Not Your Horse’s Rodeo

Date: 04/16/2008

Four North County residents took first place on April 5 at the annual Kern County School Bus Road-eo. Nearly 100 competitors from Kern, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara counties participated in the California Association of School Transportation Officials-sponsored event, which tests driving and safety skills of licensed school bus drivers.

Santa Maria residents and Student Transportation of America employees Mike Martin and Jay Patten, together with teammate Stephanie Oliver of Lompoc, won first place in the team competition. Each of the team members had to take a written traffic safety test, then navigate their way through a driving test that included a student loading simulation.

Santa Maria resident and STA employee Les Johnson took first place in the individual competition, completing 10 events similar to those done in the team competition.

"It’s exciting," Patten said. "It takes a lot of work and practice. It means a lot to me to win it."

The STA team will go on to compete in the southern sectionals on May 3 in Arcadia. Placing in the competition qualifies drivers for the California Championships on May 25 in Sacramento.

"It takes a lot of practice," Martin said, adding that he and his teammates often practice by studying together and setting up obstacle courses in the STA parking lot on the weekends.

But there’s more to the competition than winning, according to Patten: "It helps improve our driving skills and helps keep us safe when transporting the children to school."

Also, the competitions are great training sessions for up-and-coming drivers.

"We’re really lucky to work at a place that supports us in competing," Patten said, adding that he’s recently seen a decline in participation throughout Santa Barbara County.

"There’s no local competition. We have to go to Ventura and Bakersfield," he said. "It’d be nice to have some local competition again."

For more information about the School Bus Road-eo and other events, visit