Tag Archives: traveling

Breaking Up And Fargo

This will be a long post due to the volume of things that happened in Fargo.

The trip to Fargo, ND, was a long and windy ride on that freight train. With nothing but booze and hand-rolled cigarettes, the six of us hunkered down for the trip, holding our dogs close and our thoughts closer. Four hours into the ride, as night was starting to creep on from the west, Tiddly said she needed to talk to me. Retreating to the far end of the still slightly cramped ride, we let the wind chafe our faces as we yelled over the din.

She told me it was time to break up. She said that she loved me and wanted to be with me but wasn’t comfortable having a girlfriend on the road. I was, as always, completely unprepared for the heartbreak. I mean, come on. I had just left everything I had known on a freight train across the country and the girl who was the tipping point of me leaving was telling me she couldn’t really be with me anymore.

I thought I took it well until a few days later when I realized how much that all fucking hurt. Pulling into Fargo was probably one of the most desolate bummers ever. Climbing off a train in a rain-soaked town at 2am and wondering where the hell you are is not always the most fun business to be engaged in. But there I was, shivering after a cold and uncomfortable ride out of the state I had called my home for a year. Let’s talk about Fargo.

Five miles past the Minnesota/North Dakota border, there lies the largest city in all of North Dakota. With a booming population of just over 113,000, this flat, architecturally boring city would be my home for the next nine days. We had hopped off the train by an old abandoned cooling factory of some sort and had walked to find out where we actually were. We then hunkered down and slept behind a building right next to it, facing the tracks. Tired and running out booze, no one was quite in the mood for a celebration, and loud Diablo was giving everyone a headache (sorry buddy).

We were running short on everything and subsequently grumpy the following morning as we rose with the sun to get our shit in order. Nearby was an apartment complex whose dumpsters would later become an awesome food source – once we dug past the rotting fruits, meats, and maggots.

For the day, though, we all went out to try to make some money. We rallied up enough for more booze, smokes, and a bit of food. There was an Asian Grocery around the corner that sold the most delicious fried fish in a can. We were hooked on the stuff. We continued flying signs and working all day and then went back to the hop out (or what we thought was the hop-out – oooh foreshadowing). The next day was another day of flying signs, buying booze, and eating fried fish.

While out flying a sign, Diablo and I were approached by a guy who gave us a water bottle full of wine and half a pack of smokes. He then took us into a thrift shop and bought me a nice heavy button-up for the cold weather ahead. He was waiting for his old best friend from high school to show up and once she did, all of us got the invite to go back to her house and drink beer and crash. It was fun at first until home-dude (Mark) got drunk, kept accidentally flashing his balls, and had a panic attack.

Here’s what we didn’t know about the situation: Mark was a long-time tweaker before he got clean and moved back to Fargo to try to rediscover his place in the world. Having done Meth for so long, his brain was a little bit fucked up and he was convinced that a number that called him that day was some kind of mafia coming after him. And I mean, that’s all fine, we all have our baggage, but this was a next level freak attack that felt strange and threatening. Dina, who was the woman who invited us back to her house, said that she didn’t even recognize a bit of who he used to be in high school and that she needed him out. It was a long and arduous process ending in him storming off and saying that if anyone had tried to throw a punch, he had a 9mm in his pants and he wasn’t afraid to use it.

We all were perfectly aware that all he had in his pants were a pair of sweaty balls and a lot of regret.

After two nights crashing at that house, the gang letting my dog run away twice, and a strange, strange yard sale, Tiddly got sick of being there and wanted to leave and Diablo and I were feeling much the same way. Under the impression that we were going to leave that day, the three of us got super angry and burnt out after realizing that the other three wanted to stick around for longer, so we left at night. It was a miserable shitshow.

After walking back to where we had started, we sat waiting for a train for a few hours and then went to sleep, only to be showered with gallon upon gallon of cold, pouring rain. We beat a hasty retreat to the deck of the old nearby feed mill and tried to dry off as much as possible. While drying off, Tiddly was drying out and her detox shakes and puking were getting the best of her. Diablo and I scraped up enough money for a bit of coffee and breakfast and brought it back and eventually we were dry enough and alive enough to move on.

We had an awesome day of making money. We were up on our luck and feeling a lot better, but then the rest of the group showed back up and we spent all of our money – no surprise – on booze and food for them. We all spent the night back at the first place we had slept and – luckily enough – it didn’t rain.

The following day was hot and muggy, and we all retreated underneath an underpass bridge where everyone except for me got drunk. I had been spending a lot of time thinking at that point and I had written a letter to Tiddly and enclosed a ring I had worn for a couple of years. I don’t know what she’s done with it now. We tried to make some money, rather unsuccessfully, and were wasting most of the day away when the cops showed up on a complaint of us blocking the walk path.

Drunken Diablo got a court summons and now has a bench warrant in Fargo. Silly man was so drunk he thought he could confuse and distract the cops with fake names and bad lies. We had enough money to buy booze or drugs, so Andy went off on a mission to find and buy 40 dollars worth of Meth and so we had to go look for him. We were casually sitting near a sidewalk with all of the dogs when life went to shit.

