain why I might be a tad behind schedule. Still no response from the bus garage.
(To be continued)