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Bus driver rolls through 20 years of service

Retiring school bus driver Dallas Triebenbach will soon have more time to pursue his passions — riding motorcycle and taking care of his antique car collection. (Roberta Olson / Osakis Review)

Dallas Triebenbach is retiring from the Osakis Public Schools as a bus driver after almost 20 years of service.

In the beginning, Dallas's schedule at the Phillips 66 Station in Osakis allowed him to drive school bus. He and business partner, Randy Randall, worked out the schedule, with Dallas driving bus in the afternoons.

It was a 77 passenger bus then, and covered about 40 miles a trip.

"I drove in pretty much the same area the whole time, part way around the lake, to Belle River, north of Belle River, and then back," he says.

In the beginning it was bus No. 9, but later he drove bus No. 19.

When Dallas retired from Phillips 66 in 2002 he began driving bus full time. That meant regular routes, plus hauling for sports.

One winter wrestling trip to Pierz sticks in his memory. "We ran late into the night. The wipers were plugging up, I had to pull over and stop. It was slippery. We were running 30-35 miles per hour, but we made it."

Kids have been pretty good on the buses, he says. But, he recalls the first couple years having a couple boys from Nelson. "I kicked them off the bus. They just didn't know how to behave," he says. "The school district backed me up."

The past 14 years Dallas has driven the handicapped bus with the wheelchair capacity. An aide always accompanies a handicapped student. "Everything went well most of the time."

One time he had a surprise, though. Finishing his route and half way back to Osakis, he looked in the rear view mirror and saw a little girl's head poking up in the back. "Were you sleeping?" he asked. "No," she sleepily answered.

Dallas turned the bus around to get her home that day.

He recalls the time about 10 years ago when woman ran a stop sign in town and ran into him, bending the bumper on the bus. "She denied it," he said. It was his only accident.

Another time in wintery conditions the bus got stuck with three or four kids left in the bus. "The road was really drifted bad. I got stuck. I ended up emptying the wastebasket out and I used that as a shovel." He would shovel, then inch back, shovel, inch back, until he finally got up on top of a hill where the snow wasn't so deep. The kids got home, but 45 minutes late.

Having summers off, Dallas had ample time to pursue his passions — riding motorcycle to 46 states, eight Canadian provinces and clocking 350,000 miles.

"I met a lot of good people on the road," he says. "Motorcycles were a draw."

He traveled alone a few years. His wife, Wilma, wasn't interested in cycling. But some years he had good friends who made trips together.

The motorcycles will play a part in Dallas's retirement, as will his antique car collection. He has eight cars he has restored, two of them in his garage at home.

He has also started a new hobby, setting up a model railroad. It will be his winter past-time, he says.

In past years Wilma accompanied Dallas to Osakis and Alexandria car club meetings and car shows. She still works as a custodian at the Osakis Lutheran Church.

Dallas and Wilma were married in 1961, five years after he graduated from Osakis High School. She came from her job in California to Osakis to visit her uncle, and met Dallas at a dance. "That night we sat on her uncle's porch and conversed until 4 a.m. We had a lot of things in common," he says. She returned to California, but they wrote back and forth. "I proposed in a letter," he smiles, "and she came back."

The couple has three children. Daughter Kelly married Dennis Smith, and they live in Evansville. Son Karl and wife, Gina, live in Minneapolis and have children Rebecca, Finnegan and Stella. Son Kurt and his wife, Ericka, live in Lakeville and have an adopted daughter, Autumn.

Dallas will be honored on Friday, June 1, in a retirement party from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Osakis School cafeteria. All are invited. There will be a program.