Musings from the 611 Trip

by John Delach

After our dinner on Friday night in Greensboro, we stopped at the bar in the Marriott for a night cap before making an early retreat in deference to our 4:30 AM wake-up calls. Lights out for me was shortly past 10. I began drifting off as I entertained thoughts about tomorrow when the sound of what I took to be bongo drums invaded my room. “Bom, ba, ba, bom, ba, bomba, ba, ba; filled my head. For perhaps two or three seconds, they’d cease then start again. No pattern that I could discern; just bom, ba, ba, bom, etc.


Angrily, I threw off the bed sheets, stood up and faced the door only to realize the sound was coming not from the direction of the hall or another room, but from outside my window. I turned, opened the curtains to discover I had a fantastic view from my 11th floor room of a decent fireworks show. The spectacle was being fired from just beyond the centerfield fence of  New Bridge Bank Park, home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, a Class A minor league team of the Miami Marlins.


Friday night was obviously fireworks night. The curtains were closed when I arrived and I never noticed a ball park out side my window. Glad I hadn’t made myself a fool by complaining to the front desk, I watched the grand finale before again retiring.



Next morning, on board Coach WATX 539, our hostess, Trudy, introduced herself as a life-long citizen of Roanoke. Of good humor, Trudy told us both her father and brother worked for the Norfolk & Western and she grew up taking complimentary family trips behind the railroad’s J Class locomotives. She explained the rules and tips we needed to know to make our trip safe and enjoyable including what coaches we could visit and which were off limits, the location of commissary car where we could purchase non-alcohol drinks and souvenirs and the locations for the men’s and women’s rest rooms in each coach.


It just so happened that Trudy covered these subjects while she stood in the row directly in front of me. Needless to say, I couldn’t resist the temptation to have some fun so when she finished her spiel about the restrooms I ventured: “Now, Trudy, ordinarily, your information would be sufficient, but we no longer live in such a simple age. I have already explained to my two buddies here who are, shall we say, metrosexuals, that it is illegal for them to consider using the women’s room while we remain in North Carolina and to wait until the train reaches Danville, Virginia before exercising that option.”


“Perhaps you may wish to make a similar announcement to the rest of the passengers?”


Trudy looked back at me with a glint in her eye and said: “I think I’ll pass on that.”


On the way out, the staff distributed a boxed breakfast and on the return trip, a snack box at about 4:30 PM. That box contained two cookies, a bag of potato chips, a bag of mixed nuts, one of freeze dried blueberries and a sealed bag of Biltong USA: Safari Style Gourmet Beef Snacks. The bag was accompanied by a slick, multi-colored brochure extolling the superior qualities of this South African delicacy over plain old American beef jerky. It proclaimed biltong to be the first ever (jerky) to be USDA-approved and that it too is made right here in the USA.


“Bil” means buttocks or ass in Dutch and “ting” means strip. The national headquarters for Biltong USA appears to be Biltong Super Store, Stallings, NC. It can also be acquired at a Shell Carwash, San Diego, CA, Greenville Jerky and Vine in NC, The Jerky Store, Helen, SC, Midtown Gourmet, Owensboro, KY and Newport Jerky Co. Newport, RI.


Excitedly, I turned to Mike Cruise and said, “Mike, if we act right now we will become the biltong kings of the tri-state area. Why we will be selling biltong from Cape May, NJ to Groton, CT – from New York City to Buffalo! Our ship has come in.


Mike hesitated, “Let’s taste it.”


We opened the pouch and each took a strip. “So what do you think?” I asked.


Mike replied, “I believe it’s an acquired taste similar to eating dog poop.”


Mike was right and my dream died there on the train. But I brought my bag of biltong home and, Max, our Golden Retriever loves it. Does the dog snack market beckon?