ah... on the rails again. after scamming some time off from work, paying some overdue bills and spending time with my lover, i was ready to go, to seek, to purify myself of corporate filth which seems to overload my mind here in the city of roses.
but unlike most of the time, this trip would not be a solo frolic. the beautiful Kollodi would be coming with me, to define her own secrets and passions on our freight journey. she had hopped a few times with me, proving to be quite capable and wise. her company will be much appreciated.
it turned out that she wasn't the only one who would jump with me. as i flicked on my e-mail one last time to let a friend know our intended course of action (just in case anything should ever happen to me - knock on wood) i received a message from Dave. after hopping up from Roseville, then travelling with Fred from Dunsmuir, he suggested he come with me east to Pocatello. sounded good. despite not knowing him, the mere fact that he knew Fred evaporated any misgivings that i normally would have had in taking a perfect stranger.
all was set. Dave was greyhounding it up from Eugene and would call me from the union station and meet up with Kollodi and i somewhere downtown.
since we were itchin' to get out, i left a message on my answering machine informing Dave that we be waiting for him so we could leave the moment he got in.
despite not knowing what Dave looked like, or even what age range he might be, it was easy to spot him. maybe it was the pack that gave him away... or maybe it was the slight weary traveler's expression on him face. i like to think that i can always spot a wanderer, someone who shares the same passion, the same yearnings for change as i do. whatever it was, i spotted Dave immediately, lounging on a bench, watching passers-by aimlessly.
after the usually greeting, intros and such (yada yada) we got on a bus, rode it to Kollodi's, packed her up and headed to Champ siding. i was tempted to take them to the Steel Bridge where a catch out might be quicker, but i was nervous for Kollodi to jump on the fly. i have no doubt that she would manage the situation like a pro, born to live on the rails, yet my mother hobo instinct kicked in and i wanted her to be as safe as she could. it's one thing to place myself in danger, but an entirely different ball of wax to watch someone i care about get hurt, knowing that i could have prevented it.
upon our arrival at champ siding, mother nature decided to throw a tantrum and began to rain on us. despite the angry clouds, our spirits were not diminished in the least. the three of us had good chemistry, laughing alot, smoking even more and telling stories... these are sometimes the best part of hoboing.
getting a tad hungry, Dave and i walked to a nearby bar to scrounge up some food to tide us over during our wait. the barkeeper was quite an interesting guy. he vividly described a delectable polish sausage over hot sourdough with mustard. i generally steer clear of meat, yet his excitement over the suggested meal made my stomach grumble. so polish sausage it was. as we left the bar with the bar flies watching us with interest, i made the comment to Dave that the best part of hoboing is forcing yourself out of typical situations that you would find yourself in. that way you meet vibrant people like the bar owner. what better way to expand you knowledge of the world. everyone has something to offer to another.
three hours later a freight snuck up on us, quite literally, offering us a wide range of rides. at first we snagged a grainer, but Dave searched around a bit while the crew was changing and found us a boxcar to ride in. glancing up at the leaking clouds was enough for me to get off that grainer and jog after him.
the boxcar was quite tall... so tall in fact that Dave had to get out to help Kollodi and i. i still haven't mastered the art of leaping gracefully into a boxcar... perhaps it is a hidden fear of mine. the last thing i want to do is miss and plow underneath the wheels.
the moment Kollodi rolled in, the air went up and off we went, industry flying past us, sun setting, and rain smacking against the metal walls.
within an hour we had entered the gorge. beautiful is too basic, too simple of a word to describe this part of Oregon, but perhaps simplicity is best when describe such monumental landscape. thick clouds wrapped around the mountains, playing hide and seek with the moon as our train rumbled on through the night.
our boxcar was empty, but the floor was covered with a powder like substance which, when wet, turned to a heavy clay. because it was raining, the frame of the doorway became a hazard. at one point, lost in my thrills, i jogged over to the edge of the door to lean my head out against the wind. before i knew what hit me, both my feet hit the wet clay and i went flying out the door... i would have fallen out had i not quickly reached out and grabbed onto the side of the door. it happened so fast, i really didn't react too badly, yet when i saw the steely-white faces of Dave and Kollodi, i knew that i had almost died. beginning to shake, i walked to a far corner of our ride and rested my head against the wall, thanking whomever was looking out for me.
