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

Wanderin' the world, at will, by any means

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Archives for April 2016



March 17th 2016 marked the happiest day of my life as I stood there nervously awaiting the moments to say my vows and the words, “I do!” My wife looked absolutely stunning like an Egyptian Goddess. Her eyelids tinted gold with bright red lipstick and luscious lashes made me break out into a smile while Juan did her hair and makeup. I knew my life in that moment would forever change and shortly we would travel the world together by any means. Experiencing the Earth’s most beautiful masterpieces with my soulmate made me look forward to the rest of our adventurous lives together.

I got hitched in Arcosanti, AZ in a small community of sustainable minimalists trying to live in a society embracing arcology. The hippie, friendly-go-easy vibe reflected both our personalities and the touch of remote desert, bright stars and sunshine made me feel at home in nature.

She looks so cute and cuddly

She looks so cute and cuddly in her Wedding dress 🙂

We took the leap early in the afternoon. Kelly freaked out since her mom drove around most of Arizona for four hours of the morning trying to purchase appetizers. Meanwhile, the lot of us sat there in our room wondering when the flowers, dress and suit would arrive. Kelly yelled in an anxious but grumpy state, irate about her mom’s tardiness to the most important day of her life. I stood there giggling and smiling since I knew it would all work out.

Eventually her mom arrived and we all rushed into our clothing. Graeme stopped by in the afternoon to play guitar as Kelly and I stood there in front of the Pastor and his wife waiting to say, “I do.” My palms started to perspire as I stood there nervously wobbling back-and-forth trying not to forget my vows.

But once I looked into Kelly’s luminous hazel eyes I immediately felt butterflies and forgot all my lines. It felt like the first time I lay eyes upon her and I fell in love all over again. She stole my heart again and took it forever this time making me the happiest man and for that I’m very grateful.

We spent our nights in Arcosanti enjoying the radiant sky full of the brightest stars twinkling above us, hand-in-hand, smiling, laughing and kissing. I felt like a kid again with no worries in my mind and someone to share the rest of my life with, falling in love again each time I look at her.

I am so happy we reunited over the summer in New York and look forward to growing old with you. You’ll always tower over me in your heels hehe. Love you honey.

Ridin’ Blind on a California Line 

Train Hopping California

I woke up early to hit the ramp to hitch out of Goodyear for Flagstaff. After a few hours of standing on the shade-less shoulder, sweat dripping down my brow and into my eyes, I decided to check the Greyhound. For $20 I found a ride to Flagstaff arriving at 1:15 AM. I gave into the heat, sun and close proximity of home, giving Kelly one last night of me, well at least until bedtime.

She drove me downtown to the Greyhound and for my first time as a married man, I set off for a solo adventure. I felt a tingly sensation of loneliness enter my body as Kelly hugged and pecked me on the lips. My eyes wandered watching her exit the building as her long slender legs slowly strolled out the door, her dress swaying in night breeze.

Train Hopping California From Flagstaff

Train Hopping California From Flagstaff

My body phased in and out of sleep throughout the duration of the 2-hour bus ride. But once we arrived my adrenal glands triggered sending me into a sleepless journey down Route 66 back towards the mall. I wandered through the shadows of darkness, down lonely dark roads, where my ears only heard the subtle rumbling and grinding of loose cobblestone beneath my footsteps. I tiptoed on making my way up along the rails meandering in and out of tall brush as oncoming trains and vehicles passed.

