Winter '98 Ride

part 2

So we ride this train back and what took us about five hours last night took us an hour. While stopped at a signal at "NOMAN" we had fun with the sign and took some pictures.

We bailed before Irondale, (started to REALLY hate B-ham), stashed our stuff and went to eat at a local greasy-spoon.

We did a bit of washing up in the bathroom (and got some funny looks from the locals) before hitting the pavement again and walking back to the yard. Again. We prayed that the same cop who gave us a hard time before wouldn't appear again.

We made it to our stuff, which was actually stashed in someone's backyard, but no one bothered it. That is the advantage to having an olive-drab tarp at your disposal. We just got all our stuff on our backs when... HAAAAANK! HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANK! A southbound appeared behind us. Many units. No doubt.

It slowly crept passes us and we casually ignored the engineer. A couple of decent cars seemed to be heading up towards us - but all at once, our plans were shattered. Looking underneath the train, we saw a white Caprice driving along the other side slowly and rolling to a stop.

SHIT. He WAS a bull and he HAD seen us. Granted, we were not on railroad property, but seeing how the locals cops even treated us, we wanted out quick!

We made an about face, and executed a brilliant escape taking us around a building through a little pathway onto a bunch of backstreets where be passed a warehouse full of barking dogs and old man Zimmerman's two-story house. We stealthed around until we found ourselves back against the same building that we hid our stuff against last time we were in town. The bull was evaded, and even better, the train that we would have mounted just backed up into the receiving yard to be blown up.

We turned the scanner on to figure out what to do, and I climbed the hellish shrub covered hill that led to the yard road to see what trains might appear. About 30 feet away was the car-that-likes-to-back-up-all-the-time... about 200 feet from him, a southbound... on the departure lead. This time, there TRULY was no doubt.

I slid back down the hill to inform everyone of the option. The train was already headed out, and we knew that we had quite enough of this city. I emerged again from the shrubs just as one of the SIX engines were creeping past. Well we knew THIS wasn't a local. I abandoned any yard-fear (a luxury to riding in this part of the country) and walked briskly to the right side of the head unit. I waved my arm and the window opened.

NO DOUBT: Are you headed towards Mobile or New Orleans?



ENGINEER: Why do you want to know?

NO DOUBT: Just wondering, sir, Merry Christmas.

I walked quickly away and slid down the hill again. We decided that ANY south was better than here and that we could catch a train from Mobile to New Orleans easily. That train was ours. We didn't want to climb the hill and mount by the engines, so we walked back along the building north further into the yard... we were on city property, but the yard road was right next to us. We quickly approached the car-that-likes-to-back-up-all-the-time. No time to be coy, SOCX waved and the driver gave him a double-thumbs up. To quote SOCX, he was actually saying, "Gentlemen, MOUNT THAT TRAIN."

We didn't see a whole lot of rides. Mostly bad grainers, and it was beginning to rain. No boxes. We KNEW we would ride SOMETHING... and that something was approaching. The red grainers. The same grainers that we had caught back into the yard, and because of that we KNEW we weren't getting set off in Wilton. We really wanted something enclosed due to the drizzle, but there were no boxes in sight. Suddenly they were on us...









Now Vineet had in his hands two water bottles for all of us, a guitar in the other hand and a big ole backpack. "At one point I realized that I would need at least ONE hand to catch the train," he recalls. I grabbed his guitar and he took off. Now I had a problem.

My sleeping bag was seriously loose from my pack. I didn't want any chance of losing it, so I grabbed it and pulled it out by the stuff sack's handle. The last of the grainers were pulling away at a decent clip. I had a guitar in one hand, my sleeping bag in the other, a heavy pack and a side bag. Both my friends were on the train, and it was raining.

Somewhere is my head I heard the following "...the guy had a fuckin guitar, a fuckin pack... fuckin two gallons of water... fuckin boombawx. And it was fuckin hilarious to see him gettin on the train!" That's another inside joke.

