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Brian Cray - Hitchhikin', Trainhoppin', and Wanderin'

Wanderin' the world, at will, by any means

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Archives for September 2015

Flagstaff Arizona

Phoenix Arizona for the Kelly

Phoenix Arizona

After a long season in WNY I took an adventure west for Phoenix Arizona. This starts a new chapter of my life with my fiancée while I find more temporary work in between my (our) travels.  My last day of the season I spent giving my goodbyes, telling stories and carving my nickname on one of the hangar’s telephone posts.

I set out for Dunkirk with Craig as I started my journey west with no plan.  I felt his pain as his daily drive home seemed like an eternity with traffic holding us up at the toll booth. After an hour and a half of driving we finally ended up in Dunkirk overlooking the calm ripples of Lake Erie as we winded down after a long day at work with some drinks. Another pilot, Chris, and his fiancée joined us for a night of partying.

Hitchhiking Dunkirk

Hitchhiking through Dunkirk to Erie, PA!

They got us into a club similar to Moose Lodge and I wolfed down dollar beers as we complained about work. We got louder and slurred our words as we continued sipping our beers. Ten dollars later and my drunk ass just wanted food, any kind of food. We stumbled out of the small private pub and wandered back to the Dunkirk Yacht Club where Chris owned a boat. I shuffled through the club’s fridge chowing down on grilled chicken breast. My fingers and faced covered in grease from my sloppy drunken state throwing the bones in Lake Erie as I finished each piece. Craig left shortly after we made our way onto the dock. It was past his bedtime. The rest of us continued to party until about 2 in the morning. I passed out on his boat in the small adjacent bedroom as we sloshed back and forth from the lake.

Erie PA

Wandering through Erie following a stream.

I awoke bright and early to a beautiful sunrise casting its orange reflection across the lake as the sky illuminated with each passing minute. My brain in a disheveled state as every sound made it more sensitive. All I wanted was more sleep, but they needed to head to work. I gave my goodbyes and proceeded towards I-90 walking through the desolate town of Dunkirk. As I wandered I noticed a small town slowly dying before my eyes. Abandoned stores lined the street as I continued to trek towards the highway for Erie, PA. I stood patiently by the, “no hitching” sign holding a sign that said, “ERIE” in big capital lettering. A few police officers drove by and after an hour of waiting a kind woman picked me up. I helped her move cake and brownies to the back seat to leave room for my bag and myself.

Mural Erie PA

Mural in Erie

Open fields covered in newly planted green shrubbery outlined the highway.   It felt like the countryside of Delaware or Oklahoma. We chatted briefly on the 40 minute drive and she dropped me downtown where I wandered around aimlessly. I followed a bicycle trail overlooking Lake Erie. Dobbins landing sat at the pier next to bicentennial tower. My veins pumped blood faster with the anticipation of climbing, but the area flocked with tourists and made it too risky. I hung out by the pier evading the giant seagulls. I wandered further downtown towards the rails following the tracks in hope of finding the train yard. My feet drug along thumping on each wooden track, mile after mile, as the sun scorched my sensitive skin. My mouth watered from lack of water and after awhile I hung out in the shade behind a train basking in the cool breeze shed from Lake Erie.

I searched for the yard with no luck and began wandering back towards the ritzy part of Erie. Abandoned buildings decayed next to the railroad leaving the possibility of exploration open to wander. As much as I hoped to check out the structures I saw too many shady characters eyeing me up along with my pack. My feet began to blister and succumb to throbbing pain. I received a phone call from my buddy, Marien, who lives in Chicago and decided to check the Greyhound for a cheap ticket.

Sears Tower

The Sears Tower

The night lulled in as my feet scuffed along on the shoulder of the highway. My body shutdown about a mile from the Greyhound, their offices closed already anyway. My eyes spotted a place to camp along the treeline atop a hill. I stealthily set up camp in the bushes and faded in and out of a hazy stupor. Hours passed and I awoke to a curious Rottweiler slobbering and sniffing my Bivy sack. I displayed no fear and neither of us felt threatened but regardless his presence startled me. He obeyed his master upon command and shortly trotted along into the darkness. I fell back asleep. Pain crept down my legs and settled in my feet spreading like an aura to my toes. The agony kept me constantly awake and alert until the sun rose in the early morning.

Despite a lack of sleep I felt refreshed and ready for a new day.  I searched for tickets to Chicago but the only one available for $50 left at 9 PM versus double the price at 9 AM. So I played the waiting game and crashed curled up in the corner on the Greyhound floor. Hours passed and I barely moved slowly drifting in and out of sleep as pellets of raindrops sprinkled against the window drowning out any other sounds in the building. I meant to check out Presque Isle via water taxi but the weather did not cooperate. I sat on the floor recuperating from the day prior until finally mustering up the strength to sit on the bench adjacent the departure area.

