For those of you who have not ridden a train and would like to get an idea of what the experience is like, I’m going to share my ride from Indianapolis to Seattle and back, posting a few pictures along with with excerpts from newpaper columns I wrote about the experience.
Some of the pictures were taken from my seat and a couple were taken during stops. For the trip through the Cascade Mountain range, I had access to the last car and was able to stand and take pictures out the back window. I suppose when nobody was looking that I could have went out on the platform but I was afraid of getting caught. The conductor in his opening announcements, promised that anyone caught smoking on the train would be put off at the next stop and I thought they might do the same thing to anyone caught opening a door marked ‘do not open’. It’s a shame there is no adventure left in my soul.
I could have used some of that adventuresome nature when the trip started in Indianapolis. Cue the detective music.
The blond haired lady, multiple facial piercings and all, got on the train and walked straight towards me. “I noticed back at the station that you have a cell phone. “ She said. “If I give you five bucks, would you call someone in Lafayette and tell them I’m coming home? I need somebody to pick me up and I left my cellphone at home.”
The interruption surprised me. I had not yet gotten settled in my seat for the 5 hour ride to Chicago and it looked as if a new adventure was falling right into my lap.
Had the girl not been wearing torn jeans and a threadbare ‘Black Sabbath’ tee shirt, the train car setting, a girl in trouble, the smell of stale cigarette smoke on her breath and the request for help could have come straight out of a 1950’s detective novel. All she needed to be one of Mickey Spillane’s damsels in distress. were a few less piercings, a Poodle skirt topped by a Peasant blouse and, oh yeah, more bosom. Quite a bit more bosom, as a matter of fact.
All I needed was a few less years of wear and tear, a Lucky Strike dangling from my lower lip; red, watery, smoke filled eyes, and a rakish Fedora perched on the back of my head to complete the reincarnation of Mike Hammer. Well, that and a wisecrack to show her who’s boss. I didn’t have the cigarette or the hat but I did have the snappy comeback.
“’I’d be more than happy too, babe, ” I told her, reserving my huskiest voice for the ‘Babe’ part. “But, unfortunately, I don’t know anyone from Lafayette.” (note 1).
“I already know who I want to call, dumba….. Oh, never mind.” Her voice trailed off and Instead of falling into my arms, weeping for all she was worth, she whirled and walked away.
On the return trip, I awoke when we stopped in Whitefish, Montana, a picturesque town in the Rocky mountains on the western edge of Glacier National Park.
A lady boarded the train here and took a seat across the aisle from me. She introduced herself to me as Pearlene and over the next 24 hours, she turned out to be an invaluable resource for information because she travels this route several times a year between her home in Whitefish and her relatives in Minnesota.
We stopped to take on passengers in Williston, North Dakota, about as desolate a place as I could imagine.
A group of grizzled, suntanned but tired looking men got on. Pearlene leaned across the aisle and said in a falsetto whsper. “Wildcatters. Frackers from the Dakotas Oil Rush getting a few days off.” I looked out the window at a city of drilling rigs to the north as I overheard two of the oil men discussing whether it had been 52 or 53 days since they had some time off.
Instantly, the Walter Mitty in me wanted to be one of those guys. In my younger days when I resembled James Dean and having watched the movie ‘Giant’, I considered moving to Texas to be a wildcatter but decided against it when I couldn’t confirm that Texas television carried ‘The Bugs Bunny hour’ , at the time my favorite TV show. I wasn’t going any place where I couldn’t watch that wascally wabbit.
I tried to take pictures while traveling through the 50 or 60 miles of Glacier National Park but it was getting dark and its impossible to capture the grandeur of that place with a camera, especially when its a moving target.
Well, that’s enough. I have already spent too much time messing with this. I would like to have really made this a slick production but there are actual important things in my life that need attention.