"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Monday, July 7, 2008

7/7/08: La Grande, OR

I was right not to remove the sleeping bag. I awoke at about 4:45 to the sight of another train passing by very slowly, with me in full sight, only saved by the fact that it wasn't fully light yet. A quick scan of the area quickly showed that we were pulling into a train yard. This bothered me immensely! Like everyone, I've heard the horror stories about the railroad 'bulls'; security thugs who will beat you to a pulp and maybe, as the urban legend goes, shoot you.

We quickly began to try to make ourselves as hidden as possible, but being on the outside of a car, that wasn't very effective. It basically boiled down to hopping onto the side of the car on the opposite side of human eyes. The train NEVER broke 35 mph, and the rail on which we stood was pretty wide, with a natural hand hold to use so it wasn't scary. Kind of fun at first, but that would be something we'd be doing quite frequently through the day.

After we were dodging the yard workers for a short time, the train started to move a short distance out of the yard, and we were thinking we were back on our way. But just after we got out of the main section, our little "Stop n' Go Special" stopped and STAYED stopped. This was at around 5am, and by 5:30 we'd decided to get off the train and hide in some of the sagebrush in case someone came along.

Then we waited....

and waited...

By 7:30 or 8:00 I felt comfortable enough in my little hiding place, and had seen very little activity near us so I rolled some cigs, arranged all me stuff for a quick re-boarding then crawled under a bush into some shade and must have slept for at least an hour and 15 minutes uninterrupted by anything.

Around 10 or 10:15 I heard Rich saying in a loud whisper "Dude, get up... it's leaving!"

After 5+ hours--- it was finally moving again. Just like some of my Amtrak trips!

The joy of moving again was short- lived. It would seem that this train was meant to stop at least every 15 minutes, and would RARELY get over 20- 25 mph. ALL DAY LONG!



Go slow for 15 minutes...



We eventually figured out where we were, and how little progress we were making! By 3pm, we had been on the train for 18 hours, and had gone barley over 200 miles! It was easy, for me anyhow, to remember that I had paid nothing so couldn't really complain, but Rich was having difficulty with that idea. He had been a pretty good travel partner to this point, but about now began his incessant bitching! And whining. Yeah, the progress sucked, and it was frustrating, but you TRAIN HOPPED FOOL! Do you expect a sleeper car on a non-stop? It was about here that I figured I'd get to La Grande, and resume my trip...alone!

La Grande eventually came. To our great relief. We hopped off the train from and proceeded to find a gas station to get some, water and COFFEE! I'd been plagued by headaches all day. I initially attributed them to a lack of caffeine, but in retrospect it may have been Rich's vocal menstruation. Not sure to this day.

It was here that the day provided me with one of the coolest moments of the trip, and essentially slapped me back into line mentally.

I was filling my coffee cup at the gas station, and getting ready to go pay for it when a guy walks in and tells me that he had been waiting for us outside, and asked if we were travelers. I thought it a silly question, since I was carrying a 50# pack, but let that go. I said yes, and he asked "Are you okay on money? Do you have enough to get food?" Of course, money has been a nagging problem for a couple weeks, so I told him I wasn't really sure; not an outright lie! I wasn't!

Then he handed me $5.

He said that he had done a lot of this, and wanted to return some of the help HE'D received along the way. I was dumbfounded, but not totally surprised.

Rich came out of the restroom, I paid for my coffee and Mt. Dew (love my caffeine) then told him about it when we began walking toward the McDonald's, and its Dollar Menu, the guy had told me how to find.

I thought about splitting it with Rich, but I decided not to. He had been continuing his whining since we got off the train, and he obviously had a mild disdain for the town and its people. Maybe life in general, but either way, if he wants to put out that energy, let him; I'll get my 3 Double Cheeseburgers, fries, and another coffee and have even nicer things to say about the fine people in Oregon and La Grande in particular.

On the way to McDonald's I told Rich that I was done with the train hopping. I enjoyed it at night, but having to hide from people all day was draining and I really hated that. The best part of my trip is that, in addition to spectacular scenery and cheap travel, I've met some spectacular people; the guy at the gas station came along at the perfect time to remind me of that. By now, Rich stood in stark contrast to him. I was now hoping Rich would simply go away. I even thought about telling him so, but figured I'd see if his attitude improved first. I liked the guy when he wasn't mimicking the He Bitch.

We got to McDonald's at about 6:00. From there, I decided to head up to the I-84 on- ramp and see about catching a ride. I told Rich he could come along and see how it went with two people, or go catch his train. He was terribly conflicted and really couldn't decide what to do.

I empathized with that! I even offered him the use of my virgin dice.

He came along, and when we went to sit down, lo and behold, along comes the first State Trooper of the trip! He asked what we were up, we told him we were trying to catch a ride, and he said something to the effect that this was a great place to do it, and in fact HE had gotten from Portland to La Grande in about 8 hours once. He wasn't really harassing as much as checking on us, although he did ask for our ID's. He wrote everything down, but didn't run anything. I thought that was odd, but whatever. Normally I have a real problem with searches without probable cause, and figured I may eventually go to jail because of my refusal to submit to an identity search because some ego-driven cop just wants to harass me. This guy wasn't coming off that way, and seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing.

We must have spent 20 minutes chatting with Trooper Madsen on the side of the road, and came away with clear understandings of the hitching and camping laws in Oregon. He even told me of a perfect place to lay out the bedroll that night, and informed me that walking up the interstate was just fine in Oregon. "This aint Washington" he said.

We sat there for probably an hour after the trooper left, and then Rich was heading off to explore his training possibilities. We shook hands, exchanged the obligatory promises to stay in touch, and he was on his way. I was a little sorry to see him go, but not entirely. I was rather enjoying the solitude now, and figured catching a ride with be much easier alone!

I called Laina, and while I was chatting with her, I look over and guess what...

No, not a ride.


He's back.

He said he ran into a possible ride with some people who were trying to decide rather or not they were going toward Idaho or Washington. Apparently they said if it turned out to be Idaho, they'd swing by the ramp.

So, Rich was back and seemingly ready to hitchhike. He threw his thumb in the air and was pretty animated about it. Borderline obnoxious, but he got some smiles and waves from people and made thumbing a bit more interesting for awhile.

But no rides.

I decided to bed down at about dusk, told Rich he could hang out, and we could get to the library on Tuesday and try it again; whatever. He decided to stay, and even went and bought a couple 40 oz. beers. We got to talking a bit, and I found out a bit more about him and possibly why he tends to come off as angry.

Again, I can empathize.

It felt great to lie down on something soft and the idea of a good night's sleep REALLY appealed to me after no sleep on the train. I had a long talk with Laina about some things, and came up with an ambitious outline for a plan... I also chatted with Chris about some of the metaphysical aspects of this, which seem to get cut off in some sense when I'm too domesticated.

Just as I was about to doze off, I head a loud cracking of a branch, and shot up thinking someone was coming down to say hello... metaphorically of course.

To my shock, it was a DEER. We were camped out in a little tree grove between the on- ramp & the I-84, and there were two or three deer just milling around in there. They didn't seem to mind us much. A few minutes later, another one arrived, this one a larger buck on the other side of the tree I was under... maybe 6-8 ft. from my feet. I tried to dig out the camera, but the only pic I could get was from about 12- 15 ft.

A nice way to fall asleep: visited by deer and listening to music.