Load ‘em Up – Head ‘em Out
The morning started
out very early. I awoke at 4:30
AM to make sure that everything was in order for the trip. Most of the packing had been done the
day before but I wanted to double check everything was included. I had to pack my uniforms and make
sure the uniform that I was going to wear that day was ready.
One of the joys I had working with Robert on his
church choir tours was that I could include members of my family. On this trip, I was able to include
Carol, my wife, and Mark, our youngest son.
Carol does a great
job of looking after me. She
also works with the other chaperons and helps take care of the
incidentals that evolve on a trip of this nature.
Carol and I have
three children. Two of our
children were choir members so they were included as part of the
group. Cathy, our oldest, was a
junior at L D Bell High School and was a member of the senior high
Robby was in the 9th
grade and a member of the junior high choir at First Euless. He was accepted by the senior high
choir boys because he worked with them on the luggage.
Mark, our youngest
son was only 10. He served no
useful purpose on the tour other than to make the girls laugh and the
boys blush. He was an outgoing
young kid and loved to be included on everything. Mark was 5 years younger than his
siblings yet that never stopped him.
He considered himself as old and involved as they were.
My past experiences
on choir tours with Robert convinced me that arranging my sleeping
accommodations was the only way to go.
On one particular trip in the past, the home I had been assigned
was a young couple who were still putting their furniture together.
My bed that evening
consisted of 4 chairs being placed together. Needless to say rest was not possible
for that evening and yet I had to drive the next day. The young couple’s heart was in the
right place – just their accommodations were lacking. I set a new rule; I would take care
of my own accommodations in the future.
I would stay in a
motel near the church and get proper rest for the evening for the next
day. Carol and Mark stayed with
me while Cathy and Robby were provided accommodations through the host
churches. Carol was a tremendous
help as she entertained Mark while I took care of my paperwork and went
I had Carol take me
over to the charter company to pick up the coach. We did not want to leave our car on
the company yard while we were gone.
We got to the yard about 7 AM that morning.
I checked in with
the office; picked up advance money for fuel and expenses; and received
last minute instructions on the coach that I was assigned.
Overland Stage Coaches was one of the charter companies
I was using for the church tours.
They had just purchased new 1986 Eagle Model 15 coaches that
were the finest coaches in the metro area. The coach I was assigned only had
5,000 miles on it and this was the first out of town trip that it was
Model 15 Eagle
coaches were 40’ in length and 102” or 8’6” in width. Prior to the release of the Model 15
new coaches, the allowed width was only 8’. With the new models, there was more
room inside; more luggage space; and ease of maneuverability inside
Air conditioning was
fantastic on the new coaches.
Problems of the past coaches had been modified with larger fans
and increased BTUs which gave you a comfortable coach even in the midst
of extreme hot weather in the summer.
A charter group from
Vernon, TX had been assigned a coach by another company without the
modifications for their trip to Florida. By the time they got to Dallas, TX
they had decided they were going no further unless the problem of heat
inside the coach could be rectified.
A driver at their
charter company told them about Overland Stage. The transfer was made and I had the
opportunity of driving that charter to Florida. I had just come in from another tour
and was the only driver immediately available. Leaving Dallas, the Vernon group
could not believe the air conditioning.
Model 15 Eagle coaches had restroom facilities
for the comfort of the travelers.
It kept us from having to stop intermittently. The new Model 15 was extremely nice
and we got many words of appreciation for our on-coach amenities.
The new coaches also
had tables near the rear that could be used for games. The rows directly in front of the
tables could be turned around to face the tables to the rear giving a
game area for 4 people to face each other with a table.
The coaches also had
TV monitors spread throughout the coach connected to a control DVD for
showing movies while traveling or videos of the presentation from the
night before that had been taped by the host church.
Robert was able to
tweak the presentation using the video and make changes for future
events each evening. Quite
frequently, it was a time for the kids to see themselves on video and
usually brought laughter at their antics forgetting they were being