Turtle bus provides safe ‘transportainment’ | VailDaily.com

Turtle bus provides safe ‘transportainment’

Cash bar, dance floor and music among luxuries offered

Ten years ago, Shane Ward noticed that there wasn’t a great way for groups to be transported between Vail and Beaver Creek. Then he noticed that people needed a way to get to and from the bars. So he started a company.

The Turtle Bus is painted green to look like its namesake. The name comes from the bus moving slowly to provide safe and fun transportation. (Special to the Daily)

In essence, Turtle Bus is a party vessel, lined with pontoon seats and equipped with a full cash bar.

“That’s the uniqueness of the bus,” Ward said. “It creates a social atmosphere. There’s something about bellying up to a bar that’s special and entertaining.”

It’s not just the booze that makes the bus special, though. Aside from the interior lights and the dance floor, the bus is also fortified so that riders are completely safe to walk around — even after knocking a few back.

“We provide group ‘transportainment,'” Ward said. “That’s ‘transportation’ and ‘entertainment.’ It’s really our biggest focus.”

Ward compares the bus to a “modern-day speakeasy,” and even a ride at Disney World, citing the movement happening around you, but not necessarily affecting you.

The Turtle Bus isn’t just limited to drives between bars, however. Also offered are wedding parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, brewery tours and, in the summer, tubing reservations. Also offered are 30-minute land cruises — an extra 30 minutes added to the drive time; simply more time to enjoy the bus.

Additionally, the company now offers services in the Denver area, carting groups around from bar to bar, or evening bringing people from Denver to the Vail Valley for a day trip before bringing them home (the ride even includes storage for skis).

Hayden Lapointe and Shane Ward of Turtle Bus. (Nate Day | Special to the Daily)

To make the drives to and from Denver easier, Ward recently purchased a more heavy-duty bus to add to his fleet, one that has an easier time going downhill after hitting the pass. As far as road conditions, they’re not stopping anyone.

“As long as the roads are open, we go, man,” said Hayden Lapointe, operations manager. “This is the best place to be stuck on I-70.”

It’s worth noting, too, that just because it doesn’t look like a normal bus doesn’t mean you’re not perfectly safe.

“These things are government-designed to transport children,” Ward said. “Now, they’re government designed to transport party people.”

A relatively small operation, Turtle Bus currently has only three employees but will have seven or eight by this summer. Also a part of the team is Layla, a golden retriever that never misses a ride.

“Why stay home when you can get free pets?” Ward joked.

Despite having a small team, there are actually six buses, some days require multiple to operate at the same time. Ward likes to space reservations an hour apart, but from time to time, as Lapointe noted, people occasionally want to stay at their destination longer or may even want to leave early.

“We just go with the flow,” Ward said.

In the vein of going with the flow is the bus’ traveling speed. Aptly named, the Turtle Bus will travel at only 55 miles per hour on the interstate, providing not only safety but also more time to enjoy your ride.

The bus also features a full-service bar. (Nate Day | Special to the Daily)

Ward and his team will buy a normal, yellow school bus with brown, front-facing seats and flip it, replacing the floors, adding a bar, colored lights and bamboo accents. They’ll also paint the ceiling blue to represent the sky and the exterior green, paying homage to its namesake, the Turtle Bus. Remarkably, the flip only takes the team about a month.

The fun doesn’t stop there, however, as when Ward and his employees aren’t driving the bus or dishing up drinks, they’re working maintenance and cleaning.

“We’re always working on (the buses),” Lapointe said. “We’re making sure they’re 100 percent ready for the next drive.

Whether you’re looking for a night out or a ride to Denver, Turtle Bus has you covered and strives to ensure you enjoy your experience.

“The goal is to enhance your night out,” Ward said.

Support Local Journalism