Thursday. September 15. 1977 The Daily Tar Heel 5
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"We're gonna make a star outa you, son,
but you have to take your sunglasses off "
By KAREN MILLERS
A hopeful hitchhiker holds his thumb out to the traffic southbound for Florida.
He stares curiously at an almost empty double-deck bus lumbering toward him at 45
miles per hour. His curiosity changes to disbelief when the bus pulls off the road.
Jerry Miller opens the bus door and calls out from his noisy cab, "1 go slow, but
I've got plenty of room."
Miller, who now drives the V illage's bus, made that offer quite often in the year
and a half he spent delivering double-deck buses from British Promotions of
Norfolk, Va., to their new owners across the country. He logged over 30,000 miles
criss-crossing the nation in the 13- to 14-foot high double-deckers, seeing the
scenery and meeting people.
"1 had a dozen people (hitchhikers) once," M iller said. "Somebody had a down
sleeping bag, and it broke. I had to deliver the buses clean, so it took me and two
others about four hours to clean it up."
Miller still meets people on the bus he drives, but the riders on the Villages' red
double-decker in Chapel Hill are usually regular passengers rather than travelers
hitching a ride.
"I actually fell into driving buses by accident," hsaid. "1 got out of the Navy in
Norfolk and responded to an ad requesting someone to deliver double-deck buses
for British Promotions, . . .1 was looking for a job, and there were not too many
available, so I took it."
Miller's training was 15 minutes of practice in a parking lot. Then he made his
first delivery, from Norfolk to Pittsburgh, Penn.
"I got to do some traveling at somebody else's expense it was great," he said. 1
liked seeing the country the best." And he did see a lot of country California,
Colorado, Kansas, Florida, New York and all points between those states and
Wherever he went, he was certain to arouse curiosity and draw stares. A short,
two-decked bus simply is not a common sight in the United States. An average of
only two exist in every state.
Miller and his buses often ignited quite an interest in the towns he passed through.
A newspaper reporter or television cameraman usually found him before he left the
area. One Texas television reporter told him, "We're gonna make a star outa you,
son! But you'll have to take your sunglasses off."
Townspeople were not the only ones fascinated by the buses. Police in several
states pulled him, usually to check his overheight permit.
"Most of the time when police stopped me they were just curious," Miller said.
"Once in Pennsylvania a trooper followed me for 45 minutes, flipping through his
manual trying to find something to stop me for. He finally pulled me.".
The trooper ticketed him for overheight by classifying his vehicle a bus instead of
a truck, as it is usually classified on the highway. Buses running outside of towns in
Pennsylvania must not be over 10 feet high. Other states, such as Virginia and
Illinois, have strict overheight regulations. But often Miller avoided problems
because the buses moved under British tags and had 60 days to be moved from the
port of entry to the place of licensing.
"It was almost like operating outside the law because there wasn't anything
specifically to cover them," he said.
Miller learned to slide his tall buses under the low overpasses that concerned
police by letting them idle under at about three or four miles per hour. He never
wrecked one that way himself, but once a goggling motorist watching him slip under
an overpass rammed into the back end of the car ahead of him.
Sometimes the overpasses were entirely too low, as in Buffalo, N.Y., where a
railroad rings the city and caps nearly every entering road with a low overpass.
"It took me 45 minutes to get into Buffalo," Miller said. "1 bet that bus is still
somewhere inside the city.
Miller drove for British Promotions until January 1974. making an average of
two deliveries each month. Then the fuel crisis hit, and people stopped buying the
buses. He had had a job earlier from the North Carolina Museum of Life and
Sciences in Durham, so he checked to see if it was still good and then moved to
North Carolina. His job was to transport schoolchildren to the museum - -
In July 1975, the Villages apartments advertised for a double-deck bus driver,
preferably with experience. "Since 1 had driven them over 30,000 miles, 1 figured I
was the most experienced person in North Carolina," he said.
Since then Miller has been making daily runs ferrying students from the Villages
to campus and back a big switch from cross-country traveling.
"In some ways it's dull, and at other times it's interesting," he said. "The route
itself is the same, but the people are different You get almost a whole new group
of people at the Villages every year."
Miller said he wants to do something different eventually something other
than driving a bus.
"I like Chapel Hill, but I won't be here forever," he said. "It's funny how youjust
fall into something, and it almost becomes a way of life. I'd like to go out on the road
again but not on a bus.
See & Clip
From the Tar Heel
New YorKer Magazine
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After four years and many,
many miles, Jerry "Miller has
settled into the routine of
carting students from the
Villages to the campus and
back e far cry from the
days when he used .to
transport the big double
deckers across country.
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Stpt. 16 C l977 T.t'WihC-i.'i-F