I got off work around 5:00 on Friday and headed home to rearrange my pack and stock up on food and other essentials. I made a quick stop by the liquor store for a forty of King Cobra and a 5th of Whiskey which also falls into the "essentials" category. When I got home and checked the mail my issues of the Yard Times zine had arrived which I had been waiting on for a couple of weeks. Things were already off to a good start knowing that I had ample and fresh reading material for whatever waiting I might end up needing to do. I finally got my pack rearranged and fresh batteries in the scanner, all the while slowly drinking my forty and going over a mental check list of my gear. It was only about 7:00 pm and my train wasn't called for until about 2:00 in the morning so I figured I would lay down and take a nap until 12:30 or so because I thought if I didn't I would end up feeling drowsy and miserable if I tried to stay awake for a six or so hour wait in the yard after being up since dawn.
I woke up right on time feeling pretty refreshed, changed into my train clothes, boots and made my way down to the street. Just as I hit the sidewalk two of my best friends turned my corner on there way back from the bar, saw me toting my pack and made there best/lamest rail bum jokes they could. I asked them for a ride to the yard but they were on there way to partake in some of the "greener" things in life but would be willing to after that. I figured I better get my walking legs limbered up anyway so I declined and started the three and a half mile walk to the yard. I made my way through downtown and on into the industrial part of the city. I had recently bought some hiking socks as opposed to the cotton or wool I usually wear and on top of making efforts to really lighten my pack as of late I was feeling great and had some bounce in my step. I was still about a mile from the yard and I stopped to break out my scanner so I could begin listening to yard chatter to get a heads up on what was going down. Just as I got it turned on I heard a whistle blow and saw the gates drop on the crossing a few hundred yards back at the mainline I had been paralleling. I figured I'd stop and check to see if it was my train and if not it would still be an easy ride to the yard. Sure enough it was my train. This was nice because I could scan the entire train and not have to move a muscle. The head end passed and about half way back the train a string of forty eights came by. A little too quick to catch but I made a mental note of their position and started counting cars. The train began to slow and a couple piggy backs came into view with ladders and after missing one I caught the second and made my way up onto the grated platform. I was pretty visible so I laid low and planned on hopping off before the yard limit. The train started picking up speed so I bailed early making exaggerated strides until I could bring it down to a jog and eventually stop. I hiked the rest of the way to the yard, found my train on the number one main and quickly found my forty eight. I settled in and the train began moving shortly after a fairly quick crew change. It moved closer to the other end of the yard and stopped. I poked my head up and there not 15 feet from me was a yard worker looking in my general direction. "SHIT!" I cursed in my head and ducked down. "Great I've ended this trip before it even started." I said to myself. I figured I would slightly peek up to see if he was coming over or if he saw me. I moved slowly and lifted my head up just far enough to look under the grating of the forty eight and he was still standing in his original position. I got out my scanner and put in my ear piece to listen and see what he was saying on the radio. Ends up he was just radioing in the pressure on the FRED he had just placed on the north bound next to my train. Just as I found that out the tower called my train number and told the crew to have a nice trip south. The slack came down the line and we where off. I stayed up for a while, making my way over the bridge and on into Kentucky. I finally started to get a little chilly and sleepy after having a few pulls of whiskey and broke out some sweat pants a fleece jacket and put them on over my other clothes. Feeling more comfortable I got out my mat and blanket, had a couple more pulls off the bottle and bedded down.
I woke up in Tennessee around dawn and we were making good time. As we crossed the Cumberland River I knew we would be heading into Kayne Ave. Yard to swap crews soon so I packed up so I could lay a little lower or bail if need be. The crew change went off without a hitch and soon we were out of Kayne Yard and heading through Nashville at a decent clip. We headed south through Murfreesboro and on into more rural parts of Tennessee. The closer I got to Chattanooga the landscape became nicer and nicer. We stopped for about 20 minutes in a small yard to either add helper units or wait for a couple of helpers to get off the hill and clear the main. I couldn't tell quite what was going on over the scanner. We crossed Nickajack Lake in which the train crosses a mile or so long causeway which was one of the sights I was looking forward to on this trip. It was neat looking at all the boats, families, and fisherman as I blasted passed them and not even noticing this tiny speck of a head on this giant train. We started winding up inclines into the hills outside Chattanooga. About an hour later my train had come to a stop on the bypass line outside Wauhatchee Yard a few miles outside of Chattanooga. I hopped off and made my way down the ballast to the highway.
I walked a couple miles into Wauhatchee, TN and found a little bar with a few locals in it. I went down a couple of buildings and stashed my pack then made my way back inside. The predominate conversation centered around NASCAR and me being less than a fan I pretty much kept to myself and enjoyed the cold air and even colder beer. I sat there for awhile until I got a good beer buzz and headed out. The humidity hit me like a truck but felt good at the same time. There was a bridge I could see down the road a little ways so I started making my way towards it. Looking over the side of it I saw a nice deep creek and decided to go for a swim. I made my way to the creek and stripped down to my boxers and dove in. The water was pretty much perfect and I spent the next half an hour or so just floating around on my back and relaxing. I got out and dried off so I could put my clothes on and head back in Wauhatchee to get some train beer and something to eat. I found a little grocery store that sold beer and had a deli in it. I picked up a can of tall boys and a cheese sandwich and made my way back to find a place to jungle for the night and wait for my train due early next morning. I slept restlessly all night being awakened by about every train that came through. My train finally came in around dawn but it was hauling. I thought it was going to blow right through on into Nashville or at least stop too far up the line for me to catch in time and it damn near did. Every forty eight I saw was going way too fast, then came the piggy backs, still too fast. Once the train slowed down enough for me to catch something on the fly it was COFC as far as I could see. I was losing hope fast on catching this ride. The train came to a halt finally with still nothing but COFC in front of me. I looked down towards the end of the train and saw or rather heard a 58 with two generators in it and a container on top of them. I figured it would probably have a grate in the bottom so I beat feet down to it and hopped in. One of the generators was running and it was loud and smelly as all hell. I wedged myself down into a little crevice next to the rear generator which was not running and put some ear plugs in. It seemed like it would provide pretty good cover and did. The trip back was pretty uneventful and I did a lot of sleeping and had a couple beers. I pulled into the yard in my home town about 9 hours later and hopped off the train and made my way up to the road. I passed a guy on his bike that was using his cell phone and looking down at the train I just came in on. I said hello to the guy and just kept walking and didn't think too much about it other than a thought in the back up my mind that he reminded me of an off duty cop. After making my way off the bridge and down the road about a hundred yards I hear a car coming so I turn around and I'll be damned if it's not a sheriff pulling to the opposite side of the road towards me with his lights blazing. He makes me take my pack off and gives me the pat down and informs me someone saw me get off the train and that in the state of Indiana... blah blah blah, but that he's not going to make a big deal out of it. Just the words I wanted to hear so I relaxed. He runs my info, gives it back to me, tells me to have a nice day and I start my walk home. Close to 600 miles and only two trains made out for a pretty nice Memorial Day weekend.