Hortencia Aguilar

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Next time you hop on a Mountain Rides bus where Hortencia is at the helm, be sure to say hello. Photo credit: courtesy of Mountain Rides.
Next time you hop on a Mountain Rides bus where Hortencia is at the helm, be sure to say hello. Photo credit: courtesy of Mountain Rides.

If you ever ride the Blue or Valley routes on the Wood River Valley’s Mountain Rides bus system, you’ve probably met Hortencia Aguilar.

Hortencia has been a full-time driver for the company for more than 12 years and loves her job. “I truly appreciate my job,” she said. “I can support my family and I really enjoy helping people safely get where they’re going. A lot of people don’t drive and really rely on us.”

Hortencia’s dedication to her job is evident in her almost not-to-be-believed sterling work history: she has never missed a day of work and has a perfect safety record. Add to that mix that she commutes every day from Dietrich and sometimes has shifts that start as early as 5 a.m. in Bellevue and it’s clear what an asset she is to this community.

Hortencia usually works five days a week, Monday through Friday, and usually on the Valley and Blue routes. These two routes wend from the south Valley up to Sun Valley, out to Warm Springs Lodge, Elkhorn, and back to Hailey. So, basically, Hortencia interacts with everyone from daily commuters to students to guests visiting for a highly anticipated ski vacation. She likes them all. For her regulars, Hortencia knows where they’re getting on, where they’re getting off, and always remembers their stop, even when they may be spacing out and forget to request it. “I always make the stop when I know one of my passengers needs to get off because a lot of people are trying to get some work done, are sleepy, or are just not paying attention. I know where they’re going and I think they appreciate that!”

For guests to the Wood River Valley, Hortencia acts as a de-facto community ambassador. “Whenever anyone boards the bus, I make sure to ask them where they are going and confirm that they are on the right bus. If they are not going where I am going, I let them know which bus they need and where to catch it. If they are coming with me, I make a note of their stop and remember exactly where they need to go.”

Hortencia said visitors always express their gratitude for the service and professionalism Mountain Rides provides. “They love coming to Sun Valley and are always happy to have an easy and convenient way to get where they are going,” she said. “I don’t think that’s true everywhere.”

Driving makes Hortencia happy. Hence, the willingness to undertake her commute and then get people throughout the Wood River Valley from point A to point B and back again. Her husband originally taught her how to drive and she credits him with believing in her, staying really calm, and having a great attitude when she was learning. “I had never driven before and was scared but he always said, ‘You can do it!’”

Hortencia’s first driving job was the yellow school bus for Sun Valley Resort that is used for various events and guest needs. She really enjoyed that experience, and when a friend suggested she apply at Mountain Rides, she was up to the challenge. She has never looked back.

Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, Hortencia has lived in Idaho 25 years. When she is not working, her focus is fully on her family. She and her husband have four children, two studying out of state and two busy at home with activities, school  and friends. She also spends much of her time with her parents, brothers and nieces who also live in the area. She loves that most days she is finished with work at 3 p.m. and home by 4 or 4:30 p.m. so she can be with her family for dinner and help with homework. She likes to cook and says her carne asada is an especially big hit with her family.

At work, Hortencia is known for her warmth but also her professionalism. “When I am driving, I really am focused,” she explained. “It’s my job to keep people safe and get them where they are going and I make sure I am always taking that seriously. During the holidays and the summer there is a lot of traffic and people are counting on me. I always greet people and wish them a happy day, but I don’t talk to passengers a lot when I’m driving. My concentration is on the road. I put my attention on where we are going and what I am doing.”

Five questions for Hortencia:

WRW: Do riders ever ask funny or strange questions?

HA: Not really. People usually just ask about routes, if they’re on the right bus, things like that. Our riders are very polite. Sometimes I can tell with my regulars that they’re not that excited to go to work Monday morning or something, but no one really complains.

WRW: Have you taught anyone else how to drive? How did that go?

HA: My husband and I taught our older children how to drive. That was a little scary because I see a lot on the roads when I am driving the bus and I want them to be safe. But we tried to be patient and positive. If you yell at them, they are afraid and make mistakes.

WRW: What’s your favorite way to spend your down time?

HA: Definitely with my family. Like when I’m at work and I am totally focused on work, when I am with them, I give them all my attention. I really like to play with my 8-year-old daughter and just spend time with everyone.

WRW: What is your favorite Idaho season?

HA: I like spring! I can’t wait for everything to be green again so I can spend more time outside. I love to walk in the spring.

WRW: Do you have any pets?

HA: Yes! We have two little dogs, Maya and Stitch, and a cat that the kids took in who doesn’t have a name. They call her Kitty.

Next time you hop on a Mountain Rides bus where Hortencia is at the helm, be sure to say hello. She is there for your safety and takes her responsibilities very seriously, but always has a warm smile and a sunny ‘Good morning!’ for her riders.

If you would like to recommend an interesting person in the community to be profiled in this column, please email production@woodriverweekly.com, subject line: someone to meet.