bible school choir bus tour across america :: top ten list

March 31, 2017

AFLBS_Concert-Choir_ 2017

I was practically a professional choir tour bus rider for most of the nineties.  Oh yes.  I know of which I speak.

I did the math.  I figure between 1987 and 1997, if you count all of the musical tours of varying lengths cross country I have endured in a bus of one kind or another, I came up with between 25 and 30 tours of duty.  Granted, it’s been a couple of decades… but some things are timeless.

Tomorrow at noon, as the Association Free Lutheran Bible School Choir steps aboard their mobile home away from home for the next two weeks, I thought that my vast experience may edify the uninitiated.  I bequeath unto you the following tasty bits of road-savvy wisdom…


(10)  The FIRST (and I mean FIRST) thing that must be done is to storm the coach bus with plywood, duct tape, warning signs, and some sort of electrified deterrent, and barricade the bathroom shut.  That’s right.  Because what smells like Lysol and citrus fruit and Purell on day one will, by day three smell like… NOT Lysol and citrus fruit and Purell.  I think bus drivers have to stop every six hours or so by law anyway (ask Leon), so man up, Sally!  You can hold it for another four hours in the back of a bouncy bus.  Yes you can.  I believe in you.

(9)  BEWARE the RACHOS HUEVOS.  I’m just saying.  It seems out of my 25+ tours of duty, at least half of them rolled through Tejas or the Southwest somehow.  I never kept track of where we were…  I just got on the bus along with my fellow singing sheeple, and we seemed to get by OK.  But EVERY church in the south that served breakfast (and most of our host families) would greet us with a “G’mornin’ y’all!”and some variation on the following theme… “Since y’all are from Minnesohdah, we reckon you’d like to try one of our southern specialties from around these parts… RANCHOS HU-WAY-VOS! C’mon up now while the vittles is hot.”  OK… they probably didn’t say “vittles.”  But we DID get A LOT of Ranchos Huevos.  Let me just say that it is a cruel joke to serve 60 Norwegian teens a combination of scrambled eggs and spicy salsa and then make them ride together on one bus.

(8)  CARRY CONTRABAND SNACKS to your home stays.  You never know what’s coming.  At one church where my wife stayed with an elderly lady, the pastor actually slipped her $20 to sneak off and get pizza.  Sure enough, they were served warm milk, Saltines, and room temperature green beans in some sort of gelatinous substance… still in the shape of the can.  Protein bars, maybe an apple, some tortillas and a jar of peanut butter go a long way when facing gelatinous green beans.  Trust me on this.

(7)  If you have never before seen “The Sound of Music,” do NOT admit this on a bus full of musicians for any reason.  I’m not saying I was that guy, but if I HAD been that guy, I would have had to endure “The Sound of Music” DVD being played over the bus video system while 23 chicks watched me watch it.  AWKWARD.  I mean, if I had been that guy…

(6)  Twizzlers are the best bus snack food of all time.  I don’t even want to talk to you Red Vines people.  Have the elders at your home church anoint you with oil and pray for deliverance.  That’s all I’m saying.

(5)  Leon Ritter is the best Choir Bus Driver of all time.  His heritage with AFLBS goes back more than 30 years now.  When he is not driving the bus, a small cadre of attendants must follow him around with tasty beverages, fresh fruit snackery, and a willingness to burst into song or fresh dance moves for his entertainment.  Ooohh… better yet:  Can you guys rig up one of those cool chairs on poles so he can be carried around by the Bass section?  He’s just that awesome.

(4)  Romance.  Listen, I went on choir tour… and then I married Amy.  It went pretty much like that.  While I know the students of today are FAR more mature and mission-minded these days, don’t think I don’t know you don’t think I know you are already thinking about those long bus rides… just hours and hours of meaningful conversation over the steady hum of the diesel engine.  Oh yes.  Sharing headphones = good.  But ONE blanket PER PERSON.  Capiche?

