ATLANTA — Joey Greenstein knew something was wrong in Princeton, Ky.
He and Missouri Students Association President Nick Droege had rented a 40-person bus to transport students from Columbia to Atlanta for Saturday afternoon’s SEC Championship.
But at 4 p.m. Friday, the vehicle stalled outside a Marathon gas station, and it wasn’t starting back up.
Sunlight quickly escaped the area. A few students called to get rides from friends driving through town.
Huskey Trailways, the bus service, called other companies for help, but none obliged. So driver Bob Bargeon took matters into his own hands.
Greenstein will never forget what happened next.
“Bob said, ‘Hey guys, the police are coming,’” Greenstein recalled. “‘My dad called the state troopers. They’re going to escort you to the town and take care of you.’”
Soon, the bus was surrounded by a K-9 unit, a rescue unit, the town’s sheriff and a paramedic. The group also received word that a local nursing home was sending buses to bring the students to the facility for dinner.
All of that was for naught, though, as a local repairman replaced the batteries after a four-hour wait.
Incredibly, the real fun didn’t begin until the bus got back on the road.
What ensued was a Missouri phenomenon made possible by social media. Most of the students on the bus began using the hashtag #ClubHuskey to chronicle their journey — in what might be considered the most hilarious bus ride ever documented on social media. (See highlights in a Storify below.)
"I think this whole twitter campaign, Club Huskey, is what kept us sane on the bus," MU senior Molly Loeffler said. "Without it, I don't know what we would have done."
What was supposed to be a 10-hour drive turned into an ordeal lasting 24 hours or more as the bus finally made its way into Atlanta in the early morning.
"It was incredibly frustrating because there just felt like there was a lot of inactivity on the side of the company. Nothing is the fault of the bus driver, but we were like that for three hours with no heat, with the door open in below-freezing temperatures," MU senior Sarah Barr said. "It was a little ridiculous."
Soon, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., made arrangements to take #ClubHuskey out for dinner at Shakespeare’s. ESPN writer and Missouri alumnus Wright Thompson ordered beers for the stranded students once they reached Atlanta.
Multiple news outlets called in to speak with students on the bus. Some riders were KOMU reporters who provided online look-ins from the scene.
The trip even birthed a folk hero: Bargeon.
Known affectionately as “Bob Bus” on Twitter, Bargeon has been working for Huskey for “three or four years,” owner Kent Huskey said.
“Bob Bus” got his name after several students were discussing Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s birthday. The nickname was a basic variation of Manziel’s “Johnny Football” moniker. Bargeon was reached by phone but declined comment for this story.
The driver inspired a slew of tweets by the riders, including the hashtag #InBobWeTrust. Droege even called in a few favors to land Bargeon a free ticket to the championship game.
As tired as the students were at the end of the 24-hour voyage, it was Bargeon who stared down several snowy highways to get the crew to Atlanta.
Alcohol was allowed on the bus, and a small party atmosphere developed once #ClubHuskey went viral.
“We just had a few beers and hung out,” Droege said. “We were trying to be optimistic and make the best out of a poor situation, and it ended up being a lot of fun.”
While the tweets have been a source of entertainment for many, one man was not amused. Huskey said the social media hullabaloo has created bad publicity for his company. The members of #ClubHuskey are already planning T-shirts, and Columbia Nightlife has offered to sponsor a #ClubHuskey pub crawl.
“Right now, it’s costing us a lot,” he said over the phone. “People have been putting it all over the Internet. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
The bus was brand new, Huskey said. His company purchased it this summer.
“In very bad weather like this, you can have a lot of different problems,” he said.
Huskey was adamant that his company did its best to help the students caught in Kentucky. The biggest issue, he said, was location; Princeton is in the middle of nowhere, and little support was offered from other bus companies.
“We were doing our best to help people,” Huskey said.
The tired students at the Mizzou Alumni tailgate were more likely to forgive than forget.
“This will be one of the weekends I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Droege said.
Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.