Minnesota Farmer


Flashing lights
September 11, 2016, 12:18 pm
Filed under: bus, machines, school, School bus | Tags: , , , ,

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School has started and drivers need to be aware of the flashing lights on school buses that tell you a bus is coming to a halt.  That means noticing the flashing yellow ones that come before the flashing red ones.  Flashing yellow means start slowing down so you can stop when the red starts!

I’m constantly amazed at how many people do not see that big yellow bus with its flashing lights and go flying through a student loading zone.  A bus driver can turn in someone who runs their stop arm, but unless we get the full license plate it does not even pay to do the paper work.  Our bus company has come through with help.

There are now video cameras inside and outside of our school buses to record what is happening in and around a school bus.  If someone runs our stop arm, we now have video evidence of the infraction.  The police will be calling you if you run our bus stop arms now and they will have video evidence to prove your actions.

Oh yes, there are cameras inside also.  If we have student behavior problems we have those recoded also.  Actually, I hope to never use that video, but it does do a good job of enforcing behavior.  I just ask the student what their parents will see when we show it to them.  In most cases that’s all I need to do.

So watch out for those flashing lights when you approach a school bus.  In my district you will be on camera and we will get you if you run that stop arm.

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Trust the Bus Driver

It happened to me again today.  I had someone tell me that if they really wanted to know what the local road conditions were they would ask a school bus driver.FarmBuildings00016-300x200

Wow, what trust to put in those of us on the road early in the morning or late at night.  Yeah, we are out in the early hours on roads all over the country.  In fact, I’m usually the first one on many of the county and township roads of my route, all to often I’m there before the snow plow.  I have to know those roads because I’m asked to drive them in fog, rain and snow.  I’ve had many a trip where I have known where the stop signs and corners are by counting the hills.  Those are not the days I prefer to drive.

Winter here in Southwestern Minnesota can be a challenge at times.  Knowing where the road is in hazardous conditions is sometimes a challenge.  The fact is though that I will never take a child out on a road in my bus if I do not feel confident that I can get back to town.  That’s not to say that I have always stayed on the road, but usually if I get into trouble it is not because of a blizzard, it’s ice or fog.

So, thank you for your trust.  We want your kids home safe as much as you do.  Besides, do you really want to spend a cold night in a bus with your child and all of their friends?  Neither do we!



Winter, or not?
December 3, 2014, 9:36 am
Filed under: cold, family, Farm, Minnesota, snow, weather, winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The calendar says that winter starts on December 21.  Meteorologists claim winter starts on December 1.  For me winter’s start is more flexible, it depends on snow and cold.

This year, winter started in November when a major snow storm-swept through central Minnesota depositing large amounts of snow north of us and a dusting of snow here in southwestern Minnesota.  That kicked off the cold as arctic air pushed south and held on with temperatures well below normal.  We had a storm deposit 6 inches of snow, and then warm weather melted most of it.  Then came 3 inches of snow and cold, cold weather for Thanksgiving day.  Out came the sleds and skis as the kids and grandkids enjoyed our blanket of white.IMG_4353

Today, after a few really warm days it is hard to find any snow.  It looks as if the warm is going to continue.  Our forecast is filled with days near or above freezing, and there is not even a lot of wind to cool us off.  I love this weather.

Oh yeah, I know you cold-blooded folks are thinking I am raving mad, but when you compare this to what we have had, this is great!  Without cold winds and snow I expect to see lots of kids forgetting their hats and gloves on the bus, maybe even a coat or two.  It’s all in the perspective you put on it, and this is better than we have had, and I am loving it.



In opposite directions
November 10, 2014, 10:13 am
Filed under: cars, Farm, machines, School bus, travel, trucks | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

While gasoline and oil prices are dropping, another essential fuel is going up in price, Diesel.

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Over the weekend, gasoline prices in our area went down 10 cents and diesel went up 50 cents.  Why should this concern you?  Because the price of everything you buy is dependent on diesel-powered trucks, trains and ships to get it to your house.  Farmers depend on diesel-powered equipment to harvest food for your table and grocery store shelves are filled by diesel-powered trucks making deliveries.  School, city and charter buses use diesel to deliver people everyday.  Diesel is the lifeblood of commerce.

There have been some efforts made to change diesel-powered equipment to natural gas or propane, but the change is slow.  Pressurized tanks for propane and natural gas are expensive and fueling stations are rare.  For now we depend on diesel.

The last time diesel prices were this high, transportation companies added fuel surcharges to their deliveries.  I expect that to happen again.  Look for cruise ship vacations and chartered bus trips to cost more also.  There just is no way to avoid paying for higher priced fuel.  So next time you fill up your tank and celebrate the lower gas prices, take a look at the price of diesel.  You are paying for that fuel also with every purchase of every product you use.



