They come from different states, with varying years of experience. But the drivers who come are here for the same reason: to be the best at the roadeo!
By Cynthia Kopkowski
It was early morning, and more than 100 people were mustering at a ski lodge perched high above Lake Tahoe. They weren’t there to hit the slopes or admire the breathtaking view. They were bus drivers. Darn good ones. Having triumphed in state driving competitions, they earned a place in the prestigious International Safety Competition, affectionately known among drivers as the “Roadeo.” Nineteen of them had the added distinction of being NEA members.
Winning at the Roadeo involves executing a lengthy set of driving maneuvers so precise that many competitors descend from their buses shaking their heads. There’s also the matter of the arduous written test of driving skills and laws.
When the dust settled after a long day, NEA drivers demonstrated why they are some of the best on the road. Jaye Jaye Knickelbein of Cadiz, Kentucky, and Dana Opp of Flint, Michigan, earned two of the three first-place finishes in their respective divisions. Three others earned Top 10 finishes.
“This is not something you can do without a lot of advance work,” Jeff Butson of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, said as he prepared to mount up for his fifth Roadeo ride. “I work at it, and I work at it hard. You have to.”