Thursday, July 14, 2011

Trappe bus operator pens travel memoir

Trappe resident Jim Maust recently self-published "From the Driver's Seat: The Real World of Motorcoach Touring According to Storyteller Jim Maust" (266 pp., $19.95 at select area bookstores), a book "loaded with fascinating, authentic and sometimes humorous stories of motorcoach travel from the viewpoint of the driver’s seat."

I recently interviewed by phone the 11-year veteran of driving bus tours for Perkiomen Motorcoach of Pennsburg. The driver-turned-novelist said he's pleased with the result of nearly five years of work.

"I'm happy with it. I'm pleasantly surprised by the response I'm getting," Maust said.

Over the years, Maust has compiled lots of memories - both good and bad - from his experiences behind the wheel. What started out as a diary of sorts for his five grandchildren turned into a much bigger labor of love that Maust said he very much enjoyed creating.

"It's pretty common in this industry ... Everybody says 'You ought to write a book!'" Maust said. Not everyone follows through, but Maust did. He had the book printed at Mastof Press in Morgantown.

When he first looked into it he found the last similar book on the topic had been published 20 years ago. "I thought it was time to update what's happening in this world," Maust said.

Maust said his stories naturally fell into certain categories, which he organized into chapters, he said.

He begins the book with a chapter on wildlife, noting instances on his travels during which he's observed a Bald Eagle, rainbows, and
"even a beaver dam in the middle of I-84 that would otherwise go unnoticed," Maust said. "I also once got to see a waterbomber putting out a fire."

When asked where in the U.S. his job takes him, Maust replied "Oh, everywhere. I do a lot of mission trips to place like South Dakota and western Ontario."

He devotes an entire chapter to the topic of border crossings, and recalled one in particular that was extremely memorable:

"I was crossing into Canada at the Thousand Islands about three weeks after 9-11. It was tense," he recalled. The passengers had been briefed not to offer any information not asked for at the border. Then Maust's coach was stopped along with about a dozen other vehicles. He watched as an officer beelined for the bus. Maust opened the door for him to come aboard, which the officer did, and then proceeded to ask the passengers in a stern voice: "Does anybody have a henweigh to declare?"

The question was met with dead silence as passengers looked around nervously and said nothing. Once again, the officer repeated his question.
"Does anybody have a henweigh to declare?" The question met with more silence from the uneasy travelers.

"Someone finally asked 'What's a henweigh?" Maust recalled. The Canadian officer smiled and replied, Maust wrote, ""Oh, about three of four pounds.' With that he turned, descended the steps and walked back to his office. We sat there flabbergasted. The ice was broken. First there was a ripple of laughter and then a good guffaw!"

"I think he just wanted to cut the tension," Maust added.

Another chapter, called Get out of my Bed, has to do with bedbugs. There's also a chapter showcasing Pennsylvania, one devoted to snow issues, a comical one about lavatory issues, and one that includes Frequently Asked Questions, such as "Do you drive in the snow?"

Included in the book are several color and some black-and-white photos that illustrate some of Maust's tales.

Of his stories, Maust said: "The stories are not in any particular order. Some are funny, some are serious; they all happen where the rubber meets the road while driving over our highways. The trips that make a memory are ones where something unusual happens."

To date, Maust estimates he's sold more than 100 copies - mainly to other tour bus operators. "A lot of the buyers will be other drivers and people who've toured with us," he said.

Maust added, "It's just a fun read. I've been told 'It's like being on one of the trips with you."

Maust dedicated the book to his brother, who died at age 59.

About the author:

Maust grew up in rural Lancaster County, where he learned to drive farm equipment early on. His yen for travel was nurtured by his father’s work on the Pennsylvania Railroad, allowing the young family a free pass on the rails. By age 10 he was driving the family’s ’32 Ford sedan in the back alley of the small town where they lived. He credits his mother for teaching him safe and skillful driving habits.He acquired a private pilot’s license at age 23. His Goldwing motorcycle is his favorite mode of leisure travel for him and his wife.

Jim, and his wife, Millie, have two daughters and five grandchildren. He spent 13 years in the insurance business; then transitioned into a 25 year season of pastoral ministry. He earned a master's degree in divinity and a doctorate in ministry.

Maust has resided in Trappe for 20 years, the last 11 of which he has been a professional tour bus operator with Perkiomen Motorcoach (Pennsburg).

Buy the book:

"From the Drivers' Seat is available for purchase for $19.95 locally at Towne Book Center & Cafe, Collegeville; Souderton Bookstore; and Hackman's Bookstore, Whitehall. He hopes to have the book for sale on in short order.

Visit Maust's "From the Driver's Seat" Facebook page to learn more about the book and upcoming book-related events or to say hello.

Win the book:

Maust has donated a copy of "From the Driver's Seat" to this blog. If you are interested in winning that copy, comment here or send me an e-mail (please include your mailing address) at

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