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The (Kwik)Wet(lem) Coast Catch-Out

PART I : Catching Out from Van

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I got out to the trail, east of Vancouver, as the sun was falling low behind ominous clouds. A woman walked by me with her dog in the cold silence, giving me an uncertain look as I said hello; two ravens were perched in an aspen on my right, letting me know of their mutual displeasure. It had rained all morning, and the ground of what was once Kwikwetlem land (now an industrial park) was still soaked and teeming with slugs. I walked down to the curve of the path, and first heard and then saw behind the trees a train barreling in from the East...

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It looked like I had found the spot… now I just needed to find the way up to the tracks. I found it, down a dirt path beside the bridge. I clambered up the steep slope, past the jungle and mosquitoes. I peeked out and looked right – across the bridge – and then left – into the not-so-distant Canadian Pacific train yard. I wondered if some bull could see me, already, and was going to come kick the shit out of me. However, I’d heard that mostly the railway police in Canada were pretty decent guys. Still, that didn’t warrant total disregard for some good camouflage and sneaky-sneak, and so I donned my balaclava, and then I waited up near the top of the hobo trail, within some thorn bushes just below the tracks, for east-bound trains and darkness to come. But only west-bound trains came roaring in over the bridge for a while -- their slack taking up in thunderous BANGs as they slowed into the yard.

I figured I’d wait it out here, tonight; my source had told me that East-bound trains left just after midnight and then again about 4 am. So, I went down under the bridge and smoked and watched the sun setting in beautiful-but-intermittent rays of orange and yellow, down the calm flow of the Pitt River....

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After a while, I decided I'd head back to the main trail and look at the train-yard, again. I got back and looked out through the trees… and saw a big engine, light ablaze, coming towards me, towards the bridge and East!.... but I thought it was just making trains in the marshalling yard.

… But then I noticed it had a lot of cars on it – maybe more than 100. Could this be it?! I quickly ran down and then up the little dirt trail to the tracks, and hid back in the thorn bushes, watching the black windows of the red CP engine chug by. I waited about 10 cars.

Suddenly I dashed out in the fading light, across two tracks to the far third line. Shit! Why was this train coming out on the third tracks?! I thought they were supposed to take the right tracks! I looked down at my feet. The ground was totally uneven, with old rail spikes and unused tracks littering the space.

Fuck it, I've gotta try. I said to myself.

I looked at the train cars passing – a suicide, another suicide, machinery on the porch, suicide – fuck! all terrible! And then I saw one – a grainer car, grey, with a nice steel slab front porch and high ridges running around it. I ran, stumbling along after the train, but shit, even though I could see the three bolts on the wheels, that fucker was going fast! I reached for the ladder, but it yanked right out of my hands, and good thing, too: ahead of me a concrete abutment started, separating the tracks on the bridge. Fuck! This was impossible!

I went back and looked towards the yard... still looked quiet. Did a bull see me? Ahead of me, at the yard, I just saw stillness and dead trains. But I was starting to get really anxious that someone had seen me, by now, fumbling around beside the too-fast train. Hoping that I didn't blow out the spot too much, I went back to the little trail and waited in the thorn bushes, feeling dejected and a bit useless. Anxiousness was about to take me, when suddenly, I heard the screeeeeeech of the train's breaks screaming over the roar!

What is he doing? I was thinking to myself.

The train now suddenly started moving backwards....

Oh shit! I thought, Maybe he is just building trains in the marshalling yard... maybe if I would have got on there, it would have just brought me back into the yard!

I decided to wait and see.

The train fully stopped, and I debated... will he go? Is this the train I should get? It's not an intermodal... what if it is just going to Kamloops? What if it's going somewhere else, entirely?!

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But then, it started to move forward again, and I had enough of all that uncertainty –
"Who dares, wins!" I whispered, and my confidence lept up -- and suddenly I dashed out alongside the moving train and just jumped for a ladder of a grainer.

