Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wherefore Art Thou Wayward?

I've been around.  And around. And around.  It's summer (finally) and the laptop on my kitchen table hasn't seen a post in quite some time due to the weather...good weather.  Hot like I waited for all winter.  I live for days like this but it's not too conducive to blogging.

So where have I been?  Well, here on one day...loafing along in the sunshine.

Here on another the top of a 2 mile climb that topped out at 12%.  My legs were on fire but the view was worth it.

And a spot where old was parked next to new.

Then I found this...

Around and around...being chased by the storm moving in from the west.

And so it goes.  I'm trying to ride whenever I can but my mileage is way down and after my misadventure with the dreaded BONK, I'm trying to go a little easier.  It took a while but I think I finally got the memo about running headfirst into the Man with the Hammer when your desire exceeds your ability.

You have to realize that I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer and sometimes it takes a real pounding to get something through my thick skull.  This I proved by my failure to learn a lesson from my first total collapse while trying to do long miles without enough prep.  I didn't heed the warning, overdid it again a couple of weeks later and wound up in the hurling position by the roadside for bonk version 2.0.  It wasn't any more fun the second time so I decided I'd better cool it and build my endurance back up a tad before I hurt myself again.  The plan seems to be working as I've now got a couple of rides under the Trek that didn't involve rescue calls to the home front or digestive reverses.  After two unhappy events though, I don't think I'll be able to use Gatorade or Clif bars ever again no matter what.

In between my infrequent rides, I'm still struggling to keep ahead of my team for the Tour de Cure.  I'll have to do a post on that one all by itself pretty soon.  Let's just say that for now, it's become almost a full time job all on its own.  There's 52 people on it so far and I'm in awe every time I open up the web page and find someone new on the roster.  I never would have believed it...

Oh yeah...then there's work.  Gainful employment still has a place in my schedule.  I can't seem to figure out how I can survive without it.  Especially since my dollar-and-a-dream from Mega Millions keeps coming up empty.  If only I could get paid for all the extra-curricular stuff, I wouldn't have to run trains for a living but I can't get anybody to go along with that particular plan for some reason.  There's gotta be a way but the nuts and bolts of it so far escape me.  I guess I have to answer the phone and take another train.

Speaking of running trains; I just got back from my usual round trip this morning sometime before dawn.  We had a pretty good start but ran flat out of daylight somewhere in Pennsylvania and then rolled along under the full moon after the sun went down.  Usually when it gets dark down on the south end of the Sunbury Sub, there's nothing much to see beyond the headlights except crossing gates and dim window lights in the occasional little towns.  Places with tongue-twister names; Moconaqua, Catawissa, Nescopeck and Wapwallopen that are just a couple of whistle pulls and a blur to me.

In some spots down there, the trees grow right up to the windows and you risk losing fingers if you hang your hand out too far.  Then for miles along the way, you're riding between rock cuts on one side and river bank on the other and all you can see is stone and leaves beside you and rail and ties going under the nose.  You know the Susquehanna is right there but you hardly ever get a look at it.  Sometimes it's just a green tunnel with bats and owls zooming along in the glare.  On certain summer nights, it's a lot less when the fog rolls in off the water.  Then everything is grey or dazzling white in the headlights and it feels like your eyes are being dragged out of their sockets after the first half hour.  The lower end is all flat until you get to Wilkes-Barre so all you do is watch the speedo and flick the throttle up one and down one for about fifty miles.  It's a struggle sometimes.

Last night though, the moon gave us a view that we rarely see.  There was enough light getting down in the valleys to throw shadows and all those small towns looked like old black and white photos.  I glanced in the mirror on my right when we got out in the open as is my habit and could see the outline of the train following along in the curves almost like daytime.  At first I thought I saw a wheel sparking in the dark back there but then realized all I was seeing was a million fireflies that couldn't compete with the headlights out front swirling around in the wind behind as we passed.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky and only a few stars were holding their own against the moon.  It looked like a movie.

