Fred Barnes answered his phone, and then politely asked to call back.
“I was underneath my bus, working on it,” Barnes said later, with a chuckle. “As big as I am, that’s not easy.”
Barnes, an OOIDA life member from Kansas City, MO, has booked two busloads full of tourists traveling to Washington, DC, for President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration festivities on Tuesday, January 20.
To prepare for the trip, he spent much of last week tinkering with engines, nothing new for the veteran trucker with 40 years of experience.
Barnes, 74, also is an OOIDA Board Director Emeritus. He attended OOIDA meetings in 1973, before the group became the nation’s largest, and later only, trade association for owner-operators.
Today, he runs a three-truck operation called Frederick Barnes Co. with dedicated runs through Missouri and Oklahoma, and still makes the occasional run to spell one of his drivers.
“It’s a nice little change,” said Barnes. “Plus, since we never go further than Oklahoma, I know I’ll be home that night.”
Also part of Barnes’ operations are three buses he owns, two of which are heading to Washington, DC, this weekend.
Barnes said he was surprised by the results of last November’s presidential election.
“I didn’t think Obama would make it,” Barnes said. “He proved me wrong. I guess people were serious about making a change.”
With crowd estimates ranging from 1.5 million to 5 million, Washington figures to be as tightly watched by security agencies as it will be overpopulated.
Mike Joyce, who works at OOIDA’s Washington, DC, office as the Association’s director of legislative affairs, said inauguration preparations have been noticeable around the Capitol area for weeks.
The high traffic is expected to only increase before Tuesday’s ceremonies.
“Monday will be crazy,” Joyce said.
Don’t count Barnes among the millions who will be around the DC area on Tuesday. Barnes said he chose to send two drivers with the buses – part of the spoils of running and building a successful business.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” he said.
– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer