Sunday, March 10, 2013

Choir Bus-ybodies

Sooo...what's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that us crazy Vancouver Chamber Choir kids are "touring Canada"?  Do you picture us jetsetting from from one exotic locale to the next?  Or alternately, are you concerned that the present state of arts funding has us all wandering along the road and hitchhiking en route to the next concert?  ;)  Okay, one of those is more true than the other...ha ha.  While we do often fly back and forth to major centres (especially if we're tight for time), more often than not, we'll take the bus.  The fact that we get to visit so many of Canada's smaller towns and villages (many without their own airports), and the relative ease (and cost) of getting a group of approximately 22 people from one destination to the other by ground rather than air, makes the bus an easy choice for us.

I've taken a few pictures from the last few Canadian tours (2012's Maritimes/Maine tour, and 2013's Alberta/Saskatchewan tour) to provide a bit of insight on the "bus-y life".  You can tell they were definitely taken in-transit, because the photos are all blurry and awful.  :D

One of the first things we choristers do upon our first entrance onto the bus is scope out our seat, which will essentially become our permanent "home" for the next few rides.  Now, if the bus is small, we all cozy up to each other...

(Airport shuttle buses never leave much in the way of room.)

However, if we'll be on a bus for the long haul, we often have a little more space to spread out.  This often means that many of us will receive our own 2-chair "space" for those long bus rides for us to stretch ourselves (and our belongings) into a temporary home.  Those who are among the more equanimous of us will welcome a "seat buddy," often someone who shares an affinity for a particular bus-bound activity.

(Lorraine and Dolores are awesome "seat buddies"!  And they're making warm woolies to boot!  Bonus!)

Your actual position on the bus is carefully plotted out, too.  There are the "front of the bus-ers", the "middle bus-ers", and the "back of the bus-ers".  If you're prone to motion sickness, you'll plunk yourself somewhere near the front (and make it known you NEED that spot for the duration of the tour!).  The people who can generally handle the ride, but are into doing their own thing, find a seat somewhere in the middle.  (I'm a middle bus-er, unless I'm not feeling so hot, or alternately, if I'm in a chatty mood.)  However, if you wanna be where the conversation's at, you enjoy the slightly bumpier ride, and you like to relive your elementary school days as one of the "cool kids", the back of the bus is for you.  The Chamber Choir has many a story about the happenings at the back of the bus throughout our 42-year history.  If you journey to the back, chances are that Cam and/or Gordon will share one of those stories with you!

(Our "dyed-in-the-wool" back-of-the bus-ers.  Look at Grant; he's so bad-a$$ he rides BACKWARDS!)

The back of the bus is also home to the most dreaded of bus amenities:  the on-bus washroom facilities. Many of our bus rides are anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to upwards of 9-10 hours.  We do have ample breaks for gas-station restrooms, snacks, lunch, etc., but sometimes, no matter how you time it, you inevitably must make the jittery journey to the bus washroom or you will be rather uncomfortable for the rest of the trip.  

(From a truck stop washroom sign between Saint John and Sackville.  I've often felt like this...)

Once we've all settled in, we all find our own ways to get cozy.

(My usual bus set-up.  Backpack, purse, iPod, and water bottle, all compact and easily accessible.)
(Beth is gonna have a nice little nap, without the stiff neck I normally endure later cuz I don't have one of those pillows.  Yet.)
(Lucy's maximizing her space.  I hope she doesn't have smelly feet; I'm sitting in front of her.)

It's also really important to have an activity (or two, or three) on board - something that doesn't add to your own personal motion sickness, but that keeps you occupied if you're not busy sleeping the time away.

(Will gets to do something I can't on the bus:  read.  I get dizzy.  So I just lean over and ask him what his book is all about.  You gotta live vicariously.)

(My iPod gets a work-out on these long trips.  I'm on a "listen to everything on my iPod in alphabetical order" kick this year.  Driving from Edmonton to Humboldt, I was in the "K's", listening to Kokopelli...fitting, as they're a great Edmonton choir and we'd just left Edmonton!)

(Group activities are good too.  I have no idea whether Kathleen or Bill is winning this card game.  I just know if I tried, they'd both end up beating me.)

This past tour in particular, the sharing of viral videos while on the bus definitely became a thing with us.  It started with this video:

Followed by this video:

And this:

You get the idea.  By the end, we were all blatting like goats every time we completed a successful count-off.  (Which I thought I'd left behind after my summer doing dinner theatre in Canmore, where we all did the same thing.  Everywhere I go, the goats follow me.  I promise I didn't start it, either time...)

Speaking of count-off, that's another bus tradition, mainly to keep Jon and Violet sane (so they know we haven't left anyone behind at a truck stop).  We each have a folder number from #1-#21, which we are to shout out in succession.  If someone's missing, it becomes obvious, because the whole thing falls apart.  It never fails to amaze me how 20 professional musicians with otherwise decent rhythmic skills and good ears can have such difficulty yelling out numbers in sequence.  One day I'll get an audio of a count-off gone wrong and you can giggle at our ineptitude.  (We were pretty good this tour, however.)

Food is also a big thing to keep us sustained on the bus.  Most of us carry an array of snacks around - fresh and/or dried fruits, trail mix, nuts, granola bars, other easy proteins - to help get us through the hours so that when we finally arrive at our destination, we don't collapse in the middle of rehearsal!  (I would have taken a picture of my little "snack stash", but I ate it all.  Oops.)

(Catherine is smart and saved her lunch from the day before.  She's making me hungry.)
(Fabi is our "bus stewardess" for our early-morning trip and is graciously handing out fruit!  Larry looks ready to chow down.)

(Grace has her "fruit cup" in hand, anxiously waiting her turn!)
(A peek into my "fruit cup".  How is it that watermelon tastes so much better on the bus??...)

And lastly, if we can keep our bleary eyes open long enough to peek out the window, the bus really is a beautiful way to take in the great Canadian landscape.  I mean, sometimes it looks like this:

(Driving through the Maritimes.  It looked like that ALL DAY.)

Sometimes, however, we get treated to some vistas which make it all worthwhile.  

(The flat Saskatchewan horizon never looked so beautiful.)

(And then we all got treated to an amazing Prairie sunrise.  Pretty amazing to have a front-row seat for that.)

Anyway, that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of our "bus-y life".  I'm sure I'll have many more stories to tell in coming years.  If you have your own bus stories, please feel free to share in the comments below!

-Jenny (the mildly motion-sick alto.  Also, Folder #18...and I ALWAYS say my number correctly...)  


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