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West portal of GN Ry's Cascade Tunnel.

The Fine Art of Motorcycle Touring


A Motorcycle Story

by C. C. Crow
photos by author

Subject: Sweet Dreams
Date: 8/12/00 01:35:21 AM Pacific Daylight Time
From: Killerkrow
To: rooti@square.nut

As dusk slowly sets...

BNSF has been running an employee appreciation special train around their territory this summer. It was pulled through the Northwest by the classic Southern Pacific steam locomotive 4449 painted in black livery for the occasion. As we had pulled into Whitefish I caught a glimpse of this train parked on a siding. I missed sighting the locomotive though as we passed so I decided to investigate- walking down the platform. There were no signs other than common sense and reason that I shouldn't continue beyond the end of the platform. It seemed safe enough. I'd follow the gravel path parallel to the mainline track, slightly elevated above the siding, but dark, very dark.

Soon I reached the train. The doors were open. It appeared almost abandoned. I thought a bum could easily find his way on board and stowaway for the night. Maybe even raid the kitchen. If he wanted to. Mid-train in one of the fancier cars I could see some figures apparently relaxing. I continued on towards the point of the train to investigate the power.

By now it was very dark. Fortunately the path was level with no obstacles. I could make out the silhouette of two large modern diesel locomotives in the distance. There didn't appear to be any sign of a steam locomotive though. Before I could be entirely sure a pair of automobile headlights appeared. Not wanting to risk a confrontation with any railroad employees, especially officials or the police, I turned back. It turned out to be a van, I think likely a crew wagon going back to the depot. Whitefish is a major crew change point. The van drove past about the time I had returned to the end of the paved platform so I was safe. I walked back to the depot which had quieted down for the night.

The faint sounds of rock and roll music drifted in from the bars across the park square. I wasn't quite sleepy yet so I decided to take a walk in that direction. This part of downtown, a couple of blocks worth, was very lively. College kids and cowboys. Take your pick. The Bulldog Saloon maybe. Or an open air courtyard looked interesting and the band, playing classic rock, wasn't half bad so I decided to have a beer. Why not, I'm on vacation. Three girls, actually women, were standing next to me. I smiled and they returned the complement so I engage them in conversation. Two were married and one, Veronica, was celebrating her divorce. Marie swore she wanted to do the same thing. Joanne wouldn't commit but both the others insisted her husband Rob was a worthless ass. They enjoyed the fact that I was never married. I danced with each one of them. It was Marie that danced rather personally. I figured it was just the celebratory mood and let it go at that. Just some girls having fun.

They were all about forty years old, though they certainly wouldn't admit to passing that crossroad. Vee, as they called her, managed one of the retail stores downtown. Marie was a part-time employee there and Joanne, was just a friend I guess, a housewife with two teenage kids. They were away at her sisters or something like that.

After a few drinks and another round of dances the music was getting sloppy. Marie announced that we should go over to "the guest house". A secretive conversation ensued. Vee was astonished but the other two were pressing her for approval. I was mystified, suggesting that maybe I should go on my way but they wouldn't hear of it. Finally, Vee agreed, she said if we all went into it together. I had no idea what she meant.

It turned out the guest house was a very nice log cabin up near the ski resort that Vee's uncle owned. It was smallish but nicely appointed. There was a loft for the kids and the only separate room was the master suite. Vee poured me a drink while the other two excused themselves and disappeared into the bedroom. The details of their seduction are rather blurry, but I remember being led into the candle lit bedroom where the other two were waiting...

Suddenly, I'm getting pelted with water! Spat-spat-spat. What the heck? I spring up, it's 3:20 in the morning. The automatic sprinklers around the depot are doing their nightly routine. Quick, I'm getting soaked, more importantly, my sleeping bag is getting wet. I have to find something quick to place in over or in front of the sprinkler head. A large rock, a board, a box, something. I spot a large buckle with rope handles apparently being used to gather gardening waste. I grab it and run over, placing it strategically in front of the sprinkler head thus shielding my hideaway. I can go back to bed now but the girls of my dream are gone.

I drift back into a deep sleep. An nice peaceful much needed rest. Suddenly, it's happening again, I'm getting nailed by another downpour. Man, what's happening now? It's half an hour later and the zones have changed on the sprinkler system. I spring back up, I know my mission, I must run over and grab the bucket, turn around and run beck over to the new sprinkler and place the bucket in front of the new water spout.