After an hour of walking I approached a nice patch of shrubbery where I planned to call it a night. As I threw off my pack and lay behind the bushes I heard an oncoming train crawling in the distance. Within a minute it rolled to a screeching halt just feet from where I stood. I crept through the dark up along the Intermodal Double Stacks looking for a 53′ or 48′ IM unit with a porch. Every car I checked my eyes looked straight through to the wheels stopped amidst track. I avoided the piggybacks and continued browsing for a hoppable train until stumbling upon a 53′ T-Well. My hands clasped the cold ladder and I climbed up the train nestling my body and pack under the porch. I finagled my limbs into all my winter clothing, snow pants, a few long sleeve shirts and Goretex jacket. My body sprawled out on the cold, metal porch waiting anxiously for the departure west bound. We slowly putted along picking up speed quickly as all the engines worked full throttle. Chills spread down my back straight to my toes which felt cold as icicles. I lay there wiggling them to insure their mobility as the wind penetrated my bare skin. No matter how many sock layers or articles of clothing I added, I felt uncomfortable and cold. But my stern look off into the twilight remained full of adventure as I peered up into the sparkling sky. Specks of brightness zoomed by my head through my checkerboard vision as I lay under the porch. The rough night made for a sleepless stupor canvassed with immaculate views of the night, desert, sky.

Train Hopping California

Train Hopping California Through San Bernardino National Forest

The train rolled on for hours as I watched the sun rise with a sliver of the moon fade away off in the horizon. I sat up for the first time in hours looking out at the nothingness of desolation. The desert looked the same as the Sonoran in Arizona. Same tumbleweeds. Same sand. Same cactus. But somehow it felt surreal from the porch of a freight train as I lay there with my nose briskly touching the wind. I stood up and stretched my legs when the training stopped at side-outs, just waiting for it to continue on towards California.

The anticipation killed me as I lay there waiting patiently for the train to move while I removed my cold gear slowly hobo rolling it and placing it back into my pack. The train picked up after a few hours of changing crews. I looked off towards the highway squinting to read the signage to determine my location, 91 miles to Las Vegas.

I peeped out from the porch seeing abandoned shacks lined up along the railroad tracks, all with dirt roads connecting them to one another. The remote countryside felt empty of people aside from the occasional moo. I baked in the sun as I sat there crouched leaning over the porch, my only shade from laying under the T-Well.

My only fear when stopping was ending up in the yard for the bull to spot me. I used mile markers and an estimate of my location to figure out where I might end up, but really I had no idea. I predicted Los Angeles, but as the Intermodal entered California I knew we ceased westbound after rolling through the Barstow yard. I panicked. I did not want to get off in the yard, but I also did not want to end up in the middle of nowhere with only a basic phone and little civilization. I remained incognito under the porch camouflaged in black while the train veered south through the National Forest. The most scenic views bestowed me with green patches of mountainside and white rock forming through the winding valley.

15 hours into the ride and I became antsy to hop off. The train halted, but never released the air brakes so I knew I might sit there waiting between 30 minutes to 3 hours. I relieved myself in the bushes and hopped back on my unit watching the sun melt its colors over the horizon turning the sky to a bright pink. I did not know where I was at as my eyes fluttered from lack of sleep.

18 hours into the ride the train finally moved again through the night sky slowly progressing further south for twenty miles. I hopped off at the next crew change ending up somewhere in SoCal. My arms and legs felt droopy. Bags accumulated under my eyes and my stomach gurgled from almost a day with no food. My stomach led and I followed headed towards the Dollar Store for some grub. I moved my head down towards my receipt reading the words, San Bernardino, CA. I munched on pineapples, peanut butter and Mountain Dew while I scoped out spots to sleep. As I wandered past the Home Depot and the overpass, I jumped over the guardrail and found refuge in the tall brush underneath a palm tree.

I heard the faint noise of train horns, highway traffic and the close proximity of a fork lift driving by as I lay between two fences, sprawled out on my sleeping pad.

The morning started off with a few hours of useless flying to get further west to Los Angeles. My sign failed to get me a ride as the temperature slowly increased, but I did end up with a bag of donuts from a nice Mexican man. I walked towards the other end of the city. As I approached the 215 on-ramp towards Palmdale I noticed the amount of homebums spread out through San Bernardino. Every corner filled with bums, behind dumpsters, in bushes, and business districts. I just wanted to get the fuck out of there and I eventually did with some luck and effort, but the next stormy days really put a hindrance on my travels, which you will shortly find out.

