Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I Love My Job

How many people can really say that, hmm?

I am proud to say that I am a school bus driver. I get paid to drive around like a little old lady, being safe, and playing (sort of) with children. I get to channel my inner child and talk about silly things like doggies and video games.

I get more holidays than you could want, every weekend off, and if that weren't enough, I get an entire summer of vacation every single year- plus a vacation at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even one in springtime to balance it all out! Yet I think I make a decent wage, and I don't even have to slave away all day in a cubicle. If I DO want extra money I can always bid on field trips. Some of those can be really fun. Some, like basketball or other sports, means I get a couple hours to do some knitting or a small beadwork project AND I GET PAID FOR IT. How awesome is that?

You don't even have to do it by yourself if you don't want to- special needs buses are not the super-scary dramatic panicroom that I always feared. A lot of those kids are able to communicate and interact with you just like any other kid. I have to admit- I suck at driving electric wheelchairs! I also think a wheelchair lift has all the necessary attributes to qualify as A Toy- whether the thing works or not- manual operation is fun too!

Anyway, I have a new route, and I promised to go into details earlier, so here you go.

I now drive a baby bus! I get to open the door to let students on and off manually, the door is not pneumatic. On my side is a regular driver's door. It's weird. I'm supposed to be way up high and look out a big giant window over a row of control switches... or not. In this bus I have a (baby) control panel above my head. I originally thought that would be a problem because I'm short, but once I scoot the seat up I'm fine. My seat gets set one notch back from knees-touching-the-steering-column (which is I think the furthest forward anyway). I don't get any emergency window exits, but I DO get a rear door and roof hatch. When I put the column shifter into reverse, I get a back-up beeper, hooray! The vehicle is yellow with black stripes and I am  mostly content.

I need to mop the floor. It is a very light color and the dirt bugs me. Also, I have seat belts.
I hate seat belts. They bang around. They rub the dirty floor and thus also are usually filthy. The kids look at you like you've got a third eyeball when you dare suggest that they actually touch one, much less buckle it around themselves. Then they grumble or something similar when they realize the bus isn't going to move until that buckle makes the clicking sound. /sigh

My bus doesn't like the cold. Actually, I just don't think it likes waking up at all. It snoozes through the night and then snoozes in the middle of the day- and it is very slow to wake up. Its freaking annoying, is what it is. Until the engine warms up, the bus sputters and heaves and seems to choke on its diesel. In a gasoline car I'd think the spark plugs weren't firing correctly, or maybe the fuel filter were clogged. I've described it to the mechanics, but no one seems alarmed by it, just mildly surprised. I think I'm going to write it up tomorrow anyway just to have them check it out. In the morning is the worst- I can push the accelerator and nothing happens- the bus seems to want to go, but it crawls forward, it can't go fast, it can't, it can't, and then ZOOM, it catches up with itself. "Og THAT"S how fast you want me to go?"At a steady 55mph (our district says we can go speed limit which means it could be more than 55 if that's the limit- wow!) the bus will sort of spit, where it has this sort of hiccup as it goes down the road. It's aggravating. Yes. I'm writing it up- my bus could be sick and maybe even just getting some inspection attention from the mechanics will make it feel better. Or then again, my bus just may not be a morning person.

My first day, actually my first morning, I got very sick of railroad crossings. I distinctly remember joyously proclaiming something along the lines of me happily holding up traffic at every railroad crossing.... yeah right. Luckily, the road changed almost immediately so it wasn't quite so ridiculous. Also, I discovered that a couple of the crossings, being located in or near an intersection controlled by traffic lights, were exempt so I didn't have to stop for those. Now I have a much more reasonable number of tracks to cross every day. It also helps that I figured out which direction does what for the window crank- which is wedged up right against because it has to be so far forward. I've learned to hook the knob between thumb and forefinger and just rotate the crank open-handed. Kind of like a kid making the motions for a choo-choo train chugging along- you know how the wheels are hooked together by that bar? Chugga-chugga chugga-chugga CHOO CHOO!

My kids are a tiny sprinkling of each age group. I get a few high schoolers, some middle schoolers, and elementary. The only ones I don't have are the itty-bitty guys, which is awesome. I dislike star seats (basically booster seats with a 5-point safety harness instead of only a lap belt) only because most of the buses here have awkward L brackets in the frame that makes getting underneath to unlatch the seat mandatory in order to install the things. A lot of my kids speak Spanish. It makes me very seriously consider taking classes somewhere in order to learn it. Overall, I have a small group (it's only a baby bus, after all) but with a lot of variety. I think its perfect.