(3)  By day 9, your resolve may lessen regarding use of the on-board bathroom.  Surely someone will be deep in giggly conversation after a gas station or lunch stop, board the bus with a small gaggle of like-wise giggling friends, only to realize with horror that they forgot to use the bathroom as the bus begins to pull away and onto the open road.  This is when your mettle will be tested.  For the sake of the greater good, do not do this thing you are considering.  Compassion is for the weak.  I’m sure that’s in 2 Thessalupians Chapter 4 somewhere.  You must find a team of heartless strong men (or altos) from within the group to block the bathroom door – willing to lock arms and take all comers.  If you are tempted to feel empathy for the weak of bladder, please refer to point #10 above.  You’ll thank me later.  And as an added bonus, it will be a real growth opportunity for the distressed and uncomfortable among you.  As I would have learned in the U.S. Marine Corp., had I ever been a Marine, “Pain is just weakness leaving the body.”  It’s win-win.

(2)  Dudes… can I call you dudes?  Because this one is for you, Broseph.  While the lady folk may very well come on the bus in the morning smelling of cantaloupes or mountain breezes… whatever their perfectly acceptable lotion of choice from Bath and Body smells like… it will fade into the ether soon enough, leaving little more than a pleasant reminder of their friendship and general happy disposition lingering behind.  You, on the other hand, do no one any favors by liberally applying Drakkar Noir at 8:23 in the morning.  Do you know what the best smelling guy on the bus smells like in the morning?  Neither do I.  That’s how we want it.

(1)  When you sing – hearts will break, and people will be healed, and the Church will be reminded of how beautiful and awesome God is.  Heaven will visit people – and it will surprise them.  Never in your life will you get to experience the compound joy of making music this glorious and believing it so deeply in sync with the people alongside you.  THIS YOU HAVE TO KNOW.  These are some of the most wonderful days of your life.

God bless you guys.  I believe he is going to use you to grow His church and encourage the saints all the way from here to the Atlantic and back.  Give Leon a high-five from me.  We’ll see you when you get back home.

-Joshua Skogerboe (AFLBS Choir Alumn, 1990-92)


[ Article originally posted April 6, 2011 ]

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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

15 responses to bible school choir bus tour across america :: top ten list

  1. Josh, this blog post is most certainly true–and most certainly hil-ar-i-ous!!!!! I agree with EVERYTHING you wrote! (Well, except maybe the Twizzlers part, but I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority on that one–I’ve tried to like them, really I have!!)
    In regards to #8, two words: SPAM. SANDWICH.–unfortunately, we didn’t have a kind pastor that slipped us a $20 :-S
    As for #3, I think altos are your best bet–I’ve worked with them on some sectionals throughout the year and have taught them everything I know, including “the look” (a.k.a. the death stare that will melt your face off and make even the manliest of basses cry–just ask Ben Dahl)
    And thank you for #2–I just hope that these young men will apply this truth to their entire lives, not just choir tour 🙂
    #1–I couldn’t agree more.

    I am fortunate enough to be able to see the choir at their first concert in Glyndon and I’m stoked!!

    • Liz – the altos are lucky to get to work with you, in many ways. 🙂 Thanks for adding to the conversation here, too.

      Question… did you just call out Ben Dahl as the manliest of Basses, or as a crybaby? Can’t quite tell…

      God bless, friend.

    • First of all, thank you Liz for labeling me as the manliest bass, because its true. And secondly, Liz’s stare of death once killed a small goat. True story. Avoid it at all costs!

      Thirdly, I love this article! Super funny! I LOL’d multiple times.

      Thank you.

  2. Quite possibly my fave Josh Skogerboe blog post of all time. At least top 5. This is so priceless, hilarious, painfully honest, and so terribly erroneous in its Twizzler claims (holler for Red Vines!).

    Even though I’ve only partaken in a mere 15ish choir tours, I also consider myself a choir-tour expert.

    YES to the bathroom rule — and those who are angered by people who use the bathroom should know that there are a few teeny tiny holes in the bathroom wall, and you can squirt water in there (try those baby coffee staws) at the perpetrator to teach them a lesson.

    I can’t stop laughing about the “one blanket per person” rule. You really sound like a dad now. I’m afraid that the blanket rule will most definitely only be observed by non-coupled choir members. Besides, boyfriends never bring blankets and we must share.

