Photos: Courtesy Jennette Visser
ICR: What exactly is involved in a bus “Roadeo”?
JV: Usually there’s a written test of general knowledge, and then you go out into the parking lot and you have 10 to 12 obstacles you have to maneuver through or stop within a few inches. Every obstacle has a point value, and you get counted off if you don’t do it perfectly. A perfect score is zero to three inches away. The best score I’ve ever received was actually this year: 690 out of 750 total points.
ICR: What kind of obstacles are we talking about?
JV: Railroad tracks, straight-line tests, offset alleys, clearance tests, parallel parking, and of course driving through a line of cones.
ICR: Such precise skills must come in handy in the real world. What’s the craziest situation you’ve ever had to navigate on your route?
JV: We drive some dirt roads, and in the wintertime I got [stuck going] up this big hill where there was such deep snow that the bus wouldn’t go any farther. So I ended up having to back down the hill. It was dark that morning on a tight road with fields on both sides. Backing up using your mirrors becomes very important!
ICR: In cases like that, it probably comes in handy to have your bus adjusted exactly how you want it.
JV: Absolutely. It’s funny: One time, I didn’t get to use my own bus in the roadeo, so I had to sit on a book in order to compete. You make the bus your own. I’ve got my seat just where I like it: up high enough, forward far enough, the steering wheel tilted just right. Everything is adjusted for me to drive. You drive it every day, so you know how it feels, and you know how it sounds.
I’ve driven other buses, but I have to say I love IC Bus’s products. They’re the perfect fit for me. These are the only buses I like to drive, and I don’t want to drive anything else.
ICR: What has it been like to be responsible for students’ safety all these years?
JV: You get to know the kids, and they become just like your friends and family. I’ve taken them all the way up through high school, and it’s wonderful to see them grow. You get 70-some personalities, and you’re the captain of the ship. Ultimately, student safety comes first, and your job is to get them there in one piece.