If It's Tuesday it Must Be Colorado!

I got to Dunsmuir around noon and as soon as I walked to the jungle and took off my pack 3 units backed down to a string of cars in the yard. After waiting for them to finish switching I left town in a boxcar headed north. Our first stop was Black Butte, where we dropped off some cars (including mine) so I moved my gear up to a piggyback. Later we went in the hole at Andesite so I moved again to a stack well (for concealment) and had a nice ride up to Klamath. Got in around 5:00 pm and by the time I walked up to the depot a southbound came through and I couldn't resist nailing another nice, clean boxcar - a luxury not often found on southbounds.

Returned to Dunsmuir at 1:30 am but, due to one of the smoothest riding cars I can remember, I stayed on the train until we got to Roseville, where I bailed off at 9:00 am and sat down to wait for an eastbound. The "plan" was to meet Photo Bill here the next morning, but I decided to catch a train over to Sparks and back instead of just hanging around the yard all day waiting. The weather was slightly overcast and actually cool, but I should have stayed in Roseville - the east train that was called for 12:30 pm didn't leave 'til 3:00 and, after sitting around for hours with gear packed, the minute I walked a block away to get more beer the train pulled out, forcing me to bag a piggyback on the fly instead of the comfortable grainer near the head end I'd had my eyes on all afternoon.

the American River Canyon from my piggyback just east of ColfaxThis is a view of the American River Canyon from my piggyback just east of Colfax. We sat on a siding at Emigrant Gap for over 3 hours and didn't get into Sparks until 1:00 am - because of track maintenance in the Sierra the usual five hour ride over to Sparks took ten! On top of that there weren't any west trains going back to Roseville until later in the day, so I just hung out near the yard, waiting for Bill. Waited around all day but lack of trains and track work on the hill made for a long day of waiting. I went to bed in a boxcar in the yard at 8:30 pm and had to get up and check out incoming trains at 10:00 pm and 4:00 am but no sign of Bill. We finally met the next morning - he had come in on the 4:00 am train but we didn't see each other in the dark. By this time I felt that I had "seen" and "done" just about every activity a person could think of doing in a freightyard to pass the time, and the thought of riding a train again was looked forward to with much anticipation, especially since I was getting close to the point of breaking into my "road" stash of wine, having long ago depleted my "yard" supply...

Photo Bill in his hammockWe caught out at 10:00 am in a nice gondola which was great for concealment but left us in a "Dutch Oven" for most of the trip. This is a photo of Bill in his hammock, which had the added benefit of keeping one's butt off the hot steel floor of the gon. The long ride across Nevada was rather uneventful - consisting mainly of moving our gear from one side of the car to the other every few minutes in a feeble attempt to enjoy what little shade was offered as the train wound first in one direction and then another as it made its way over the desert landscape. Being a big fan of desert scenery, I spent quite a bit of time peering over the side of our car, enjoying the welcome change from the sea of brown SP boxcars that I had been "adrift" in for the last several days. Every now and then when sightseeing got boring there was always the challenge of arranging the detritus on the floor of the gon into spectacular forts and castles, or stacking up various objects into miniature skyscrapers that would invariably tumble down whenever slack action would occur.

looking back as the sun mercifully set just east of ElkoThis is a photo looking back as the sun mercifully set just east of Elko. We checked out the now quite-familiar scenery for awhile before rolling out and getting a few hour's sleep before we detrained in Ogden at 1:00 am. The rest of the night was spent next to a loading dock in the yard, which provided a much needed block of quiet, non-rocking sleep. We packed up and left there early in the morning on a southbound and got into Salt Lake's Roper Yard at 6:00 am. Walked over to a truck stop for breakfast, then a State liquor store (ugh) to "re-supply", then made it back down to the yard where we found the same train we rode from Roseville waiting to go to Grand Junction on the eastbound main at 7:30 am. I dared not comment on our good luck at finding suitable rides on this trip for fear of jinxing things. My usual routes were up and down the West Coast, where there was a constant supply of empty boxcars to ride, but now venturing eastward there was much more legwork involved in finding the perfect accommodations.

