Yes! Finally, after what turned out to be a gigantic task of moving the PROFANE EXISTENCE distro from Minneapolis to Denver, transferring tons of data, and rebuilding the web store, we are finally set to open back up. To access the new store follow one of the many links from profaneexistence.com or access it directly at http://profaneexistence.storenvy.com
The first official PROFANE EXISTENCE title of 2015 is out and ready for order! We are proud to bring you the RIFLE DIET – “NO SOLACE”LP
Rifle Diet’s No Solace is a 12in 45 that combines the Classic Minneapolis crust sound with Swedish hardcore, D-beat and Epic crust (think somewhere between Servitude and Wolfbirgade, with hints of Tragedy and Fall of Efrafa). The beautiful cover art by Hannah Benoche sets a bleak mood for the dark music within, plus a cover of His Hero is a Gone – Chain of Command (ex-members of InDefence and Garmonbozia) This LP is a joint release between PROFANE EXISTENCE and BLOOD OF THE YOUNG RECORDS
To honor both the opening of the new store and our first release of 2015, we are giving a free copy of the RIFLE DIET – No Solace lp to everyone that spends more then $50 from Monday January 12th to Monday January 19th!!! This deal is for one week only. DO NOT MISS OUT!
*Note*Rifle Diet are playing a record release show 1/17/15 at the Dogplex in Minneapolis with Kontrasekt, Aziza, and Fucking. To coincide with that show all orders that contain the RIFLE DIET – No Solace lp will be shipped out on Monday January 12th.
The next release in the works is the new full length lp from APPALACHIAN TERROR UNIT – “We Don’t Need Them”.
We Don’t Need Them is the second full-length record from West Virginia punx Appalachian Terror Unit. ATU have become known throughout the years as being one of the most politically charged bands in the current punk scene. This new record is an all out attack on today’s society that takes ATU to a new level of intensity both lyrically and musically. The combination of the beautiful and thought provoking gatefold cover art designed by Stivart along with the brilliant recording and mastering job by Jay Matheson at the Jam Room take this record even further. Song subjects include the horrors of war, police brutality, destruction of the environment, rape culture, consumerism and much more. Expect a very heavy and much angrier approach from a band that has been around the block and matured their sound. Seven raging new tunes including the epic fourteen and a half minute track “We Don’t Need Them”, a song that will one day be ranked among similar greats as the SUBHUMANS “From the Cradle to the Grave” and AUS ROTTEN “And Now Back to Our Programming”.
APPALACHIAN TERROR UNIT – We Don’t Need Them will be pressed in the United States on PROFANE EXISTENCE & in Europe on SKULD /RUIN NATION
WARWOUND – “A Huge Black Cloud-The Demos 1983“
Another record we are very excited about is the upcoming WARWOUND – A Huge Black Cloud-The Demos 1983. Recorded in 1983, this record contains 15 songs from three sessions. With a few different takes you get a total of 25 blistering tracks. For those unfamiliar with WARWOUND they are a UK band formed in 82, and released 2 demos in 83. Members went on to join THE VARUKERS and form the almighty SACRILEGE. Warwound are one of the first bands to take the politics and d-beat influence from DISCHARGE and combine it with the blown out sound of CHAOS UK to achieve total destructive raw d-beat ear bleeding chaos!
WARWOUND – A Huge Black Cloud-The Demos 1983 will be a split release between PROFANE EXISTENCE and ORGANIZE AND ARISE.
It will be available in the spring of 2015.
Other records and projects we have in the works for 2015 …
VASTATION (pdx formally night nurse) vs WAR//PLAGUE Split EP
KRANG are a new band birthed from Chicago’s DIY punk underbelly. They play a brutally powerful brand of thrashy riff-laden crustcore and have an intense live presence. They have recently recorded for a few vinyl projects, including PE’s own 7″ singles series. Check ‘em out!
Interviewed by Brian Poulin (NEGLIGENCE). All photos by Adam DeGross.
PE Who’s in the band and what does each of you do?
AUSTIN: guitars / backing vocals / song writing (synth & keyboard on 12″)
ADAM: bass / backing vocals / song writing
BRENDAN: lead vocals / lyrical content
DEVAN: drums & percussion / backing vocals
PE: What’s a brief history of the band and how did you guys form?
