Last summer the ministry purchased a 1996 Ford 26 passenger bus for our team. It wasn’t beautiful, but one of the greatest selling points of the bus was that it had new brakes and new tires. We knew the AC needed work, but we had a bus! The IL Saints had been carpooling to prison for years and this bus would give us the opportunity to finally travel together in one vehicle where we could laugh, cry, and fellowship together!
We battled the AC issues all summer and even had someone try to steal it from the church parking lot. After a few trips to the shop, however, we finally were able to take it to last year’s visit to Pontiac CC. We enjoyed the ride the whole way up and had a fantastic Saints day in the prison.
On the way back we were having a great time of fellowship heading back to Peoria. With our season now over, I totally checked out of coach mode and was able to just be Gibby for the ride home. We picked a pizza place in Bloomington where we would stop to celebrate our season before getting home on time to watch game 1 of the NLCS between the Cubs and Dodgers. Our team was laughing and telling stories about the day in the prison. The scene was what we had imagined the day we purchased the bus!
Suddenly the bus began to shake violently and we heard the tire make a sound against the bus. The next thing that had happened was the floorboard underneath Papa Ray Koonce began to be torn up and chunks of plywood were flying everywhere!
Once we got to the side of the road we realized that the tread had come off one of the “new” tires. We were able to limp to the Bloomington Farm and Fleet to get the bad tire replaced. We made it home safely just in time to watch the bottom of the 1st inning of the Cubs game.
Fast Forward 6 months…
The bus is repaired and is looking good. The floor is solid and we make our way once again to Pontiac CC. We were on our way back, making really good time, as we passed the Towanda exit of I-55. Like an IDIOT I yell, “Hey! That’s where we broke down last time!”
Five minutes later….
The bus began to shake, and then vibrate a little harder. Immediately we knew what was going on and moved to the side of the road before anything happened to the bus. Sure enough, the tread had begun to come off another tire. We got out of the bus, just like we had 6 months ago, and laid on the ground to attempt deflating the bad rear tire (bus has dual back wheels) so that it would not do the ‘chopping up the bus thing’ like the last bad tire did.
Fortunately, we were once again nearby the Bloomington Farm and Fleet so we could make another unplanned visit there. So instead of being home at our scheduled time, we were now browsing through farm equipment, Wrangler jeans, and livestock feed. After an hour or so we were back on the road and arrived safely back home.
I took the bus back to our local Farm and Fleet the next week, told them what I wanted, and then walked over to Culver’s for some ice cream. After about an hour, I walked back and asked the guy how much longer it was going to take. He replied that he wasn’t sure what to do with it since all of the tires still looked new. Realizing that the bus and its antics were about to cost me another couple of hours of waiting room time, I deployed all of the patience that I could find and told him the story about the two trips to Pontiac, all about the flying plywood, all about sitting on the side of I-55 watching cars fly by while we tried to deflate a self-destructing tire. He then agreed that was the best course of action and got them changed out!
P.S. If anyone reading this is thinking about stealing the bus, please email me at email@example.com so I can make sure you don’t change your mind; I can make sure you have everything you need to successfully make it out of the church parking lot!