Mount Raya Radio Tower

Whirring Winds Atop Mount Raya Lattice Tower 

Mount Raya Radio Tower Climbing

My legs trembled from lack of potassium and all of my limbs drooped like Jello. I slouched for a few hours before I refilled my 1.5 liter bottle with tap water and stomped along the shoulders of the windy roads, getting closer to Mount Raya. My feet, stiff as boards, finally calloused over in the holey orifices of my socks, along my toes and heels, as I continued hiking. Few vehicles drove these desolate roads and the 2-inch shoulder made hitchhiking nearly impossible, but that did not stop me from finding a ride. A young Malay man pulled off, parking his bike on the white line, signaling me to hop on with his hand. We cruised on the road spiraling around Mount Raya as the view of Langkawi below became a city model with the slow increase in elevation due to the steep grades. Smoke muddled the ozone clouding the air with a misty overlay of grey clouds from burning rubbish. He hugged each bend as we topped out at 20 KPH veering into the opposing lane. As we climbed the mountain the engine puttered like a weed wacker on the verge of an empty tank, but miraculously we made it. I waved as he coasted down Mount Raya in neutral, his smile exposing the pits in his mouth, but his scintillating character following behind him. I approached the hotel reading the small, wooden sign, “Look out tower highest point in Langkawi 900 m (ASL),” as my head tilted towards the sky, intrigued by all the radio towers within close proximity to me at MEASAT Satellite Control Center. A Chinese man scampered down the road as he exited the hotel looking at the construction progress on the abandoned building sitting next to the overpass adjacent D’Coconut Hill Resort. My bladder felt like a balloon waiting to explode as this man, the hotel owner, tried to sell me on purchasing a ticket to view the island from the dinky watchtower in the hotel. But I set my mind on a different tower as I waited for the perfect opportunity and time-frame to come to fruition. I scurried off up the hill trying to gain access to a public restroom, but hotel staff did not let me enter without paying the 10 RMB fee for the watchtower, which I refused. I pissed behind a maintenance building instead.

Four hours passed, as I lay down slumped out along a giant, granite formation, scoping the forested overgrowth below for hornbills, white-bellied sea eagles and monkeys, which I learned inhabited the tropical jungle of Mount Raya. I never saw any of these exotic beasts, but I enjoyed the splendor of Mother Nature and its panoramic view of the Andaman Sea. Young kids smoked joints, jamming out on guitars, outside of the barbed wire fence protecting the government building adjacent D’Coconut Hill Resort. The building looked abandoned from its peeled paint and empty vibe despite the abundant amount of security cameras mounted along the premises. A swarm of young teenagers pulled up in a beater, smoking cigarettes, and posing for the camera with the backdrop of Langkawi Island behind them. I bummed a cigarette off one of the kids, shooting the shit with him about Langkawi. Mount Raya attracted the high school crowd due to its 40 minute ride from local law enforcement making mischievous acts easier to get away with, like smoking weed and other drugs. He sat down, scuffing his worn Converse against the granite rock, taking intermittent drags of his cigarette while going off on a drug tangent. In fall, after a brief monsoon, he claimed the island became a bountiful land of magic mushrooms. He picked mushrooms along the side of the road, tripping on top of Mount Raya, listening to music with friends as the yawning-tingling sensation behind his ears triggered the start of the hallucination. I listened to his stories about routinely tripping on mushrooms until his friends pestered him about heading out. The car rolled off down the spiraling road after it back-fired a few times.

I squinted at one of the radio towers as a small black figure caught my eye. A man hung from the top as a belayer lowered him down the side of the lattice tower. At first I thought a kid climbed the tower, but as I walked over I later realized it was a worker dressed in casual attire. We struck up conversation and I learned about their work on the towers surrounding the MEASAT Satellite Control Center over the course of the next few days. They skedaddled as soon as his feet touched the ground, heading off to their homes, allowing me to plot my climb for tomorrow.

