home > stories > Solitude Never Hurts Anyone

Solitude Never Hurts Anyone

 

life can be distracting sometimes... for anyone really, no matter the situation. we all are leading such desperate adventures whether we are students, lawyers, squatters, beggars... somehow we need to delve into what makes us real... what makes us who we really are.

living in Portland has given me such challenges. dealing with the daily ins and outs strains me... yep! it was time for me to head out again for a slap in the face. a reality check. this time alone...

i found myself winding through the streets of Portland, heading towards the Steel Bridge, dragging on my umpteenth cigarette, butterflies rolling in my stomach as thoughts of my impending journey drifted through my stress-induced mind. it has been awhile since i ventured out alone, without anyone to watch over me... it felt great.

i made myself comfortable at the usual spot. catching out under the bridge always fills me with anticipation and, at times, fear. i chose to forego my usual departure point from Champ Siding simply because i felt safer here..an odd thought considering the place was crawling with tramps and whatnot... they always choose to leave me alone. for the time being. besides, i reason to myself it is worth it to crouch beneath the bridge, for the wait is not as long. i definitely wanted to get out as quickly as i could.

i didn't have to wait twenty minutes before a train began to slowly make its way from the yard. i scurried across the tracks to hide behind a heap of junk, ducking even further when the headlights splayed across the tracks. as soon as the head end crawled past, i walked from my hide-out and began to scope for a ride. the first few cars were auto racks, then pigs with a couple of 48's, none of which i could ride. out of the corner of my eye, i noticed a perfect ride. a pig with three axles, good enough to hide me from prying eyes, though God only knows who would be looking at this time of night. tightening the grip on my pack, i began to trot at a good clip, ready to "bag" this train.

the trick with catching out under the steel bridge is that one has to be careful as the tracks begin to divide in separate directions. one has to keep a good watch on the ground beneath their feet as well as the hauling freight before them. it is quite easy to trip on the ties. however, because of my height, i rely on the separation of the tracks to help me vault myself onto the train. pretty risky, but... soon i found myself running up to that break in the tracks and keeping time with my chosen ride i timed myself exactly, grabbing onto the sides of the pigs and shoved myself up onto the greasy floor. in ecstasy, i laid back, smiling to myself... ahhhh, this is wonderful.

the sounds of the highway woke me out of my reverie. excited i glanced back at the retreating city and waved. how corny, but... how else can someone say goodbye to a chapter in their days?

within thirty minutes we tore through Troutdale, entering the Gorge, by far the most magical part of traveling east out of Oregon. the falls were to my right, the water to my left, Washington even further to my left. every now and then i would catch a glimpse of a train, BNSF traveling to Wishram or Spokane.

i yanked out my bag, making myself at "home" despite the warm weather, i wanted to be comfortable. i lit a cigarette and let the wind blow through my recently short cropped hair. perfect for hoboing! nothing is better than these moments, these times of pure bliss, where nothing resides in your heart but joy. no fear. no guilt. no terror. no responsibility. nothing. someday i will have to find a way to duplicate these feelings with everything else in my life.

as we roared under the Bridge of the Gods, which i marveled at for quite some time, even when i could hardly make out the brilliant steel white structure, drowsiness began to seep in. i am always lulled to sleep by the train. some times this proves to be quite a disadvantage when one is traveling through expansive views, but since this run is old territory for me, i allowed myself to drift off.

i slept like a rock and it wasn't until a UP worker woke me up when i realized i may have been foolish to fall asleep. we were in Hinkle, the first cc for this train. instead of ordering me off the train, he chatted for a few minutes, dinked around with my car, then strode off, wishing me well. i fell back asleep.

the air brakes woke me up as we pulled out of the yard and soon we began our steady climb up the Blue Mountains. this is another lovely spot, yet i much prefer it with snow. nothing warms the heart more than gliding through mountains, with the softness of snow falling on your face. nothing but the sounds and sights of silence to make your heart soar. but this was not the winter, as my body began to tell me. the sun was beating down at me..no mercy was involved. i threw off my bag, then stripped down to my skivvies and shorts, pouring my precious water onto my head. it was fucking hot and nothing i could do would help. thank god that i was under the shelter of the pig and not in some open 48 or gon for that matter. still, the heat was reaching unbearable heights. my water was becoming to hot to drink and i began to dehydrate.

