HItchhiking Colorado- The Coal Train Hopper

Date: September 13, 2013

Time: about 3:00 pm

Wait: about 1 hour total



Considering that it was Friday the thirteenth and all superstitions aside, my luck truly was not that bad today.  One hour of waiting total, hitchhiking from three different locations total and covering about 60 miles isn’t that bad of a tally.  After standing at Lincoln exit with a makeshift sign I made that says, “NOT CRAZY”, I notice a car has pulled over after about ten minutes or so of waiting.  I suppose I’ve become so used to being overlooked and passed by at this particular exit that I didn’t even think to look the other direction, only focusing my attention towards the oncoming traffic.

I run up to the car and throw my bags in the backseat.  A guy and a girl, presumably brother and sister laugh.  “We’ve been waiting for almost five minutes,” the guy says.  “We were about to leave!”  She eats a grilled cheese sandwich and he eats a burrito.  I explain to them that I would take the light rail to Castle Rock, but that it doesn’t travel that far south yet.  ” That’s because the people in Castle Rock do not support the light rail,” she says.  “The people think that it will bring in crime to the area.”  Castle Rock is a mostly upper-class area that has been molded into a large corporate shopping district. 

They drop me off at Castle Pines exit, and after waiting there for over a half hour to no avail, I throw my backpack back over my shoulder and decide to hike to Castle Rock exit.  While walking, I stick out my thumb, and sure enough, a man in a white Ford 350 kind of thing pulls over to the side and picks me up.  ” Just got done working,” he tells me.  He explains that he owns a heating and air conditioning business.  ” I’ve got a lot of work right now, and business is booming, it’s almost too much sometimes,” he says calmly. 

That’s about all I learn about that guy, other than that he is awesome for stopping along the shoulder to get me to the spot faster than I would have while walking.

So then I’m at Castle Rock exit, and from there I wait maybe fifteen minutes and get picked up by a younger guy who wears some kind of beanie cap with a Russian-type ear pullover and a small fuzzy white fluffball on the top.  ” I just went to Denver to visit a friend,” he tells  me.  ”  I go to school in Colorado Springs, so just heading back home now….”

The train passes along the right shoulder of the road.  “Have you ever road the coal trains?,” he asks me.  Never have, I tell him.  I’d like to, have you?
He tells me that he has indeed road on the coal trains.  I ask him questions in order to determine the details.  ” Well, the coal trains are a bit tricky, but you can ride them,” he says.  ” They have crew changes in Monument and Castle Rock, so you have to hang tight for about twenty minutes at each stop while the car doesn’t even move.  It’s amazing at night though, because it makes the sound you can make when you blow through a straw, this musical kind of harmony that you hear as the train plummets on down the road.  It’s best to travel at night, that way you can experience the stars.  It’s a bit dangerous getting off in Denver, so you’ve got to keep your bearings and be very careful…. it was one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had.”

I can tell from the gleam in his eyes that this is true.

Electronica new-age style music plays through the stereo, and Phillip talks about his passion for the subject of psychology amongst other things.  The guy even shares his last piece of beef jerky out of the bag with me.  Soon enough, we arrive in Colorado Springs and he’s going as far as Fillmore exit, so he drops me off there and I hike along the trail all the way until I arrive at Uintah Exit, and I can’t help but wonder as I hear the train passing by along the trail, and not to my surprise, the trams happen to be loaded down with nothing else but coal.



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