    AMEN to the Sound of Music advice. That movie somehow ALWAYS weasels its way onto the bus. NO ONE MENTION THE NAME OF IT. Bus riders should also know that singing every song from said musical (and every other musical ever created) while onboard the bus is ill advised.

    While I don’t miss Bus-ride Sing-a-longs, I do miss choir tour with all my heart. Leon, too.

    Thanks again for this blog!

    p.s. To the AFLBS choirs of ’98-99, I’m sorry about bringing Bop-It.

    • Ahhh… Thanks Liz! Top 5… I’m happy.

      OK, now to get on with the response to your response:

      (A) Holes in the bathroom walls + coffe straws + water = brilliant. Of course, once said victim is in the bathroom, all is lost.

      (B) As a former boyfriend who has received the friendly offer of said girlfriend’s shared blanket, I have equal parts thanksgiving and misgiving in my heart over the issue. Of course, Amy and I maintained the model PDA-free standard to which the rest of the choir only hoped to live up to. Anyone? Class of ’92 back me up on this? Bueller?

      (C) Red Vines = tough-as-leather soap-like fruit jerky tubes. Twizzlers = tender savory fruit splendor in a convenient 8 inch strand of glory. Make your choice.


      Thanks Liz. You are the berries.

  3. Oh how I loved this.
    All 10 were spot on. I laughed. I said, “YES!” aloud in my kitchen at 10:44pm. I, too, love Leon. And miss AFLBS choir tours.
    Might I just add that there may be some very… interesting… host homes. No matter what the circumstances, no matter the accommodations, you WILL survive. And you will have a KILLER story to tell your grandchildren about someday.

    • You are so right. Half of my best stories… the ones I tell with tears of laughter running down my face… are choir tour home stay stories. That just might have to be a follow-up post. 🙂

      Thanks Erikamerica. Bless you and “Sherm” and the kiddos. Love you guys. Also quite jealous that the AFLBS Choir will be at YOUR church on EASTER morning. Glorious you guys. 🙂

  4. I see nothing here about Vitamin C – both tours I caught cold – and spent almost all the time on the bus sleeping –

    actually, I probably had more fun then I would have staying awake

    • Ha! Spoken like a true curmudgeon. Your curmudgeonosity makes me happy. 🙂 And, truth be told, what I wouldn’t give to spend two weeks sleeping on a bus… aaahhhhhh… You may be right, my friend.

      Also, EXCELLENT advice. Everyine should be stocked up and pumping the vitamin C. Coach buses are like mobile incubators for the cold virus. Pretty sure Amy and I both rolled our way through Norway and Sweden by bus in ’94 with such terrible colds we couldn’t breathe, talk, or see… to say nothing of singing. I had to Milli-Vanilli at least a couple of those concerts.

      What a freaky coincidence that Amy and I BOTH had the same cold on choir tour. What are the odds?

    • Hey Russ… one more thing…

      Not counting the 10,247 spam attempts that I’ve blocked, your comment was the 1000th posted comment since I started posting.

      Congrats dude. I wish I would have thought ahead and bought you a nice prize. Maybe at the 1,500 mark I’ll be better prepared.

      Thanks for keeping in touch, man. 🙂

  5. While there are a few places with questionable items on the menu, the majority of places tried to convince me I was needing to put on 15 lbs… THAT MEAL. The reality was… I did need 15 lbs or so more, but that’s not the point. 🙂

    Loved this one Josh!

    • I think the AFLBS kids should hold a contest. Everyone weighs in tomorrow at noon. Then there is another weigh in when they step off the bus back on campus. Prizes to be distributed to anyone who doesn’t gain at least 4 lbs. Dude. You could give away iPads as the prize. Because NO ONE would win.

  6. Host homes? I blame them for my thryoid issues. One night – carbfest! Next night – pickles. My favorite host/food memory was when we stayed at a GREAT lady’s house who was determined that we would eat the entire conents of not just her indoor refrigerator, but the one that resided in her garage, AND for dessert we emptied out the freezer. My roomie was a shy eater, so as Mrs. Hostess would turn around, dear Kristie would hand her fifth and so on servings to me, I’d hide them in my lap and excuse myself to go the restroom. I believe I made half a dozen such trips. Good times.