I matched speed with the train just as I was passing the car-that-likes-to-back-up-all-the-time. I had to be blatant. I threw the sleeping bag in my right hand with the guitar, jumped over an approaching switch, and grabbed the second to last grainer's wrung with my left hand. I don't know how my foot got in the stirrup, but it was sliding around. Thank God for my big boot heel. I suddenly realized that my left arm was NOT happy, and that I had to get in this car quickly. I looked up, and God himself had put a "window" in the metal sides of this grainer well. It was just big enough for me to stuff the slim end of the guitar case into while I could wrap my hand around the car and toss the sleeping bag in. I was then able to get my body in the car and reach around to retrieve the guitar case. What a show that must have been for our friend in the C.T.L.T.B.U.A.T.T.

Finally we were all on, (I hoped) and bound once again for Mobile. Our train stopped once just outside of the city, and this was enough time for all of us to move our shit to the same two back-to-back porches. We took off again, just as it was becoming dark.

Some point after we took off again, our train transformed itself into some sort of cosmic traveling device. About an hour later, we found ourselves stopped, but we couldn't even see ground beneath us as we hopped out to stretch our legs. The train was dead silent. No air bleeding. No creaking. Our crunching feet were the only noise in this black planet as we walked along our beast to a river crossing. The river was so far beneath us that it also donated no sound.

Just before blast off, we searched the train quickly for bawxes and found none close enough to safely transfer to. So we boarded our grainers again at first movement and soared into the night air. For the rest of our journey south (except for one quick stop at Tseh-oh-bah) our train flew faster than a junker should fly through black fog and a moonless sky. All the passengers took turns shouting at the wind... feeling completely one with the iron hulk.

Sleep fell over us, and I remember waking up long enough to get off our red grainer before becoming part of the red sea of grainers at a huge chemical plant north of Mobile. We made a quick, easy transfer to the very last car (an open bawx) and slept more until we entered the gigantic contangulation of yards in Mobile. The last hour of our consciousness was dedicated to finding a dry place to jungle up until morning. This was really one of our first chances to get a good nights sleep on mother earth, and it was a bitch finding a dry patch of cover ANYWHERE by the yards. We knew we were approaching the bayou!

Finally God waved his magical sponge and we fell asleep in a beautiful dry patch under some shrubs by the IC yard. Vineet and I were out in a minute. SOCX was out in 1.5 minutes, as he had to rig up his patented tick-umbrella.

Again we awoke to the sound of trains, but thankfully nearby and not all around us. The weather was the warmest it had been, finally SHORT SLEEVES! We did a bit of washing, eating and then headed into town with harps, voices and drumsticks blazing.

Suddenly... horror. A nearby sinister grainer had an ugly brown picture of Iowa sketched on it, as well as dates, times, locations, height, weight, moon observations, IQ and dick size. We snapped a picture of Iowa Black-soul's tag for later ridicule.

We tramped Mobile a bit... asking various people various things and noting the total hip character to the city. SOCX sweet talked a shower out of a local YMCA manager who was all too thrilled to see us weary travelers. Our showers were God sent, as was the omnipresent oblivious naked old man who talked for tens of minutes about nothing and kept nagging us to try the steam room with him. Memories.

Back on with our stinky clothes and wandering to a supermarket... we bought a bit of food and shot the shit with some locals who's "Yankee Alert Light" seemed to be flashing. On our way back to the yard, we met a man with perhaps the largest bindle known to man, second only to his grey beard. When SOCX casually offered him a Snacky Cake, he spoke up in his upwardly mobile accent that he had plenty of food and that we wasn't any sort of trash that would need such pittance. Didn't really know what to make of him... probably CIA.

We tried to follow the guide to the CSX yard, but that entry sucked. Here's a hint, ALL the yards in Mobile are by the State Docks. The CSX one is just east of DelChamps Rd.

We made a daring board on a departing Westbound bawx (I was REALLY getting sick of riding junkers but what can you do). Well this quality "Cushioned" bawx shook like a rocking chair... so we made the appropriate tag, ordered the train to stop for one minute, switched back one car, and ordered the train to resume.

The temperature went from 55 to -10 in a couple of minutes, so we boys wrapped up in the packing paper and slept like small children as we barreled again through the night.

We woke up and found ourselves stuck in some yard before New Orleans. So I peed out the door and went back to sleep. Two hours later, same view, same urination... only our power was gone. The three of us took turns checking to see that we haven't moved, peeing, and rotating back into our sleeping bags.

It was near noon when we realized that we were in New Orleans.