Photos One Month Across 20 States

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I pulled my pack out of the back and slammed the door shut. The white Nissan slowly wheeled away around the bend and out of sight, and I was now officially alone. I promptly made my way through a hole in the fence, through the trees and out into the clear to reveal the glorious three track mainline on the outskirts of Inman Yard in Atlanta. The beginning of an incredible journey. I looked up and down the tracks, listening for even the slightest rumble of a train from either direction. I heard nothing, but nonetheless decided to make my way to the hopout. I sat in the humid summer heat for only a few hours before an autorack headed for Detroit pulled up right next to me. I was really itching to ride something, but I didn't want to mess with breaking into an autorack car. The only rideable option then was the head engine, and in the mid afternoon sunlight I scurried up that S.O.B and yanked on the handle. It was open. My heart skipped a beat as I darted inside and closed the door as quietly as I could, hoping the engineers in the car in front hadn't seen me (they almost certainly had, I thought). For the next day or so, I rode like a king in that engine, sitting in the engineer's comfy chair, taking naps on the floor out of sight, and opening the windows to feel the breeze as we sped through the landscapes of Tennessee and Kentucky.

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It was pretty easy going, albeit one incident in the middle of the night in Kentucky. The train was doing a crew change, so I went down into the bottom of the car and sat in the storage room and closed the door, just to be safe. Not 10 seconds later, I heard the entrance door of the car swing open, and the footsteps of a worker getting closer and closer to my hideout in the storage room. I was sure I was about to be pulled off, and my heart was beating out of my chest. The worker's footsteps grew ever closer, and then I heard the bathroom door swing open, and then shut. So here I was having a heart attack, and 6 inches over some rail worker was on the throne dropping the kids off at the pool with just a thin wall separating us. Incredibly, he didn't open the door to the room I was in, and he shortly left the car after finishing his business. I couldn't believe it. I heard the car door close, I started to breath normally again, and the train rolled on as usual. I got bored of waiting for the train to move again in Cincinnati, so I decided it was time to bail. It was at this moment I developed a strong disliking for Cincy's Queengate yard. Surrounded by water on 2 sides and an extensive container facility on the other, the layout is not very friendly for train hoppers like myself who want to escape this yard designed by Satan himself. After hopping over a couple lines of cars, I came to an open stretch of 4 lines I was going to have to sprint across to get to safety. As I poked my head out to see if the coast was clear, a Norfolk Southern police truck was staring right at me and immediately started moving in my direction. I quickly darted behind a line of cars, and as the truck passed me, I made a break for it right behind the truck and into the forest adjacent to the yard. I trekked through the forest around the yard, and eventually made it out and made my way downtown. I spent the rest of the day wandering around Cincinnati and hanging out by the Ohio River watching the barges pass under the bridge.

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I couchsurfed that night in Cincy, and took a bus out to Chicago the next day. I eventually made my way out to the Bensonville yard. I grabbed a book from a lending library, walked up to the yard, and not 20 minutes later a junk train headed to Milwaukee pulled up and we were off.

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Somewhere between Chicago and Milwaukee, the train came to a halt right next to a highway. The air went out, and I didn't feel like waiting so I hopped off and promptly made my way to a nearby dumpster for some cardboard. After making my sign, I was on the entrance ramp for no more than 2 minutes when I got a ride. The dude took me all the way to Milwaukee, what a guy. I went to sleep that night satisfied with my progress for the day.

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The next day was a different story, as I waited most of the day with no westbound trains. I had been given a refund for an earlier megabus trip I'd done, so I figured I better keep heading some direction west and my free ticket took me to the twin cities in Minnesota. I was sleepwalking due to days of little sleep. After a nap in the park that didn't seem to help, I eventually made my way to the UP South St.Paul yard. While I originally planned to ride the high line, I decided I would make my way south and connect with the overland from KC to North Platte. After a couple hours I finally snagged a southbound, and the next morning after little sleep and lots of corn fields I was in Des Moines.

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With absolutely no energy, I finally caved and grabbed the cheapest motel I could find. I slept for the next 18 hours uninterrupted, and I woke up feeling a lot better and ready to get moving. I quickly grabbed a junk train that looked like it was headed to KC to get broken up, but unfortunately it turned east. I got off at the first chance I could, but I was on the complete opposite side of Des Moines and highway 35 that would take me south to KC. I got a ride to the entrance ramp of 35, and after being there about 30 minutes with my sign, a cop pulled up and gave me a ticket and a court date, with no warning (wtf?!). I tried hitching in a different spot, but another cop threatened to send me to jail if he saw me again. Out of options, I eventually made my way to the next town south to try again. I got a couple rides down the freeway, but I got dropped off in a small town and things really stalled. I watched more tractors and horse drawn carriages going down the road then I ever had in my life, and I started to wonder if I had been dropped off in some sort of 19th century alternate universe. I stayed in the same spot for a day and a half before a trucker pulled up and took me all the way there. The heat was absolutely unbearable in KC, so I wasted no time and made my way to Neff Yard and grabbed a midnight train headed to north Platte. One of my favorite rides of the trip, we only stopped for cc's as we cruised along the 3 track main.