Austin: We started circa 2009. We had an additional guitarist: Louis C. He went on to start a blackened crust band called Welkin Dusk, based in Chicago that he plays drums & lead vocals for. We used to have an additional lead singer as well: Hannah B. Hannah was a part of our first two releases: the out of print “Onward Desolation” demo tape, and also the out of print “Bog of Eternal Stenchcore” 7″. Hannah is now the front-woman in a band called Despise, based out of Minneapolis. Our original drummer, Brett, is on the two recordings I mentioned before, as well as our “Sounds of Death” 12″. Brett now drums for a Chicago / northwest Indiana band called Asphixiate. Devan is now our permanent drummer and he will have his first appearance on the “Broken Waves” 7″, released by Profane Existence, which is coming out in June. Devan will also be on our next 12″: “Bad Moon”, which we are writing right now. I, as well as Krang, are totally stoked on Devan and really happy to have them. Devan is active outside of percussion as well with assisting in writing, assistance in lyrical content & structure, and the internet stuff. This line up has been solidified for over a year and is totally fucking Krang! It just works perfectly.
PE: You guys are based out of Chicago. What are your favorite parts of the scene there? What are your least favorite things about Chicago’s scene?
Devan: Chicago’s an interesting place. I feel like the pros and cons are often directly related to one-another. For example, the mere size of the city. There are so many people – new to here, young, old, whatever – that there is basically always something going on and a handful of solid DIY spaces at all times, regardless of whether people leave or places get busted or whatever. The downside is that the physical structure of the city makes it difficult and/or terribly time-consuming to navigate. Especially if you don’t have a car. And even if you do, parking sucks. Anyway, as a result of the city being as segregated as it is, people are often inclined to just stick to what’s going on in their neighborhood and it results in a lack of exposure or attention paid to some really cool things. It’s unfortunate. But then there are some events like the annual Black and Brown Punk Show (shout-out to Monika!) or other fest-type shows where the attendance is crazy and bullshit is minimal. It’s rad.
Austin: I used to live in CHI. I reside in northwest Indiana (NWI). It’s really close. You can compare it to how close Jersey is to NYC. The rest of the band does live in CHI. My favorite things about Chicago is the “don’t take shit” attitude that at least me and the scene we’re involved with has. We’ll kick you out if your a piece of shit human or kick your ass if we have to. I also like The Void Haus in NWI for gigs. My personal least favorite things are cliques, hype, division, etc… the things that you see in every rather large city, I suppose.
Adam: I love Chicago’s unspoken rule of everyone being down to get down when shit hits the fan and nobody lets bogus comments or derogatory gestures fly. My complaint for the longest time was how there is the same hierarchy that we all hate in daily life at a lot of the gigs. It seems like those “in crowd” wanks have come and gone though, or maybe I just don’t surround myself with such fools anymore. My main complaint, and I know I am sounding super negative, but for such a large city there is a lack of bands playing what I am into personally. There are a lot of great bands doing great things…but that doesn’t necessarily mean I am into them musically. Haha! I have a particular taste and its not being fulfilled. I usually go to shows to hang out and have a good time and just show support but its rare that I actually shit over a band that I see locally. I do really, really get down to Population though. White boy can’t dance but when I see this band I start doing shit I didn’t know I was capable of.
Brendan: Chicago is simultaneously the best & worst place to live; which I’d imagine is a critique most other big-city dwellers share. There is no shortage of great folks, bands, eats, cool nerd-haunts (comic & record collectors rejoice!), and beautiful neighborhoods/communities in which to live. The same is true for all of the awful yuppies, gold cost bourgeois, & assholes who get your friends hooked on hard drugs. A lot of the time I wish that I lived in a vast expanse of lush nature with no human presence save myself. When I’m not wishing for seclusion, I’m loving how hard of a time I have sorting out which of the 5 awesome punk shows I get to go see any given night. Chicago has everything I love & hate at once; most of the time its worth it.
PE: Musically what are you guys going for?
Devan: I’d say sincerity, first and foremost. In sound, words, and delivery. And the connections we can and have made with people based on that. My musician’s answer would be just to write the best songs we can and perform them at the highest level at all times.
