© 2015 The Nielsens

Dogdander
Bike Nielsen 2015 Prologue You Couldn’t Make This Up      “That had the feeling of an emergency stop,” John mentioned casually as Berta lurched forward  under the deceleration of the train. Moments later, the conductor announced that we had “clipped a  truck back there”. The truck was a long piece of farm equipment pulled by a semi tractor. The driver just  barely failed to clear the rail crossing, so at the end of his trailer is a yellow water tank that will not be  holding water again.       The rumors quickly spread that we would suffer a two-hour delay. Annie from the Café Car, with the  mellifluous smoker’s voice, explained that—as much as she would like to accommodate our snack  needs—she has “a lot of law enforcement down here” so don’t come down here. Oh, and “use the  bathroom in your own car”. (Time passes) The conductor came back on the intercom to assure us that  the delay will be thirty minutes at the most. The empathetic reader may wonder if we are able to go  outside and stretch our legs. No, that evidently would contaminate the crime scene. So John took his  chance to walk a few cars down to get a bucket of ice. On his way back a lady asked him; ”Kentucky fried  chicken?”       (Time passes) Annie needs to take her dinner break, so you can’t go to the car you shouldn’t go to. A  helicopter flew over. It’s a crop duster, but it still spun around to gawk at the crash. We hoped he was  filming for the local news. (Time passes) A highway patrolman on foot patrol walked by, followed a while  later by a Sheriff who was wearing a K9 Unit tactical vest bristling with empty pockets. Only one pocket  was filled, by a Taser. The sheriff’s dog was nowhere to be seen. The sun is setting in an orange sky over  expansive fields of green produce. The solitary huge wind turbine in the distance is spinning at 16 rpm. It  is 7:36 on a Saturday night. We are sitting on the tracks alongside a tri-hole portable toilet trailer in the  Central Valley of California north of King City. The wind has subsided a bit, so the paper towels on the  outside are gently flapping their greetings to us. There goes the dogless Sheriff again. Except for some  haze in the air, we can see for about five miles in every direction.      (Time passes) There aren’t many people in our car. The guy next door who is incapable of passing by  without a comment (“Are we there yet?”) is doing pretty well after his bladder reduction surgery. He  called for the attendant to make up his bed. When she didn’t appear, 22 minutes later he figured out  how to do it himself.  We’re not sure how many times he has gone to the bathroom but it is more than  John has fingers.  The lady in the family room at the end of the car has already had dinner (thankfully,  there has been no disruption in the dining car). She is resting after spending an hour this afternoon  talking to customer service, speaking loudly her full name, address, and her credit card number including  the expiration date, the code on the back and her home phone number.       We received blankets soon after embarking. They are in plastic wrappers. Any wagers as to whether  they just take them off the last passenger’s bed, fold them, and wrap them in plastic? We won’t know  because the air in our static train is about 85 degrees and blankets are not in our future. At 8:15 p.m., it  is well and truly dark. Our car attendant has not been seen for hours despite our insistent use of the call  button. We greedily copped a few bottles of water from a case in the baggage shelf and somebody we  haven’t seen before appeared and stole a blanket from the empty room across the hall. We hope this  isn’t the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. Nope, false alarm. They say we are ready to roll.  Git em  up, move em out, rawhide!      (Time passes) That was overly optimistic to think we were on our way. We finally started moving after  the foreshadowed two-hour delay. Even though we are moving now, the train inspector has decreed  that we need a new engine. We may get the new engine in Salinas while we are asleep. The train  attendant did stop by earlier when we weren’t ready for our beds to be made, so we are making them  ourselves now. It’s not rocket science, but it includes pushing on a heavy platform while using one foot  to press on a latch. Chiropractors are standing by. The six meters of Velcro on the curtains that don’t  have any powers to close off the window repeatedly pull on hair and clothing. There seems a grave  danger of pinching an appendage in the process. However, after doing this on four different trips, we  are professional Amtrak bed makers.       According to the conductor, the very loud alarm that started around bedtime was confined to our car.  The man who silenced the alarm by opening a big control panel with an old-timey long skinny key said it  was because there were call buttons pressed both on the upper level and the lower level of our car.  Considering our attendant had been AWOL for hours, it seems like this was inevitable.       There are two types of people. People who like sleeping on trains and people who don’t. We like it or  we wouldn’t do this regularly. It wasn’t a perfect night’s sleep last night for Berta. When we were  stopped, she wondered how long we had been stopped and where we were. She opened her phone to  see where Google Maps thought we were. Martinez. Is there an Amtrak stop at Martinez? There are six  tracks alongside us. Are we in the train yard? Did they let everyone else out in San Jose with vouchers  for luxury accommodations and we are here in a mothballed train? That’s the reason Berta did not have  a perfect night’s sleep.      At breakfast, we heard from our blue-eye-shadowed, corpulent, tattooed and pierced tablemate that  the long stop in Martinez was due to a fire either on or near the train. She also related a tale of a drunk  woman singing in the coach car while others were attempting to sleep and having to use her cell phone  flashlight to subdue the intoxicated miscreant.  Since she had joined the train in Oakland, we told her  what happened during Crashapaloosa. She hoped the train is not doomed.  Returning to the room, Berta  asked John if thought our breakfast mate was a man or a woman.       Our incontinent neighbor finally got out of bed around 9 am. This may have been a new record for no  bathroom use.  He took a shower and has walked by three times wearing only a skimpy Amtrak towel  around his waist. Berta cannot unsee this image.

