Andrew Horton has enjoyed the view from the driver’s seat for 35 years. He spent the first 14 years working in transit and the past 21 years in the motorcoach industry.
“I have enjoyed every minute of it,” Horton said. “I am currently not driving due to the COVID-19 shutdown.”
He has worked for too many companies to name, but a sampling includes Whitecastle Tours, in Livermore, California; Coach USA/America, the Sacramento and San Francisco divisions; and Royal Coach Tours in San Jose, California.
Most recently, he worked for San Jose Charter in San Jose, California, for 1½ years.
“I have gained valuable experiences with all of these companies,” Horton said.
Bus & Motorcoach News caught up with Horton to talk to him about why he loves driving a motorcoach, his career highs and lows, and his passion for the business.
What’s the biggest tip you received and the story behind it?
$2,400. I earned it by doing a 14-day trip with some tourists from Holland and Sweden. We started in Burlingame, California, and went through four Western states, ending up back in California. We did national parks, Route 66 through Sedona, Arizona, and many other places I thought I would never see on my own. We did at least 4,000 miles, easy. I gained a valuable education, experience and friendships. I met quite a few other bus operators while doing this, also. It’s something I hope and pray comes back soon. Summer is coming, and I am eager to get back out on the road.
What’s the strangest or most bizarre group you’ve driven?
It has to be the Hare-Krishnas. I took this group, along with some Sikh and Hindu religious followers from India, from San Francisco to their mosque in Milpitas, California, which I never knew existed. It was interesting the way they spoke and did their religious ceremonies. Also the way they dressed. They insisted/ordered me to come in and feast, and watch the (holiday) celebration, which I was honored to do. They had a lot of colors that they showed and danced to. They presented me with a fresh flower lei that the group put together. This was a way of showing me they appreciated the ride, as well as my coming in to watch their presentation. I learned a lot about Indian culture. If you don’t have an open mind about everyone and everything that you do in this profession, it’s not for you.
What’s your go-to phrase?
My go-to phrase would be “squirrel.” Everyone I know still prefers to call me that. I was everywhere when I first started driving. I know this is a title, but also what made this profession so much fun.
How did you become a driver?
As a kid, my mother, sister and I used to ride the city bus when we would go somewhere. I would look at the driver as he maneuvered across town. Plus my father drove buses, and other equipment, in the Navy. I finally started talking to some of the bus operators, and they would tell me what a wonderful profession this is. One was my school bus driver, and the others were transit, charter and a Greyhound driver. They all loved their positions, and I see why.
I saw an ad for drivers in December 1987. I applied and was hired. I was so excited. On Jan. 21, 1988, I was behind the wheel of a bus as a rookie operator. WOW! I finally fulfilled my dream of driving a bus.
While driving, I saw the motorcoaches and said, “One day, I will drive that, also.” In January 2000, Coach USA hired me. Then, in March 2001, I was hired by Royal Coach Tours, the finest motorcoach company ever. I applied at least three times and finally got in. I was happy as a camel on Wednesday. And now I work for San Jose Charter. It’s 21 years later, and I’m still enjoying my role.
What were your previous careers?
My previous careers are gas station attendant, paperboy, cashier, retail sales, chef, busser, caregiver (still doing that), wine bottle inspector, supervisor, accountant, and computer room attendant.
How many miles or states have you driven a bus?
More than 200 million in all but eight U.S. states.
What’s your favorite and/or least favorite destination and why?
My favorite destination has to be Sacramento, California. I have been to many places, but the reason here is trains! Anywhere there are trains and history, I am there. This is one of my all-time loves, next to buses. Here, I get both. The least favorite is San Francisco. It’s not my least favorite place, but when it comes to driving a bus, yes. It is such a difficult place to maneuver a 40- or 45-foot bus. I love the city, hate driving due to parking, pedestrians and the idiots on the road there.
From your perspective in the driver’s seat, what’s your favorite bus feature?
The steering wheel, and how big it is compared to my car.
What’s your best piece of advice for a newbie?
Don’t get lost like yours truly. Of course, getting lost is the best way to find your place. Make sure you know where you are going and don’t depend on GPS. Use common sense when you are out there, and your trip will be successful.
From your perspective in the driver’s seat, what’s your favorite bus to drive and why?
My favorite bus would be Prevost. It treats me as if I am in a Cadillac. It is such a well-built vehicle. I like MCI, but not like a Prevost. However, nothing compares to the ride of MCI’s old MC-8 and -9; these were beautiful and fun buses to drive. As for transit, GILLIG, and New Flyer. New Flyer seems to cradle me, and GILLIG was the first transit coach I ever drove.
What’s your career highlight?
It’s been an education during my 35 years in the driver’s seat. I have learned from my co-workers, passengers, managers, mechanics and people I have met throughout my career. I can’t say enough about the travel, either. It is so cool to be able to go to places that I have never seen before and probably would never go on my own, such as Sedona, Calico Corners, Las Vegas and the Disney Museum.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received?
“Thank you for getting us here safely” and “We would like to have you again.”
What’s your funniest travel story?
I drove for an “I Love Lucy” competition and show. All these gorgeous ladies dressed as Lucille Ball. Wow! And they entertained me the whole trip.
What’s your career highlight from your years in the driver’s seat?
Some of my greatest highlights are: God giving me the ability to get in, perform and enjoy such a great profession. The fact that these beautiful machines and the people that operate them have helped me keep this position. The great employers, who have given me the chance to show them I can do this. The places I have been, things I’ve seen, friends made in person and online. I give thanks to everyone in my life.
What question should we have asked and what’s your answer?
Question: How do you resign or retire from this profession?
Answer: You don’t. You can’t get out. There is no escape from the love of this career. Once you are in, you’re family.