Off Peak: the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat at the Bus Roadeo

Every year, a handful out of the city’s thousands bus operators compete to choose the best of the best. That’s right, bus operators have their very own Olympics, or World Series, depending on how you like your metaphors.

“Anybody could win it,” says perennial Roadeo standout Juan Navarro. “The way I see it, it’s like the Olympics. You have one shot to do it. If you mess up, you’re done.”

bus-roadeoThe operators are judged on a grueling obstacle course where they maneuver a 40-for bus through cones and tennis balls, sometimes with as little as a few inches clearance on each side. They perform a timed bus inspection called “pre-trip” where they must find the tiniest of defects in a bus, as well as an event testing their working knowledge of compliance with the American with Disabilities Act.

The original driving roadeo was actually invented as a competition between truck drivers in the late 1930s. In the 1970s the competition was adapted for bus driving and today most major cities have a bus roadeo. The winners then compete in the international roadeo every year.

Off Peak got a VIP pass to this year’s Roadeo, tagging along while contestants prepared and competed. We followed first-timer Jesus Segovia through each event, as he battled nerves and cones, found fake bombs and guided judges in wheelchairs. We watch Navarro’s expert performance and stay for the nail-biting judge’s decision, sending the winner to Reno for the international competition in May.

Off Peak is produced by The Glue.

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