A homebum approached us and shared beer with us and seemed really alright until he started getting all strange and sexual with Beth and I. Everyone told him to leave and he got aggressive and Diablo was fucking with him – still drunk – and kind of taking his side. It turned into a fight where Brad tore off his shirt and hit the dude. Cue Andy showing back up. He asked what was going on and Bud replied: “This FUCKER!”.

That was enough for Andy and turned and swung on the dude with all of his might. Tiddly, Brad, Diablo, and Andy chased him under the bridge, Diablo trying to defend the dude the whole time. I was left taking care of five dogs and one super passed out Sam. I desperately tried to wake Sam up and tell him it was time for all of us to kick rocks but he was unresponsive.

A few minutes later, everyone came out from under the bridge super pissed. The homebum had broken a bottle in half and tried to slice Tiddly’s throat with it and Andy had jumped in the way and gotten sliced to hell. His arms had deep ugly gashes in them and we pulled out a med kit and tried to patch him up. We thought everything was over and we were screaming at Diablo about loyalty to the people you travel with. He was straight up defending this guy and saying he didn’t deserve to get the shit beaten out of him after sexually harassing us and then trying to kill Tiddly. Silly, drunk, Diablo and his honor system (which he would lose later down the road)

We knocked some sense into Diablo and then we saw…dun dun dun…the homebum circling back. That’s when Diablo, going wild with his sharpened butter knife he had named ‘Starslayer’ chased the guy across the road, wrapped his arms around the dude’s torso, and stabbed him three times. Cops and ambulances showed up and we got off with no charges but dear Sam, still passed out, was taken to Detox after finally being woken up and responding ‘potato’ to the question  ‘what year is it?’

We kept his puppy safe for him while he was gone and went back to the first spot we had crashed – again – and waited for him to get out. Luckily the cops in Fargo didn’t mind us, but told us to stay totally hidden until we left because they didn’t want any more trouble with us. While hidden, shenanigans ensued. Diablo passed out drunk and so we sharpied his entire face and then did a photoshoot. We just fucked around the whole time.

We also heard Andy’s story of his search for Meth. He had ended up a couple of miles away at a Skate Park petitioning teenagers to sell him their Adderall, with them all turning him down because it was summer and they didn’t get new prescriptions until the school year started. Endless jokes would be made about Andy hanging out with high schoolers to try to score drugs.

A day and a half later Sam showed up and we went dumpster diving and found a mattress and a shit ton of food. In celebration, after everyone else was passed out, Sam, Tiddly, and I got trashed and I woke up the next morning with a killer hangover. I slept all day on the mattress in a sports bra and boxers and got a horrible sunburn. Sick and sunburned, we all moved into shade and then down camp underneath a semi truck about a mile away. Drunken shenanigans ensued again as Diablo, trashed as hell, claimed he had a nine inch dick and we all petitioned him to prove it.

Heading to the other end of the semi with a porno in hand, he got ready for the ‘great showing’. Not quite nine inches, but still a good show. Have I mentioned that traveling has a lot to do with showing your dick? This is the part when I wish I hadn’t lost my camera later on the road because I had so many good pictures of a whole group of drunken assholes showing their dirty assholes for a good photo.

That was, technically, the last night we spent in Fargo. There are other fun little details of the stay in Fargo, but that covers most of it (and all of the important shit), so we now move on. Waking up under a semi is a hazard to the safety of your head when you sit up too fast and almost concuss yourself early in the morning. All of us together and not too rough for wear, we were ready to leave and now knew that Fargo wasn’t the place to do it.

My first city on a line of hopping trains had burnt itself out and, between the hot days and rainy nights, the knowledge that we were no longer welcome in town and our bad attitudes, we needed to leave as soon as possible.

We had obtained information that a better place to hop out was somewhere in Moorhead-Dillworth and so we resigned ourselves to suffering for the rest of the day as we began our hot, blistering, five mile walk…right back into Minnesota.


Skipping Town

Now, where was I? On August twelfth, 2014, my life began to change (FOREVER, DUN DUN DUN) for real this time. Having cleared everything up with the landlord – and having vouched for a good room mate who could watch the house while I was gone – all there was left to do was wait for my girlfriend to get into town. Of course, there were still things to be done around the house – plumbing, electric, rodent extermination, and mattress burning – but that could all wait a couple of days.

She arrived that day, with a troupe of dirty, dog-toting, fiendishly smelly and good looking kids who did not hesitate to inhabit the house. Ten fucking lovely travelers and nine dogs later, we still hadn’t seen the end of the adventure. For a week, our house TRULY transformed into a punk house, despite several layers of paint saying otherwise. Every dirty kid and his mom showed up at least briefly to drink warm beer, smoke cheap cigarettes, experiment with psychedelics, and have a safe place to crash.