Millennium Park

Millennium Park

What followed made the day all worthwhile. I began chatting to a man with an interesting story. Tony, with a bicked head, tattoos covering his body similar to those in Dante’s Inferno, and a history of violence upon leaving the military sat beside me.  I listened to him talk about his life and beliefs along with explaining the meaning of his tattoos.

He spent much of his life reading books and claimed he surpassed 3,500 books recently.  We exchanged titles and he recommended reading: Diary of a Dope Fiend, John Milton’s Lost Paradise, Dante’s Inferno and the autobiography of the lead singer in Motorhead.  I scribbled them down on a napkin and stuffed it in my pocket for safe keeping.  We diverged to the topic of religion, spirituality and beliefs when my mind wandered and I questioned the meaning behind the five rings on his fingers.

At this point in my travels I realized I met the second Luciferian in my lifetime (The first, Aaron Donahue, while bicycle touring through Kansas in 2013).  He explained how each ring represented a crossroad of a past memory or mistake he made in his life.  He wore the rings on his fingers to remind him of the choices he once made, the destruction they caused him, and with each glance he instantly remembered the pain and sorrow those decisions left on his life.  He bore five rings symbolizing failed relationships from domestic violence, infidelity, money, etc. to bad decisions made with the law.

Downtown Chicago Union Pacific Train Yard

Downtown Chicago Union Pacific Train Yard

After serving his time in the Navy he got into trouble with the law due to his short-tempered fuse.  Bar fights involving fists, chairs, and broken bottles started his series of arrests in Erie, PA and caused him to miss out on the life of his daughter.  I met Tony on his last day of probation.  He decided to make a change in his life and leave his money-hungry ex-girlfriend who toyed with his emotions and used his money to spoil her girlfriend.  All the while he paid the rent of her pregnant daughter and low-life boyfriend because they could not afford it.  The constant blackmail for money and threatening to report him to his Parole Officer for assault forced him to stay in Erie, which made him unable to see his daughter in Wilks-Barr.  We both met a crossroad this day on our travels.  His sent him to Wilks-Barr on a Greyhound bus ride to see his daughter on her 7th birthday and mine sent me to Phoenix Arizona to start a life with my fiancée.

The conversation continued as he talked about the meaning behind his ink.  He was covered all over his body in tattoos.  A pig oozing with blood out of every orifice canvassed his bicep with the letters FTP below signifying, “FUCK THE POLICE!”  Beneath it the words poison sat in small cursive font at the joint of his forearm and bicep.  I saw a few buds tattooed on the inside of his arm to calm his poison.  They looked space out across the inside of his bicep like tumbleweeds.  An Ace of Spade covered his left hand and every knuckle abbreviated a life slogan by which he lived with a Luciferian backing.  A pistol outlined in a pool of red blood marked his left forearm and the last tattoo I saw, which really freaked me out, on his inner thigh.  A nun dressed in all black with a gas mask on her face kneeled down praying to God as I looked at the tattoo for more detail I noticed the cross she bore around her neck flipped upside down to symbolize a satanic meaning.  I talked to Tony for the better part of our trip to Cleveland.  He told me if I ever made it to Wilks-Barr look for Holier Than Thou tattoo and ask around for him.

Downtown Chicago

Staking out the yard in Downtown Chicago

I spent the early hours of the morning sleeping while the bus drove to Chicago.  My bag perched on my lap with my arms around it as I gently rested my head against it.  I dozed off for a few hours and when I awoke I journeyed through the rough neighborhoods of Chicago at 6 AM towards Racine Avenue.

I met up with Marien whom I had not seen since last November before I flew out of Chicago for China.  During the day while he worked I staked out the train yard in Downtown Chicago learning its daily operations and understanding how it all worked.  I learned trains enter in the receiving yard and from there are humped together as they are pushed deep into the yard.  This can be an all day process.  From there they are sorted, the couplers are inspected along with the actual intermodal stacks being inspected (this is where I was spotted by a Union Pacific worker and kicked off the train).  After sorting the trains they are put on the departure track and connected to the front of the train for their cross-country journey.  I learned all of this over the course of a few days while exploring downtown Chicago.  Union Pacific let me roam around after searching me for drugs and weapons.  I explored downtown Chicago with Marien seeing the Sears Towers and shortly after road the Greyhound cross-country again to Phoenix.

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