Bill seized upon the opportunity to wash his clothes while we waited for the train to leaveWe walked up to the head end and hung out near this creek, where Bill seized upon the opportunity to wash his clothes while we waited for the train to leave. Wishing our schedule had provided this ice-cold stream during the middle of the afternoon rather than daybreak, I did manage to get in a little wading to "freshen up" my feet. Reluctantly giving up our cool and shady oasis, we left town at 10:00 am on our same gondola but, not wishing to be "charbroiled" for a second day, switched to a hopper when we went in the hole a few hours later at Thistle. The scenery was great while we climbed up to Soldier Summit and dropped down to Helper, and our "spare time" was filled with eating, drinking and reading. Bill had thoughtfully brought along several huge oranges and I, not wishing him to be burdened with such a heavy pack, offered to eat one or more as he saw fit. This option went over well with him and he also produced a large, juicy salami to "compliment" our citrus treat. Things were going famously until I noticed that the combination of the salami juice and orange juice had coated my hands with a form of liquid super glue - I was now able to pick up small objects merely by touching them. My fascination with this new-found skill waned when I tried to read one of the many zines Bill was traveling with, only managing to stick most of the pages together in the process and reducing our reading resources to just the front and back covers. I did, however, long for a chance to try out my Gecko-like hands at catching a ladder on the fly, certain that the 15mph barrier could be broken easily. Soon another aspect of not bringing along enough water to wash my hands would appear - the swirling miasma of finely ground rust particles that was literally everywhere in our car had now added another coating to my beleaguered hands, turning them into stiff, ironclad gloves. Picking my nose was out of the question and I basked in the certain freedom that comes from not caring about getting my hands dirty because they were already dirty, and any further additions of "dirt" would never come in contact with my skin anyway so it could easily be washed away when we got off the train.

looking east from somewhere west of Green RiverUnfortunately, by the time we got to the long barren stretch along the Book Cliffs we had eaten, drank and read everything we brought, so the long, hot ride over to Grand Junction seemed to take forever. This photo is looking east from somewhere west of Green River. We finally got in at 8:30 pm. and immediately got food, beer, etc. and crashed near the yard. Had a quiet but mosquito-filled sleep, got up at 5:30 am and hung out in the yard waiting for a train. We certainly didn't know it at the time, but our luck was soon to change. Left town on the back of a hopper at 9:30 or 10:00 am headed east toward the Rockies on a beautiful morning. We were hoping to go over Tennessee Pass during the day and it looked like our timing would work out perfect but instead we got pulled off the train when he went into the hole in Parachute by a city cop and a sheriff - they approached us with guns drawn and the whole bit. Since we had been riding on the back of a grainer and not on the piggybacks and auto racks farther back we thought that their little "show" was a bit much, but after being whisked off to jail we learned the real reason they had made such a big deal about riders on their train was the "ax murder".

Unfortunately, I made a major gaffe when the cop told me about it, though. It seems that every time the Bull hassles you they always come up with some kind of story about a child that got raped by a hobo the day before, or somebody got their legs cut off "the day before", or some other horrible crime that always seems to go down in the freightyard just before you rolled through, and that's why the yard is so hot, etc. Well, I thought I'd heard them all and when I asked the cop why they were getting so uptight about us being on a lowly grain car he started to bubble over with emotion and blurted out that there had been an ax murder that seemed to have occurred, naturally, "a few days ago". At that moment I had what could best be described as a "lack of judgment", because I started laughing and said something to the effect that "...give me a break, now I've heard everything!", all the while having my hands cuffed behind me. Needless to say, the cop went bananas and because of the heat and everything (95 degrees before noon in June) I was actually concerned for his health, as well as mine.

