A Motorhome

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Both images are from the Internet

As far back as I can recall Railway Express had a

n office everywhere a train with an express car stopped. But in the late ’60s the Railway Express vanished.

UPS was still pretty small and virtually unknown outside the larger cities.

I suppose when Railway Express vanished Congress opened up franchise opportunities for competition and Greyhound got in the act. They designed buses like the one in the photo. Beneath the second windshield was a small stairway of three or four steps and the passengers sat higher than the driver. Beneath the floor was a large baggage area.

I used their service a few times. It was costly, but it apparently worked okay until Greyhound stopped serving smaller towns that weren’t situated along the Interstate, like Coos Bay, Oregon, Crossett, Arkansas, and Rough and Ready, California. There was no longer a need for these buses, but they were still around.

Early in the 1980s a diesel mechanic in Sweet Home, Oregon retired and bought one of these oddball buses Greyhound called a Scenic Cruiser. He spent the winter converting it into a motor home, then he bought a used N360 Honda car – a small car with an air-cooled motorcycle engine. He cut off the top and hinged the windshield so it would lay down over the hood like a World War II Jeep.

When spring arrived he shoved that car into the baggage compartment, loaded his 2,000 pounds of tools, closed the doors and headed for the hills.

Each time he and his wife rolled in somewhere for the night they always attracted a crowd when he opened the hatch, pulled a car from the baggage compartment and then drove away.

A Train Ride -1

Accumulating furlough time seemed an impossible task for me. Something always popped up before enough days amassed for me to travel to the northwest. However, during the late spring of 1958 I had saved up thirty days. I hadn’t seen my folks in two years. It was time. Visiting the Charleston, South Carolina train station I purchased a round trip ticket for Portland, Oregon and a week later I was aboard a Louisville-Nashville passenger train headed home.

Trusting the station agent to line me up with the best possible route was a dreadful mistake. I don’t recall much about the first leg of my journey. Perhaps the greatest reason is because most of it occurred at night. I do recall my coach moving back and forth in the Evansville, Indiana switch yard and listening the squeaking wheels as the crew assembled a train. If I saw the Evansville sign glide past my window once I saw it a dozen times. Eventually, however, we departed that boring place and I reached St. Louis where I changed to a plush Kansas City bound train and we hauled ass across Missouri hell bent for leather.

Shortly after lunchtime I boarded the Portland Rose, a beautiful yellow train. If I was assigned a chair number for my trip to the northwest I was not aware of it. Traveling alone, I fell in with a half-dozen GIs headed in the same general direction. One of them was a young giant who stood  at least a foot taller any anyone else and seemed in charge. He suggested we should move outside onto the platform at the end of the last car and wave farewell to the Kansas City well-wishers as though we were campaigning politicians.

Naturally, I went along and as the Portland Rose began easing out of the station the conductor, a small withered man – father-time himself –  who probably should have retired eons earlier popped out the door.

“Hey!” he shouted in a sharp, authoritative voice, “you can’t be out here.”

The young giant, obviously accustomed to having his way turned and moved in close, invading the old man’s personal space and shouted down at the top of his head: “What do you mean we can’t be out here?”

The conductor, displaying a started expression, said nothing more. Instead, he went back into the ca from which he had emerged and closed the door behind him.

By this time we’d crossed over into Kansas and the well wishers were in our wake, so we filed back into the coach and went our separate ways.

The Kansas wheat fields offered little to see. I retrieved a Zane Grey paperback novel I’d brought, just in case, and began nursing a half pint of Old Crow – while the conductor was elsewhere, of course.

That was when I first noticed the two enlisted men, a burly army staff sergeant and a skinny tech – E5 and E6, respectively. They were both in the process of tying one on.

(There’s more to come)

The Big Train Ride (Lengthy Flash Fiction)

Cat Had His Tongue

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The Canyon trail leading to the Colorado

When Jeb was a young man, many years ago, he decided to follow the Colorado River along its journey through Grand Canyon. Only he intended to hike the distance rather than go by boat. He devoted the winter to prepare for this trek that he assumed would consume the entire summer. Food and water were his primary concerns, but with water purifier tablets and a collection of fish hooks he decided he could fish his way through the canyon thereby avoiding a costly support system.

Jeb took no means of communications. Not even a radio. Folks said he was foolish. There was the danger he might be injured, even break a leg. They were right, but he was young, strong, and foolish.

The adventure was sobering. Along the way he spotted a cliff dwelling he was able to reach. He even spent the night there, sitting the doorway viewing the river and listening to the turbulence as people probably did centuries before Jeb came along.

It was mid-July when his path crossed that used by those who rode horses and mules down the well-worn trail from the South Rim. It was his fortune that a group had arrived only minutes earlier.

A tall, busty blonde, assuming Jeb was one of her horseback group, cast an eye up the vertical cliff that extended up nearly a vertical mile. “My goodness,” she stated, “this must be the end of the line. Don’t you think?”

Jeb only grunted. That was sixty-two years ago. He should have asked her name, but the cat had his tongue.

Coffee and Other Joyful Things

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Our Burley Tandem

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Barb and Our Tandem Two’sDay  at Petrified Forest

I anticipate my morning coffee. We both do, but we are particular about it. Barb fine-tuned the brewing and we prefer our own. Starbucks and Duncan coffee both have a bitter flavor. On a one to ten scale, run-of-the-mill restaurant coffee rates one and Starbucks is ten – we prefer something in the order of eight, robust and full-flavored, not bitter. We’ve grown more critical over the past years since we began rationing ourselves to one cup per day. Personally, if
I ever have to go to decaf I’ll quit coffee altogether. Just like I stopped smoking 39 years ago.

It was a given that when my short, non-filtered Camels turned on me I would stop smoking. And they did, I did. It may have been the most important thing I ever did for myself, and Barb. As a non-smoker, I took up bicycling. We both did. Before a year had passed we graduated to an expensive Burley Tandem Bicycle.

There an old adage stating: “Wherever your marital relationship is headed, it will certainly arrive at its destination more quickly on a tandem.”

Indeed!

Propelling a tandem requires unfathomed cooperation, more than the average cyclist realizes. We didn’t have a clue. A steep hill – greater than ten percent – stood between our home and town. Pedaling our tandem to the summit was impossible until we had 250 miles behind us.

We learned a great deal about each other while we traveled that distance.

Afterwards, we were able to accomplish together what neither of us could do alone. Our success was so great that when we retired we wrote a check for $2700 for a Tandem Two’sDay that folded and fit in the rear hatch of our car. We were good to go.

During the subsequent years we drove to Williams, Arizona and pedaled the 60 miles to Grand Canyon. We crossed Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. We traveled Missouri’s Katy Trail. Not to mention the numerous overnight trips into Oregon’s Cascade Mountains.

In all, it was high adventure.

Traveling To Columbia

A few years ago, a fellow amateur radio operator traveled to Gorona, a small island off the coast of Columbia. The purpose of this trip was to set up and operate a Special Event Station, a station with a special call sign. A special QSL Card is mailed to those who make a two-way contact.

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Transportation was available and welcomed to haul their radios and antennas to the site he and his friend had chosen.

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