National News

Tech and train-hopping

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-07-03 01:00

My family likes to tell stories. Sometimes they get changed and exaggerated in the retelling: Dad got chased by a grizzly. No, it was two grizzlies. It was two grizzlies and he was on a horse. Wasn't it?

But one story I know to be true, at least in its simplest form: My dad used to hop trains out west.

I remember him telling me how dangerous it was. Sometimes the train would stop where you wanted to get off, sometimes it wouldn't. You had to hit the ground running as fast as you could just to stay on your feet and avoid falling into the tracks and under the wheels.

My family is from Colorado, and this is the type of story that reminds me of our roots. 

That's why when I heard about Ted and Asa Conover's story, I had to talk to them. This father and son duo is from New York City, but they've both caught the train-hopping bug --Ted first, then Asa -- and went on an adventure together to do it.

I can vaguely remember adventures like that with my own father. Not as dangerous or as illegal, but walking the line. Linking arms so we could pull something out of the rubble at the town dump because it wasn't trash. Hopping a fence here or there. As a kid you have to learn boundaries by pushing against them, and if you're lucky you have a guardian who helps you learn how to do that and survive it. 

The interesting thing about this week's conversation with the Conovers is that technology has changed the game of train-hopping. It used to be an oral tradition of sorts -- knowing the right moves and knowing when and where a train might stop. Heck, at any given time you could be riding a train and have no real idea how far you'd traveled or how close you were to your destination. But now there are smart phones and PDF documents shared among the hoppers that detail the gathered knowledge of this illegal pastime. There's even a rumor -- almost a tech ghost story -- about a special infrared scanner that law enforcement uses to catch people train-hopping near Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Ted Conover was saying that no matter how tech has changed the process, your success still depends completely on your own ingenuity. I thought that sounded like hacking, and he agreed. 

We all see our world change as we get older, and we lament the change. School shootings make for exhaustive visitation rules. More lawyers make for neighbors who don't invite you to use their pool on a hot day. Smart phones make for staring at screens instead of interacting with and meeting strangers. In the case of train-hopping, technology seems to hinder and help; depending on how you define "bad" and "good," it's got a bit of both.

Yeah, I know hopping trains is illegal and dangerous, and I'm not trying to encourage others to do it. In fact I would discourage people from doing it (for the record, Ted Conover probably would too). But that doesn't mean it's a story we shouldn't tell. It's part of my own family history -- part that's always made me proud to have a connection to the west. Like riding horses or knowing how to start a fire in the snowpack, there's something about train-hopping that makes me feel proud of the people and place where I come from. This July 4th week, that feels just about right. 

For Once, The U.S., Russia And Iran Actually Agree On Something

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 23:14

There's a broad international consensus that radical militants in Iraq pose a serious threat. But that doesn't mean the U.S., Russia, Iran and others will act in a coordinated fashion.

» E-Mail This

An Uncertain Future Of The U.S. Terrorism Insurance Program

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 23:09

The federal program, which would pay for catastrophic damage if a U.S. city was attacked again, is up for renewal this year and some have begun to worry that it may be in trouble.

» E-Mail This

Chikun-What? A New Mosquito-Borne Virus Lands In The U.S.

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 23:08

It's called chikungunya. And it causes severe joint pain that can last for months. A quarter of a million people have caught the virus in the Caribbean. So how big a problem will it be stateside?

» E-Mail This

With Dirt And A Vision, Palestinian Architects Break The Mold

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 23:07

In the city of Jericho in the West Bank, there's a new home that looks like it might be from another planet. But in fact, its designers took pains to use materials that were as local as possible.

» E-Mail This

Japan's PM Says He Intends To Ease Sanctions Against North Korea

NPR News - Wed, 2014-07-02 19:50

Shinzo Abe's announcement follows Pyongyang's decision to create a committee to investigate the abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and '80s. Japan will still abide by UN sanctions.

» E-Mail This

KBBI is Powered by Active Listeners like You

As we celebrate 35 years of broadcasting, we look ahead to technology improvements and the changing landscape of public radio.

Support the voices, music, information, and ideas that add so much to your life.Thank you for supporting your local public radio station.

FOLLOW US

Drupal theme by pixeljets.com ver.1.4