And lastly, I simply must share a picture I took. Yesterday, one of our buses had to be towed. I happened to  fall in behind it on our way back to the bus lot, and it was the saddest thing I have ever seen in relation to buses. The poor broken bus was on the tow truck backwards, leaning forlornly to one side, with a giant slash of a mouth which was the trailer lights. :`-/ It put me in mind of a cartoon car, all broken and dejected making a sad face or crying- you know how animations can be. We got stuck at a light, so I whipped out my camera and took a picture. It would have been better at a straight-on angle, but oh well.

Poor bus. I felt so bad for it.
They don't deserve to have their rear ends stuck in the air going backwards down the road. How undignified.
Get well soon, bus!

Happy Hump Day! 
Spring Break is almost here!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Grocery Shopping the Fun Way

Over the weekend our doggies ran out of food. They had enough for dinner Sunday night, but nothing for breakfast. We humans were also dangerously low on toilet paper. These things weren't something that could be put off, so I decided that I needed to go grocery shopping on the way home from my morning bus route.

Jamie's old bike Vandal has been given to a coworker, but it still has the trailer hitch on it. Luckily, I had ordered a second hitch so that we could easily swap towing duties between us without having to break out the multitool every time. That gets tedious after a couple swaps. I had forgotten that I'd need to install the hitch, though, so I was almost late to work. It's not the best way to start the school week, but it could have been worse. Off I went hauling a bouncy empty trailer.

I wonder if passing drivers thought I was abusing a child in there. For some reason the chance that they might think so was hilarious to me. Maybe because I've chosen to drive dozens of children around safely for a living?

After work, I pedaled off to the store. The wind wasn't directly against me, but it was blowing steadily about as fast as I pedal on a bad day- so maybe 7-8 miles per hour. I went to King Soopers first- it was directly on the way home, so it was closer, while Sprouts was nearer Jamie's commute route home. I only really wanted milk from Sprouts, so most everything else would be purchased first.

Eggs are only a dollar! For 18 of them. I think that's a great deal, right? I got two. Jamie had also requested Diet Coke. Those were 3 for $12, so i went ahead and got three, why not? I also got the 46lb bag of dog food we always get. Making trips to get dog food is somehow abhorred by Jamie, I'm not sure why, hehe. So we get the jumbo package.

Dogfood on bottom, soda on top, eggs carefully AWAY from crushing danger in the perfect dimensions of my saddlebag (YES!). Off to Sprouts. Our last gallon of milk disappeared extremely quickly, so I bought two this time. Jamie also requested nuts from the bulk bins (the candy section of Sprouts, even you don't consider the chocolate-covered offerings). I wasn't craving anything, and the only free samples were the tiny oranges we had at home, so that's all I got there.

The trailer was very heavy. It's been quite a while since I hauled anything with that much weight. Grunt and Jackjack probably only weight 60lbs between them- 40 for Grunt and 20 for Jack. I wonder how close that load was in weight to the one Jamie hauled a little while ago? The wind fought me only a little bit, but I definitely felt any little uphill. It was funny, because slight downhills were equal and opposite- the trailer pushed me along very eagerly and it was a nice change of pace from the usual effort of pedaling. Flats were a piece of cake... once I got rolling. Getting started was interesting.

But, I made it home just fine, spinning along fairly easily in the first and easiest gear. I even brought the groceries up the stairs all myself after I took the puppies out. They were very happy for breakfast. As they both contentedly munched up kibbles, I checked email. A list of nearby Meetups had one for road bikers. Sitting there, I had the crazy urge to go right that second and hop on a road bike and go. Somewhere, anywhere, but far and FAST. It was very strange. I don't own a road bike. Plus, I had thought only moments ago that my legs would be paying dearly for that weighty trip. In fact, the commute to work was just fine, as was the ride home. I guess spinning along was an ok thing for them to do.

I didn't think to get pictures, sorry. Here are some icicles instead. The weekend's snow is clingy stubbornly, but the melt is happening regardless. Come on, Spring!

The sunlight made these glow so prettily.

Danger from above.

Now. Despite the success and relative ease of my morning shopping trip, I missed one crucial item on the list. Can you guess what it was?