as we began our decent, we stopped at almost every siding, a fact which annoyed me simply because i felt like i was entering heat stroke. one siding stop was particularly long and in the summer sun, despite my lack of comfort, i dozed off.

i woke up with parched, cracked lips and gummy eyes. dousing my remaining water over me, i willed the train to move faster to La Grande. there awaited Safeway, my savior... i wanted to get there NOW!

now wasn't soon enough, but after another painful hour, i made it, bounding off my train before it even slowed down and made my way to the grocery.

i always marvel at the stares one is forced to endure during these travels. it never changes, no matter what city you are in. La Grande is no exception. despite being a rail town, it is painfully obvious that they have no toleration for "our" kind, whatever that may be. as i walked into Safeway, an ageless woman gave me to evil eye, to which i promptly stuck out my tongue in response. i felt silly for my reaction. i was acting like a child. but then again, so was she (she started it first!!).

i made my way to the frozen food section, thrusting my head into the freezers. when a worker walked by, glancing at me, i suddenly had an acute interest in a package of peas. hmmm, these look tasty. i smiled my charming smile at the boy, who shuddered and walked away. i resumed my cooling off, using the package of peas, then shoving them back into their freezer, slamming the door behind me.

after paying tribute to nature, grabbing some grub (chicken fingers - i saw Fred eating them on a trip with him... since then they always seem to strike my fancy when traveling by freight cars.) and water, i walked back to the yard, ready to continue on my journey. which way should i go. east? back to Portland? duty calls in Portland and despite my ever expanding wanderlust, i had to go back. slightly disappointed with my decision, i grumbled over to the overpass and plopped down to wait... and wait... and wait... where the fuck were the trains?

out of sheer boredom i began to devise up little games for myself. how far can i throw this rock... how far can i spit... how many kids can i squander up for a conversation (quite a few, actually. it seems there is very little to do in La Grande but bike around the tracks and check out the hobos) how many times can i hide from the police (so far so good, but my luck may soon run out) how long do i have to wait????

it turned out to be all night. i slept that night under the bridge, not very well mind you. every sound jolted me up, my knife in my hand ready to scare off whomever i was imagining to be around.

morning came, as did my ride. without really caring, i walked in front of the crew change van, wherein the passengers simply waved, and climbed aboard a k-line 48. ahhh, my namesake. this should be a charmed ride back.

and it was. hot like before, but my body seemed to have developed a way of ignoring the heat. we breezed through the mountains, with little to no mentionable events. yet, i do recall barking wildly at a dog which lived near the tracks. he in turn proceed to chase after my train, with his master yelling like mad after him. what a look of terror and anger upon that man. i felt both terrible and humored all in the same.

the trip back through the gorge is always my favorite, especially at sundown. the air has this incredible smell to it, a flavor i can only detect in Oregon. people driving alongside the train either wave of open their mouths in surprise as i fly past, but i pay them no heed. i don't care. i am on my train. nothing can hurt me when i am in this state of mind.

here comes Multnomah Falls, car alarms blaring from the shock waves of the train, tourist cavorting with their cameras, their kids, their dogs, and their boring lives. yes, forgive me. at moments like these i fear for there monotony. then again, God only knows what their lives really entail. if you saw me on the street, would you think the same thing? judge not what you see but what you hear... my do i sound ridiculous. i'm getting to pompous in my old age. right.

jumping off the train is always my favorite thing to do and as we neared closer to Albina yards, i climbed down the ladder, anticipating the best place to jump. i landed without a hitch, despite the ground being littered with large heaps of lumber. (where the hell did that come from? crap from another freight?) i hiked up a cliff and found myself downtown.

home. where is that? is it Portland? Minneapolis? Boston? freight cars? is home truly where you make it?

i'm not sure what i had hoped to accomplish from this trip. it wasn't simply just the desire to be on a freight. i do it all the time. something about this trip was different. i'm still not sure as to what that difference was... all i know is that the journey reminded me who i was and what i stand for. perhaps that was simply the revelation that i needed. it is good to be alone, to sort out the knots and tangles of your soul. solitude never hurts anyone.