Barry Darr safely delivered a group of Eastern Mennonite High School students, teachers and chaperones to Harrisonburg this past Saturday after covering more than 8,000 miles on a month-long cross-country learning trip. It was his ninth and last trip with the school group.
Darr — who has worked with Schrock Travel out of Winchester, Virginia, for 27 years — first drove a group of EMHS students on the 2003 Lewis and Clark (later called “Discovery”) trip led by biology teacher Myron Blosser. This year’s Discovery group returned June 29 from a month of cross-country camping to learn about land, food, water, energy and immigration issues. Lee Good led this trip; it was his fifth with Barry Darr at the wheel.
“Barry has been a huge player in Discovery,” says Good. “My appreciation for him is profound and ongoing. His keen attention and focus got us where we needed to go with safety first.”
Good reflects that Darr is “probably one of the best drivers in the country.” He navigated tight spaces and tricky spots with ease, Good notes. This summer, for example, he had a parking job at the group’s Redwoods National Park campsite, that “involved something like a 17-point turn to get out of a tight spot.”
While this was Darr’s ninth student group across the country for EMHS, he also drove for Myron Blosser’s cross-country learning trip through Harrisonburg City Schools. So, it is his 10th such trip.
Q and A with Barry
Why do you keep driving for this trip?
They got stuck with me. No other driver in the company would do it so “it was mine”. I really liked it and I love to travel.
What is a favorite memory or two that you have of Discovery?
The Alaska trip. I enjoy what I see. It is all different, in every part of the country. Editor’s Note: The Alaska trip in 2011 included two 21-hour days of driving across Canada to return East with Barry rotating drivers with another person and two “Discovery Dads” (Delbert Wenger ’82 and Barry Hertzler) driving the sleeping driver in a van.
What is something you have learned through these experiences?
Watch out for the other drivers on the road.
It is a gift to drive out here.
Obey the speed limit signs.
What advice or words of wisdom would you share with whomever might drive in the future for Discovery?
Enjoy it. Be observant out here. You see so many things.
A policeman once said “I have never seen anyone like you.” That is because I am always scanning my mirrors and paying attention to the road to be safe; to get people to their destination.
I enjoy talking to people and I am always learning. For instance, at the Earth Lodge [in North Dakota where the three native tribes, Mandan, Arikara and the Hidatsa came together] he was talking to someone who drove up. It happened that his mother is a direct descendant of Four Bears chief, the one that the casino we saw is named after. He is a wealth of knowledge of local history and native culture. He got Lee his contact information for future trips.
And, some favorite Barry quotes
When someone asks “how far?” Barry’s answer: “About 30 miles, give or take, plus or minus, add or subtract a few…”
“I never get lost, I just give longer tours.”
In reference to passing a cemetery: “We are passing through the dead center of town.”
“Going to the bathroom is like driving a coach. It’s not over until the paperwork is done.”
When the gas tank is running low: “I need to stop and fill up on some ‘motion lotion.'”
After the coach was pulled over in Arches National Park by park service for campsite violation: “At least it wasn’t me.”
Referring to the coach bathroom for emergencies only: “Don’t break the code.”
Barry, all of your EMS friends — now spread far and wide — wish you well as you begin to slow down (literally). Thank you for carrying us over 10s of thousands of miles safely!