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Spring Break '98 - part 1

The Meeting

 

PAPADALEK: I got off of a fast container train on Tuesday afternoon in Ogden, Utah. I had a bit of a walk around town, then picked an inexpensive motel to crash. I fell asleep before nightfall, and got a good rest.

The next morning I had a quick breakfast in the motel, then set off for the yard to investigate a catch-out spot. I met another rider there. He'd been working in a shelter, but was now heading for Reno. We sat and chatted for a while at the north end of the yard. There was a little jungle there, hidden from sight by some boulders. It had a fire pit, and was right next to a creek.

catch-out spot One set of tracks curve west to Elko (NV) and beyond, and the other north to Pocatello (ID). I watched a couple of trains go west, then finally one came north out of the yard, heading to Pocatello. It was going really slow, so it'd be easy to catch. Satisfied with my choice of waiting spot, I headed back into town to find a supermarket and a liquor store.

I restocked my pack, then picked up a local paper and had dinner at Burger King. I ran into my buddy from that morning. He hadn't been able to grab a westbound mixed freight, so he'd decided to spend the night in town and find a job the next day.

At 9 pm, I ambled over to the bus stop to wait for the Grinch. He showed up right on time, and we headed straight over to the jungle I'd found that morning. I was hoping to get out before midnight.

 

GRINCH: 7:30 p.m., corner of North Temple Ave. & 300 West, downtown Salt Lake City. It was a crisp Utah evening in late winter, about two days after a snowfall, which thankfully had melted. With the lights and spires of the Mormon Temple to my southeast, I wistfully waited for the 7:45 bus that would bring me up the valley to the railroading paradise of Ogden, UT.

Now if you remember the tale of my last trip through the area last summer, one recalls that my then-travelling partner, Boxcar Jimmy, and I had gotten set off in a small yard in the thriving Northern Utah metropolis of Brigham City, UT, about 35 miles north of Ogden.

Although earlier that trip Too Tall Ken and I successfully fulfilled our "last ride" (last rite?) over Tennessee Pass as a tribute to its rich history, my stint in Utah ended in bitter frustration. Finding myself stuck on a string of cars at 6:00 a.m. in a small town in the middle of nowhere wasn't my idea of fun. In any case, I vowed to return to that God-forsaken corner of the earth and resume that trip to completion.

In addition to all this, Ogden peeves me even more because it's the town where I send my Federal income taxes every year. Don't ask me why the IRS would want to locate their Western US headquarters there...

After jumping into the adjacent Crown Burger store for a warm box of french fries, I saw the bus rapidly appearing from the direction of the Mormon Temple and boarded it, taking a gulp and a deep breath. Slinging my pack onto the floor of the bus, I sighed and began my mental metamorphosis into a true tramp for the journey ahead.

At 8:55 p.m. the bus entered downtown Ogden and I disembarked at 25th & Washington streets, crossing the street to the prearranged point where I would meet Papadelek. The familiar scent of Ogden filled my nostrils - an inexplicable smell but one that instantly brought me back to my travails there the previous summer. Leaning against a pay phone, I waited a couple of short minutes before spotting Papadalek walking up. We met and warmly shook hands, and caught up on the current scene.

As Papadalek filled me in on his newly-discovered jungle area, we decided to head over there right away and catch out for Pocatello as soon as we could. So away we walked, headed down for the yards...

 

PAPADALEK: The night was cool as we walked NW from downtown. The jungle area was really excellent - rocks to hide behind, horizontal tree branch to sit on, and decent view of the yard and signals.

We both snacked and changed into riding gear to wait for a train that should come, well, anytime now. The moon made a long arc across the sky. Finally, Grinch got his sleeping bag out and snoozed. Then on toward dawn, I gave up watching and caught a few winks myself.

Daylight saw us discouraged, to say the least. But the sun was warming the air! There had been a few trains overnight, all south/east bounds, or westbounds. We spent the early morning watching some yard power switch a train in the yard. The units were right in front of us, on the third track, and making such a racket, that we almost didn't hear a Pocatello train coming. Right out of the yard on the first track it came, at a good clip too. Damn!, I shouted, and gathered my stuff as fast I could. We made our way over to it, and waited for a good ride to roll by...

 

GRINCH: Finally some suitable boxcars rolled into view. We started running along with them, they were moving FAST and rapidly gaining speed. I ran alongside a one-eyed bandit, and yelled to Papadalek that this should be our ride. I heaved my pack up onto the floor and jumped up, barely making it. After a couple seconds to gain my balance (and thank my lucky stars) I looked back to see Papadalek continuing to run alongside in his quest to nail the car.

Alas, it was not to be. The car was just moving too fast. Not wanting to ride to Pocatello alone, I threw my pack back off onto the ballast and carefully jumped clear, making a decent landing. About this time Papadalek approached, ending his sprint to catch the ride I had been on. "Man, you should have stayed on," he said. "I was gonna get a car farther back!"

"Naaw, I wanted to ride together. Wuz sure a bitch nailing that one though," I noted, looking down at the fresh gash on my knee next to my kneecap, which was just beginning to bleed. "Hell, we'll get the next one."

Walking dejectedly back to our nearby jungle, we dropped our packs and sat down to wait anew. Judging from our past experience, we thought this could be 4-6 more hours. I popped a wad of party dirt (chew) into my lip while Papadalek rolled a smoke, and together we indulged our vices.

But our anticipated long wait wasn't to be. A scant 90 minutes later, with the yard dog still noisily switching strings to and fro past our jungle, we were startled out of our mental lull by three giant, Pocatello-bound UP units rumbling by.

 

PART 2