The Train Trip

How about a little recap. Did I hear you say “What train trip?”. Well, of course I’m talking about the ‘Rose City Motorcycle-Seattle Tour 2000’. I should start off by saying that I am glad I had previously sold my sawed-off shotgun ( the one with the pearl inlay grip and barrel that was ‘almost legal’ ). There were a few times during the two months it took me to put the trip together that she would have come in handy ( No !, I wasn’t going to shoot myself. Well, there was that one time). Anyway, It all started with me getting drunk at the 10th annual Rose City Motorcycle, Tom Young sponsored,  Pig Roast.  A couple of years prior, I took 12 people from Portland to Seattle on Amtrak. We went up for the ‘International Motorcycle Show’ and had a great time. OK , we had way too much fun and I vowed never to do it again ( Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a travel agent ). The only reason I did it to begin with, was by accident. My girlfriend and I went one year making the mistake of telling a few folks. So naturally they wanted to go, then their friends wanted to go, then….., well you see where this is headed.

Back to the Pig Roast. After consuming a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon, half a bottle of scotch called ‘Sheep Dip’ and then sipping on whatever else was handy, I woke up the next day ( really later that same day ), to find out I had taken 24 reservations for another trip. This was not too bad of a start, except for one minor glitch. I set the price at $75.00 ( round trip train & hotel ), which is what it cost two years ago. At this point I had no idea how I was going to pull this off and stay within the budget.

This is where the Seattle Convention Bureau, and my new best friend and buddy, Joan Magnano-Damn, enter the picture. This lady is not only good at what she does, she also made me feel like I had a chance of putting 72 people ( anybody notice the group had grown? ), on a train and getting them into a hotel in Seattle. Small details like logistics, money, pamphlets, maps, etc. were handled by Joan in a way that I’m sure she actually enjoyed sending me packets-o-stuff in big white envelopes and talking endlessly to me on the phone. If she had been single, at this very moment I would be living in Seattle asking her to marry me.

Joan helped me from beginning to end. She even sent me an e-mail asking how everything went. I put together the following short message: “In the end, 84 people signed up, but only 78 made the train” ( you’re right Mabel, another dozen ). Most of the missing must have thought that catching a train was like going to a movie and so they decided to skip the ‘credits’ and show up late ( Ha!, Ha!, no train ). ‘Big Mike’ took a cab to the next stop in Vancouver ( $40.00 ) and promptly missed the train again. Two others showed up at the hotel in a cab from the airport and the rest either rode their bikes up or hitchhiked. Who knows ! I remember herding everybody that even looked like a motorcyclist onto the last two cars and then got on myself ( the rest is a little fuzzy ).

The four-hour trip to Seattle was uneventful for the first hour ( 8:30 am – 9:30 am ), at which time the conductor told me to inform my ‘little pals’ that they had drained the bar car of booze ( and it wasn’t even 10:00 am yet ). That kind of dedication made me proud. There were a few cans of warm Miller Lite and one cold Budweiser left ( Yes!, there was a stampede ). This didn’t seem to be a major set back, as most people had a ‘pint’ in their pocket or one of those ‘suitcases’ that turn into a bar ( Well; I did anyway ). The conductor also made the following statement: ” Don, your friends seem kinda thirsty this morning”. All I could think of to say was: “YUP !”

I spent most of the trip up, asking people who they were sleeping with in Seattle. Maybe I should clarify that statement. You see, I made the train reservations under specific names, and then used those names to match people up in different rooms. Simple enough until someone dropped out at the last-minute and now Bob became Steve, but Bob was bunking with Dave who smoked and Steve doesn’t so…., remember earlier my sawed off shotgun. I solved the ‘name game’ problem quite simply. I went to a toy store and bought animals stickers. Two of everything, ( just like Noah ). So regardless of the name on your train ticket or the name on your hotel reservation, if you were a bear, all you had to do was find the other bear. It worked great and everybody got a chuckle. It took the better part of the trip to verify everyone’s sleeping arraignment, and towards the end I got a little short with people ( plus I was thirsty ). The very last guy I asked: “Do you know who you’re sleeping with!?”, retorted back at me with: ” I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m the conductor of the train, and who I am sleeping with is my business!”. Four of my pals in the first booth literally fell into the aisle laughing.