As I pondered, I found refuge under the overpass adjacent D’Coconut Hill Resort rolling out my sleeping bag between the run-off downspouts. I wiggled into my neon green, mummy bag, my face exposed to the element as the wind briskly scratched my nose, lolling off to the quaint sound of raindrops drizzling.
I hoped to catch the sunrise from the apex of a lattice tower, but I awoke too late, missing my opportunity. But, the deserted peak of Mount Raya still lacked hotel guests and workers as I scanned the perimeter of the MEASAT Satellite Control Center in the early morning, making tower climbing a possibility. I searched the base of each lattice tower looking for the one with the easiest entry. The barbed wire fence made climbing a little more difficult so I entered through a breach instead. First, I pushed my gear through the tiny opening hiding it behind the maintenance shed to keep it out of sight. Then I crawled on my hands and knees squeezing my body through the chain-link fence as the adrenaline started to pump through my veins, making my palms sweaty, and legs shaky, but setting my mind free. Looking over both shoulders, I proceeded to stalk the ladder at the base of the lattice radio tower until clinching my hands firmly over the first bar. The cold metal stuck to my skin as I gradually scaled the tower, wiping the perspiration off my hands as needed, so not to slip to my death. My flushed hands succumbed to the fierce wind so I took a break after reaching the first steel platform. I looked down below while maintaining two points of attachment, and through the scintillating rays of the sun, noticed two motorbikes parked inside the MEASAT Satellite Control Center. My gut told me to keep going upward for the view. At this point, if caught, I would end up with the same trespassing charges regardless, so I continued the climb to freedom. Fear engulfed my demeanor as seen in my obscure facial expressions as if I walked around as a social pariah with an “A” plastered across my chest. With each new platform, I estimated a gain in elevation of 10 meters, trumping any view seen anywhere on the island including the watchtower below. Through the humming sounds of the wind, the faint vibrations of each foot searching for the next step on the ladder and the tingling in my forearms, I heard my heartbeat pounding. My whole body pulsated in unison with my heart as I cracked out a smile from the majestic view of the Andaman Sea, Langkawi and Thailand. After four steel platforms I reached the final platform at the top of the lattice tower. I felt like a leaf blowing in the wind as it shook me side-to-side while I enjoyed the greatest 12 seconds of my life, better than sex, better than drugs, better than anything I ever experienced in life. Just immersing myself in the panoramic view of the island, absorbing its beauty, felt indescribable and I wanted to savor that moment for the rest of my life.

I scaled down the tower in about half the time it took to climb it, dreading reaching the bottom. I figured security in the control center reported me to local police and they stood down at the bottom waiting to arrest me. Lethargy spread through my forearms as I hastily climbed down the ladder, skipping up to three steps at a time, to reach the base of the tower. As I reached the first level I looked at the control center. The bikes leaned parallel to one another, held up by their kick stands. They did not appear to move nor did I notice any workers. I let out a sigh of relief, covertly sneaking over to my bag, shimmying through the fence like an earthworm wiggling on pavement.

Mount Raya Radio Tower

The view from above on Mount Raya Radio Tower!  A much better view than climbing the radio tower in Labis

The hotel owner yammered on about walking up 4000 steps the previous day to reach the top of Mount Raya, so I searched the roadway for an access point to take a different path down. After a futile effort of searching I stomped down the hill, smacking my feet against the ground, thudding with every step from the steep grade. It felt like a race against myself because at times I needed to focus my energy on slowing down to relieve the pressure in my knee joints, which seemed counterproductive. The harsh, spiraling, narrow roads drained my spirit as I poured the last drop of water into my mouth. I stood there, completely parched, as I walked in the shadows of the jungle. Restaurants fell right outside the base of the mountain, but this did not help my predicament. My muscles contracted while I perched on a rock several kilometers from civilization, my thumb on my chin, nodding off, and then it hit me. I remembered a stream corkscrewing around the mountain with a drainage pipe at the halfway point. When I reached the pipe a film of green algae spread over the opening like wildfire as my mouth watered in exasperation. My pack did not have water purification tablets, and it looked questionable, but I made the choice to fill my supply from the fast-flowing waterfall behind it. Water splashed against the rocks, spraying my sweaty shirt, sending a chilly sensation across my breasts, as I leaned inward to fill my bottle. I puckered my lips, fearing harmful bacteria, as I drank just enough to quench my thirst for the rest of the trek down. It tasted pure like spring water, but I sipped on it sparingly, to avoid dehydration and any painful stomach issues.