The best thing about the jail, aside from the fact that there were three of us (they pulled off a wetback, too) in a holding cell (cage, actually) that was the size of a Volkswagen, was the air conditioning in the police station. Unfortunately, when I got pulled off the train I just had shorts and boots on because of the heat, and then I was dumped in this cell where the air conditioning had kept the air temperature around zero degrees, or so it seemed. After shivering for awhile and starting to wonder if I would lapse into hypothermia, we found out that the railroad didn't want to press charges, so we were released into the now 100 degree air outside, where, to my already pre-cooled body, it felt like a blast furnace. Relieved that the Rio Grande didn't want to bother with the hour-long drive to pick us up and bring us back to Grand Junction, my spirits fell when I noticed that the cops had left our gear and my gallon jug of once-ice-cold water out in the sun.

Our "offense" was "criminal trespassing", instead of the more common "trespassing on RR property". Anyway, after we got out we headed for the Interstate and hitched for an hour or so and got a very well-received ride back to Grand Junction, where we had a miserable 90 block-long walk back to the yard in equally miserable heat. Kicked back at the river during the day and the city park in the afternoon and went out to the yard to wait when it got dark. Naturally the train that was supposed to be there at 9:30 pm got in at 1:30 am, and away we went, headed west on the back of yet another hopper.

group portraitAs we got up to speed along the flats west of town I snapped this "group portrait", which effectively killed my night vision for several minutes. Bill's expression conveys just how excited he was about spending a night trying to sleep on the back of a grainer with two people and all of their gear. As luck would have it our car must have had the largest and most complicated collection of brake machinery on the "good" end I'd ever seen, but fatigue made winding myself into a Human pretzel and dozing off an easy task. Waking up the next morning near Helper I spent several minutes trying to get out of my bag and stand up without disturbing Bill, then sat back and watched a re-run in reverse of our ride over Soldier Summit and down into the Salt Lake valley - getting off just outside of Roper Yard at 11:30 am. We took a bus into town and headed for the wye to wait for a northbound. We were there only an hour or so when we caught out to Ogden (at speed) and got there at 5:00 pm after a windy ride on an empty center beam.

This is how I managed to cool offThis time we managed to go across the Salt Lake during the day and it sure is one weird place! This is how I managed to cool off - sit next to the door and let the wind blow the salt spray into the car. This brilliant maneuver felt great until I noticed that my body was starting to get mummified with a thin but solid coating of salt, so the afternoon was spent drinking, napping and sightseeing. After the "sardine" routine the night before we ended up having a great sleep in our boxcar and got into Carlin at 1:30 am, where we sat until 8:30 am, waiting for a crew I guess. I didn't mind, though - the feeling of sleeping with my body in a more-or-less straight line was exquisite! Apparently ours was a Modoc train, but there should be a Roseville train here in a few hours and we'd figure out what we were going do when it got here. Deciding to split up, I left at 10:00 am on the Modoc train and Bill stayed in the yard to catch the Roseville train that was due in soon. I got to Winnemucca at 12:30 pm and continued on towards Flannigan, where we veered off onto the Modoc Line and got into Wendel around 6:30 pm. Washed up, got some water and after a little switching we added the helpers and took off. Had a nice but "rocky" ride to Klamath, getting in at 2:30 am. Crashed north of yard, had breakfast in morning and hung out until noon when I caught out on a southbound, headed for home.

Dunsmuir to Klamath Falls
Klamath Falls to Roseville
Roseville to Ogden
Ogden to Salt Lake
Salt Lake to Grand Junction
Grand Junction to Parachute
Grand Junction to Salt Lake
Salt Lake to Ogden
Ogden to Flannigan
Flannigan to Klamath Falls
Klamath Falls to Dunsmuir

total mileage
108 miles
322 miles
676 miles
40 miles
332 miles
50 miles
332 miles
40 miles
399 miles
220 miles
108 miles
2,627 miles!