It was never a question whether Amador Stage Lines would take part in the “Motorcoaches Rolling for Awareness” rally, but Lisa Allen felt inspired to personally make the cross-country trip.
Her family owns one of the oldest transportation companies in California. As its name suggests, Amador started in 1852 as a stagecoach company in Jackson, California. Allen’s grandparents bought it nearly a century later and have been moving people since.
Initially, the plan was to send two drivers to Washington, D.C., for the rally, but two days before the departure date, Allen decided this was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure she couldn’t miss. She called her sister, Laura, asking her to ride along.
A family gathering
The two met up with their mother, Sandra Allen, on her birthday. Sandra came on a Royal Coach Tours bus. She is president of her family’s second-generation business, based in San Jose, California, and Las Vegas.
On the Sunday morning before the May 13 rally, the sisters left the company’s home base of Sacramento, making their first stop at its Reno, Nevada, yard. There, 20 drivers gave them a flag-waving sendoff.
“They were so excited, and it showed their dedication. One even followed us in his car the entire time! It was magical,” Lisa Allen said. “We were heading out on this journey to share their voices as well.”
The trip wasn’t to save just the family business, but an industry filled with friends the family has known for generations. Her grandfather Alexander Allen helped launch the United Motorcoach Association in 1974, and her dad, Bill Allen, followed in his footsteps 40 years later, serving as UMA chairman from 2013 to 2014.
“My dad has been the best teacher, role model, mentor, leader, and friend. I would not be who I am today without him,” said Allen, 31, adding that her dad began preparing her as a child to join him at Amador with the game, he dubbed Bus 101. “He would come home with problem-solving issues from his day at work and we would go over them. It was so fun for me, but it truly helped me learn the business.”
Busiest months stalled
Typically, April and May are some of the company’s busiest months. But Amador buses have been parked since March 17, when everything came to a halt. Overnight, the operation went from 90 charters per day to two small military moves in Sacramento.
“The motorcoach industry is the second-largest carrier of people in the United States, right behind the airlines,” Allen said. “To think we received zero funds from the government is unreal. We are there in a state of emergency. We take the military from coast to coast. We take children to their championship games. We carry professional sports teams to their games and parade celebrations. How will those rides be in transit buses or rideshare companies?”
The turnout at the May 13 rally was a reminder for Allen why the motorcoach industry is like no other. The event, organized by the industry’s two leading trade organizations, UMA and the American Bus Association, drew more than 1,000 motorcoaches and buses, according to police estimates.
Sight brings chills
Allen remembers the chills she felt as her motorcoach came across the overpass and she saw buses as far as the eye could see. Police were at every on-ramp to hold back traffic. Maps showed complete blockage for miles on end. There were buses representing every state and covered with banners, explaining the industry’s contribution to the country in good times and bad.
“We did not have to do this, but we wanted to. We wanted to be a part of history,” said Allen. “We traveled 6,000 miles round trip and spent thousands of dollars to be there, when there is no money coming in. We need our buses. We need to save our family business.”
She remains hopeful the Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration will come through with $15 billion in stimulus funding that will provide a lifeline to the industry until schools reopen, sporting and entertainment events resume and people are ready to travel again.
“My drivers keep asking when they can come back to work and if we know a date. I wish we did. I wish we had the help we need from the government. We will keep fighting,” Allen said. “People need us, and we need them.”