Yup, the toilet paper!!

I don't like that bike rack. The lower bar is so high off the ground that it makes Zoomie lean rather precariously, don't you think?

Speaking of bike racks, I'm tired of getting ice pellets dropped on my head and down my neck from those stupid metal things on the tops of glass walls around here. I see those thing in the new schools all over the place. Are they sun shades? Well, they freaking collect snow and then hold it menacingly above you to rain icy frustrations in the form of ice pellets and drips of extremely cold water and did I mention ice? Enough! 

I moved the bike rack at work.

And that was my Monday, how was yours?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Let's See... Pictures!

Finally sharing pictures! Let's see, the last thing you guys saw was the big day of snow... that means I need to share... all this!

It snowed lightly another day.

My niece had her 3rd birthday. I didn't get to go to her party, but look what I got her! 

It's German, and I love how it isn't automatically PINK. I have nothing against the color, but everything for girls is pink. (They have a wonderful lime green one! And matching helmets! <3) 
I got this for $15 from a lady who didn't think I'd want to buy it all scratched up. If her little boy loved it that hard, don't you think Natalie will too? She'll add her own scratches and scrapes!

Here is the photo proof of Zoomie's big blowout that I mentioned in the last post.

It's huge!

A lesser bulge of tire failure.

And from the side.

And now you know why I got these! 
I like how I accidentally captured the branding just perfectly- it was not planned!
I LOVE these tires, by the way. I can see why everyone raves about them on the online forums.

Daylight savings took beautiful morning views like this away from me again. I'm back to fully lighting myself up like the aforementioned pathetic Christmas tree and pedaling along in the dark.

Oh yeah!
This happened during a trip home after visiting Jamie at work. He was getting the evening shift a lot and that meant I didn't get to see him in the middle of the day and by the time he got home, I should have been asleep. I missed him :(
The little shortcut path was slick and muddy, but it didn't occur to me that it would be until I was already on it. I was jamming along to music, feeling awesome, so I had a BLAST! I threw mud everywhere- slipped and slid a little through it, and tested out that traction on the new tires. 

It sure was fun!

Jackson wondered why I stopped to take pictures.

Then it snowed some more. It was very pretty, but melted fast.

I love those reflective sidewalls!

We went grocery sopping at Sprouts and bought WAY more than we intended. Jamie had to haul it home.

Look at all that stuff!

A train on the morning commute.

Some geese decided to hold up traffic too one day.

I discovered a night scene setting. It sounds like it takes 5 pictures and puts them together. Regardless, I'm pleased with the results!

And now with my new route, I don't even get to see this anymore- it's full dark and I've been to my first stop before the sky lightens this much.

Hehe, static! It's unusual on the streamers, to say the least.

After all that mud, Zoomie required a bath big time. 

This is why I had to go find a new chain- I didn't think this one was worth cleaning. It took all day and I ended up finishing the bath in the lighted breezeway. I finished at 11, well past my bedtime, but it was worth it.

All clean!!

Poor scraped-up Zoomie. <3

Yay clean.

I still love my frog watch. It didn't take long for me to get dependent on it for telling me the time- my wristwatch is always covered lately and my bike computer can now show more important things- like temperature.

Look, a fender sparkle!

This cloud is out of focus, I swear. Look, you can see the tree mainly in focus. I really did check and make sure I was wearing my glasses when I looked at that cloud, it weirded me out.

And lastly- I had big news:
Ta dah! 

It was a dusty display on clearance. 
Jamie got another 10% knocked off for a few tiny dings.

Disc brakes!! 

I guess it is a Mongoose Stat.

I'm trying to think of a name. I think either "Squishy" or "Dory", after the Finding Nemo character. Jamie said he had to get a suspension seatpost since he no longer has rear suspension. This put in my mind the mental image of him bouncing along as he pedaled, which made me think of squishy suspension... the idea just sort of stuck in my head once it got in there. Since Dory is a female character, I think this bike might be dubbed Squishy. 
Tell me what you think or make other suggestions!

Vandal now belongs to a coworker of Jamie's, which saves us the hassle of trying to figure out how one person can get two bikes home (or two people for three bikes). I have to get my trailer hitch, though. It's still on Vandal from that grocery trip.

That's it so far! Life goes on. 
I'll talk about my new route later, today was only the second day.