There didn't seem to be much to talk about after we got settled in and rolling and the usual cross-cab chatter kind of died out without notice.  Some guys go crazy if they aren't gabbing all the way but I'm content sometimes to go for miles on end without saying a word.  Even my conductor, who I usually call Wild-Man, fell quiet and just toyed with paperwork on his desk with the light down low.  The quiet from his side isn't uncomfortable as it is with some.  There's a few who don't say anything because they seem to hate what they do and can't talk at all without bitching about the railroad.  Some simply don't have much in common with the old guy and some are just unaccountably hostile.  I avoid such men as often as possible as the long, tense silences make for very unpleasant trips and I've been doing this too long to be mad about it all the time.

The Wild-Man however, often goes for an hour or two without much more vocalization than a couple of off-key verses from some old song that popped into his head and found a way to escape through his vocal chords.  I've accused him of nodding off but I know better; when the DS calls and wants a head-end location or a complete-by, he can usually peel it off before me, take a new track warrant and then disappear into the dark on his side without missing a beat.

Then after a while and out of nowhere, we'll start back in on a conversation like we just left off five minutes ago instead of an hour and a half.  The quiet is easy with him and his kind because they're capable of thinking without talking.  Besides, sometimes being quiet for fifteen minutes says as much as three hours of mindless chatter.  So I was happy to say no more than we had to and let the evening roll along with the moon for company.  Even the radio held its piece and didn't offer to intrude until we were almost to Scranton.  For a little while anyway, it was enough to watch the land go by in the dim light and not think of much except our small world inside the windshield.  Sometimes, that's enough.

There are reasons I work the road after all these years and last night was one of them.  It was just another train; number 98 for the year but somehow, in some small way, it made up for a lot of the tough ones.  It was just another good trip under the moon.  I said earlier that I live for summer days but there's a lot to be said for these summer nights too.

And since its now night again, that's it for Wayward for this one.  Tomorrow is the 4th of July holiday but I'm not planning anything too outrageous.  I might get in a ride or maybe not...I'll let tomorrow figure that out.  Right now, I've run out of steam.  I only slept a few hours this morning and the crash when I hit the pillow is going to be epic.

A ride sounds good for tomorrow.  Slow and easy for a while is the name of the game for now...looking for that century still but maybe not quite so soon as I planned.  I'll get there eventually and I'll keep you posted.


Steve Stasulis said...

Harold, it is always so special to read your perspectives. Those of us in the industry who ride a desk instead of an iron horse so rarely get to peek inside your world and it is an eye opener.

Brian in VA said...

Nice post! I could close my eyes and see the pictures of the towns in black and white even though I've never driven a train. Only rode one for the second time back in March.

Your century will come soon, bro. Just as mine did. I have another one on the horizon in October because, hey, too much is just enough!

Be well!

Wayward Son said...

I know the century will be along...hopefully sooner than later! I've got a lot of country yet to see!

Thanks Brian!

Trailer Park Cyclist said...

It has taken me a while to make a comment because I wanted to think up something equal to the quality of your post. Then I just gave up and decided to drop by and say hello and nice work.

I rode a half dozen centuries by this time last year but lately, for whatever reason, 50-60 miles is plenty and even when I feel strong enough for more I come on home anyway.

Not sure what it means. Last week I got out pretty far and toyed with the idea of going long, but didn't do it. We all know that after seventy miles it becomes more survival than fun and for me, I need a new road. I've run the same five or six routes for a couple years now and lately I've been thinking about overnighters. Or three day trips for a triangle of 60 miles each, or something like that.

Plus so many other bloggers that I follow are doing big trail rides that really sound like fun. No buses or yahoos blowing you off the road at eighty miles per hour, both of which happened to me on my return from Daytona last week.

We'll see. I really enjoyed your train ride description. With very little work I could see it being one of those pieces on NPR where the writer reads his work. Start practicing your radio voice.


Wayward Son said...

Thanks you guys! Means a lot to the old engineer ya know.

Tim Joe said...

Rumors of hundred milers and new reports...waiting...waiting...