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Travel

A Doomed Train-Hopping Trip

Hitchhiking, hot tubs, hiding from the cops, oogles, moped rallies, and beef jerky.
July 3, 2012, 5:00pm

Photos by Mike Biery

I had been itching to go on a trip when I was told my job would be relocated over the summer, putting me out of work for a few months. It just so happened that a friend asked me to drive all his stuff out to Portland. I would be driving from Missouri to Portland all by myself so I asked a buddy of mine, a famous moped rider named Mike, if he wanted to tag along with the promise of his first freight-hopping trip once we got to the Pacific Northwest. His response was an emphatic yes, so we took off, plowing across the Midwest, listening to Big Freedia and eating beef jerky.

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Once we got to Portland, it started raining and didn’t stop the entire time we were there. Mike fell in love with a stripper who was dancing to Morrissey at the club. I got to see my friend Lil Nate who I hadn't seen in years. Our buddy Pat was in town and wanted to go back down to Denver, so we told him we’d meet him at the train yard the next day and ride freight all the way to Denver.

The next day, we gathered up our gear and took the bus out to the Secret Train-hopping Spot. We waited three hours before jumping the hotshot to Denver. On the train, Mike filmed himself making a lot of PB&J sandwiches, Pat doodled, and I went to sleep, having already made the trip several times before. We arrived in western Idaho in the late afternoon. After a few hours of waiting for the Missoula-bound train to show up, we realized we were on the complete wrong side of the train yard and had to walk through to get to the other side.

There was one problem: Mike had packed way too much gear. Needless to say, he wasn't able to hide very well and before we knew it some rail workers had spotted us. I figured the best thing to do was to be up front and approach them so they wouldn’t think we were serial killers. But when I popped up and yelled, “Hey! How’s it going! I’m sorry to startle you!” it scared the shit out of them.

“Fine!” one of the workers yelled, backing away very slowly.

I had a distinct feeling that we were going to get busted. When I turned on my police scanner, sure enough, he was calling the police. Ten minutes later, the cops arrived and started checking all the train cars. Before we knew it, they had found us. They ordered us to get out and put our hands up. The cops seemed pretty surprised that we didn’t have huge beards or tattered clothing—Mike’s a skater, Pat’s an artist, and I’m a manager at a cookie shop—we all looked pretty clean cut and I think they cut us some slack because of that.

The cops patted us down and asked us the usual questions: "Have you ever been caught trespassing on railroad property before?” Pat and Mike said no. I figured I’d tell them the truth since they were going to look it up anyway and said “Yes.” They turned out to be super cool about it.

"Well, son, since you were honest with us we'll let it slide this time, but we're gonna have to drive you out to Rathdrum and you'll have to hitchhike from there.”

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Rathdrum is a tiny right-wing town in the middle of fucking nowhere. With a little convincing, we got the officer to drive us a little further. He dropped us off in Liberty Lake, a god-awful place with a bunch of crack heads roaming around like flesh-eating zombies. We slept there and started hitching the next morning.

Three men hitchhiking together are basically asking not to be picked up. We waited seven long hours in the sun. Some oogles showed up and started harassing us, saying they lived in a house called “the Pirate Ship.” Finally, we caught a ride to Coeur D'Alene where it was pretty much smooth sailing up to Kellogg, Idaho.

In Kellogg, it looked like it was going to rain and was getting dark so we attempted to hitchhike a bit longer and failed. We all threw in and got a cheap motel room. Inside, we compared sunburns and watched the History Channel. Mike Skyped with some girls and jerked off in the bathroom. The next morning we went out into the rain to try and hitchhike. We rapped in the rain to keep our spirits up and then decided that Pat should go down to the interstate and hitch alone, thereby increasing our chances. About two hours later, a trucker pulled over.

He thought Pat was a girl and was pretty disappointed when he found out he was just a skinny dude with tight pants AND had two other guy friends who needed a ride. The trucker, whose name was Dale, saved us. We climbed in all soggy and Dale said he’d drive us the final 120 miles to Missoula.

Dale, the trucker, was harmless but weird. He came from a small town in Missouri near the Ozarks and lived in a trailer park. He told us about how through online dating he had found a Nigerian woman in Brooklyn who was going to move out west and live in his trailer with him.

When we got dropped off in Missoula, we high-fived each other, ate some McDonald’s, and then hoofed it to the train yard. We ended up waiting about 30 hours in the rain for our train. Yes, it was so precious. Everything that could go wrong on Mike’s first train trip did. He complained and who could blame him? We were ready to give up. I got on my phone and discovered that the next Greyhound to Denver left in an hour and the station was a mile away. Mike and I made a split-second decision to leave Pat to ride the train by himself and go catch the bus.

The Missoula Greyhound station was chock full of wingnuts. There was the drunk native guy screaming about how he was getting ripped off over five bucks, some oogles going to the rainbow gathering, and some just plain shifty-eyed motherfuckers. A Latina girl started talking to us from the moment we got on the bus and didn't stop until we were halfway to Denver. We talked about traveling, black metal, astronomy, and you know, cheesy romantic shit. She was from Mexico and had the cutest accent and the most beautiful smile.

Later, our bus broke down and she ended up sitting next to me. To make a long story short, one thing led to another and soon we were making out and she was giving me a hand job. Later, she invited me back to her house in the city. I told her there was a moped rally I had to attend (because I’m a complete fucking loser!). We parted ways early in the morning. Mike and I made our final bus transfer to Denver. Once we got there we met up with Pat, who seemed to have had a pretty interesting train ride. Hearing all about it made Mike and I glad we took the Greyhound.