Chaah, Chaah, Chaah…Charmin’

Chaah, Malaysia

“This is yet another excerpt from my book. This is a very rough draft of my experiences in Chaah, Malaysia, where I stayed with a family for a few days. I learned about their python skinning business, illegal hotel, and the introduction of many famous Malaysian foods. I actually bumped into them again and hitched another ride from Chaah to Ipoh, but the story does not go into detail about that…”

I wiped the sweat off of my brow as the jungle sun shined its rays down upon me on a cloudless, summer day. Highway 1 continued all the way until Singapore as I walked along the shoulder of the road headed towards Yong Peng. The summer heat made the walk unbearable, but the shade from the palm trees kept me going. I wandered through Labis, Malaysia and took refuge at an abandoned bus shelter, catching some “zzzz” on a bench before throwing on my pack for more walking. A radio tower caught my eye and the hole in the barbed wire fence made it accessible for a nice climb above the city. The wind bellowed above the tree-line as my sweaty palms clenched the metal ladder and the adrenaline poured through my veins as I looked down, my body trembling. The treetops of palm leaves spread out for miles in every direction with a few bamboo huts standing out by the roadside of the highway.

Chaah, Malaysia

Holding a baby python in Chaah, Malaysia!

I roamed along, my backpack digging into my shoulders, as I threw a thumb out to each passing car. My legs ached and toes blistered as the hours dwindled by, but I continued heading south, soaking in the views and the culture. A tractor-trailer flashed its blinkers and waved me down as I scampered by the passenger side door. The language barrier hindered our comprehension, but I pointed at my map to Yong Peng. He briefly paused, shook his head sideways and said, “Chaah.” I nodded with a huge burst of excitement as the air conditioner chilled my bones, making the pool of sweat on my shirt feel like an ice box. Secretly I laughed at the tattoo marking his shoulder blade, “BORND TO DIE,” but I sat there in appreciation as he drove me south closer to Yong Peng. The two Indians spoke Hindi as they tried to communicate with me, but we all laughed as every attempt remained futile. He dropped me off at the next stop where I continued my trek towards Chaah.

I drank the last droplets of water from my canteen. My parched mouth quenched liquid, from a faucet, bottle, or stream, it did not matter. Then a look of gratitude struck my face as I came upon a restaurant. I removed my shoes and hobbled in through the door. I plopped down in the closest seat to regain my composure. My legs shook in utter exhaustion and pain flowed through each of my temples. A little group of Chinese-Malay kids ran around playing while the rest watched television in the far corner sitting Indian style on the hard-tiled floor. They all looked at me with a set of shy eyes as if they had never before seen an American. I walked over to the fridge, grabbed two chilled bottles of water and placed my RMB on the counter. The owner strolled into the store and stared at me in a slightly confused manner. Just as I stood up about to leave he called me over to his table in broken English,

“Where you from?”

“America,” I said in a rapsy, dehydrated voice.

“You wan see somethin’ coo? I take you back room. Show you? You wan see?”

I stuttered as fear of the unknown circled through my thoughts. Was he going to lock me up in a dungeon out back? I did not know, but I took the risk after chatting with him for about an hour. He rose from his chair. His pudgy stomach jiggled under his collared shirt with each step as he waddled to the back lot. He reached down to unlock the hangar and a gold chain dangled from underneath his shirt. He pointed and smiled as he opened the door exposing the inside for my eyes to see. Bins full of giant turtles, and bags of frogs and pythons sprawled out across the floor by the hundreds in an underground skinning business. Untwisting a bag, his fingers clasped the head of a baby python, which he handed off to me. My eyes glazed over in fear and my hand twitched as I grabbed the snake and held it with my bare hands. The fear faded and a splash of joy erupted across my face. This is what adventure felt like. Now where would I sleep?

Chaah, Malaysia

A python skin in Chaah, Malaysia!