The smell in the house transformed from ‘fresh paint’ to ‘dirty underoos’ in about a day and a half, but no one was complaining. These dirty kids sure knew how to drink and they were a wonder to be seen pass-out drunk over a plate of burrito fixings in the kitchen at three in the morning. On top of the competitive drinking, they were actually helpful in fixing up the remainder of the house. With gasoline, hatchets, and matches as equipment, many of us gathered in the back yard to burn chairs, a dirty old mattress, and a couch. The neighbors borrowed us their hose to keep it under control. Flames reached shocking heights. The evidence was disposed of.

I mean…

Next was the beehive(s). Up on the roof, bees had infiltrated the ventilation system and needed to be dealt with. The tools for this job were

– One can of Ant Raid

– One large wrench

– Five gallons of water

– A video-camera

Climbing out onto the roof in a sports bra and a pair of dirty shorts, I was the second person to approach the bee situation. Lots of pointless wrench-banging, a few beers, and, surprisingly, NO bee-stings later, I had successfully outlawed the bees.

All while my drunk girlfriend laughed from the yard below. It was a good time in that final week of the house. Video games were played, work was done, songs were sung, signs were flown, tits were shown…it was all fine and well and dandy right up until the part where we were packing and leaving, which was more sad than anything else.

Diablo and I both got our bags fully packed on August 17th. The dirty kids that had assembled had begun dispersing, and we were down to the core group of friends and travelers. The ones we had to say goodbye to as we said hello to a new lifestyle with a bunch of tramps (oh, tramp is someone who travels all homeless-like without picking up work along the way. That’s the separation between tramp and hobo).

We had our final beers, did our final house painting, and left the house for good on the morning of August eighteenth. With my dog at my side, a backpack chilling on my shoulders, and four road dogs to kick it with, I was feeling pretty okay. It was, however, a long trip to the hop out, with way too many stops along the way, and by the time we got to where we were trying to go, we had one more road dog (and his puppy), no cigarettes, and not much beer.

There started my life of traveling. Migrating under a train bridge, we waited. We learned about trains and what rides were, well, ride able. We learned the names of the train units, the train companies, and rail safety. We learned what a ‘fire drill’ was and to ALWAYS keep your shit on hand when waiting for a train. It was train-riding 101, and we were drunkenly learning the ropes.

On August nineteenth, a train going our direction stopped, and my girlfriend and I ran alongside it for a few minutes before finding a ride. We had gotten my dog and both of our packs on the train when it started airing up (the brakes of a train work on a tension system where air is what pushes the brakes UP so that the train can start moving). We knew we didn’t have much time. Tiddly (the girlfriend at the time) hurried to lift her eighty plus pound dog on the train but to no avail. The harness slipped off of her body and she dropped to the ground as the train started moving too fast to hop off. We watched Girl (the dog) run alongside the train as it sped up and then we lost sight of her.

Cue horror movie sad music, lots of crying and puking, and two VERY sad people. We wondered what the hell was going to happen to Girl and what the hell would happen to us when our other road dogs found out. There is a code for hopping trains: Dog, Pack, You. That’s the order in which you get on the train. In the rush and excitement of taking her girlfriend on her first train, Tiddly had forgotten.

Luckily, the train slowed and came to a stop in Northeast Minneapolis. As we were rolling to a stop, my phone started ringing. It was one of the people we were planning on hopping out with and he was screaming that he found Girl and that she was torn up as fuck and that we needed to get our asses off of the train.

Thinking the worst, Tiddly panicked. I started making phone calls. Twenty minutes later, my dear friend Morgan was picking us up and driving us to where all of the other kids were. Talk about friends having your back in an emergency. We approached a seemingly dire situation. Girl was laid out on the ground and everyone was sitting around her. Approaching, we found that she had been clipped by a part of the train – probably a ladder – and she had a huge gash on her side.

We did all we could. Poured hydrogen peroxide on it and then bandaged it up – it was too late at night to head to a vet. We could only hope she would be fine.

We moved to a different hop-out spot that night, went to sleep, and woke up early in the morning. After refilling our water, making sure Girl was okay, and collecting our wits, we started waiting on trains again. The day was August Twentieth, and it was about two pm when our train finally rolled in.

A big, hulking, mass of steel and energy, the Inter-modal Train that rolled to a stop right in front of us was a beauty. Carted by Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), this massive cargo hold was our land-ship, and we did not hesitate to take our chances with her.

We found a ride where all of us fit and could stay hidden and then the train took off, only to slow down and roll to a stop directly in the middle of the train yard. For two hours, we waited. Voices hushed, fingers quietly rolling cigarettes that we couldn’t smoke, we all sat in tension, hoping that we wouldn’t get pulled off of our ride. Voices approached and footsteps sounded against ballast rocks, but no one came, and finally – FINALLY – we were on our way.

We were heading west, into a metaphorical sunset. Embarking on a journey that could result in our doom. In train riding culture, ‘catching the westbound’ is a term for dying, and I do not deny the fact that there, on my first freight train, parts of me were heading west for good.