Shit! The porch had two huge holes cut in it above the wheels! I looked at the other car, connected to it: a beautiful flat front porch. Divine providence? I jumped across to the other ladder, threw my bag into the hole, and pressed myself against the porch floor. Had anyone seen me? Would he stop again? ... but he didn't.

The train continued across the Pitt River, through the intermodal yard, and soon I was watching the last light fade in the sky above the Fraser River as we went past Mission and the rest of the Lower Mainland.... I had done it! My first catch-out! And fucking lucky, too.

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*****

PART II : Out of the Cold and into some Heat

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I rode the cold steel through the fucking cold night, shivering most of the way, even though I had a ground-barrier and fleece liner and a tarp. The mountains be cold, son.

The next morning we rolled through Kamloops. I hadn't gotten any sleep, and covered myself and my ruck with my green tarp that seemed like a not-so-inconspicuous way to hide. But at that point I didn't give a fuck. I faded in and out of consciousness, as the sun rose yellow-orange on the huge trains and rising steam and small square buildings of the arid city.

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As the train entered into the proper-tall mountains, I started to get very paranoid. There were so many workers, all along the tracks, at random places just in the middle of the bush! I couldn't sit up. So, I just laid on the porch and looked up at the treed-slopes of mountains, and blue lakes and big sky.

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Suddenly there was a crossing, and another CP worker was just standing there, staring at the train! What the fuck?! I was sure he saw me. Paranoia crept through me like a cold shiver.

Just outside Revelstoke, the train stopped. Was the bull coming for me? Was it a crew change? I hid for ten minutes under my tarp, but was baking in the high-noon-sun.

"Fuck this," I said, and packed my shit and wandered down the train. Bull or no Bull, I was gonna see what's what.

Then, I found a mid-train engine – my heart skipped a beat. If I could get in, it would be air-conditioning, bottled water, and sittin' pretty all the way to Calgary.

Suddenly, the train's breaks hissssssed. Shit! Was it leaving?

The engine was an ancient looking blue beast, and I climbed up like a hobbit climbing onto a huge slumbering blue troll, and walked along the catwalk. Fuck! The door was locked. I walked back off and went to the nose door. Usually, I had read, the nose doors were left open. It was open! But fuck, the inner fire door was closed and locked.

I started to get a feeling of panic. The train's breaks were hissing occasionally, still, and I was almost sure the train was going to just take off and leave me there.

I ran back down the length of train and I ended up getting back on the same car I came in on (it was actually the best porch), and about ten minutes later, the train finally started to go down into Revelstoke....

My fear and the heat were suffocating. I didn't know if I could stay on this train. I looked at my map. Fuck! Revelstoke might not even have been half-way! I had no food. I was out of water. I had gravely mistaken the distance, and the time it would take for that great metal snake to get across the mountains. After a night and half a day, I knew I couldn't stay on another day and a half -- and definitely didn't want to face a bull in the Revelstoke yard.

As we cruised into Revelstoke, the train slowed to a crawl, and I hid under my tarp – only to spy two CP workers standing directly beside the train, and I think one of them looked right into my eye beneath the tarp!

I had to get off, before the yard. I now felt sure a bull would be waiting with fists or a hefty trespassing charge.

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The train was stopping in downtown Revelstoke, and as it slowed, I jumped off – right along the main street, in the high-noon sunlight, wearing my balaclava and black shirt, camo pants, hauling my ruck and tarp. I rushed down to behind an RV and threw off my balaclava, pulled out my earplugs, and quickly changed my shirt to a bland white t-shirt. I wasn't sure if anyone had seen me, or not... but now I felt slightly less conspicuous – slightly less than some anarcho-terrorist-looking-motherfucker.

I was done with the train.

I saluted goodbye to her, and started hiking out to the highway, where I hitched a ride all the way to Calgary with two party-going First-Nations millennials.

But that’s another story....

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******* END OF TRANSMISSION ********
 
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