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…
TOP TEN THINGS YOU GOTTA KNOW about BIBLE SCHOOL CHOIR BUS TOURS
(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 ]
“bible school choir bus tour across america :: top ten list” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.