Driving motorcoaches has been a longheld passion that was also my “bread and butter” from ’92-‘2000. I drove for Gray Line of Alaska and for Gray Line of Seattle that led me to some of the most beautiful vacation destinations in the Pacific Northwest. My last charter tour stands out most prominently and the one when St. Clare chased me down in a most dramatic way. Four years before my last Northwest tour I was vacationing in Italy with a busload of church ladies from Florida. One holy woman named “Anne” prayed over me and commented, “Oh dearie, St. Clare will visit you in a most special way” spoken in a Scottish brogue, and motherly tenderness I’ll never forget. Fast forward to the year 2000 when a most excellent 28 day tour was underway with the finest travelers a motorcoach commander could ever wish for – travelers from Springfield, Ohio of course. On day 28, traveling the return leg of a National Park tour from San Francisco to Seattle, only 60 miles from home base, I coasted to a stop along the busy I-5 freeway, no engine sound, no air conditioning, no power. My engine was dead, and the worried faces of 48 passengers were staring into my rear view mirror. I asked the people to sit tight while I take a look at the engine. Before I could open the engine doors a friendly guy approached in blue grease-soiled coveralls and asks, “need a diesel mechanic?” “Yes” I plead, and explain the thing just stopped working and coasted up this off ramp and came to rest here at this turnout. Unsure of the problem, since I’m a driver and not a mechanic, I let the professional diagnose. “You’re probably out of fuel by the looks of it,” the mechanic tells me. “No I protest, it must be something else cause this thing holds 222 gallons, I’ve plenty of fuel for sure.” While I’m rationalizing my poor decision-making skills that put me stranded on the shoulder of the road, the mechanic casually unscrews the fuel filter and invites me to inspect the bone dry filter . . . “no fuel makes a bus no go.” Full to the berm with denial I plead my case, “No, no this cannot be possible. See it must be a fuel pump that went bad because I know there is fuel in this thing, I fuelled it myself just a few days ago.” The kind guardian angel mechanic tells me, “no worries I’ve got a 50 gallon barrel of diesel fuel in the bed of my pickup truck, I can prime the engine and get you rollin’ down the road.” 30 minutes later I’m refueling the 222 gallon tank of the premium MCI J4500 coach as all the passengers watch. Many inquiring passengers later ask if I ran out fuel, “NO” I declare, “it was some mechanical failure but that kind mechanic fixed the problem.” (I was still in denial of my mathematical oversight). 24 hours later my boss handed me a pink slip quoting the union contract “an empty fuel tank will never keep a bus driver gainfully employed, especially when it’s the professional’s miscalculation.” Suffering rejection, disappointment, and self-contempt I was licking my wounds and looking to family for support when my big brother “the family prophet” asks me, “what day exactly was the day you ran out of fuel?” Well it was August 11th, 2000. My brother enthusiastically brightens, “and you surely know whose feast day falls on August 11th?” Shaking my head in frustration, “You know how I am with calendar dates.” Brian enlightens me, “That is the Feast day of St. Clare, the one who was predicted to visit you in a special way.” Body slammed by my brother’s insight, providence gave me the 1-2-3 TKO (total knock out). I was floored!
Thus begins my personal call to be a follower of the Franciscan life that began on the shoulder of the I-5 freeway. Thank you God for running my ambitious fuel tank dry and also for sending me a most dramatic companion St. Clare. Can I call her the patron saint for roadside assistance?