We stalked the yard for hours, hiding out in groves of eucalyptus trees and walking for miles in degree heat with pound packs on our backs. It all seemed to come so easily to Keeley in his writings, but he had transformed into a hobo Patton in the desert, leading us on a cheerless series of false starts that felt more and more like training exercises.
When our luck finally looked like it was beginning to turn, we got caught. He told us to walk a mile down the track, past the end of the yard, and catch a train on the fly by the Amtrak station like good hoboes—advice we promptly ignored. After walking parallel to the yard through sand dunes in the open sun, we shimmied under a small hole in the fence and back into the yard.
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The first train we boarded—the one I disembarked face-first—was headed in the wrong direction. The second one got us out. For a moment, as our train rattled through the Mojave National Preserve, past the dancing shadows of Joshua trees and desert scrub, it clicked. We had outmaneuvered a yard full of bulls, dodged death, and now even the sun was on our side. But before long, the majesty gave way to the monotony of being trapped aboard a five-foot-long flatbed platform, fingers cramping up from clutching the latch of a shipping container to guard against sudden stops, our bodies weary and dehydrated.
The train paused by the Colorado River around midnight and we stepped off. Back on gravel for only a moment, we walked quickly up the train in search of a car with a platform deep enough to safely spend the night, climbed aboard, and were off once more. Nothing happens and then it happens so fast.
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The next day found us idling through mountain meadows outside Flagstaff, pausing for anywhere from two minutes to two hours to let faster trains pass, or to switch crews, or for track maintenance, or, Keeley suggested more than once, because someone called us in. When the train slowed to a stop, we made our escape. We climbed over a barbed-wire fence and eventually emerged at a Valero.
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Keeley is an expert at adapting to unusual circumstances, but never fully groks normal ones. The next three days were a slow descent into purgatory. The good news was that it was a hotshot, meaning it held high-priority cargo that other trains would have to make way for. The lights of Oklahoma City flickered by that night, as Keeley snored like a broken garbage disposal.
Given the lack of a proper latrine, maybe this was for the best. But the yards become more militarized the farther east you go, and this one felt like Normandy. Our options were to jump out of the train as it rolled and hope for an exit, or to get off when it stopped and almost certainly get caught. Keeley wanted to keep going. Why waste money on a flight when you had a hotshot? Tom Dyson, a British financial analyst who has ridden trains with Keeley in Mexico, Canada, and the United States, recalled that after wading across the Rio Grande to Texas, he had sought out a gas station to make a phone call to his wife.
Across Missouri, the lightning flashed brilliantly in the distance for hours, and when the skies finally opened up around midnight, sheets of rain pelted our car at 60 mph. There was nowhere to get off, no way to stop, no way to ward off hypothermia except going fetal and praying for dawn. He could flip that switch so quickly. For part of the last decade he has dreamed of extending the Pacific Crest Trail, which meanders down the Cascades and the Sierras, south through Baja to Cabo San Lucas.
My jump from the moving train in Barstow, he told me before he left, was worth one Catman point. George Meegan, the British adventurer most famous for walking 19, miles from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Ocean in the late s, was sitting by the river in Iquitos, Peru, one sweltering night a couple of years ago when Keeley introduced himself and began to quiz him about the Darien Gap, an impenetrable tangle of swampy jungle that has thwarted land travel across Panama for centuries. Meegan compares Keeley to another Iquitos transplant, the real-life adventurer of the Werner Herzog epic Fitzcarraldo , who once transported a steamship over a mountain while exploring the Peruvian Amazon, before dying on the river at But there was something voyeuristic—even for a journalist—about tramping through hobo jungles hoping to catch a glimpse of an alcoholic or band of punks, dropping in on their world with a camera and a notepad as if I were after the snow leopard.
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I put that all in the same bucket. It was enough for them to know that he had and they could. Meanwhile, they honored his ethos in small ways. Steve Klett, the medical-device VP, proposed to his girlfriend at a Mojave ghost town Keeley had first shown him. Then he planned to return once more to Guatemala, for a ferry over the Usumacinta and a train ride north with the fall migration on La Bestia. In the meantime, if I could convince my editors to send me to Peru, he had a story for me. Maddie Oatman.
Rebecca Leber. Jacob Blickenstaff. Jackie Flynn Mogensen. Tim Murphy. Matt Cohen. Inae Oh.
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Help us test it. Subscribe to our magazine. Bo Keeley outside Barstow, California in May, Photo: Tim Murphy. Bo Keeley in his professional racquetball years. Bo on the cover of the now defunct Racquetball Illustrated magazine. It Was Murdered. Read Our Story on Him. Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.
Get our award-winning magazine Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights. Support our journalism Help Mother Jones ' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation. Mag Promo Independent. In print. In your mailbox. Inexpensive, too! June April So explore, or just relax. Grand Cayman is also known for its spectacular shopping ventures.
Fashionistas will enjoy world-class shopping on the streets of George Town. From duty-free designer wear to local handicrafts, there is something for every pocket and taste. From the delicacies of the sea to local dishes, its restaurants are expected to charm the taste buds of any food connoisseur. With many restaurants dotted along the beach, they consume the air with their aromas from foods like jerk chicken, conch, cassava, mahi and plantain.
The Amazing, Possibly True Adventures of Catman Keeley and His Corporate Hoboes
Ships tender passengers to one of two George Town docks North or South , both of which are right in downtown George Town. The tender ride can take 10 to 25 minutes each way. Taxis are typically available at the cruise dock. Rates are fixed and posted, but be sure to confirm the fare before the driver takes off.
Minibuses shuttle passengers along the main routes. Licensed buses are identified by blue licence plates. To hail a minibus, respond with a wave when the driver honks. Fares start at CI 1. Cayman dollars and U. As always, keep your valuables locked up and be aware of your surroundings.
The cure for bladder stones is distilled water. The cure for anxiety is distilled water. The cure for strokes is distilled water. I made a note to pack distilled water. Keeley greeted me at the Amtrak station in downtown Los Angeles with a smile and a handshake.
Keeley was the older of two brothers in a traditional Midwestern family. His father, who died in , was a Navy engineer and a DIY enthusiast who built a two-person submarine in his garage. At the age of five, Bo finished his first painting. It was a freight train. He was a Boy Scout, an Episcopalian, and a productive student.
Granted all-night access to the gym through his work-study, he began experimenting with racquetball, and after submitting his exams, decided to forgo veterinary practice to play in the new professional league. He was a star, as these things go. He also offered glimpses of his future self—driving across the country, for example, with a seven-foot-tall stuffed rabbit named Fillmore Hare sitting shotgun. The rabbit could wave to passersby when Keeley pulled a string that was tied to his hand; it was, he explained, a great way to pick up girls. His mother was more philosophical. Before long, he walked away from professional racquetball too.
Keeley prided himself on conditioning. Brumfield was coldly manipulative.