We spent most of Sunday on the road. There were brief stops along the way. Some of the students had a chance to play a quick game of touch football at one stop. We left KIPP early Sunday morning. By around noon, we switched drivers near downstate Illinois.
There’s only so much you can do on a 12-hour drive. It doesn’t hurt when the driver is as interesting as the sites seen along the road.
John Fisher, our driver with Van Galder Charter Bus Company, has been a driver since the early ’90s. He told me that as I road shotgun in a seat next to him. While some drivers may sit stoically behind the wheel, John, as he likes to be called, is different. He prefers talking because things, he said, can get dull despite the nice sites. And John has a lot to say and many stories to tell. He sold cars and insurance before becoming a driver. He drove part time in the beginning and went full time about a year ago. He’s driven in almost half of the states in the country. And he’s driven some interesting people. Van Galder is the same bus company that built the Madden Cruiser, football analyst John Madden’s “tricked out” bus that he rides around the country in. (Madden’s ride was “pimped” before pimipin’ rides was cool.)
As a souvenir, our driver has a picture of one of Madden’s last plane trips in the late ’70s.
“He stayed in the bathroom for about 4 and a half hours the whole trip,” John said.
John has also driver for celebrities. Early in his career, he chartered a young rapper named Marky Mark — that would be Mark Walberg, now a successful Hollywood actor. Back then, he was a rapper, performing with his “Funky Bunch” crew. John had no idea who Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch were at the time.
John also has a close friend on the east coast, who’s a fifth- or sixth-generation descendent of a civil war veteran. John also likes to tell jokes, and he has a lot of them.
“You can always remember my name,” he told us after taking over. “There are two John’s on board — one in the front and one in the back.”