Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rail Runner Story, Part Deux: Running and Raining

Honestly, I won't be posting every single time I ride Rail Runner. Unless, that is, yesterday's trip was the last one I ever take. Despite some chronological and meteorological hiccups, I actually had fun in that tiring adventure you don't want to do again anytime soon sort of way.

Northbound (7:25 train)

  • Today's story is all about shuttles. I find out about the South Valley/Airport shuttle and discover the thing goes not only to the airport but also to the Walmart at Rio Bravo and Coors. Yes it's interesting that a Walmart gets equal terminus billing to the airport (and yes, I am refusing to call the Airport "Sunport" here).
  • Rio Bravo is one large alfalfa field from my house, so I ingeniously decide to catch the shuttle bus by crossing the alfalfa field (it has a well-public traveled path along the ditches). The only problems with this ingenious idea are:
    • It rains the night before and it's a wee-bit muddy on the way to Rio Bravo
    • The shuttle doesn't stop right where I hit Rio Bravo, but about 2/3rds of a mile in either direction.
  • 6:45: I start a trek north from my house, crossing the clay mud ditch path in a clogging, sliding manner. My hiking boots are covered almost immediately, covered with cement-like mud. I smile in the early morning coolness.
  • 7:00: I hit Rio Bravo, turn to face my shuttle bus stop: a red light some 2/3rds of a mile away. I calculate how fast I and my mud-covered boots can cover 2/3rds of a mile. I'm gonna have to hurry.
  • 7:11: I start looking back to see if the shuttle bus is coming. Still hundreds of yards from the bus stop. Maybe it was more like a mile from where I start. I start jogging a bit.
  • 7:12: There's the shuttle! And it's gaining fast. With still a good 1/4 mile to go, I and the muddy boots kick into full running mode, which in my out-of-shape condition is just past brisk walk speed. I start flailing my arms, turning to face the oncoming bus and waving to illustrate my intention to ride the zooming bus.
  • 7:13: The bus driver is a good one, and patiently waits as I cover the last hundred or so yards to the waiting bus. I sweatily enter and discover that one reason he waited is that the shuttle bus is all mine. Nobody but me and the driver. I thank him and sweat on my chosen bus seat.
  • 7:18: We arrive at the South Valley train stop. Note that I refuse to call the stop by its "real" name "Bernalillo County/International Sunport". I hate that name. I hate the marketing strategy that would have us forget the stop is in the South Valley and instead focus on the Airport that is stupidly called the "Sunport" because of yet another marketing strategy.
  • The remainder of the ride is uneventful. Rail Runner is on time, the train is again filled with people perhaps a bit too happy they took the train instead of driving. I decide to take the 11 bus up Lomas, as the muddy running has killed my inclination to walk from Alvarado to Lomas/Girard. By the time I hit the workplace, most of the sweat has dried. Most of it.
Southbound (5:23 train)

  • Babble reader Michelle Meaders pointed out the other day that UNM Hospital has a "Rail Runner Shuttle" at 5:00. Hot damn! (thanks Michelle). I'm working later at work (remember, we teachers have banker's hours most days), so the 5:00 works wonderfully. I casually stroll down Lomas for a few minutes and enter the shuttle bus with time to spare. The bus is full of hospital workers, giving the ride a totally non-ABQ Ride vibe. It's friendly, friendly down to the point where some folks ask me if I'm on the right shuttle.
  • 5:10: The shuttle pulls up at Alvarado. The friendly folks and I jauntily disembark. We feel special, or at least I do as a rider of the near-secret shuttle (oh, did I mention this shuttle is free?). I do notice in the southern distance some storm clouds. They look somewhat threatening, but no real signs of rain that I can see.
  • 5:23: The train pulls out of Alvarado. It is packed, swarmed, engorged with passengers. Crazy full. So full that one wants to start taking pictures and posting them any and everywhere in order that the public knows how popular Rail Runner is and that more frequent trains are direly needed. Being full also means that the train is hot, and somewhat uncomfortable. Passengers have discovered the "New York Subway Distant Stare", a bored, aimless look into nowhere that signifies "Don't screw with me or I'll kill you". It's so heartening to the experienced public transport maven that Burque folks can pick up these important commuting attributes.
  • 5:35: It's pouring rain at the South Valley stop. Pouring to the point one might prefer to just ride the train to Belen, then ride it back to South Valley to see if it's let up. I venture forth, however, skittering toward the waiting shuttle buses: one to the airport, one to the Walmart at Coors/Rio Bravo. A few other folks get on the Walmart bus with me, including a talkative man who is damnably giddy about all the new transportation choices, as he works somewhere in Rio Rancho. I get tired calculating how long his commute must be, but mainly I look to the skies to see if the rain might let up. I still have to cross that muddy alfalfa field.
  • 5:40: The rain hasn't really let up, and a major squall is approaching from the West. I consider just riding to Walmart and holing up in that Hell-hole until it clears up. But I can't do it...loitering at Walmart is just too depressing to consider. I get off at my ill-placed stop, and venture forth, my New Yorker engaged as a primitive umbrella.
  • 5:40: Instead of running for a mile along Rio Bravo, I choose to trek across a housing subdivision featuring roads that all angles in directions I don't want to go. I am trying to find an opening to the far eastern side of the large alfalfa field.
  • 5:45: I am unsuccessful for some time. Enough time that my double-issue New Yorker is already soaked. The major squall has settled down upon my New Yorker. I plow forth, seeking an opening and the sight of lovely green alfalfa.
  • 5:50: I don't really find an opening, just a barbed-wire fence next to a house with shrilly barking little dogs. I scoot between barbed-wire strands and trudge through deeper mud in the general direction of my house along a part of the alfalfa field.
  • 5:51: I cross, trespass really, across the alfalfa field owners front yard. Sorry alfalfa field owners!
  • 5:54: I finally hit a ditch train running in the right direction to my house. Muddier than ever, the rain still coming down. Mud cakes up to 2 inches all around my boots. The New Yorker is now converted back to paper pulp. I move on.
  • 6:05: I finally get back onto pavement 1/4 mile from my house. It takes every bit of that stretch to scrape off the caked mud from the boots. I have to jump up and down on the pavement a few hundred times to help the process. Passing drivers, seeing a soaked man jumping up and down onto the street in the rain, swerve just a bit farther out of the way for fear of having anything to do with someone who is quite obviously psychotic.
  • 6:12: Home.

Really, it was fun. I'm not kidding.

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