Strange Cargo

Lessons from the Jack London Finishing School

Friday, July 28, 2006

7246 - Dirtyface in the rain

Ontario

Last night we boarded this 48 with Josh & Cricket in the back and me riding dirtyface in the front of the same car. This was so that it might be possible to communicate a little easier when it comes time to bail in Toronto. Riding dirtyface is no biggie as long as it doesn't rain. I wake up as we're passing the Via station in Capreol, about 150 miles or so out of Toronto. I'm wide awake at this point and roll up my stuff to make a cup of tea. As soon as I finish the tea it starts raining and it's coming down good this time. The poncho comes out and it keeps me relatively dry except for my legs and feet which are soaked instantly. My pack and sleeping bag are faring little better and pretty soon there is water sloshing around in the bottom of my well. This goes on for the next 75 miles, during which time we seem to be averaging about 35 mph.

While braving the rain on this stretch I actually make eye contact with a person trackside. This is pretty unusual, and has only happened to me once before when riding through downtown Reno, NV. The guy is in the middle of nowhere in a royal blue rain poncho and with what appears to be a pail for picking berries or mushrooms perhaps. The train is rolling around a sharp curve in dense forest and suddenly there he is, very large, standing on an elevated bank bringing him up to eye level with me. With nothing but the roar of the train and the driving rain to separate us, our eyes lock securely for about five seconds and then he is gone. I register surprise and the trace of a smile on his broad face, but I have no idea what he got from me.

This is a fairly populated area and there are some speed restrictions on the track . Eventually the rain stops and so does the train in Parry Sound. This is a scenic town on the northern shores of Lake Huron. There are some pretty big lakefront mansions here that all have boathouses and docks in the backyard. It looks like it would be a nice place to live if not for the heat and humidity. It apparently doesn't discourage some who by now are out on the docks fishing and drinking beer. After a little while we pass a long lake on the other side of the tracks which is set up for water ski tournaments, complete with bleachers, a judging tower and a scoreboard. In Parry Sound I transfer to a well facing the right direction so I can get out of the rain for the remainder of the trip to Toronto. Soon we're back on track and so is the rain.

It rains for another hour or so and then the sun comes out. I rig a clothesline in the back of my 48 and hang everything to dry, while taking a nap. When I wake up we're rolling through Brampton, which is a suburb in greater east Toronto. We slowly make our way through there and over to Doncaster which is a major connection for east and westbound travel on the CN line. Proceeding to roll through Doncaster our train takes a turn south signifying that it will die here and this is the end of this leg of the journey. The train goes into the new intermodal facility in Toronto and we bail off in the yard somewhat annoyed at having to take transit all the way back to the eastbound catch out that we just went through.

After some walking we find a service station and get some water to replace the stuff from Hornepayne. There is a Tim Hortons here and Josh and I attack the dumpster looking for the donuts we know are in there. We hit paydirt and with a wide selection of Timmy's pastries go to catch the bus. Soon enough we are in Toronto proper and have to switch buses to get where we need to. Toronto has about four or five transit agencies and they do not honor each others transfers which makes it expensive to get around. I manage to get us on the bus without paying this time and we're off to the catch out. We get there about 10PM which is after all the action has happened. The window of opportunity here is from 5-10PM and we missed it. Most likely this means almost a 24 hour wait before any eastbounds show up. Josh scouts a secluded spot for us and we roll out for the night. This catch out is in an affluent suburb of Toronto and it's a bit odd to be camped out in the middle of it. After hosing down with various potions of bug juice we're all asleep pretty soon.

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