home > stories > First Trip

First Trip

 

On Saturday June 28th my buddy Mario and myself readied to go. We had just gotten our hands on a couple of sleeping bags the day before for $3.50 at a local second hand store. We bought food and tried to buy a canteen to no avail. I went to say good-bye to my parents and for all they knew I was going to Oregon on Amtrak. Another friend beat me there and told them what I was about to do in a proud and jealous kind of way. By the time I got there I had to explain all the measures of safety I was going to use such as hopping only a train that wasn't moving, little did I know that would become an untruth about 14 hours later. My father then told me stories of his hopping experience when he was young in West Virginia. They were all short 20-40 mile trips to get from town to town. I gave my Mother a reassuring hug and bid my farewell.

About an hour later I was at the Clyde yard. It was 7:00 pm that Saturday. Mario and myself made camp at the Metra station just feet from the north end of the yard was track 0 was staring at us all rusting and unused. Tracks 2 through about 12 were all loaded with the beautiful sight of grainers and double stacks but not many boxes and those that did sit waiting were all closed. I got my scanner out ready to listen to the work of the yard. Most the channels were dead silence but some such as the hump and yard were bright and clear. 2 hours passed and I heard mention of train #19 moving west. This was the one that Collinwood Kid mentioned went to "Minneapolis ( and then on to Laurel Montana ) departs daily around 7-9:00 pm" It was about 9:00 pm and the sun was setting giving off that azure and orange glow that only a smog ridden city is able to afford. This was it. We hopped over the fence that the Metra has there so the passengers don't go into the yard. Later that night we found out we didn't need to hop over - just walk to the end of the platform where the fence ends. We had no idea which track it was being made up on. Because of me being naive with scanners I thought the workers would say something like "#19 ready to head out west to Minneapolis". That is just plain not the case. So we went to track #7 because a train just moved there from the east end of the yard. We were in no way going to talk to yard workers just yet for fear of them turning us in. Stupid move and smart in the long run too.

So we handed each other our bags as we crossed train to train in order to get to track #7. We searched for a good car to hop onto and choose a grainer. It had feelings of home coming from the porch. We climbed aboard thinking that it would move out soon. We waited and kept low, smoked a little of mother nature and ate dinner, a fantastic smorgasbord of granola and dried fruits with pitas and spinach yogurt. We watched all the trains around us move out west. As the hours passed we ducked low when workers rode by and realized that we might have made a mistake about which train we picked as home. When some trains moved next to us we made the decision that the next one moving west was going to be ours. One started to move so we readied ourselves but by the time a grainer that was safe rode by it was just going to fast for us to board. We went back to our original home and fell asleep.

We woke up at about 4:00 am and turned on the scanner. Not much going on, just some trains moving east. We waited and waited. Nothing. Since we were on a schedule and had to make it to the Rainbow Gathering by at least the 4th of July we decided to give up and head to the bus station. We went to the platform of the Metra with our heads hung low. We were defeated by both the fear of talking to the yard workers and our own naive brains. Then we looked on the yard and Mario said "hey we've spent 10 hours here let's at least talk to a worker before we give up." I agreed and we went back into the yard to find someone to talk to. After about 10 minutes we found someone. And we asked away. "Do you know of any trains headed west?" After alot of " Fuck, shit guys" (I thought he was irritated by us but it turns out he was just trying to think which ones were heading west) he told us that the one that we were on was going only to Galesburg, IL and was heading out in about a half an hour then coming back soon after it got there and that it goes out everyday. Then he told us pure music to our ears "That one wayyyyyy down there at the east end is headin' all the way to Seattle and is leavin' in about 20 minutes." We told him our sincerest thanks and decided to head down there quickly but we wouldn't walk by the engines. So we hopped over the train on the track next to it and ran. It was a long ways away. By the time we where about 20 cars past the engines we hopped back over next to "our" train. Then it started moving. "Oh shit" I thought. There weren't any good cars for a long while and it was starting to pick up speed. After about 20 double stacks without floors went by Mario yelled out "This is it" and I saw him throw his gear into the gondola with a twinstack in it. I followed suit and then he grabbed the ladder and climbed onto the platform that lead to home. By the time he jumped in I was on the grated platform ready to jump in. He moved out of the way and I was in. My heart raced as I'm sure Mario's did as well. We did it. We stayed as low as we could against the wall so as to stop the camera at the end of the yard from seeing us. After about 15 to 20 miles we relaxed and peeked over the sides then stood up triumphantly and watched the suburbs of Chicago fly by. I could only say a few words and they sounded like this, "Holy shit", "Wow", "Oh my God, Mario, we did it". Mario just grinned like a child all wide like and slapped me five.