Blue Bus

By Jocelyn Aalborg and Karrie Meyers

Mile High Academy is saying goodbye to an iconic symbol, the 1981 blue coach bus. The school officially sold the bus last week.

Purchased for $51,500 in 1993 and picked-up in Oklahoma by then MHA vice-principal Roger Vanatta and long-time MHA bus driver and maintenance guru Dan Gerst, the bus traveled hundreds of thousands of miles, transporting students to various sports tournaments, including Walla Walla, Union, Southwestern and Mid-America Union high school athletic events. In addition, it became a staple for yearly class trips, mission service and field trips around the Denver metro area.

The bus broke down in August of this year and has been sitting ever since. Over time, parts have become non-existent and the knowledgeable service mechanic retired, selling not only his shop but also comparable spare-part busses. Administration and the school board determined it was time to move forward with selling it and finding a newer, more reliable bus. Funding has come due to not only its sale but also a recently awarded AdventHealth Secondary Education grant. A committee has started researching several gently used buses and is working on finding the right one for MHA.

Jocelyn Aalborg, MHA vice-principal of finance and development and 2005 graduate, took a minute to reflect on a favorite blue bus memory. “As a student at MHA from 1993 to 2005 I remember the blue bus was a part of all trips. I probably remember the bad more than the good and can’t count the number of times my class or team were left stranded and calling for help. One of the most memorable moments was our 8thgrade Lake Powell class trip. Making it to Copper Mountain, the blue bus stopped working. We pulled over to the side of the road and anxiously waited for Mr. Hetterle to bring the yellow bus to take us on the rest of our journey. To this day, I’m not sure how Mr. Hetterle got the blue bus home. Besides frequently leaving us stranded on the side of the road, the blue bus had a way to bond classes and athletic teams together. Some of my favorite MHA memories are the times traveling out-of-state, playing games and being with my friends.”

Aalborg’s memory of the blue bus is just one of hundreds. She reached out to several long-time blue bus drivers, asking them to share their reflections. We hope you enjoy reading them and in the meantime, we look forward to finalizing the purchase of a new-to-us bus, creating memories for future generations to come.

Eric Pardo, 2005-2017 MHA PE teacher and bus driver

There were many memories that I could speak of, but the most memorable were the great conversations that took place in that bus. When you are driving in the blue bus, odds are that you were taking a long trip somewhere. Whether it was to Walla Walla University, Southwestern University, or Union College, road trips always brought people together. Some of the most meaningful, life changing conversations took place inside, and I always looked forward to those trips. Many hours and miles were logged in that bus and there are too many stories to recount, but if I had to give a couple of stories that stick out in my mind, they would be “Truck Stop Secret Santa”, running out of gas at the Taco Bell in Walla Walla, bringing back championship trophies and singing We are the Champions at the top of our lungs, and making sure we never let the gas gauge go down below ¼ tank because of our Walla Walla experience. These are just a few of the memories that stick out in my head. Ole Blue was a great bus, and she will be missed. She served her purpose and even though she topped out at 65 mph, we knew she would always somehow get us to our destination. Her nickname that I gave her, “Old Reliable,” will never fade from my memory.

Bud Sinigaglio, 2005-2013 driver 

Every fall we eagerly anticipated the Walla Walla tournament trip, which meant 24 hours on “Blue” cramped in tight quarters. One of my favorite, and frustrating, memories was the top speed of 65 mph. She also couldn’t make it up Deadman Pass any faster than 27 mph.

The bus hadn’t been washed in several years when Todd Rapp put a crew together and gave her a deep cleaning, top to bottom. After that, he painted the wheel rims white, restoring them to their former glory. She looked so good that several people at that year’s Walla Walla tournament asked us if we got a new bus.

Brian Howard, Current MHA Upper School Teacher

I loved the blue bus because it was so fun to drive. Its size and slow-moving nature made it a joy to cruise in. I will always remember when student and staff members would come forward to sit by me and visit as we cruised down the road. It was also a fun vehicle to ride in because there were so many people together. I especially liked when we got out into areas with poor cell coverage as students would play games together, and I could listen in as they interacted.

I feel that the blue bus is so synonymous with the entire experience of generations of MHA students. It was a way to get where we were going, but it was also much more than that. It was a safe place to hang out. It was a place to learn new and interesting things about our friends and colleagues as we talked while rolling along. It was a place to learn new games. It was a place where friendships were made and strengthened. Since the blue bus’s introduction to our MHA community, everyone has at least one “Blue Bus Story” to share, and I feel a little sad that new students will miss out on that experience.

If you happen to see the blue bus as you drive by Morrison on C470 give her a little wave. If anyone would like to share a favorite blue bus memory, please email Jocelyn Aalborg.