Compiled by Hillary HaenesPhotos by Henry A. Barrios
Richard Vieyra, Jr.'s longtime career as a California state parole agent with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation doesn't conflict with his part-time gig as a limo driver for The Limousine Scene. Having a flexible schedule has allowed him to work both jobs.
With more than 11 years of limo driving under his belt, Vieyra, 47, is certainly an expert when it comes to safely transporting passengers. He enjoys interacting with his clients, and he's definitely met a lot of interesting people along the way.
What made you want to become a limo driver?
I was attracted to becoming a limo driver from a high school friend of mine. He said the pay is good, the tips are great, and you'll almost never break a sweat. He also said because the job is part-time, you will work around your regular job schedule. That was very appealing to me. I consider myself a people person, and I love to drive, so it seemed like a perfect fit.
What has been your favorite day on the job?
I will always remember my very first driving trip. I drove New York Yankees baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez, other ball players and their friends from Bakersfield to Las Vegas. The date of the trip was Sept. 13, 2001 -- two days after 9/11. There were no other forms of transportation available.
Do you need a special license to drive a limousine?
Contrary to popular belief, driving a limo does not require a special driver's license. However, driving our limo party bus or 15-passenger van does require a Class B license with a passenger endorsement.
How difficult is it to drive a limo? What types of challenges do you face?
As a limo driver, I consider myself a concierge on wheels. If we are running late for a restaurant reservation, I will call ahead and inform them of our expected arrival time. I can make suggestions for local bars, clubs, restaurants or points of interest. I consider it my job to do whatever needs to be done to assist my clients in having the best, most enjoyable trip, regardless of where we are going or how long I will be with them.
After the trip, I have to re-fuel the car, clean it up and leave it ready to go for the next driver. We operate a 24/7 business, so our cars must be ready to go at all times. Driving a limo is really not that difficult in terms of handling of the vehicle. You really have to pay attention when turning corners. You cannot cut it too sharp or you will run up on the curb and possibly damage the car. It is much longer than a normal car or truck and requires more stopping time. Freeway traffic often can provide challenges. People don't realize that you are traveling the same speed they are.
What's the farthest you have driven passengers?
The farthest I personally have driven passengers was either San Francisco or Las Vegas. We have a package where we can drive you and your party to Las Vegas, and stay there for the weekend, providing transportation while you are there, and then drive you home. Prices can vary depending upon which vehicle you use and our destination, plus any special requests like special beverages, food, flowers, balloons, etc. We have sedans, stretch limos, vans, party buses and regular buses. We can also assist with out-of-state transportation needs with reputable companies across the nation.
Have you driven any other celebrities?
I have driven a number of celebrities. When the Bakersfield Business Conference was alive and well, we provided all the transportation for the events. Over the years I have driven the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vince McMahon along with several WWE wrestlers, Tim Conway, Neil Diamond, Gen. Tommy Franks, Joey Porter and Buck Owens.
Where has been your strangest request to be transported?
When I picked up this young man and he said, "Just drive around until I have had enough to drink to go pick-up my girlfriend and ask her to marry me. If we go over the allotted time, I don't mind paying for overtime." We drove around for almost three hours, stopping to buy more drinks along the way. He called her only to find out her flight had been cancelled, and she wasn't due to arrive in town until the next day.
What types of events make up most of your business?
Primarily, most of our business comes from weddings, anniversaries and parties. We perform quite a bit of wine tours, and have developed a great reputation with a host of wineries in Paso Robles. We also provide a lot of airport-cruiseport transportation, as well as the seasonal proms and formals for high schools. We can customize any trip to suit the needs of the clients.
My favorite times to drive are the special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries and driving a Make-A-Wish Foundation recipient. Times that you know are memories that will stay forever in the passenger's mind. Being a part of their special life events, and playing a favorable part, is something I always enjoy.
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