Idle Idyll

This trip didn't start out much different from any other trip, except it was raining. Not necessarily raining "...all over the world..." but definitely raining where I wanted to go. It was an annoying rain, too. The wipers on my truck only work on "high" speed and it's distracting to watch them slam back and forth 100 times a second when there's only a light mist outside, but that's what they did for most of the drive down to Dunsmuir.

Northbound trains out of there have lots of empty boxcars and I knew that once I was on a train I'd be warm and dry. The problem, it soon became apparent, was the time period between getting out of my truck and climbing into the aforementioned "warm and dry" boxcar. The rain turned back into sprinkles as I was parking, so, for now at least, the raingear could stay in my pack. My usual plan is to walk south on the "main drag" through town for ½ hour until I get to the freeway, then follow a trail that makes its way down towards the lower end of the yard. Having done this walk numerous times, I began to develop a kind of mental "guessing game" about subtle nuances I'd noticed each time I trudged along the route. Would the girl working at the burger joint be picking her nose? Would Mrs. Olsen's (or whatever her name was) dog run towards me at full speed, only to be jerked backwards for the umpteenth time by his short leash? Would the sleazeball on the corner house block the sidewalk with his truck again?

Actually, the thought that was foremost in my mind during the walk was " it gonna rain or isn't it?" I'd go for two or three blocks with hardly a drop falling on me, and then it would start to rain "seriously", so I'd find a sheltered spot, take off my pack and begin to dig down to my raingear, only to have the rain stop miraculously a few seconds later. Back would go the raingear, on would go the pack and away would go I... only to have the process repeated again and again. Approaching the "trailhead" in a now determined squall, I figured I'd get just as wet standing around digging through my pack for my jacket as I would if I just made a banzai run down to the jungle and "suited up" there. This decision proved to be totally without merit, however.

The "trail", which all summer had been a dry streambed, was now transformed into a raging rivulet. The only way to continue was to straddle the stream and walk along like it was some giant hopscotch game, which worked OK until I got to a spot where the creek widened out and to go any further would have split me at the crotch like a wishbone, so I jumped off to one side and made my way along as best I could. The adjoining shrubbery - usually well over my head in the summer - was hanging down and whacking me in the face with it's extra weight of rainfall. Finally I reached the clearing just above the jungle and walked down to set up camp.

Naturally, just as I reached the shelter of a large Cedar tree the rain tapered off, so I hung out my soaked clothes to dry, opened a chilled bottle of White Port and withdrew a damp copy of the San Francisco Chronicle to read while I waited. Reading the paper was a pleasant diversion but there wasn't much interesting news until I got to a story that mentioned a woman with the last name of Diaz-Diaz. She apparently had the last name of "Diaz" and married someone who, strangely enough, also had the last name of "Diaz", but, for some unknown reason, chose to keep both last names, only hyphenated. My first thought was, if you already have the last name of "Diaz", why add another one? Chuckling to myself with the first effects of a wine buzz, I wondered what it would be like if one of her children (with two last names) married someone who also had two last names - would they now have four last names? And what if their children... My head was now swimming with the possibility of a world filled with people having 16 last names... and suppose you had to line up alphabetically somewhere and your last name was "Adams-Zambrosky" or something like that - would you go to the head of the line or the rear? Unfortunately, my reverie was cut short with the onslaught of yet another downpour, so "reading time" was officially over and "drinking time" was about to begin.

Now swathed in the full regalia of waterproof nylon, I tried to get used to the feeling of raindrops peppering me from the marginally sheltering overhang of the Cedar tree. There were no cars in the yard to find shelter in, so I was stuck leaning up against the tree trunk, drinking wine and wondering how long it would take before I felt the first raindrop penetrate the many layers of nylon and pile I was wearing. It didn't take long. The boots were the first to surrender to the deluge. I quickly made a mental note to bring along a spare pair of socks on the "next trip". After arriving at the jungle at 3:30 in the afternoon, I noticed in the fading light that it was now almost 6:00 pm. Perhaps I should find a more sheltered location to wait while I still had enough light to navigate with? Shouldering my soaked pack, I walked down to the mainline and headed up to the "main" jungle area near the north end of the yard. As soon as I left the shelter of the trees and started walking in the open yard the rain began in earnest. Oh well, I'm already wet...

A fifteen-minute walk brought me to the jungle where I'd spent so many days cursing the hot, cloudless afternoons waiting for trains. Ahh, to run around in shorts again! To my delight there was a comfortable chair next to the spool table and this was to become my "office" until a northbound came in. With the wine now approaching a dangerously low level, I began debating just how badly I wanted to catch this train. After all, it was too dark to see anything, my fingers were starting to get wrinkled from being wet for so long and pretty soon I would have to break out my "emergency" bottle of wine, normally reserved for the return trip. After awakening from a brief slumber, I looked at my watch and saw it was now 9:00 pm. Sheesh, where are all the trains? The rain had not let up for even an instant and I'd explored nearly all of the positions one could assume in the lop-sided chair without getting cramps, so an "emergency" was declared and the remaining bottle was ceremoniously opened.

Just before drifting off into another delicious slumber, I heard a train horn coming from the south end of the yard. I peeled myself out of the chair, threw on my pack and climbed up the embankment towards the tracks. A long northbound full of inviting empty boxcars pulled up and stopped, and in minutes I was aboard and out of the damned rain. After a quick check to see if I'd developed fins or gills from being wet for so long, I rolled out my bag, hung up my wet clothes and wound northward out of town into the misty canyon above Dunsmuir.