So down the road we went with our travelling show. After our brush with the detector, there were only minor distractions and I spent the next few hours trying to look cool and collected. My mother told me once that she thought I was like a duck; calm and unruffled on the surface but paddling like crazy underneath. If only she knew how true that was.
Finally, it came down to the last long swoop off the hill into home. By some accident, the set on the brakes was right and we coasted in like we knew what we were doing. And just like that, it was almost over. The plan was to change head-end crews first, then have the fresh guys pull the rear of the train to a crossing to load and unload passengers. Sounded good to me. There suddenly wasn't much energy left in the old guy.
I pulled to a stop and sagged in my seat. Suddenly I was very weary even though it was not yet noon. The outbound crew waited by the ladder as we handed out our grips, still trying to do everything by the book right to the bitter end. The Road Foremen thanked us and smiled. One leg of the trip was over for them and we hadn't gotten them or us dismissed. I thought I might actually kiss the ground when my boots came down off the last step. I refrained however and contented myself with giving the outbound a fare-thee-well rundown and then fading into the background to watch the proceedings.
The last car stopped on the dot and a whirl of passengers came and went. At the last minute, my CEO appeared one more time and shook my hand. Our Chief Operating Officer also swung by and chatted a minute or two before it was time for them to load up and head west. As before, there was more talk of bicycles than trains. Funny thing...bicycles...who ever would have thought? A smile and a wave and they were off to board the coaches. I hung out for a minute to watch the markers go around the corner and out of sight. Suddenly I realized I felt like I'd been hit by a truck and staggered across the track to the office to call it a day. My grip and book bag felt like they weighed as much as the train and I realized my vest was on inside-out. Oh well.
One of my friends was around to take some photos. I thought Lucky was going to have to prop me up for the picture...
At the end of the day, for all the stress and worry, the experience was worth it. Particularly since I managed to keep my job and everybody went away happy. I can say "Been there, done that" and add it to the list of things I might never do again. We'll see...
As a little postscript; I was driving home when my cell rang. Seems the second unit had caught on fire less than three miles from where I handed off the train. Talk about dodging the bullet...but that's another story.