Two years ago, a dozen dear friends signed up to go on a Spanish Missions tour. We toured Victoria, Goliad, the missions on the river and the Menger Hotel in San Antonio. It proved to be a delightful trip, entertaining, interesting and not without its flubs—as all trial runs are, I’m beginning to learn.
One of the guests was a wonderful, kindly mountain of a man, well over six feet and powerfully built. At the time, I was doing the tours in an Enterprise Mercedes Benz 15-passenger van with bench seats. For all its supposed comfort, the ceiling is low, the step up into the van is far too high, requiring a step-stool, the bench seats narrow, and the knee room limited. Moving to the back rows requires squeezing along the narrow aisle at the side, hunched over to keep from hitting your head.
We were all crammed in, sitting three to a bench seat. He was sitting in the front passenger seat when the driver asked if I could help with the navigation. My mountain man kindly volunteered to move to the rear of the van so I could sit in front.
I watched in agony as he squeezed along the narrow aisle, his body bent nearly double, contorting himself into a pretzel to reach the back seat, then having to sit crouched with his knees practically touching his chin. It was painful to watch but he did it gamely and cheerfully. I was mortified.
I’ve also done tours on larger buses. The seats are comfortable although getting out of the window seat requires your seat mate to get up to let you out. It is also quite common to bump your head on the overhead luggage racks. And the microphone at the front of the bus does not allow for easy communication when those at the back are chattering to each other.
Enter the party bus. Most of the millennials today rent party buses to go to birthday parties, to proms, to graduation parties. They enjoy the freedom of getting up to dance, drink and party on the way to and from without having to worry about driving home drunk. The lights, the music, the dance floor all contribute to their happy times.
Most of us of the earlier generations, not to say elderly folks, have never even been on a party bus. We’ve seen them and I suspect we’ve paid plenty for our kids or grand kids to use them. They are rented for a small fortune by companies in all the big cities.
What, exactly, is a party bus? It begins life as a plain vanilla van on an extra-long wheel base. The intent is to create a night-club atmosphere. The restoration experts put in over-the-top comfortable sofa-style seats along the sides. (To be honest, I have never been in a nightclub with this kind of seating although I’ve seen it in movies—obviously I am not well-traveled). This leaves an open space for a “dance floor” down the center.
The interior walls are covered in thick, luxurious black carpet. The immense picture windows are darkened with black film. The ceiling is edged with multi-colored flashing lights and fitted with ear-splitting music speakers. A television is set into the back wall. Between the seats, there are chromed bars with space for glasses, liquor bottles and ice-containers.
And then there is the “Stripper pole.”
Evidently, on some outings ladies of the night are hired to dance, using the dance pole, for the entertainment of the riders, much as they would at a night-club. When a van is used to transport veterans from the airport to their rehab facility, as our van was at one time, this would provide particularly beneficial rehabilitation???
A word about the art of pole dancing. Pole-dancing, it seems, is no longer about either G-strings or removing one’s clothes. It is just plain incredibly muscle-demanding exercise. Core muscles, arm muscles, leg muscles, every single muscle in your body.
Think about trying to hang on to a pole with your hands, then lift your legs straight out in front of you, never mind up over your head. Then wrap one leg around the pole and try to hang upside down from that. Ouch! Gymnasts, both male and female, take years to build up the strength to do it.
Not surprisingly, pole dancing is now taught in gyms across the country. In Europe both men and women compete. I learned that the daughter of one of my church friends teaches it as exercise. And, of course, there are now competitions with basic required moves. And scoring. And style points. And intense training. And judges. And an organization.
From the You tube clips I saw, some of the dancers still use those strange very high platform heels. But their rather skimpy clothing is not for effect, but because you need bare skin on legs and arms to be able to cling to the pole. More ouch! But they are talking about its going to the Olympics soon.
So how did we wind up with a Party bus? I still think it was heaven sent. Joye, one of the beautiful ladies from our Sunday School class, had been thinking long and hard about church tours. Our church used to provide their vans for outings to nearby Houston. It was convenient for our mature folks who no longer wanted to drive in the traffic or worry about parking or finding places.
She and I had discussed tours but what could we do? Currently both of our church vans are decrepit and old and can just barely make it out of the parking lot. And they have bench seats and are hard to get in and out of.
The very next day I happened to see an immense black vehicle on a truck and trailer lot. It was looking abandoned and lonely off in a corner on the lot at the horse-trailer company. It was a perfect party van and the Lone Survivor Veterans Organization was getting rid of it. We bought it.
But it had a stripper pole in it. Was that proper for a Sunday School bus? Should we take it out? Should we disguise it? Fortunately, our church-goers have a very good sense of humor. We can laugh right along with everyone who learns of it. We’ve kept it. It’s convenient.
Why don’t tour companies use party buses? Frankly, I had certainly never thought to put the two together. It certainly makes sense. The seats are wonderfully comfortable. There is room to move around. The ceiling is high. The running board is low. My mountain man won’t have to crawl into back seats. And there are places for drinks and snacks and a television to show movies about the places we are going. A win-win all the way around.
And we have a dance pole besides. Or how about call it a May pole? For holding on. Or stretching. Or doing exercises?