For the time being, as my back injury seems to be improving, I am continuing to drive the English Riviera Sightseeing Tours bus. This occupies me for a few days each week and has given me some interesting adventures over the months since I started.
The weather plays a big part in determining how many people travel as the vast majority of travellers make their decision on the day and pay on the bus. A handful buy their tickets from the Tourist Information Centre but they too are bought on the same day as travel. As you know, if you’re a UK resident, our weather is not always best suited for an open top bus ride so we’ve had some very poor days. If it’s very dull, cold and wet we are likely not to run the tour at all as so few people (if any) want to pay to travel in these conditions.
However, there have also been some superb days which means we’ve had some good loads as well. One day last week on the PD2 we had a full load on the top deck and a dozen downstairs as well and, as the school holidays are now upon us, this can only improve.
Although I drive the same tour route every day, there are still some interesting variations. These are mostly prompted by roadworks. For quite a while one of the roads near Babbacombe Downs was being dug up in several places which meant we could only just squeeze past the coned off bits. Add to that some contractors’ vehicles and oncoming traffic and progress was often slow. My spacial awareness skills went into overdrive! Only yesterday I was confronted by an unexpected set of roadworks in Wellswood. There’s a very tight, full-lock left turn at a junction near Kents Cavern and, to make it round in one go, I have to take it very wide, borrowing a bit of the opposite carriageway to give myself a chance.
But yesterday I found roadworks in the middle of the main road which only came into view after I’d started the turn. I hauled on the wheel faster still to make the turn as tight as possible and I began to think I’d have to reverse and give it another go. But I crept forward on full lefthand lock and, with the offside front tyre about an inch from the road cones, just made it round. On the afternoon tour there were parked cars which made it more difficult and I did have to do it in two bites. Grrrr.
I have reluctantly decided to give up driving the Agatha Christie bus to Greenway House. My last day was a few days ago and it coincided with a local village fair, which made life interesting because I had to drive the bus right through it!
The annual Gooseberry Pie Fair at Galmpton virtually takes over the centre of the village but they do try to keep the main road through the village clear. Apart from the Fair, my last day was pretty much like any other day on the Greenway House bus. Loadings were rather light for a summer Sunday. My heaviest load of the day was the final run into Torquay at just after five when 11 extra passengers joined the handful that I’d brought in at lunchtime. The extras had arrived on the Fairmile boat from Torquay but were travelling back on the bus.
Unfortunately my day was marred by a faulty governor on the Leyland PS1’s engine, which surged and hunted uncontrollably every time I touched the accelerator. This behaviour made it impossible to give my passengers a smooth ride which was very irritating! I had to apologise for the resulting rough ride otherwise my passengers may have thought it was the driver revving the engine unneccessarily!
Of the 14 times I had to pass through the village about half were affected by the Fair. There were cars parked on both sides of the road which leads into the village. After a couple of journeys, accompanied downhill by squealing brakes and uphill by a surging engine and massive clutch judder, I resorted to using another road which emerged on the Brixham side of the village.
Life has been so busy lately (busy driving, mostly) that I haven’t had a chance to put finger to keyboard for quite a while. Lots of stuff has been happening so I plan to bring this blog up to date in the next few days.
End of term seems to bring a flurry of school prom jobs these days (it’s an American import) and 2014 has been no exception.
In the space of one week I did five school jobs in addition to my normal turns, working for three different operators. I spent a day working for Crosville Motor Services which meant a very early start – up at 5am and booking on at the depot at 7am. My first job was to take ex-BOC C5055 (Bristol VRT LEU263P) over to Radstock to pick up a party of schoolgirls and take them to Midsomer Norton. While preparing the bus I noticed my friend Dave Moore in the depot, preparing another bus. When I asked where he was going, he said “Midsomer Norton”. Oo-er, I thought. Have we both been booked for the same job? It turned out that two Crosville buses had been hired by two separate groups going to the same prom!
On the journey out to Radstock I took the cross-country route via the A368. I soon regretted it because, although it is the most direct route it’s also very meandery and narrow in places. I arrived at the pickup point in plenty of time and waited for my passengers. There was some dismay when I turned up with the green VRT because they had originally booked ex-Crosville DFG81 (open top FSF6G 891VFM) but this bus was off the road with cooling problems.