As the saying goes, “good things happen when you least expect them.” One of our recent Burlington adventures was a perfect example of this.
Usually, I have our adventures scheduled weeks in advance. When I heard of the Touch-a-Truck event just a day before, I was surprised it had escaped my radar.
The ad for Touch-a-Truck promised the opportunity to sit in city vehicles but it provided no hint at just how many trucks we’d get to see or how much fun awaited us. Afterwards, we all agreed that this had to be one of our favourite adventures yet.
“Free Barbecue” were the other words that caught my attention about this event. Free food and Mr Burlington get along quite well! 🙂 Our first stop was for burgers from the M&M Meats tent!
We were just finishing our burgers when Jr Burlington scooted over to try his first hands-on experience of the day, a massive Toro riding lawn mower that was stationed nearby.
After a few minutes of pretend driving, he dismounted the tractor looking a bit disappointed. There were horns honking all around us as kids put them to the test — but the mower had no horn! It was off to find a vehicle that did.
Next he climbed up into a City snow plow, and then over to a street sweeper and then an aerial truck. On each stop he made sure to test all the knobs and switches and, of course, try the horn.
I wanted a closer look at the aerial truck myself and hopped into the passenger seat. This vehicle was added to the City’s fleet in February 2012. It is one of over 20 hybrid vehicles owned by the City and has resulted in fuel savings since the truck no longer needs to idle while servicing the lights.
The fire truck beckoned us next. With its bright red paint and long extension ladder, how could any kid resist getting a closer look at this mighty machine? I have to admit, I wanted to see it too.
The line for the fire truck was long and we were trying to decide if we had enough time to wait before the next tour of the Transit facilities started. It was at this point that one of the firemen approached us and invited Jr Burlington to sit in the Chief’s seat on the other side of the firetruck instead of waiting in the line.
We lucked into own private tour! Captain Steve Jones showed the massive map book of the entire city and helped to find our street — the little dots on the map indicate where all the fire hydrants are positioned.
From the fire truck to an ambulance, I pray this is the only time any of us will ever see inside this vehicle.
St. John ambulance volunteers were on hand to explain the equipment and answer questions. These well-trained volunteers attend many public events across Burlington and are there in case of a medical emergency. Volunteers are prepared to provide the care necessary to save a life and give comfort until emergency paramedics arrive. Of course, they’re more often called on for basic first aid.
The next truck to touch was a massive John Deere loader. What better place for a baby to enjoy a snack?
The second half of our Touch-a-Truck adventure was focused on learning more about Burlington Transit from the BT Ambassadors.
We first met Caroline and Bob as we entered the event (as we made a beeline to the barbecue). They greeted us with friendly smiles and enthusiasm and invited us to join one of their upcoming tours. There were five tours scheduled with each one inviting residents aboard a city bus to visit the nearby Burlington Transit Operations and Maintenance Centre.
As we waited for our tour to start, Jr Burlington took to the steering wheel of a Handi-Van. He honked the horn and announced the next stops — Fortinos and the Library.
Handi-Van is a door-to-door transit service offered by Burlington Transit to people with physical disabilities. Approved riders book Handi-Van travel by phone and pay the same fare as on conventional buses.
Our bus arrived on scene and Bob climbed aboard to act as our tour guide. Bob seemed to be the type of cheerful, service-oriented “cast member” I might find leading a tour at Walt Disney World. For the next 45-minutes, we were all captivated by Bob’s knowledge and charisma as he told us about the day-to-day operations of Burlington Transit in a way that made it all seem so captivating!
Touch-a-Truck was being held at the Burlington Roads and Parks Maintenance Building on Harvester Road so it was just a short trip down the street to the Burlington Transit facility.
As soon as we disembarked, we were greeted by the BT mascot, Buster the Dog! Buster hugged the kids and handed out Burlington Transit activity books, crayons and colourful stickers featuring Buster himself! Too bad it took my six-year old to point out to me that Buster is named after, well, a bus.
Inside the Transit Operations Centre, Bob continued our tour telling us about the recent 2010 renovation that almost doubled its size.
I was so impressed by Bob that I googled him when I got home. Entering “burlington transit bob” into Google did the trick. I learned that our tour guide has the nickname, “Burlington Bob,” and is widely known throughout the city for delivering outstanding customer service as a bus driver. In 2010, Bob received a national bus driver award from the Canadian Urban Transit Association — the first Burlington Transit driver to be honored with such an award.
At the time, Scott Stewart, Burlington’s general manager of community services said: “Bob really is the face of Burlington out there. It’s the front-line workers like him who make the strongest impressions in the community. Bob goes above and beyond every day, and that inspires all of us.”
After passing by some of the administrative spaces, we moved into the vehicular area that includes storage for 74 buses (with another 34 by 2026), maintenance space, equipment, inspection areas, fueling areas and wash bays.
The Touch-a-Truck event was a first for Burlington. It was offered as part of Public Works Week — a week that “seeks to enhance the prestige of the often-unsung heroes of our society, the professionals who serve the public good every day with quiet dedication.” It certainly met this goal with our family and I hope this becomes an annual event we can look forward to every year.
When you’re out and about in Burlington, keep an eye out for Burlington Bob and others like him who go above and beyond in making Burlington the best. A smile, a wave or a thank you can go a long way in continuing to fuel service excellence.