Austin: I just want to stick out and be a little different sounding. I still want to have that essential formula for great punk. I personally believe we found the introduction to our sound with the “Sounds of Death” 12″. We have two formulas: triumphant, galloping crust metal and simplified, pissed off, to-the-point stuff.
Brendan: Initially we formed with the idea of writing over the top odes to crust circa late 80’s/early 90’s; stuff you could flail your overgrown dreadlocks around to. We all fell into a groove with each other over time, where we don’t really need to define what we’re gonna write before we do. We approach releases with general outlines (theme,length, format etc.), but when writing songs I’d say we aim for mean, earnest & impactful.
Adam: I think naturally all being into different types of musical backgrounds, our finished product ends up being a thing of its own, but we all have similar enough interests to where we end up with the result that we initially were trying to go for. I personally am really into trying to sound like the bands I am into. It doesn’t end up exactly that way which is good but I love when bands obsess over old school sounds/bands/records and try to make their contemporary music sound as authentic as possible whether it be tone or style or whatever. At the end of the day we are trying to sound pissed, like we worship the 80s and have our music sound anarchy as fuck!
PE: What bands inspire you the most?
Austin: I listen to EVERYTHING. I don’t know where to begin but musically, keeping personal interest aside, I think we’re inspired by 80’s UK crust and a lot of Japanese stuff as far as writing collectively. This is something me and you will have to nerd out on when we’re in Boston next. Haha!
Adam: For Krang, bands that influence the writing process for me are Masskontroll, Deathraid, Sacrilege, Hellshock, Deviated Instinct, Sodom, Axegrinder and Amebix as well as Instinct of Survival. Personally I am all over the water but my all time 2 favorite punk bands have always and will always be Discharge and the Dead Boys.
Devan: I could go on a long rant about every band I’ve ever loved and how they’ve all stuck with and influence me to this day and blah blah blah, but I’ll spare you the cost of ink and just say Sacrilege, Crude, Amebix and Discharge. That said, we are quite the eclectic bunch.
Brendan: Musically, anything running the gamut from Paintbox to Elliot Smith. I enjoy a lot of soaring Japanese hardcore with that Burning Spirits feel, 90’s screamo, early black metal & hip hop. Any band that has a way with words gets me going, but mostly I enjoy music that you can’t help but feel.
PE: What are most of your songs about? What inspires the lyrics?
Brendan: Lemme preface by saying that Discharge is rad & “The More I See…” could be the soundtrack to my daily tedium… but i think punk rock has much more potential than to rehash our dogmatic & oftentimes simplistic politics. Having been a few places where the punk scene eats itself inside out with depression, addiction, & apathy towards the struggles of those around us, I think its real important to allow ourselves to be more open in the way we express all of the things exploding in our minds. I am not blowing my own horn, or any horn for that matter, but I really enjoy taking the personal route when it comes to writing & am constantly attempting to better address the common threads that run through all of our lives. Our first wave of songs covered some of our political leanings in regards to vivisection, arms manufacturing, rape culture & the willful destruction of our Earth. The “Bog of Eternal Stenchcore” 7″ reflects on the weight of stagnation on the “politically motivated”. “Sounds of Death” is the result of an obsession with death and a years worth of hurt; friends making irreversible decisions in regards to their lives & some of us falling into those spirals ourselves. There is absolution in acceptance though & I think a glint of hope in such dark subject matter. Our upcoming 7″ deals with cycles of change in our lives, moments of mania & madness; a counterpoint to our last 7″. The songs we are writing & playing now are an extension of that, focusing on moments of change in our lives, wanderlust & really just form one big, loud, pissed love letter to the DIY community, punk rock & time spent on the road. Inspiration comes from any human I’ve met that has dared to be open, honest & shameless about it.
Devan: Passion in all its forms and extremities is what inspires us. Totally.
PE: You guys have done a few extensive tours. What’s your favorite city you guys haveplayed in? What’s your least favorite?
Austin: I love Boston. Detroit, New Orleans, and the Twin Cities (Minneapolis) are up there too. I don’t really have a least favorite. We have had some bad experiences, though. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and not mention them. Hopefully things will be better when we return.