Blurry eyed, but I can do this. I run over and grab the bucket. Time is of the essence. I sprint back the other way and spot my target. I can't believe I am telling you this. As I'm calculating just where I need to place the bucket I'm loosing my balance, falling forward to that point at full speed. My momentum pulls me helplessly forward. I slam dunk the bucket right on target as I fly by, skidding on the wet grass face first. The guys watching the surveillance cameras up in the office must be laughing their asses off by now. It was pretty silly. But at least I had accomplished my mission. The bucket was shielding my camp site. Though a little soggy, I once again drift back to sleep.

Trains arrive and depart at regular intervals throughout the night. The vans drove by carrying the crews. Crew men and employees frequented the depot with their offices above. Whether anyone saw me or not- no one bothered me. Thought at one point, sometime after midnight, a drunk wondered over from one of the bars and sat down on the picnic table closest to me and started mumbling to himself about how worthless he was. Oh great, I remained still praying that he didn't recognize my figure here in the shadows. I didn't need or want any friends. Fortunately he never noticed me and after some moaning (I was worried he'd throw up), he got up, walked over to his car and drove away. Great.

Finally, with dawn rising it was time to get up. I had made it through the night without too much hassle. I rolled my camp up and placed it in the backpack decided to go for a walk. A roadway bridge crosses the yard just to the west invited my exploration. I took my camera along in case I found anything interesting. The bridge was an interesting place. From that vantage point I could see the roundhouse further west. Access appeared fenced so I didn't investigate it further. It appeared to be a standard Great Northern design. Below me, several yard tracks held a number of freights. Walking back to the depot the morning light allowed a few shots of the depot and the old Great Northern NW-3 No.181 diesel locomotive on static display.

Whitefish depot.

Whitefish depot

Whitefish depot.
Whitefish yard.

The first passenger of the day had arrived. A lovely woman, short blonde hair under a large straw colored hat, handsomely dressed and adorned with southwest jewelry. A little above my class. I greeted her with a little smile which she quickly ignored. I swear she looked familiar, yes, a lot like Vee.

I amused myself watching the growing activities. As more passengers arrived I went inside to wash myself off. I called my brother at his hotel room in Missoula and confirmed our rendezvous at the bike shop. He hadn't found a Dunlop tire but that was okay, I'd take this off brand IRC thing they'd set aside for me. We'd meet sometime around noon at the shop. There'd be plenty of time.

The eastbound train finally arrived. With a similar bustle of the westbound the night before the passengers, crew, food and trash were exchanged. After its departure it was time for me to start heading towards my destination. The plan was to walk towards the outskirts of town with my thumb out, being very conspicuous with the flat tire. I decided to leave my pack back at the station, in the hallway where I noticed the train crews were leaving their grips. It seemed safe enough. Better than outside or hauling it along. I'd be back in a little while to pick it up anyway.

It didn't take long when a pickup truck pulled in next to me. A large jolly man greeted me. He was the owner of the Bull Dog Saloon, on his way into work but saw me and decided to turn around and give me a lift. The tire had worked. He was intrigued with my story. While he didn't have time to give me a ride all the way he took me a few miles up the road and dropped me off at a corner he swore had lots of local traffic. Anyone turning from the side street he assured me was headed to Kalispell so it should be no trouble getting a ride.

I waved good-bye as he drove off. Highway 93 is four lanes, 55 or 60 mph. The cars flew by like jets in formation. I'm never going to get a ride here I thought. Many more than my quota of ten had already gone by and I had serious doubts about his reassurances. Several cars had turned out of the side road and headed for Kalispell, but without me. Look woeful Clint, droopy faced and honest. Awe, come on, please. I'm not an ax murder or anything. Can't you see my tire is flat?

Another car zooms by at 65 mph.

It wasn't really that long, when a compact pickup truck pulled up. I wondered if she was really stopping for me, or to ask directions or something. No, hop in, come on, its okay. She was from West Virginia, had just moved here with her husband and was on her way to a job interview in Kalispell, just beyond the motorcycle shop if fact, so she took me all the way there. Dropped me off right in front of the place. With a thanks I waved good-bye. Penco. Cool.

Next time, what size tire was that? I knew I should have brought along a spare. And fighting metal warriors.

  Next Part - Five  




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  P.   O.   B O X   1 4 2 7         M U K I L T E O,     W A     9 8 2 7 5     U S A