'It's my last ride today' as Greyhound pulls out of western Canada
Greyhound driver creates tribute music video to mark his 30-year career
Dale Patkau's last trip as a Greyhound driver started the way every one has for the last three decades — he inspected his bus.
He's proud of his 28-year safety record and his ability to keep passengers safe on the roads.
"Making sure all the bins were all closed. You know, after the loaders load all the luggage and freight, make sure that the trailer's hooked up properly, lights are all working," he said.
"And then once you go inside, you count your people, sit down, back out and you're gone."
Patkau, 54, set out on the last run from Winnipeg to Dryden, Ont., on Tuesday. The company announced in June that it was pulling out of the region as profits sunk with declining ridership.
Patkau has been a Greyhound driver for more than 30 years, his father before him. His uncle, cousin and brother are also part of what he jokingly calls the family business.
"My dad drove here for 33½ years, so I've been on this bus since five years old," Patkau said.
"I remember sleeping in the seat in the back behind the driver, and my dad would take us on trips."
Sure, there were long night and weekend shifts and missed family events, but it was also a good job with benefits and a pension and great colleagues.
"You know, our whole life has revolved around Greyhound."
So when Greyhound announced it was discontinuing service in western Canada, Patkau teamed up with one of his regular passengers, Glen Green, to write, record and edit a musical tribute video.
"I woke up one morning and I said the first three lines. I didn't have a guitar in my room, so I just spoke and sent it in a text and then where he [Glen Green] was, he had a guitar, so he's sung back the chorus, and then I added another verse.… He played the guitar and I did the singing."
You can tell from the lyrics: Patkau loves his job.
"This is my last ride today. Shaking hands, not knowing what to say. The Hound has been good to me, got me a house, raised my family. This is my last ride today," he croons in a YouTube video of the country ballad.
"I think it was just the freedom that there was nobody looking over my shoulder and I could make decisions ... because once you're out on the road, you're by yourself," Patkau said.
And while he says there are lots of stories he CAN'T tell, there are lots of treasured memories.
"I've hauled the Detroit Red Wings from Calgary to Edmonton with Stevie Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Scotty Bowman, and that was cool. I hauled Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper when he first got elected ... I picked him up at the tarmac here in Winnipeg and took him to Polo Park. Picked up [former Quebec premier] Jean Charest at the hotel and took him to the tarmac."
Normally, Patkau would drive another bus full of passengers back to Winnipeg, but this trip, there was no bus to return on.
So he rented a car and drove himself home.
The drive was poignant in its silence.
"I wanted to work here till I was about 58, 59. Then I would have my full pension, but it is what it is," he said.
In a couple of weeks, Patkau will start driving for a new bus company. Maple Bus Lines is taking over some of Greyhound's old routes in northern Manitoba.
But he knows it will be tough to let go of his identity and history as a Greyhound bus driver.