I’m kind of ambivalent about Hunter S. Thompson, but I had a rather crazy occasion once when I had to escort his widow to a bar. Story forthcoming.
It’s been a few years ago now, but in 2002 I was asked to be a guest on a nationally-syndicated talk show. I can’t post details publicly, but if you ever catch me in person, ask me about it. I’m used to weird things happening to me, but this one took the cake.
So back in college, one of my group of friends’ pastimes was riding the rails. Hobo style. We had many crazy adventures… in fact, possibly the most miserable I’ve ever been IN MY ENTIRE LIFE was captured in this photograph after a particulary grueling 2-day ride:
That story will have to wait for another time. This story is about something else.
We kept track of our miles– because tracks have definite starting/ending points, it’s easy to do this, unlike with freeways. By the time I stopped, I’d gone on 50+ rides, and had logged about 1500 rail miles. I finally quit riding the rails not because I didn’t want to, but because I graduated and moved, and our normal route (beautiful 11-mile loop through the hills) was therefore no longer available to me. I WILL do it again.
But here’s the meat of this blog: the RAIL CART.
During this era, my friends– creative guys that they were– built a homemade rail cart. Using bicycle wheels and iron pipes. It fit on the tracks perfectly and was gravity-powered. They’d bring it up the hill in a truck, and launch it down. It had two seats and a speedometer (the cart maxed out at 23mph), as well as a wire barbecue brush rigged to ride on the undercarriage and tell by the voltage across the tracks when a train was on the next block. (Did I mention we all went to a tech school in a small town and had few creative outlets?!?)
The main guy who built the cart put together a music video of rail cart footage, set to “Welcome to the Pleasuredome”– and although it wouldn’t be immediately obvious, the song lent itself perfectly. “We’re a long way from home…” Thanks to modern technology, this video– which I thought was lost– can be seen on YouTube.
Except for the video footage in the video below, we only rode it at night, with flashlights, because it was HIGHLY illegal. I was on the rail cart for its final ride. We ran over a possum (we rolled over it completely– high clearance, but boy was he scared). Shortly after, we derailed, and the wheel got bent sufficiently that we couldn’t ride it any more… we had to put it on the track and kick the thing uphill, then ditch it in the bushes until we could come back for it. Sadly, it perished in Meier’s garage fire soon after, along with my giant telescope.
So here’s the video. I’m not in it, but it’s still a hoot to watch– I’m so happy to see this video again! So enjoy. It’s 8:41 long; if you can’t sit through the whole thing, the best clear shots of the cart itself are at 4:30-4:45.
Last night, I was on my way home, and decided to stop for a slice at Mystic Pizza at about 10pm. As I was sitting there quietly munching my slice, some random scruffy stinky homeless guy came in, ignored the other five people there, and then beelined straight to me. Triumphantly, he pulled a fresh, clean white t-shirt out of nowhere and handed it to me, exclaiming: “THERE! Now that leaves just one more, for the ski team!” I expected him to ask for money for the shirt but he didn’t– instead, he just bolted, never to be seen again. I left the t-shirt there, by the way. Anyway, those of you who know me, know that I’m a magnet for this stuff. I don’t really understand why, but it does seem to always happen to ME and not other people.