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The next morning, the train slowed way before the yard and I easily made it off with no problems. I spent the entirety of the day walking around the yard to the westbound hopout. As I trekked through the corn fields, I found a lake in the middle of nowhere. I spent a while swimming in the lake and sitting on the banks. As I was leaving, 2 dudes pulled up in a car right as I was headed out. They happened to be my age, just chilling at this lake spot goofing off and drinking beer. They kicked me down a few, we got to talking, and they were really intrigued with what I was doing. They insisted they buy me a meal, so we went and ate and had a good time before they dropped me off near the hopout.

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The westbound hop out was tricky, the trains were going too fast to catch on the fly and I think the bull saw me at one point. I didn't want to go any deeper into the yard with booze in my pack, knowing I'd probably get an MIP. I decided instead of risking losing a leg or getting thrown in jail, I'd start trying to hitch to Denver. Through a series of rides the next day, I was in Denver that night. My friend Daniel was coming through Salt Lake the next day, headed back to North Carolina from a summer job he'd had in Idaho, and hitting up a bunch of national parks along the way. I really didn't want to miss that connection, so I used most of the money I had left on a bus to SLC. I arrived the next morning, explored the city, ate all the samples at the farmer's market, and tried to get some more sleep.

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Daniel came through that night, and we went off headed toward the Great Salt Lake to camp for the night.

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My solo travels were over, and we spent the next couple days driving around Utah and Colorado like madmen hitting as many cool spots as we could. Our first day, we went to Zion and hiked Angels Landing, which had some epic views.

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The next day we took a detour to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We also went through Monument Valley and camped out in a nearby town.


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Day 3, we drove to 4 corners, took a stop to Mesa Verde National Park, and rolled in Arches National Park late afternoon. Arches was so amazing we spent the night there and decided to spend as much time in the park as we could.




Daniel was meeting up with a family friend, so we headed to Colorado Springs that afternoon to stay with them for a couple days. Actual sleep and more than a can of vienna sausage for meals was a nice change of pace, and I spent most of the time gladly lounging around and napping. We were planning to go 1500 miles in just 2 days, so we got up early and hit the road strolling across the midwest, where after a full day of driving we ended up camping in Missouri. We camped that night next to a pond filled with noisy bullfrogs, so it was a night of little sleep. We were up early again and on the road for another relatively uneventful drive. We drove all day and stopped at Daniel's brother's house in Roanoke, VA. After a fantastic home cooked meal, I slept like a baby in a recliner in his living room. We had a slow morning, and around noon we were off like a herd of turtles headed for North Carolina. Daniel lives in Fayetteville, but he dropped me off in Raleigh where I was supposed to connect with a ride back to Atlanta from the rideshare board on Craigslist. They never came, and I only hitched a couple exits south as the sun started to set. Prepared to camp near the ramp for a night, instead an old man in a pickup took me down to Lincolnton, NC. He owned a pawn shop and let me sleep in this giant mobile home he had parked right next to the shop. Had a bed, a couch, and a bathroom. It was one of the coolest places I slept the whole trip.

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He agreed to take me down 85 to Gaffney, SC before he got one of his friends to take me all the way to Greenville, SC. My day took a very strange turn when an old truck pulled over to give me a ride at an on ramp. The driver did construction, his wife sold houses, and the driver's brother next to me in the back was probably a former traveler, but his mind was completely gone. He probably told me he road a freight train when he was younger 200 times. We pulled off the highway because they were trying to sell a house. They said they would take me all the way back to Atlanta(!?) after the sale. We ended up taking multiple stops to get pills, weed, and food. The driver was high as a kite and drinking, swerving all over the place. The wife was yelling at him to drive better and the driver was yelling at his brother in the back to shut up and stop talking about freight trains. My ears could barely take it. Eventually, the mentally ill brother got out of the car and just started walking and the swerving stopped. Things were going smoothly now as we were only about 30 mins from my exit when. suddenly the car started to shake. It ended up breaking down right there on the highway. Miraculously, we coasted to the next exit. The arguing resumed, and a nearby hotel threatened to call the cops. At this point, I decided to dip out and get away from this volatile family. I thanked them for everything, and started off down the road. Fortunately, my mom was able to come pick me up as I was pretty close to home at that point. I was home that night sleeping in my own bed that night, my month on the road was done.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip. 20 states, some awesome memories, great friends made, and stories that will be told many times over for a long time. For now, I'm taking a break to get some work and some cash, but I'm going to hit the road again in October and hopefully make it to the Jambo!
 