Devan: New Orleans is my favorite city ever, and our most recent gig in Boston totally ruled. I’d have to say, though, that many of my favorite shows have been in non-major cities. Birmingham AL was awesome, Asheville NC, Cincinatti OH, Grand Rapids MI…basically anywhere with a really tight-knit but wide-ranging DIY scene in terms of age, music, spaces, projects, etc. It’s always super encouraging to see.
Brendan: I’ll echo the others in saying that NOLA, Asheville, Cincy, Birmingham, Boston & Baltimore all kick ass. I’m usually super appreciative of all the towns we’ve been lucky enough to play in, though of course we’ve played in towns that seemed to embrace the anti-PC attitude/sense of humor that I am so fucking sick of. Some cities are really 50/50 because you’ll either play an amazing show with bad-ass folks & have the time of your life, or you might end up wanting to eviscerate some fuckhead who only listens to GG Allin & doesn’t get why a confederate flag hanging at a show space might ruffle some feathers.
Austin: We as a band aren’t about making sure we are politically correct all the time, but we definitely are hellbent on showing one another respect and are willing to give respect back to those who are legit. No single city is bad. Like I said before, sometimes there are some bad experiences. Fuckheads are everywhere.
Adam: Yes, Cincinnati, Birmingham, Boston, but most of all NOLA and Minneapolis. New Orleans and Minneapolis…no other city can live up to the debauchery that is expected to happen when we arrive in these two places. We need a week of recovery after being in either place for just a day. Also I love playing Madison a lot. Fuck, I love touring. So many amazing friends are being missed right now as we speak.
PE: What are some of your favorite bands you guys have played with?
Lord Krang: Scum from Detroit, Appalachian Terror Unit, Antisect, In Defense, Nu-kle-ar Blast Suntan, Kontrasekt, Cognitive Dissonance, The Skuds, Coelacanth, WrathCobra, Wartorn, Negligence, In Ruins, and definitely D-Clone; but honestly, it’s great to play with anyone and everyone who aren’t assholes and give a shit about “punk rock”.
PE: What are some of your favorite local bands from Chicago?
Lord Krang: Asphyxiate, Decay After Death (Decay A.D.), Cemetery (RIP), Culo, Die Time, Slag, Escalofrio, Sex Bunker (RIP), Birth Deformities, Gas Rag, Welkin Dusk, Daylight Robbery, Dirty Surgeon Insurgency, The Breathing Light, La Armada, Black September, Kontaminat, Ooze, Tensions, The Busy Sugnals, Population, More that we’re forgetting to mention….
PE: What does the future hold for Krang?
Devan: As Austin mentioned earlier, we have our “Broken Waves” 7″ being released in June, at which point we’ll be doing a small tour with Coelacanth. Also, as previously stated, we are well along in the writing process for our next full-length LP. Look for us around the Mid-west this summer and keep up-to-date and get in touch via the following:
crustardpunx[AT]gmail.com – krangcrustards.bandcamp.com – krangcrustards.blogspot.com
Austin: More touring, more albums, more blood spit nights, more everything! We’ll do a more extensive tour when the new LP comes out.
Brendan: “Bad Moon” 12″ – Skull Fest – Split(s?) – Self-Destruction With A Gusto
Lord Krang: Record labels that are interested in helping us with our next 12″ (which is more than half way written) get in touch with us!!! It will be even more galloping, pist, and triumphant than our still available “Sounds of Death” 12″!
For those of you who don’t know DEADLY REIGN, Its time to get with the program! DEADLY REIGN is a 3 piece D-BEAT killing machine with a legendary line up comprised of members from GLYICNE MAX, DOGMA MUNDISTA, SCARRED FOR LIFE, WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, KEGCHARGE, CENTURY OF WAR AND TILL DEATH. These guys have been at it for a long time and don’t fuck around when it comes to bringing you punk rock authentic and true to its sound and with their new single released on PE entitled SLAVE! These guys don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. So let’s get to the brass tacks and see what these guys have been up to. (INTERVIEW BY DUTCH WELCH FROM KRIGBLAST)
PE: So what are your names, what do you play, and how did you guys come together?
