I pulled myself over the top of the ladder and tumbled into the wagon. I lay on the floor for about 10 minutes while my body recovered from the massive exertion of catching the moving train.
I was in a gondola. This is a railcar with no roof and low sides. I could peer over the sides if I stood up. It’s for transporting loose bulk materials like rocks or scrap metal.
This one wasn’t being used, although there was a lot of trash on the floor.
Night fell. We climbed into the western Sierras. It got cold, but I was cozy in my sleeping bag, rocking with the rhythm of the train.
By morning, we were passing orchards and cornfields and racing through little villages. A beautiful mist gave the landscape a dreamlike feel.
At one point, village kids jumped into my wagon. They were scavenging. They got a shock when they saw me.
That afternoon, we pulled into a large marshalling yard with dozens of tracks. The engineer burst the air brakes with a loud “pssssst.” I knew then that they’d be breaking up the train. So I bailed. And walked into town.
I was in Mazatlán, a port city on Mexico’s Pacific coast, opposite Cabo San Lucas.
“I wonder if I can catch a ship here?” I thought…
To be continued…
In the meantime, Happy Holidays!
– Tom Dyson