Jeffery Evans was in a rut. He was working as a revenue officer for the IRS in Colorado, collecting delinquent tax returns.
“It’s a lot worse than it sounds,” he says.
He kept at it because of the good wages. The stress, though, took its toll.
One day, his wife suggested he quit. So he did. Together they traveled the world — Venezuela, Australia, New Zealand and all over North America.
Eventually, their travel funds ran dry and reality set in — they had to return to work. But they were not keen on Colorado, or where they had met and lived previously, the Bay Area.
“We rented a truck and drove up I-5,” Evans recalls. “We had no idea where we were going to go, but knew we wanted to check out Portland and Seattle.”
They never made it to Seattle. The couple stumbled upon a condo in Lake Oswego’s Mountain Park community and quickly began their second careers, his wife with the State of Oregon and Evans, with TriMet as a bus operator.
He spent seven years operating a bus, but he always had his eye on MAX Light Rail. His love for trains goes back to his early childhood days in Kankakee, Illinois.
In the mid-1950s, his family had a small house near the main railroad line. Every afternoon, Evans’ mom would take him out into the yard to see “Harry the Choo Choo” engineer pull up and blow his whistle. Evans, about three years old at the time, would smile and wave. His dad began calling him “Box Car,” a nickname his brother revived when TriMet hired him as a MAX operator in 1998.
He’s paid it forward. He gets joy from seeing a child on a platform or sidewalk with their parents, giving an extra toot on the horn, or ring of the bell. “It always lifts me up,” he says. “It makes a good day that much better.”
His longevity and dedication to his profession has paid dividends as well. Just last month, TriMet bestowed upon him one of its highest honors — MAX Operator of the Year.
MAX and bus operators qualify for this award based on outstanding driving records, customer service and attendance. Fellow operators vote for the winners.
“It was a feeling of excitement and shock,” he says when he first learned of the award. “It was like I was standing away watching myself, almost like an out-of-body experience.”
So long … and thanks for the memories
Coincidentally, a week after he became MAX Operator of the Year, Evans retired. He and his wife are leaving Oregon and building a house in Sedona, Arizona. They’ll move in next month.
He won’t quickly forget TriMet, however, where he made many great memories and friends. He enjoyed the independence his job brought, which allowed him to trade shifts with co-workers so he could take longer vacations.
As a bus operator, he fondly remembers driving an extra service bus and picking up three high school prom-bound couples whose limo had broken down on SW 5th and Washington. Evans picked up the kids, who were noticeably excited (and relieved), and cruised down NW 23rd with the prom-goers waving out the window to bystanders on the sidewalk. Once they got to Montgomery Park, the official yearbook photographer took photos of all the couples exiting the bus.
Also, earlier this year, he briefly appeared in a Siemens commercial filmed in Portland and Gresham, a process he enjoyed being a part of.
Final stop, Arizona
Evans is excited to explore Arizona’s wilderness on foot and motorcycle. He plans to backpack through the Grand Canyon and Sycamore Canyon. He looks forward to cruising on his motorcycle down to Baja and central Mexico.
Will he miss Oregon? The short answer: Yes.
“We have many friends we’ve made over the years here,” he says. “As it turns out, the best time of year to visit Oregon is the best time of year to be out of Arizona. I envision about this time every year loading up one of our vehicles with camping gear, heading to Southern California and driving up coast. We’ll hang out in Oregon until I see the first rain cloud, and get back to Arizona.”
It appears Evans is ready to grow new roots in the desert.
“I think Sedona is going to be our final stop — this place is perfect for us.”