(RAYGUNN) I MOVED TO AUSTIN AND RAN INTO GUERINOT AT HIS DAUGHTER’S BIRTHDAY PARTY. UNKNOWN TO ME, MY WIFE WAS AND STILL IS GOOD FRIENDS WITH HIS WIFE AT THE TIME AND HE AND I KNEW EACH OTHER FROM THE PAST WHEN OUR PREVIOUS BANDS HAD PLAYED TOGETHER. WE GOT TO TALKING AND DECIDED THAT WE SHOULD START A BAND. I SAID, WE JUST NEED A BASS PLAYER/SINGER, AND HE SAID HE HAD ONE. HE CALLED HIS FRIEND GUSHAMMER AND HE WAS INTO IT. THEY HAD BEEN WANTING TO START SOMETHING TOGETHER FOR A WHILE. AND EVENTUALLY WE GOT THE BALL ROLLING (OR SHOULD I SAY, THE BEERS FLOWING?).
PE: You guys have all been in some pretty kick ass bands in the past. who played in what?
RAYGUNN – GLYCINE MAX, DOGMA MUNDISTA, KONTRAKLASE, AND SCARRED FOR LIFE.
GUERINOT – WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, AND KEGCHARGE.
GUSHAMMER – CENTURY OF WAR, AND TILL DEATH.
PE: Who came up with the name Deadly Reign?
(RAYGUNN) I USED TO HANG OUT WITH A KICK ASS BAND IN THE EARLY 80’s CALLED BODY COUNT. THEY WERE AN EARLY D-BEAT STYLE OF BAND (BEFORE THE TERM D-BEAT WAS AROUND) AND THEY HAD A SONG CALLED DEADLY REIGN. SO I TOOK IT FROM THAT. (AND YES, I AM AWARE THAT THERE WAS A BAND CALLED DEADLY REIGN FROM NORTHERN CALIFORNIA BACK IN THE EARLY 80’s, BUT THAT IS NOT WHERE I GOT THE NAME FROM).
PE: The music of DR is furious, in your face politically and socially. Whats the motivation behind your song writing?
(RAYGUNN) MUSICALLY, WE JUST TRY TO WRITE MUSIC THAT WE LIKE. THE KIND OF STUFF WE WOULD LISTEN TO AT HOME. NOT SO MUCH TRYING TO BE ORIGINAL OR GROUND BREAKING. MORE OF JUST PLAYING THE HARD AGGRESIVE TYPE OF MUSIC THAT WE LIKE. WE GET IT ALL TOGETHER AND THEN GUSHAMMER WRITES SOME LYRICS.
(GUERINOT) I’VE ALWAYS SAID I CAN’T AND WON’T BE IN A BAND THAT I COULDN’T ALSO LISTEN TO. WHAT WOULD BE THE POINT OF PLAYING SHIT THAT YOU DON’T LIKE? WE AREN’T DOING THIS TO PLEASE OTHERS, JUST OURSELVES.
(GUS) SOME LYRICS HIT RIGHT TO THE POINT, RELIGION. IT’S FUCKING 2013 AND HERE WE ARE STILL DEALING WITH RELIGIOUS NONSENSE! PEOPLE THE WORLD OVER ARE BEING PERSECUTED, MISLEAD, AND OUT RIGHT SLAUGHTERED OVER RELIGION. RATHER IT’S CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS, JEWS, OR WHATEVER FICTITIOUS BULLSHIT SECT THEY ARE IN. RELIGION IN ANY FORM IS UNCALLED FOR AND DANGEROUS! AND THIS COUNTRY USES IT TO PULL OFF SOME SERIOUSLY HEINOUS ACTS OF PURE AND UTTER VIOLENCE AND WAR. WE TOUCH ON THIS OF COURSE ON THIS RECORD, BUT MORE SPECIFICALLY IT’S DIRECTED TOWARD THE WORKING CLASS FOLKS AND THEIR DAILY STRUGGLE JUST TO PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE FOR THEIR FAMILIES. THE OLDER WE GET, THE SAME STRUGGLE REMAINS, EXCEPT NOW WE MUST NOT ONLY FIGHT TO FEED OURSELVES BUT FIRST FEED OUR CHILDREN AND LOVED ONES AND THEN WITH WHAT IS LEFT OVER, TAKE CARE OF OURSLEVES. SO WE CAN SLAVE ANOTHER DAY FOR A LESS THAN ACCEPTABLE WAGE. OVER THE YEARS I HAVE WATCHED OUR (PUNK) COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS WORK IN HORRIBLE CONDITIONS FOR SHIT WAGES WITH NO BENEFITS AND NO HOPE OF MOVING UPWARD IN THESE POSITIONS. AT THE END OF THE DAY THEY HAVE A SMALL CHECK THAT IS OVER TAXED AND A SORE ACHING BODY, THAT CONTINUES TO GET WORSE. “TELL ME IS THIS THE LIFE I’M FORCED TO LIVE TO PROVIDE FOR MY FAMILY?”…THE ANSWER IS NO! BUT NOT WITHOUT A FIGHT. WE HAVE TO CONTINUE TO POINT OUT THESE CONCERNS OVER AND OVER UNTIL THE POWERS THAT BE HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO LISTEN.
