Trainhopping – Catchin out tonite!

Catchin out tonite
Catchin out tonite

Operation Night-Train. Catching out to California. This time I was better equipped. Besides the Cigarettes and a gallon of water I carried 3 Deluxe-Bagel, an apple and two bananas. Also I had a big piece of cardboard (“5000 miles paper”) and the Crew Change Guide. My second train-hop would be happening. From the guide I followed the instructions, sneaked onto the area of the Union Pacific and found myself within the Hobo-Jungle. Consisting of a bush and garbage. I found out,d that there were at least two people living in tents within the bushes. The place was crowded with mosquitos, even here in dry desert. I relaxed between the trash and waited for my train. I felt safe here in my hideout.

Hop out spot. Be safe hide well.
Hop out spot. Be safe hide well.

While I was lying around inside the bushes an orange Pick-Up passes two times. At the third time it pulls left before my hideout and a man gets out. Stares towards me. Not sure if he had seen me. But he was staring into my direction for a long time. So that must be the Bull. Shit. I heard a lot about the bull, about his laziness, lack of education, his encroaching when finding a train hopper and how to avoid him. In this case I stayed down as if frozen. He wasn’t moving either. Minutes passed. After some time he got back into the car and drove off.

Fuck, the bull might have seen me. Maybe… but nobody can charge me for lying in the bushes. Anyway a bad start for my mission. It will be way more difficult to catch the train if people in the yards are informed. I went deeper into the bushes, found a small grassland. There I relaxed and killed mosquitos that were attacking me constantly. Hours passed. Waiting for the train. I found funny hobo-graffiti around me: “Ain’t no wrong train.” or “And you think you gonna catch out tonite?” Yes i think so. I was at the right place.

It took some time until the first train was arriving but the Bull was on the runway and also the train didn’t stop. No chance to catch the train on the run. I flattened out my cardboard and tried to sleep within the mosquito swarm. I was really impressed by the cardboard. It kept me warm from the ground, very practical, free and I even thought of switching from my sleeping mat to good old cardboard. It can get dirty and got style. Vagabond-Style.

Night was falling. At some point I risked getting out of the bushes and sneaked along the yard. Completely dressed black I limped, still struck from a 40km walk the day before, around trying to find the crew change point. Where will the train stop. I randomly set up a base at a bushy slope. I had my cardboard making any place a home for me. Life can be that simple. Still, the night was terrible. There were 4 different trains. One was Junk, a short IM with double stacks and two Peddlars. No train stopped. Nothing to hop.

Warm dreams

Again it was chill, my sleeping bag tried its best in keeping me warm. I had different dreams that night. All with the same concept. I was in a scenario where I was cold and tired trying to find a warm sleeping place. And found a comfy couch, warm cubbies and stuff like that. At least after three of those dreams later sun was rising slowly. No train that night. What a disappointment. And at exactly 9am the Bull was driving around in his pick-up. As I was just exiting the bushes I saw him coming. Alarm! Back into hiding.

I don’t think of quitting. But I have to come up with a new plan. I had to catch a train somehow. But first to Walmart stocking up my reserves. Also I got me some Oropax. Optimizing my equipment gradually. I found out on the internet that I waited at the wrong place and that the crew change happened further south in the yard. In general for this yard the guide was: “Catwalk.” The Hop-Out was exposed. I would soon find out by myself, what this would mean. Best strategy: Only use at night. So, waiting again. I walked towards the yards, searched a shady place, unfolded my paperboard and took a nap.

Sleeping on the street.
Sleeping on the street.

That meaningless waiting. Glorious. Never when hitchhiking, there you are always tensed, concentrated. I was lying in front of some house, some man told me I should take care since I would go to jail if the police catch me here. America and homeless. People stopped randomly dumping garbage. Computer screens, paper boxes. Only when some suckers came rifling through the boxes taking everything of value I realized, this was a clothing donation spot. I wasn’t too well prepared for a cold night on the train so I found myself a leather jacket.

At some point a Mexican guy appeared, maybe around 45 years old, a small backpack and a sleeping bag in his hands. He asked for the best way to Chicago. He also wanted to catch a train that night but he had not hopped for 10 years now. He bought me a Coke and gave me a pair of socks as a present. In return he got a lighter from me. You take care of each other on the road. Sharing is caring!

Where I had slept and sat around all day a small community was forming. Another guy, suntanned, covered in tattoos with a bandana some kind of luggage (A packing of a tablet and a water bottle, fixed together with a string) arrived at our group. He started talking instantly as if we would know each other since years. “I was out of town for 2 years now, just come back and the cops are already after me again.” THE COOOOPS! Supposedly three cars, following him all day long. Just now nobody could see them, maybe coffee-break. Clear case of paranoia or police state? I gave him some cigarettes.

In the nearby yards I saw a human with a backpack, completely in black. The criminal look identified him clearly as train hopper. Short snack. “Are you catching out?” he asked me. “Yes, where are you going?” “California.”. My direction. His name is Roy. We teamed up. Roy was well prepared. One of his friends was apparently close to the author of the Crew Change Guide himself which makes you impressively mighty and he also had the newest Version. 2015. The holy book! We found a nice place near the entrance to the yard and waited for darkness. A great night was in front of us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.