Good-Bye Old Friend
September 30, 2014, 8:45 am
Filed under: machines, School bus | Tags: , , ,

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Today I will say good-bye to an old friend.  Bus 11, now bus 1, will be leaving the fleet today.

The bus is a 1996 AMTRAN Genesis 66 passenger, short of wheel base and quick to turn, a bit under powered and COLD in the winter, but still a good old bus.

We’ve been through a lot together.  There have been repairs both major and minor.  Lots of children have ridden lots of miles on that bus, over 300,000 miles of country roads.

I had been assigned a newer bus for the start of the season, but the computer went out on that bus during route friday morning.  The replacement bus I was to drive had a wheel alignment problem and was unsafe to drive since the front end bounced so much.  So they dug into the “ready to head down the road” list, and I got my old 11 back.

My foot still knows just where to go to hold the speed at 50 mph.  The seat belt still wants to hold me a little too tight so I cannot reach some of the controls.  The interior lights still turn off by themselves after about 5 minutes. I knew just how much to press the foot feed to keep from sliding around snow-covered corners, since I had over done it so many times.  I know everything that she can do.  I have joked many a time about fixing this bus with a stick of dynamite, but I never meant it.  So despite her problems, I’ll miss the old girl.

Bus 11, like several other buses in the fleet, was not inspected this past week and thus cannot legally haul school children after the end of the month.  The safety inspection makes sure that at least once a year school buses are fit to drive.

I’ve had several other buses through out my years of driving, ‘The Duce,”  bus 20, and a host of replacement and out-of-town trip buses, but old 11 was special.  I got to know her better than any other bus I ever drove.

So good-bye old friend.  I have no idea where you will go from here, but you left me lots of memories.  Now it’s off to make new memories with another of your kin.

Michael



Mischief

I love the look of mischief in a child’s eye.  That glowing eye and smile of fun are just so enjoyable to me.  The look that says “I’m having fun, come join me.” makes me feel young.2012-08-04-bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed

That same look of mischief in the eye in the classroom or on the school bus can be trouble.  All too often fun can lead to chaos, so as much as I love a bit of mischief myself I have to keep an eye out for that look on the bus.  I have to let it go for a bit, but then come down hard when the line is crossed.  Knowing when to stop the mischief seems to be different for every child and I must relearn every year when to let it go, and who I can let go, and when to say “No!”

Children with electronic devices have changed bus driving.  A child, head down in an electronic device, is no trouble at all, but those near that child can be a bit of trouble.  Keeping those near the game sitting is a problem.  Everyone wants to see.  There are kids hanging over seats and crowding all around to see what is going on.  While this is not really trouble, by law every child on a school bus must be seated.  Thus the electronic device becomes trouble.UnknownI can see the allure of electronics.  I too have been sucked into an electronic game.  The problem is that they sometimes can cause trouble.  To join the modern era, our school has issued iPads to every middle and high school student.  This puts a large number of electronic devices on the school bus. Where it used to be that we could shut down the use of a DS on the bus, now we have a bus full of game pads issued by the school.  The younger students all want to get their hands on those devices that the older kids have.  Then you have trouble.

So here’s to mischief, as long as it doesn’t go to far.  But please, keep it off my bus.  I really hate to have to stop the fun.100_0762

Michael

 



Road reporter

This morning the roads were covered with about one inch of new snow and slippery in spots.  No wind, but rising temperatures were making for messy travel.100_0762

I’ve been stopped several times this past winter by people who have been thankful for my morning road reports from my southwest Minnesota bus route on Facebook.  When you hit the road by 6:30 and are back in town by 8, you get a good look at morning roads.  Mostly they are people who live here and want to know what is outside their door, but I have also talked to people who are away and traveling.  They like to know how things are going back home.

Road conditions now as spring is approaching are not as critical.  The winter prairie winds here make travel miserable at times in winter as it blows the snow and it can make travel conditions treacherous.  Now our only worry is a late season dump of wet snow that makes for slippery roads.  Spring travel is much easier.

I could also give you wildlife reports from my dawn travels.  For instance this morning I saw 20 deer and 2 pheasant roosters.  images

The deer are really starting to move now that winter is losing its grip.  For a while there was no movement, but now they are looking for new foraging spots and are moving from trees to fields and back again.  It’s fun to see where they have been after new snow.  I would put deer numbers at a stable level, but down from about 10 years ago.images-2

The pheasants have been absent most of the winter, and I know it has been a hard winter for them.  The fact that I have seen no hens, and very few roosters, has been distressing.  Last summers late snow had already cut into pheasant numbers.  Now ice, heavy snows and wicked winds may have further pushed down numbers.  I would place pheasant numbers at a very low level now.

There is a lot to see on my morning bus route, including some of the best sunrises in the world.  I’ve been glad to hear that people are checking in on me, perhaps you have been also.

Michael