I saw busses today! :-)
Today I drove a 24 foot Freightliner medium truck (big Ryder truck size) to run shuttles for a bicycle race, the Assault on Mount Mitchell, a 102 mile race from Spartanburg, SC to the summit of Mount Mitchell onthe Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC. Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains, at 6,600 feet.
There were nearly 1,000 riders in the race, and there was a fleet of busses to shuttle riders down from the mountain after the race. There were 5 or 6 Thomas/IHC conventionals with DT466E engines and 5 speed Spicer trannies (DROOL), and another 5 or 6 Bluebird FE busses.
I asked one of the drivers to let me look around his Thomas. It was the short headroom model (roof drops down behind driver area), and had about 27 feet of internal space behind the driver's seat, and about 5' 11" of headroom in the center (5' 6" or 5' 7" a foot away from the wall.) I definately want more headroom than that.
I inspected how the windows are held in, how the seats are bolted down, what the underside of the bus looks like, what the various chases and wall panels are like.
And on the way to the staging area I found two places within 35 or 40 miles of me that have used busses on their lots. One is a new car dealership (their used car subsidiary has the busses), and the other is a large used car place.
I was impressed with the turning radius on the FE busses, but they didn't have the forward clearance that the conventional busses have.
The route we traveled was up very windy mountain roads, probably gaining 2500 or 3000 feet over 5 miles. *Really* steep winding roads. The truck had an automatic transmission, and handled it very well. Not fast, but well. The truck has an empty weight of 13,000 pounds. I did not find out what size the turbo diesel engine is. The truck traveled about 260 miles and used about 30 gallons of diesel, a lot of it going up and down the mountain twice.
The busses were empty going up, and loaded with 44 passengers coming down. They did not seem to have any difficulty navigating the turns or the grade, and I was impressed with their potential to be very capable mountain travelling devices.
At the end of the day, a rider got heat exhaustion pretty bad, and a helicopter medevac-ed her. Other than her discomfort, the chopper scene was pretty neat. First a fire truck came and got a hose ready, "just in case." Then several volunteer fire department guys parked their pickups with strobe lights on to indicate the borders of a big field. Then we waited. Finally the chopper came in and landed for about 10 minutes while they transferred her from the ambulance that had called for the medevac.
So I got to see busses and a medevac. That's an exciting day for me.