The scene switches to the hotel lobby. I had made careful plans to make sure everybody had just what they wanted. Smoking or not, one bed or two, the right room-mate, etc., etc. I stood at the front desk waiting for people to find their way the eight blocks from the train station, and I eventually got most of them registered ( bear to bear, giraffe to giraffe ). It turned out that 25 or so were either slow walkers or they decided to wander around Seattle a bit before checking in ( OK, they were in some bar ). After waiting a couple of hours for people to trickle in, I decided to go get a drink ( OK!, OK!, another drink ).

The ‘Red Robin’ bar downstairs would not have been my first choice, but it was close, they had lots of ice and my rum & coke was tall (  just what I needed ). I considered trying to relax for a second ( fat chance of that happening ), when I got a page to return to the front desk ( Rats ! ). Of course it was ‘Big Mike’, my firefighting buddy who missed the train, twice! His first question to me was: “I’ll be on the next train and just want to know where everybody will be when I get there?”… I thought deeply for a second, and then said: “What do you mean by everybody?”. There were 80-plus people going in just as many directions, so I told him that I would meet him at the station. We left the station, and along the way from one bar to another, I would try to point out as many of the eighty that I could. We parted company about 3:30 am, feeling confident that we had bumped into most everybody.

Even though it was a busy Saturday night in Seattle, we never had any problems getting into even the most hippest of clubs ( let’s just say that when you walk up with 25 guys in motorcycle jackets, the guy holding the ‘rope’ sez: “Welcome Aboard Guys”. ) Most of the big details ( read semi legal ) of our ‘Nite in Seattle’ where well covered by the print media the following morning ( slow news day, I guess ). I believe it was next to the article about all the trouble and violence in the Middle-East ( or were they talking about us? ). No matter, I’m just glad we didn’t run into any TV crews out on another assignment, and have them turn the lights on us. I’ve heard the camera adds another 10 pounds.

The next day, or later that same day, or how about Sunday morning at 8 am,  I was sneaking by the front desk because they had paged me about upping our security deposit ( guess we shouldn’t have thrown those sandbags off the roof ). The only thing that hadn’t happened was a medical emergency, so we had one. A young man who shall remain nameless ( Josh Cougar ), had been hugging the commode for six hours ( I guess that’s bad ). Luckily, there was a four car pileup right outside the hotel, so there were lots of paramedics handy. Four husky firefighters and two EMTs later, we all squeezed into Josh’s room to see how we could help ( he was freaking out, man! ). That’s when the miracle happened. It seems there comes a time when a person can decide to just ‘feel better’. This took place as the biggest firefighter snapped on a rubber glove and asked: “Now where does it hurt?”. Josh immediately perked up and said he was feeling OK!, and didn’t really need anything probed.

After many more bars and stops on the way to the station, all that is left to say is: “Only 75 people made the train for the return trip Sunday afternoon”. For those of you with poor math skills ( or a short memory ), that is 9 people less than went up to Seattle one day before. I figured that it was OK, because I didn’t get any calls for ‘bail money’. The trip back was fine, as Amtrak had ‘double stocked’ the bar car and put on a second  bartender. The conductor posted a sign on our car to warn normal people not to go any further ( something like: “Enter at own risk!” ). We all had fun drinking and jumping on and off the train for 30 seconds at a time to have a smoke. We finally learned to bunch up by the stairs as we pulled into various places and then all of us would practically fall out onto the platform ( a surprise for people waiting to get on ). The last big chuckle came when four guys playing cards missed their stop. I had gotten off in Vancouver ( the last stop in Washington ), to have a ‘four-puff’ cigarette and noticed that nobody from the group got off. As I came up to my buddies table in the ‘Train Car of Shame’ as it became known, I couldn’t help but query: “Aren’t you guys going to Vancouver?”. “Yes, we are”, they all chimed in. “Our girlfriends are picking us up.” I then said: “Well, look out the window boys and wave good-bye, because we are crossing the Columbia River into Oregon and heading for Portland”. Talk about dueling cell phones.

I ended the story to Joan by telling her that if I called her next year to plan another trip, to please talk me out of it ( seems I now have a weak heart ). I’m currently telling everybody who went on the trip, and most other people, too: “DO NOT CALL ME!” ( and yet I still get calls ). I am selling everything and moving into a small trailer at a secret location in the woods. Should you somehow manage to locate me, DON’T KNOCK! My specially trained security staff ( actually a small fluffy dog ), does not have a sense of humor.

See you in Costa Rica,   Uncle Don

“If you see a fork in the road, take it”  by Yogi Berra


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