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

Wanderin' the world, at will, by any means

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It’s Not Fuckin’ Rocket Science

Train Hopping Charlottesville

After a long drug-crazed weekend boozin’, watchin’ pupils turn to pinpoints with the flick of a flame and the exhalation of smoke, we hopped out of a jeep by the train yard in Charlottesville. Mike leaned over, staring with his bloodshot eyes, tired from sleepless nights of meth and hickory smoked ribs. In a raspy voice the words dawdled off of his tongue, “So long bro, til we meet again.”

Teardrop and I nodded as we clenched our packs and hoofed it down the street towards the steel. Not a single train worked so we lingered in the shadows of brisk air, sleeping, sprawled out among the weeds and ballast. The sun slowly advanced and as the shadows crept away, a fierce blaze of light stung my skin like an army of wasps. I fidgeted; sweat trickled down my limbs like tributaries, conjoining to pools of perspiration. I looked out along the tracks at the stationary blocks of grainers, boxcars and lumber racks, hoping a passing train might stop briefly, picking up either block. But, nothing happened, IMs just hummed by at uncatchable speeds, toying with our emotions like the flirtatious woman of my past.

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Train Hopping

Fractured From Her Tracks

Train Hopping Baldwin

I sided out in Lake City early morning on a suicide empty coal car. My fingers numbed from clinging to the brisk steel frame of her consist. I wondered; with Teardrop long gone I thought of setting up camp near the tracks in the adjacent woodland. I hopped off, planting my feet on the cobbles of ballast, and through the pure silence of night I only heard the skittering of stone underfoot. As I strolled along the train a rumbling struck against her and I stopped in my tracks. I glanced off and witnessed the mirage of a body poke out from an empty coal car and elated a smile across my lips. The sound of a pack flopped on the ballast and off jumped Teardrop. He stood in front of me, still shaking from the cold flow of her breath along the steel.

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Train Hopping

Head Wounds and Buffoons

Train Hopping Baldwin

Baldwin, FL reminded me a lot of Eugene or Portland, OR except it was an East Coast hub for dirty kids and drainbows. Bums, and people alike, marching down the medians flying signs, “Travelin’ Broke N Hungry” by the yard. They scored some cash and crashed track side, drinking steelies, and leaving behind an oasis of trash in the bushes.  Needless to say, with all the attention drawn to us from the large group of travelers, we felt eager to leave without a trace of our presence left behind for anyone to see, but our photos, capturing the serenity of humming along the steel.  But, if riding the iron snake were that easy everyone would gallivant around the country with a pack strapped to their back.

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Train Hopping

Hidin’ in the Shadows of Unit Coal

With the recent rainfall, and playing hide and seek from workers and the bull, I threw up my white flag.  Never again will I waste two days trying to infiltrate BNSF Memphis Yard to catch a southbound train.  With the elevated track in the middle of the yard the only logical access point is the drainage culvert of Johns Creek.  Ankle deep swamp water and soggy boots did not appeal to me in the slightest.  I packed up my bag and tramped it down Lamar Ave. towards the NS Yard off of Southern Avenue.  When I reached Lamar Ave. and Get Well St. I snickered as my eyes witnessed a raunchy sign, a woman holding her bra straps with panties on, the Catwalk of Memphis.  It looked empty with only one vehicle in the parking lot, a black, souped-up Escalade with chrome rims.  Some gangster stepped out with saggy jeans, a crisp white t-shirt and a blunt in his hand, puffing it furiously as his chain dangled side-to-side.

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IM Stuck in Carrier

Train Hopping Amarillo

I walked for hours that night towards the next yard off of Buchanan Street.  My legs felt like concrete blocks as they swung along the pavement, a hobbling Neanderthal.  Riding hard with limited sleep made long walks less desirable than normal, but the coal industry put me several miles away from my ideal location, to hop out the following day. Night soothed me shedding a freedom of solitude as I limped down the backstreets through Amarillo.  Stray Chihuahuas roamed the streets yapping and growling at me as I passed the BNSF yard office and tower.

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