I really dislike it when I turn on the television in the morning and watch sad reports about something or someone that I have a connection to. That happened Saturday.
Back in the mid 90’s, I had a part-time position as a charter bus driver. I normally worked local trips that could include sporting events working with both teams and sometimes fans. I also drove to outdoor concerts and those were always fun.
On one occasion, I was assigned a trip to a concert at Deer Creek (now Ruoff Music Center). Those were always fun trips and fairly easy.
The group to be picked up for this concert was on the westside. The location was a house about three blocks north of Washington Street. The side street was very narrow and filled with parked cars. I saw no place to park a 40-foot charter bus. I spotted a guy approaching the bus. He was the organizer of the group, and the guests could board the bus as it was parked in the street.
As everyone was boarding, he explained that he was a police officer and also owned a small business that provided escorts for funerals. He was treating his employees to this concert. As the bus was loading, I could tell that the party had started a few hours earlier.
Just as I figured we were set to depart, the gentleman started speaking on his hand-held radio. All of a sudden, we were surrounded by about eight motorcycle police officers, our escort to the concert.
I had worked with escorts before, but not eight motorcycles at the same time. We traveled on city streets, interstates and then country roads to avoid traffic as we neared the concert site.
I found it difficult to keep track of eight motorcycles. They seemed to be everywhere as they zipped in and out of traffic. After we exited the interstate and were driving on country roads, families were standing out in their yards maybe thinking a special celebrity might be driving past their home.
When we arrived at Deer Creek, we were separated from several charter buses and directed to a totally different area. They parked us behind a large stage along with a couple of other buses and a large motor home. This was a totally different area to me. Most of the passengers departed the bus and went to their seats. A few remained on the bus trying to recover from the party starting much earlier.
I have a feeling that by now you have figured out that this was a Jimmy Buffett concert. I still had a few passengers on the bus, so I needed to stay close. The bus was totally surrounded by motorcycles. People around that area were very curious. I realized that we had been parked in the area reserved for all the support vehicles for Jimmy Buffett, his band and crew.
I spoke with a couple of his crew and then Jimmy himself walked up and introduced himself. I explained about my group and the motorcycle escort. He even stepped up onto our bus and said, “Hi”. He even gave me a quick look at his motor home and was shown a wonderful location to watch the entire concert.
After the concert, I drove the group back without the motorcycle escorts. It was a very special evening.
Having met Jimmy and attended one of his concerts, I was disappointed when the Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant near Southport Road and I-65 closed. I liked my cheeseburgers there with lettuce and tomato.
It’s 5:00 somewhere, Jimmy. Rest in peace.
Shonk is a 1960 graduate of Southport High School, a ’63 grad of Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis) and a retired bus driver from Beech Grove Schools. He can be reached through email at email@example.com.