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Tude

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#2
Epic trip!!! And dam you saw a lot!!! Thanks for the write up and pics!
 

Koala

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#3
awesome photos dude, what camera (or phone!?) do you have?
Sounds like it was heaps of fun. Haha so awesome you made it all the way back to Atlanta that last night, isn't it crazy how the road just always seems to work out?
got me longing for the road again, I've been stationary for just under 2 weeks now...2 weeks 2 long!
 
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#4
It really is...everything just perfectly fell into place. My plan was to not hit the road again until October for the jambo...but I'm already missing it and it's been a week haha. We'll see how long I can take it
 

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#5
Hell ya man, great trip! You we down in my neck of the woods in Arches. The ticket sucks, that's why I do not travel east of colorado. Again, great story. Safe travels
 
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Hell ya man, great trip! You we down in my neck of the woods in Arches. The ticket sucks, that's why I do not travel east of colorado. Again, great story. Safe travels
Yeah, I don't think I'll ever go back to Iowa again so hopefully it won't be a problem haha. Arches was awesome, probably the highlight of the trip. Scenery was just unreal...and thanks man, you do the same.
 
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awesome photos dude, what camera (or phone!?) do you have?
Forgot to answer that, but I have an LG stylo. It's relatively new I suppose, and the camera is alright. I'm not much of a photographer, but the photos I took came out way better than expected. Like the sunset pictures, I was shocked they were even half decent. I guess I just got lucky :D
 
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#9
Great story but I'm confused about the cop encounter, is it illegal to hitch in Missouri or something?
I was in Iowa, and no according to state laws it isn't. They told me the place where I was was a popular spot for hitchhikers so they were giving tickets to try and stop it, which is bullshit. I just left the state, I'll probably never go back
 
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#10
Sounds like every day life for me.
Good story and this is what it's all about .

Put aside the clans and rail way youngsters claiming to be gangs . This post above is truly a rail riders life who's seeking comfort away from the world
 

Matt Derrick

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#11
Awesome thread man, i loved reading your story and Che King out your awesome pictures. Recently had to skip out on zion (too hot) but seeing your pictures makes me regret that decision (maybe I'll check k it out this fall). I'm adding this to our featured threads page! (and edited the title slightly) Also, hope to see you at the jambo!
 
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Awesome thread man, i loved reading your story and Che King out your awesome pictures. Recently had to skip out on zion (too hot) but seeing your pictures makes me regret that decision (maybe I'll check k it out this fall). I'm adding this to our featured threads page! (and edited the title slightly) Also, hope to see you at the jambo!
Thank you! I was really bummed to not be able to stay at Zion longer. I really wanted to hike The Narrows, but we decided to skip the extra day and see the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, so it turned out ok. Very cool to be a featured thread too!

I'm hoping to make it to the jambo. I have to get my finances straightened out, but I'll try my best to make it!!
 
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#13
Lotta Amish people between here and Iowa...that's how u ended up in the 19th century lol
 

Hobo Mud

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#15
I really enjoyed reading this post. Made me feel like I was there with you. What a great description of your journey. Noticed you mentioned Tennessee and Kentucky, both states are some of my most favorite states to train hop in. Great post. Safe travel's.
 
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#17
Awesome writing. "dropped the kids down in the pool" Ha!. Im a travlen fool and have many yrs ago hopped a couple of trains but am mainly a neophyte in that profession. Just rambled to the Mojave preserve down in SE Californication, which was a crazy assed trip. Saw and heard many trains and wished I could've figured the mechanics of finding the yard, getting the right friggin train, etc. So it was good getting some info. I scanned much of this but will get back to it soon and hopefully lets chat
 
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#18
Great story but I'm confused about the cop encounter, is it illegal to hitch in Missouri or something?
Tho its been a while since I hitched in the SE, yes its illegal in parts and in many of the copper's (twisted) morays. I was literally threatened by a town pig ---- "next time i see you youll be getting a ride to a ditch outside of town"--his words verbatim. And Im sure there's been many hitchers who actually did get that ride down there. I grew up in the south. Ya, its changed some, but the old dark hatred still apply
 
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#19
Nice read. Sounds like an adventure, to be sure. I'm hoping to experience something like that someday. *^__^*
 

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