© 2015 The Nielsens

You Couldn’t Make This Up      “That had the feeling of an emergency stop,” John mentioned casually as Berta lurched forward  under the deceleration of the train. Moments later, the conductor announced that we had “clipped a  truck back there”. The truck was a long piece of farm equipment pulled by a semi tractor. The driver just  barely failed to clear the rail crossing, so at the end of his trailer is a yellow water tank that will not be  holding water again.       The rumors quickly spread that we would suffer a two-hour delay. Annie from the Café Car, with the  mellifluous smoker’s voice, explained that—as much as she would like to accommodate our snack  needs—she has “a lot of law enforcement down here” so don’t come down here. Oh, and “use the  bathroom in your own car”. (Time passes) The conductor came back on the intercom to assure us that  the delay will be thirty minutes at the most. The empathetic reader may wonder if we are able to go  outside and stretch our legs. No, that evidently would contaminate the crime scene. So John took his  chance to walk a few cars down to get a bucket of ice. On his way back a lady asked him; ”Kentucky fried  chicken?”       (Time passes) Annie needs to take her dinner break, so you can’t go to the car you shouldn’t go to. A  helicopter flew over. It’s a crop duster, but it still spun around to gawk at the crash. We hoped he was  filming for the local news. (Time passes) A highway patrolman on foot patrol walked by, followed a while  later by a Sheriff who was wearing a K9 Unit tactical vest bristling with empty pockets. Only one pocket  was filled, by a Taser. The sheriff’s dog was nowhere to be seen. The sun is setting in an orange sky over  expansive fields of green produce. The solitary huge wind turbine in the distance is spinning at 16 rpm. It  is 7:36 on a Saturday night. We are sitting on the tracks alongside a tri-hole portable toilet trailer in the  Central Valley of California north of King City. The wind has subsided a bit, so the paper towels on the  outside are gently flapping their greetings to us. There goes the dogless Sheriff again. Except for some  haze in the air, we can see for about five miles in every direction.      (Time passes) There aren’t many people in our car. The guy next door who is incapable of passing by  without a comment (“Are we there yet?”) is doing pretty well after his bladder reduction surgery. He  called for the attendant to make up his bed. When she didn’t appear, 22 minutes later he figured out  how to do it himself.  We’re not sure how many times he has gone to the bathroom but it is more than  John has fingers.  The lady in the family room at the end of the car has already had dinner (thankfully,  there has been no disruption in the dining car). She is resting after spending an hour this afternoon  talking to customer service, speaking loudly her full name, address, and her credit card number including  the expiration date, the code on the back and her home phone number.       We received blankets soon after embarking. They are in plastic wrappers. Any wagers as to whether  they just take them off the last passenger’s bed, fold them, and wrap them in plastic? We won’t know  because the air in our static train is about 85 degrees and blankets are not in our future. At 8:15 p.m., it  is well and truly dark. Our car attendant has not been seen for hours despite our insistent use of the call  button. We greedily copped a few bottles of water from a case in the baggage shelf and somebody we  haven’t seen before appeared and stole a blanket from the empty room across the hall. We hope this  isn’t the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. Nope, false alarm. They say we are ready to roll.  Git em  up, move em out, rawhide!      (Time passes) That was overly optimistic to think we were on our way. We finally started moving after  the foreshadowed two-hour delay. Even though we are moving now, the train inspector has decreed  that we need a new engine. We may get the new engine in Salinas while we are asleep. The train  attendant did stop by earlier when we weren’t ready for our beds to be made, so we are making them  ourselves now. It’s not rocket science, but it includes pushing on a heavy platform while using one foot  to press on a latch. Chiropractors are standing by. The six meters of Velcro on the curtains that don’t  have any powers to close off the window repeatedly pull on hair and clothing. There seems a grave  danger of pinching an appendage in the process. However, after doing this on four different trips, we  are professional Amtrak bed makers.       According to the conductor, the very loud alarm that started around bedtime was confined to our car.  The man who silenced the alarm by opening a big control panel with an old-timey long skinny key said it  was because there were call buttons pressed both on the upper level and the lower level of our car.  Considering our attendant had been AWOL for hours, it seems like this was inevitable.       There are two types of people. People who like sleeping on trains and people who don’t. We like it or  we wouldn’t do this regularly. It wasn’t a perfect night’s sleep last night for Berta. When we were  stopped, she wondered how long we had been stopped and where we were. She opened her phone to  see where Google Maps thought we were. Martinez. Is there an Amtrak stop at Martinez? There are six  tracks alongside us. Are we in the train yard? Did they let everyone else out in San Jose with vouchers  for luxury accommodations and we are here in a mothballed train? That’s the reason Berta did not have  a perfect night’s sleep.      At breakfast, we heard from our blue-eye-shadowed, corpulent, tattooed and pierced tablemate that  the long stop in Martinez was due to a fire either on or near the train. She also related a tale of a drunk  woman singing in the coach car while others were attempting to sleep and having to use her cell phone  flashlight to subdue the intoxicated miscreant.  Since she had joined the train in Oakland, we told her  what happened during Crashapaloosa. She hoped the train is not doomed.  Returning to the room, Berta  asked John if thought our breakfast mate was a man or a woman.       Our incontinent neighbor finally got out of bed around 9 am. This may have been a new record for no  bathroom use.  He took a shower and has walked by three times wearing only a skimpy Amtrak towel  around his waist. Berta cannot unsee this image.