A Great Ride

When we were engaged to be married, Honey and one of his buddies (let’s call him Jimbo, since that’s his name) decided to attend another buddy’s graduation from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.  We were in Texas.  So travel arrangements had to be made.

Now, Honey & I were both okay financially, but he was still a full-time student, so he was not so okay that he could swing a plane ticket, and Jimbo was also a student, or intended to be a student, or pretended to be a student, depending on the day.  So air travel was out.

Road trips had long served as the means by which these guys went anywhere, so for their best friend’s graduation, a simple road trip seemed old-hat, uneventful, and actually a little boring.  By that standard, taking the bus may not have even been spoken aloud as a consideration.

So at this point, we’ve given up on planes, cars, and buses.  Any ideas what that leaves?

Yep.  Trains.

But not Amtrak, people.  That would be far too conventional.  Honey and his gang thrive on adventure.  No, they would ride the rails like old-timey hobos!  They would hitch a ride to Colorado on freight trains!  It would be a trip for the ages!

Now, remember, we lived in Texas.  And not North Texas, like the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but coastal Texas.  Galveston.

Honey kissed me goodbye, and off they went.  They had a friend drop them off at the trainyard, and the next I would hear from them would be upon arrival in Colorado Springs.  We didn’t have cell phones yet.  They’d been invented, of course, but neither of us had one.  I’d just have to wait to hear from the guys when they got there; 950 miles away.  15 hours of driving if you don’t stop.  They figured it would take them two days on the train, maybe three.

In the meantime, I’d be working, hitting the beach, reading.  I didn’t worry.  Partly because Honey always seems to land on his feet, and partly because when you’re young, the idea of your fiance and his buddy getting squished by a boxcar doesn’t really cross your mind.  I honestly harbored more concern that he’d get arrested and fined.

At work, everyone thought Honey was so cool!  That was the benefit of working with people who were all younger than me except for the other managers.  Several times each day, staffers would ask me if I’d heard from the guys, and each query was followed with a wistful, “I wish I could do that.”

Then our Area Director showed up.  He seemed old to me; now I’m about the age he was then.  Early 40′s, married with kids.  His presence struck fear into many staffers, since he always inspected the store and gave us a list of improvements to make.  Because I didn’t cower in fear or try to suck up, he seemed to enjoy chatting with me after he’d walked through.  He asked how Honey’s studies were coming, and I replied that he was done for the semester and, in fact, had hopped a train to Colorado to see a friend graduate.

I did hear from Honey and Jimbo soon enough.  They’d ridden the rails, endured some long loading stops, and done their best to keep track of how far along they’d gotten.  When they realized they’d only reached Wichita Falls a day and a half later, reality set in.  They were still in Texas.  Missing graduation wasn’t the point of this trip, no matter how cool it would have been to ride in on a boxcar.  They called a friend to come pick them up and take them to Colorado Springs; graduation was well-celebrated.

Meanwhile, my conversation with my Area Director had gone like this:

“What?  He hopped a train?”

Yep.

“He didn’t have tickets?”

Nope.

“And you can’t get in touch with him?”

Nope.

“That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard!”

Which struck me as hilarious, strangely enough.  Maybe it was the sheer honesty of it; though the staffers thought Honey’s adventure was cool, most other people had reacted in a more subdued manner.  “Oh, wow, how unusual.”  “I bet you’ll be glad to hear from him when he gets there.”

Not my Area Director.  He just flat out called my fiance stupid.  And not just stupid, but the stupidest.

I ran into him again in 2008, eleven years after the train incident.  We had not kept in touch after I left the restaurant company.  I was leading then-4-year-old Blossom by the hand, waddling along hugely pregnant with Ladybug.  We recognized one another, exchanged a few pleasantries, and he told me of his recent divorce.  He asked me, “Are you still married?”

Um, yes.

“To that same guy who jumped a train?”

Yes.

I think I detected a slight eyeroll, but I didn’t mind.  Honey’s still here, still having adventures with Jimbo and others, and hopping a train hasn’t even been the high point of our lives.  Some call us adventurous; apparently others call us stupid.  Either way, so far we’ve had a great ride.

But when I’m along, we buy tickets.

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