with Dave and Kollodi talking throughout the night, i decided to get a few moments of sleep before we arrived at Hinkle. because we were not a through-freight, we were going to break up in Hinkle and i wanted to be rested for our impending struggle to get out of Hinkle.
after arriving in Hinkle, hiding form the tower near the arrival yard, we jumped off and proceeded to the south end of the yard to find a ride to La Grande. sandwiched between two strings of cars, Dave told us to wait while he jumped over to see if the other side was clear of prying eyes. amused, i turned to Kollodi and, with all the love and humor in my heart, dubbed Dave "johnny leader", a moniker which i began to call him throughout the trip. i think he saw the humor as well.
unfortunately we had walked too far east from the crew change, and for the next twenty minutes or so, we grumbled and trudged our way to the re-fueling station. i felt as though we were walking straight into the lions den. here was where most of the human activity was taking place, and the thought of getting nailed in the god forsaken yard, which is in the middle of fuckin' nowhere filled me with large amounts of unease, yet the need to get to La Grande propelled me along behind my friends.
i found myself standing in front of a unit, ready to head east, when i noticed a couple pairs of legs standing behind a passing freight. Kollodi and i knelt in the nearby brush while "johnny leader" went to wrestle some info from the new crew, which was already getting into their ride. yup, this train was heading east, kids (where else would it be going?).
a grainer became our home and within minutes we had left the yard. exhausted, i pulled out my bed-roll and feel asleep with the stars blinking above me.
we woke up to sunny skies and parched lips near La Grande. wow... did i sleep long! about twenty miles from our destination, we passed a signal tower, angrily flashing red lights. what was that? within minutes we found out. our freight screeched to a stop, causing my ears to ring in pain from the high-pitched whining from the brakes. irritated, i plopped down on the floor of the grainer, lit a cigarette and closed my eyes to relax. Kollodi's voice caused me to open my eyes and look to where she was pointing. what i saw was unbelievable! we were facing the same track as a westbound freight, with the head ends within feet of each other. we were on route to a head on collision. being the silly tourist, i whipped out my disposable camera and snapped a photo of the units in a sort of standoff, with the engineers scratching their heads in confusion... this one is defiantly a postcard for my parents... look, ma... collision course! isn't this neat-o!!
well, the problem was soon fixed, but not before Dave, who had wandered off, ran in front on the oncoming freight. i had my back to the westbound, but when i heard the engineer blow the horn, i knew that Dave had to have been near the train. irritated i leaned over the edge of the grainer and yelled at Dave to get on. as he climbed up the ladder, the engineer glared down at us as i smiled and waved cheerfully. i doubt he saw any humor in what had just happened.
La Grande bound. here we were and as we pulled into the yard, another westbound was all powered up and ready to go. because of my chains in Portland, this was my ride back west. with cheerful farewells and wishes of luck, Dave held down the grainer as Kollodi and i jumped off and found a ride in a 48. our train left before his and as we passed each other, we shouted silly things, laughing like to crazy girls that we are, blowing kisses to Dave, then settling down in our well. i wish Dave well and hope to see him when he returns back from Pocatello.
our ride back was rather quick. cc in Hinkle went off without a hitch, yet the ride near the end of our journey seemed to drag on. we were both tired, irritated and wet from the emerging rain storm.
not forty miles from Portland out train lost power. the air cut with a resounding explosion, causing out train to stop as quick as any moving mass could stop after going fifty miles an hour. the air was silent with nothing but the sound of the nearby highway and my beating heart? had we hit someone? it our train dead? are stuck out here in the middle of the fuckin' night, so close to home?
well... the air was powered up and i chalked the whole thing up to the stupidity of our crew. by this point, my mood was defiantly not warm and fuzzy.
near the Steel Bridge, we jumped off, landing in one piece, slapping high-fives and emitting howls at the moon. ahhh... what wild train girlzzz we are. world!!!! hear us roar!