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Brian Cray - Hitchhikin', Trainhoppin', and Wanderin'

Wanderin' the world, at will, by any means

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Loaded Coal and Locked Dreams

After kickin’ it for a week in a townhouse off of Martin Luther King Blvd., gettin’ high off edibles, and free climbing the Flatirons in Boulder, I felt eager to hit the road again.  Meeting up with my old college partner-in-crime made me reminisce the past.  Honestly, my life has not changed much since college.  I just want to fuck around, live hard, and free, with a little work in between and provide for my wife.  Whether I have a roof over my head or not, she does and always will. Everyone around me is growing up, adulting so-to-speak, and I’m just stuck in a transience, trying to see as much as I can, recently, by train.  

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Train Hopping

Suicide to Springfield

Train Hopping Springfield

The sound of steel bouncing around under tons of empty coal cars lulled me into a meditative state, neither asleep nor awake.  With every sudden stop, sideout, signal or crew change I kept my wits about me and woke up from my trance-like daze.  Riding empty coal felt much like a gondola, missing out on the scenic views of America, just waiting to end up somewhere new, to continue wanderin’.  But, my ride did not last long that night before halting in Marion, Arkansas just a few miles over the Mississippi River.  Fear encroached my body, prying my eyes open, keeping me sleep-deprived, afraid of becoming another hobo victim to loaded coal.  My head bobbed in and out of sleep, as I tried to stay awake, with the night sky bellowing its chilling bursts of laughter making the empty coal car feel like a walk-in freezer.  I packed up my gear and pulled myself up the inclined wall, untying my rope and fleeing down the ladder into the yard.  Tiptoeing around the yard, pip…pip…pip…the ballast jostled beneath my boots.  My eyes wandered to the tracks, watching a yard dog shunt together a string of freight cars towards the east end of the yard.  Hmmm…maybe my train just stopped in the yard on the main line I thought.  As I crept through the yard crossing strings of freight cars my mind succumbed to complete exhaustion.  I wobbled parallel to the tracks.  Dragging each of my feet, I veered off the gravel access road.  I bushwacked through the woods in case security happened to drive by in the wee hours of the morning.  I marched through mud and muck, dead trees and sticker bushes, leaves and corn crunched and crackled with every step as dogs yelped in the distance.  

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Train Hopping

Fuck Outta Here White Boy

Train Hopping Memphis

The stiff concrete made me toss and turn early morning. I continued to lay there unable to wake from my comfortable zzz’s until broken free by the charming noise of a bellowing horn.  I thought none of it as I packed my gear in a lackadaisical fashion, ready to tramp it down the highway, hitchin’ into town.  Train Hopping Memphis looked like a bust after ending up in Rossville IM Facility.  I sat 40 miles away from Memphis, my next hop out spot, taking me one step closer to Denver.  I scuffed my boots down the slanted concrete embankment, bracing myself with every step, as the locomotive at the signal came into plain view.  My slow pace quickly turned into a rampant scamper into a field of wheat.  I followed the wye towards the left, trudging through the dense brush, stalking the train for the perfect moment to hop in a well.  I stood silently minimizing the rustling beneath my boots, the rust-colored leaves crinkled softly with each tiny step.  An engineer stood toward the front engine as I hid behind the barren branches of the woods.  Twigs crunched and snapped as I plowed deeper into the brush, tramping parallel to the tracks, counting the freight cars one-by-one.  My incognito attempt to reach the middle of the train left me in complete exhaustion.  I removed one article after the other, my pores drenching in sweat, and then I hit a crossroad with yet another obstacle making my path longer and more drawn out.  My boots squished as I reached a creek, moist clay engulfed them like quicksand, and I slipped and slid reaching for a tree to break my fall.  My hands clasped the base, continuing to fall forward with a loud scrunch, as if I pulled a lever, flinging my legs spastically as I plopped both feet into the bed of the muddy creek.  Water splashed like the sound of a belly-flop into a pool.  I stood there expressionless, shaking my head, as I sunk deeper into the mud.  My hands fumbled for anything, reaching for tree roots to pull me out, as I peeled my feet up out of the glue.

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Train Hopping

Creepin’ Outta Rossville IM Facility

Train Hopping Huntsville

I camped in the woods for two weeks right outside of the Rocket Center, where my wife works, traveling 3,000 miles by freight to see her.  It looked like Train Hopping Huntsville lay ahead in my future, but who knew what the road left for me in these dreary days.

Each and every goodbye came with its own price, more heartache and more shed tears. I cried. I weeped. I moped for miles as I left Huntsville headed for Denver.

With no place to go, but the road, I felt at home again. I walked along Bob Wallace Highway towards the train tracks expecting a long, strenuous walk. Tears dribbled down my cheeks from my bloodshot pallid eyes as I wandered like a ghost down the sidewalk. FREDDIE stuck out his rear-end, cascading a series of empty, floor-less, 53s in the distance with double stacks yonder. I crept between the Dollar Store and a chain-linked fence, inching closer to the ballast along the tracks, keeping my head on a constant swivel. The sun skipped through the clouds making me more visible to the world, but with little hesitation I sprinted for cover, using the locomotive to shield me as I tiptoed parallel to the tracks. My eyes focused on the diagonal shadows shining through each car I roamed past, suicide was not my ride. I kept searching, until I found a well. My hands grasped the cold steel, climbing up the ladder and that thrill of ridin’ became all too familiar again. I lay down on the porch, shimmying my body underneath the grate, waiting patiently for that soft, soothing sound of air to calm my ears for departure.

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The Sunset Line Meets Border Patrol

Train Hopping Texas

I fiddled in and out of sleep as she turned sharply, winding along the cold steel tracks, shrieking and howling through the desert. Her cries masked the bellowing hollers of the coyotes in an almost soothing lullaby. I lay there shivering from the whistling wind of the night, chugging along towards El Paso.

Shortly the scintillating starry sky shifted to a heavenly sunrise. Its orange rays tenderly kissed my eyes waking me as she stopped in El Paso train yard. I lay there curled in the corner of the well, hoping to ride her through, further east into Texas. My eyes wandered to the wooden masts spaced evenly throughout the yard. They picked up a camera projecting down on my train. I remained still. The loud rhythmic beats from my chest echoed before me as I feared the worst.

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