The Purple Bus, which I travelled around Europe in, had been christened and reincarnated several times. The “Barney Bus,” ( because its purple) the “Science Communication Bus,” and the “Turin Bus.” However, it was Irish Times writer Claire O’Connell, that coined the term, the “Boffin Bus” (See Article)

However, we ambassadors are not merely Boffins. But hey, we don’t take offence; we’ve built our metaphorical bridge and gotten over it. Yes, we are more then a bunch of science geeks, we are innovators, well kind of

The Obstacle

The Obstacle


The scene was set in Nice, France, approximately, 5 minutes away from our Hotel… so close but yet so far. We encountered a bridge. Uh Oh!

So, seen as we didn’t have any helmets, we agreed it was time instead, to get our thinking caps on. A chance to put our science and engineering “expertise” into practise, we thought. Mark, or “Otto,” the driver, parked the bus up and the debates commenced.

Did we have to go under the bridge? Was there another route? What where the options available to us? Could we build a ramp out of the mountains of promotional materials on board? If so, to what height and trajectory degree would the design spec be, and, how much momentum would be needed?

Michelle Takes Charge

Michelle Takes Charge

There was a car park just next to us, which lead to an alternative route… but the gate would be locked until 5 am… Hmm, not exactly convenient, but at least we would not resort to deflating air out of the tyres and/or the hydraulic suspension.

We had the measurements of the bridge, 4.3 metres, now we had to measure the height of the bus. Unfortunately, Kevin, our resident gadget guru, was stumped. Frantically flicking through his iPhone Apps, but alas, his dismay became evident… no result, no App for the measuring of double decker busses… who knew?

"Otto" Takes a Rest

"Otto" Takes a Rest

It was time to go old school. We took our mini flag posts, stuck them together, and measured the bus. Ingenuity in progress, we sought to “bridge the gap” from classroom science and engineering to solving a real world problem. Next, we measured the bridge, we where close but no cigar, I suspected.

Michelle reckoned we where only but a whisker away, and that we would nearly make it. Well, nearly never won the race, nearly never entered!

Meanwhile, “someone,” suggested the application of the very scientific “JDI” or “Just Do It” approach. Albeit this unknown “someone” made this suggestion in a funny accent, a poor attempt to mask their identity. (It didn’t work Kevin. You can take the Derryman to France, but you can’t quite take the Derry out of the man.)

Ellen, Martin and Ronan Measure the Bus

Ellen, Martin and Ronan Measure the Bus

Some were confident we would clear the height upon entry, but to throw a spanner into the works, it appeared that the road was rising. Even a slight gradient would be a BIG problem.

A defeatist shaking of heads ensued, signalling our unspoken decision to park the bus up and catch a taxi to the hotel… at least until 5 a.m.

But hey, that’s all water under the bridge now, as we found an alternate route, through that car park, and are now galloping, full steam, towards our next destination.

Beep Beep… Toulouse, here we come!

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