Ryan Sanders’ trip to Baton Rouge proved fruitful.
Sanders, with Louisiana Motor Coach Inc., was in the state capital to attend the “Rolling for Awareness” rally. While there, he was able to spend 10 minutes with Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who oversees the state’s tourism operation.
“His first words to me, after saying hello, were, ‘How can I help your cause?’” Sanders shared. “I explained to him what we are needing as an industry. He then gave me his personal cellphone and insisted that I send him my contact info, which I did.”
Nungesser, who is also chairman of the National Lieutenant Governors Association, asked Sanders to write him a letter describing the industry’s needs.
“He said that he will have all lieutenant governors send the letter that I submit on their official state letterhead to their governors, as well as to all U.S. representatives and U.S. senators,” said Sanders. “I hope this gives everyone some hope, and they know that, even though not all states could rally today, the Louisiana Rally was for everyone!”
While most states weren’t able to participate because of ongoing protests, operators from 13 states conducted “Rolling for Awareness” rallies at their respective capitals on Wednesday. The effort was to bring attention about the plight of the industry to state government officials and media.
There was a lot of spirit with Team Louisiana, which gathered in a parking lot wearing face masks and observing social distancing to make a short video with the cheer of “Buses Move America.”
Braden Lewis, who was part of the Louisiana contingent, says he was inspired by the camaraderie. It was similar to what he experienced at the national rally in Washington, D.C., on May 13, although smaller in scope.
“I’d have to say the highlight of my day was seeing all of the owners, drivers and management, who are usually friendly competitors, come together to roll for a common cause. It again showed that, at the end of the day, no matter whose name is on the side of the coach, we’re all one big, currently unhappy, family,” said Lewis, 17, of Lewis Coaches Inc in New Orleans.
The biggest contingent may have been in California, which had a caravan of nearly 80 buses that drove around the capitol in Sacramento three times. Afterward, the crew was treated to a pizza lunch by mechanic Don Zimmerman at his facility, said Kevin Creighton, fleet manager for Avalon Transportation, formerly West Valley Trailways, in San Jose, and treasurer of the California Bus Association.
The event was covered by a few TV stations, and Creighton gave a short interview on iHeartRadio.
Two companies came from the San Diego area. Amador Stage Lines in Sacramento hosted the contingent, which included a few classic coaches.
Like many participants, Dallon Ebmeyer shared photos and videos on the Motorcoaches Rolling for Awareness Facebook page.
“I hope this helps get our industry the strength and support we need,” said Ebmeyer, with Ebmeyer Charter & Tours in Apple Valley, California.
Across the Midwest
The Ohio contingent of 33 buses created a traffic jam in Columbus, according to a news report. Organizer Ben Bolog, of U.S. Coach Tours, called the day “inspiring.”
In Illinois, Peoria Charter Coach supplied nearly half the 68 motorcoaches that took part in the rally in Springfield.
“We sent 30 of our own coaches to the rally because we really believe they can make a difference,” explained Account Executive Jake Winkler.
Nine coaches from West Michigan represented the state in Lansing, driving home the message of how important the charter bus industry is to state tourism, said Charles Moerland, a driver with Compass Coach in Cedar Springs.
In Missouri, 17 coaches circled the capital, Jefferson City, said Julie Huskey, with Huskey Trailways in Festus, Missouri.
Mollie Pruneau, vice president at Huskey, described the rally as a way to pay tribute to her mom and late dad, who built the business from the ground up.
“They never quit,” Pruneau said, adding that their hard work created many jobs over the years.
She added that the five-hour trip to the capital was worth it.
“It’s for all of our amazing employees, friends and family that have stuck by our side. Thank you for cheering on Huskey Trailways,” said Pruneau. “Our rally was amazing today. If nothing else comes out of it, we made memories. We had an all-around great time!”