Making Time on the Road
with everyone loaded; the air conditioning system working; and knowing
we had solved the problem; it was time to get on the road. The dilemma, however – I had been up
since 6 AM that morning working with the coach.
That was 18 hours
ago. Adding driving through the
night to the 18 hours would make the run somewhere between 30 to 36
hours straight without sleep.
I thought about using one of the church coach
drivers to give me a break; however, the company insurance would never
have accepted that. So we were
left with just me to get the coach to Alexandria, VA.
Several asked if I
would have trouble driving that many hours to which I responded that we
would find out. A good friend,
Jerry Norris, was a chaperon on the coach.
I confided with
Jerry the only problem I might have would be between the hours 2 to 5
AM. Once the sun started coming
up it would be OK but those last few hours might be a problem.
Jerry said that he
would come forward and talk me through that time frame. I felt confident that we could make
it with his help.
Mark, my little
hyperactive 10 year old son, came forward as were we leaving Nashville
to help also. He kept telling me
about chocolate milkshakes, ice cream, and anything else he knew I
liked to help me to stay alert.
I could not help but laugh at his effort. You just had to love him.
The coach was silent
as most of the kids had gone to sleep.
There was a low murmur but even that was getting quieter and
quieter. The kids had a long day
In the Two Rivers
Church gym, they were allowed to play ball. The activity took even more out of them. By the time we were 50 miles into the
evening run it was total silence.
Not a sound was being made as we pounded the pavement toward
Jerry came forward
at 1:30 AM to help keep me awake.
We talked quietly about different things that were going on in
the world. He did a great job
helping me to stay alert.
But about 2:30 AM,
he confessed that he too had been up the entire day. He could not stay awake any
longer. I said it was OK for him
to go sleep with his wife who was on the coach also.
Now it was mine all
by myself. For awhile it was
OK. I was tired – YES, but I was
also alert. I was glad it had
worked out that we could keep the coach. I also felt confident we had solved
the problem with the air conditioning system.
We were back where
we started. We had a brand new
Eagle Model 15 with less than 5,000 miles and we were going to
Washington, DC for two weeks.
The Model 15s had
cruise control. They also had a
7 speed manual transmission. You
could get them up to running speed in 7th gear; set the
cruise control; and pretty much just sit there between the lines and
let the coach do the work.
The unit had a
Series 60 500 horsepower Detroit Diesel engine power unit. The Series 60 engine is the power
unit on 18-wheelers that are used to move 80,000 pounds up and down the
highway. Put the engine in a
smaller unit such as a coach with less weight and you had complete
freedom to let it do its thing.
It could take you over the hills with little effort.
It has been told by
other drivers that you could be going up a Colorado mountain with a 7%
pull and pass a speed limit sign adding 10 miles to the speed limit –
hit the cruise button twice and it would climb to the new limit
quickly. I had no reason to
question the power. It had
plenty to do what was necessary.
However, with no
more than I had to do – couple with the hours I had been in service
without a break – the monotony was horrible. I found myself getting extremely
I had used a particular technique driving the
Model 15s. You can actually
stand and drive a coach down the highway. With the cruise control holding the
speed, the engine handling the power, the transmission taking it
forward, all you had to do was to steer the coach.
I could actually
stand behind the steering wheel while looking forward and steer the
coach. For a change of body
circulation, scenery, and responsibility, I would stand to get some
relief while still driving.
This helped me to
stay alert for awhile but it was not the solution. I would found myself sitting back
down still fighting the elements of fatigue again and again.
Every facet of
professional driving was being forgotten. My mental state was being affected by
over-powering fatigue. It was
causing me to look past the obvious.
Even the pictures
that I recalled of coaches going off the highway with luggage and
bodies strewn about the highway as if in a war zone would have
helped. However, I was too tired
to recall them.
I put them out of
mind as quickly as they surfaced.
I did not want to admit the possibility that could become a
We had passed through Knoxville, TN; had gone
through the split with I-40 going south; and moved north on I-81 into
Virginia. There were several
hills in front of me but as I have said they did not require my total
None of the hills in
Virginia were near the magnitude of the Colorado hills; however, they
created challenges for some 18-wheelers with full loads that had to
work to get over. The Model 15
was just floating over.
Had we run east
through West Virginia, we would have faced many hills that would have
required my full attention, however, there was little concern when it
came to hills in Virginia.
Tired – YES! Committed to making it – YES! Not only were we were making time at
the moment on the road, we were making up lost time on the road.