It’s 2017 which doesn’t even sound like a real year to me. Every year we get a little closer to sounding like the beginning of a science fiction movie from the 80s. And with that progression toward hovercars and casual abuse of laser pistols, we get a little further from the possibility of something truly magical happening, something I didn’t know I wanted to do until very recently. Every year we get a little further from train robberies.
I ride my bike home along Route 66–which sounds like a line from a classic rock song but is actually just kind of boring. Alongside the road is a train track. Connoisseurs of train-crime will be able to predict the criminal avenues my mind wandered while riding home yesterday. There I was, leisurely rolling down the road, saying “hey buddy” to the prairie dogs as they popped from the ground. Then, there was a train. To say this was an average train would be doing it a disservice. Average trains chug along, they inspire songs and stories and anthropomorphization in children’s television. Where most trains may barrel down their tracks or even roll at a steady but respectable pace, this train crawled. I related to it because it reminded me of myself anytime I’ve been foolish enough to jog.
I ride my bike at a modest 8 miles per hour. That’s not very fast, but I was a Nascar on a greased track going downhill with a suicidal driver in the rain compared to this thing. I was halfway through the speed limit in a school zone, and this train could have been outrun by a construction crew building the track ahead of it by hand.
While I was riding next to it, I was struck with an idea. As I get older, I feel like I’ve begun to understand the Grinch a little better. Not the Grinch with the three-times-bigger heart, but the Grinch with the shriveled black grape in his chest. I saw the train crawling along the tracks like a dehydrated man dying in the desert, and I realized I could rob it. I could rob it on my bicycle.
I do not know how common bicycle-mounted crime is, but I’m certain I’ll be one of the first to rob a train that way. I wanted to roll up beside it, peddle my way to the conductor’s car, and make a daring leap from my steed. It would roll to a stop in the dust, and I’d be left alone with the hapless conductor. I wouldn’t hurt them. I’m more of the dashing charismatic criminal than the violent kind. The remarkably slow train was not the kind to carry passengers. The type of people to ride trains has somewhat reversed in the last 100 years, so robbing a passenger train would be less Robin Hood stealing from the rich and more Donald Trump stealing from people too poor to afford a car.
It was a cargo train. A cargo train with horses. A horse-go train because I didn’t actually see any cars. I could furnish an entire outlaw gang using the supplies I could steal from this train, and then I could rob it again.
I’d flee with my new outlaw band. We’d ride into the woods, sit around a campfire, eat beans directly from the can like real ruffians. We might go to a saloon together. It would be a new life for me, a life very different from being a broke English teacher, but I would manage with the help of my criminal buddies.
Sometimes, I get carried away daydreaming while riding my bike home. This was one of those times.