Drugs Thailand

A Bittersweet Taste…Kratom

Thailand Drugs

“This is another short excerpt from my experience in Thailand with drugs. I did not take them intentionally, but randomly met some people who gave me Kratom leaves on my walk down Route 4 towards Trang, Thailand.”

Thailand Drugs

Thailand Drugs – Kratom Leaves

I awoke early morning on a pedestrian overpass above Route 4 in between Phatthalung and Trang, Thailand. Creativity played an important role in solidifying rides since holding a thumb out, flying a sign and walking rarely sparked anyone’s attention, at least not enough to stop, and pick me up. I walked down the road reading the signs as they decreased in distance one kilometer at a time. 171 km, 170 km, 169 km to Krabi, Thailand as the sizzling sun baked me like a potato, dragging my feet against the blazing asphalt. Shade was hard to come by, but I started to reach little villages on the outskirts of the city. I trotted past an auto shop where a group of men between the ages of 20 and 50 gathered around sitting on the porch drinking coffee and eating breakfast. They called out to me in a happy manner saying, “SAWAIDEE, SAWAIDEE,” then I heard a subtle, “hello” mixed in the crowd and it caught my attention. Despite my strict deadline to meet Bond in Chong Phli Bungalows I stopped to stretch my legs and mingle with the Thai villagers. Instantly they greeted me with cupful after cupful of instant coffee and they all began to nibble on these bright green leaves. Some ate two or three leaves, others indulged in one leaf and they chuckled offering me to partake in the delicacy. The suspicious looks on their faces dissuaded me from initially accepting, but I gave in momentarily after a father drove his kids to school. I threw my thought of drugs out completely because everyone seemed lucid and coherent. I nibbled away at the leafy structure, tossing bits into my mouth, swallowing the bitter taste as the whisker-like hairs tingled against my tongue. I waited some minutes without much effect so I indulged in more despite the bitterness. They handed me four extra leaves for my walk and I believe I ate six to eight in one sitting. A half hour passed as everyone lounged in a semi circle sitting Indian style and the effects started to hit me, but I confused it for drinking too much caffeine and started back down Route 4 towards Krabi. Paranoia slowly kicked in as my tongue numbed and limbs wobbled back-and-forth like noodles (Thailand drugs were potent, more so than I wanted them to be for that specific time-frame).

Thailand Drugs Kratom

Thailand Drugs with some random dude off the street who gave me Kratom Leaves without me knowing.

I walked for less than a kilometer before stopping at Phudinsow Coffee Shop where I bought the cheapest bag of chips and used the free WiFi to talk to Bond about my whereabouts. Then the drug really smacked me straight in the face. I slouched in a lawn chair outside, my face greasy, covered in sweat; my pupils looked like little, tiny, needles as I tried to focus on my laptop slowly nodding off from the numb feeling overwhelming my body. Laziness emasculated me in this devilish trance. I tried to move, but this heroin-like coma trapped my soul to the chair for five hours as I nodded in and out of sleep. The cashiers glanced at me asleep in the chair and giggled behind the glass windowpanes. Bond knew I was fucked up as we messaged each other and wanted me to save him some leaves, but I tossed them in a furious rage. I felt mind-raped as the day was stolen out from under me. The effects finally died away enough for me to break free of the chair to walk a few kilometers before sun-down. I set out down the road. My disoriented state needed rest immediately and my whole body ached as I pushed the drug out of my system. I stumbled up the road dragging my feet in a struggle until an old Thai woman pulled me aside letting me rest under the bamboo rooftop of her outdoor food stand. We did not understand each other, but she empathized with my exhausted state. I tried to nap and when I awoke minutes later she handed me a bowl of beef rice with a side of quail eggs. Before I knew it a family of Thai children, aunts, uncles and other neighbors and family members surrounded me. None of them spoke English, but we tried our best to communicate through sign language. I swayed my index and middle finger back and forth like a pair of legs walking down the street and then rested both hands underneath my head and shut my eyes as if going to sleep. I found that they understood this, but took it too literally, offering me a place to sleep in the confines of their home.

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