Watching the Nevada Channel

my tv's bigger than your tv

Sure, we say that "It's not where you're going, it's how you get there", but sometimes what you see while "getting" there can make a big difference. If you're traveling by car or truck, you pretty much spend most of your time (if you're the driver, anyway) looking forward, but on a train, unless you're on the back of a grainer, you spend most of the time looking out the side.

Facing forward and seeing objects well before you pass them gives you plenty of time for study and contemplation, etc. Facing to the side, with the same objects suddenly appearing and having only moments to observe them, seems to force one to concentrate more intensely on whatever it is you're looking at, and maybe there is more "information" gained this way.

On one of my train trips across Nevada, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ride in a caboose in transit, which was coupled directly in front of the regular caboose.

It was sometime in the summer, and as we pulled into a siding for a meet I jumped down from my grainer and walked back to the caboose to ask the conductor for some water. He was very nice and warned me that the water in the cooler was pretty alkaline but it was cold and mine wasn't, so I poured out my jug and filled it up with his water. We chatted for awhile and he said that I was welcome to ride in the transit caboose if I got tired of being sand-blasted on the back of my grainer, and I quickly took him up on it.

I returned to my car, grabbed my gear, and walked back to "my" caboose and quickly set up camp. There was plenty of room to sort and re-sort my stuff, and I wasted no time in opening a beer and plopping down in one of the seats in the cupola, where I could not only look sideways but forward without a swirling sandstorm to engulf me.

My God! This was great! The entire eastern end of Nevada took on a whole new character. Instead of slack action smashing my head against the steel carbody, there was a padded headrest! The chair even swivelled! Crap, I was ready to ride across the entire continent now, but in a few hours we started to cross the Great Salt Lake and I knew that I'd have to bail before we got into the Ogden yard, so I reluctantly packed up my stuff and when we slowed approaching the west entrance to the freightyard I hopped down the steps and gave the conductor a wave. That was truly riding in style...


Unfortunately, not all trips were that enjoyable. Winter comes to mind here. Going from Ogden/Salt Lake to Roseville involves three crew changes and three states, and it's either 24 hours of roasting in the summer or 24 hours of freezing in the winter. I've seen people take desperate measures to make the journey, too. I watched a Mexican kid riding streamlined climb into the space that housed the generator to power the coolers in a refrigerated boxcar as the train was pulling out of Ogden heading west. Now that was hard core!

An empty boxcar... a smooth-riding empty boxcar, isn't too bad of a way to see the Silver State, but as boring as the endless expanses of sand and rock might seem to some, they are even more boring if all of their subtle nuances are hidden under a blanket of snow. If miles and miles of sand speeding by at 50mph appears monotonous, then miles and miles of snow is even more monotonous.

Just about the only thing that could make the trip reasonably comfortable, aside from dry clothes and a warm sleeping bag, would have to be a sufficient quantity of wine. The cheaper the better. At times there was nothing in the World more enjoyable than to wrap up in my bag, sit down on a foam pad, lean back on my pack and let Ernest & Julio unlock the hidden secrets of the desert landscape as it flew by in a fog of blowing snow...