PE: You guys did a split with HELLKRUSHER not to long ago entitled Continuous Warfare. How did this collaboration come about?
(RAYGUNN) I HAVE KNOWN SCOTTY (HELLKRUSHER) SINCE THE MID 80’s WHEN HE WAS IN HELLBASTARD, AND I WAS IN GLYCINE MAX. WE USED TO BE PEN PALS, AND WOULD SEND EACH OTHER TAPES OF OUR BANDS, AND OUR FRIENDS BANDS. WE EVENTUALLY LOST TOUCH WITH EACH OTHER AND THEN YEARS LATER FOUND EACHOTHER VIA THE INTERNET. I SENT HIM SOME DEADLY REIGN AND HE LIKED IT. AND WE DECIDED TO DO SOMETHING TOGETHER.
PE: You guys all have family’s now and continue to tour, play shows, practice, record and work. How has DIY punk changed in your lives and how do you make it work?
(GUERINOT) WELL, I HAVE TWO DAUGHTERS BUT HAVING AN UNDERSTANDING AND SUPPORTIVE PARTNER IS KEY. HAVING KIDS IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE SO IN MY OPINION, THEY COME FIRST. WORKING AROUND THEM AND WORK IS USALLY PRETTY EASY. LATELY IT HAS BEEN A BIT MORE DIFFICULT BUT TRYING TO WORK OUT THE KINKS IN A SITUATION AND PUT PIECES BACK TOGETHER IS PART OF THE PROCESS.
PE: The new single from Profane Existence entitled SLAVE, what can we expect and do you have any future releases coming out?
(RAYGUNN) IT’S A LITTLE DIFFERENT THAN OUR LAST TWO RECORDS, BUT STILL THE DEADLY REIGN STYLE. NEXT WE WILL BE WRITING FOR A SPLIT 12″ WITH OUR FRIENDS KONTRASEKT.
PE: Closing comments, any last words?
THANKS TO ALL OF OUR FRIENDS THE WORLD OVER. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. ALSO, THANKS FOR THE INTERVIEW. AND BE SURE TO PICK UP THE NEW DEADLY REIGN ‘SLAVE’ EP ON PROFANE EXISTENCE! AS WELL AS OUR LP AND THE SPLIT WITH HELLKRUSHER. ALSO, WE WOULD LOVE TO GO TO EUROPE SOMEDAY, IF ANYONE OVER THERE WOULD LIKE TO HELP OUR BROKE ASSES OUT. HAHA! CHEERS – DEADLY REIGN
WARTORN are a whirlwind of thrash punk goodness hailing from Wisconsin. Since 2004, they’ve been hitting the touring and record release circuit with no looking back. Here’s a quick interview I did to let people know about their two latest releases, Domestic Terrorist 7″ (Profane Existence) & Iconic Nightmare 12″ (Southern Lord). – Andy Leffer
(This interview also appears in CVLT NATION)
PE: You know the drill, just give us the basics on who’s who and what’s changed in the past, in regards to any line up changes, etc. Also, give us some insight on where WARTORN is going. We want to know tours, records, riots, protests, arrests….the whole back story on WARTORN’s origins.
Bitty: (Vocals) The band started in 2004, with Ryan, Hart (on drums) and myself as a three-piece. Within half a year I got a call with an offer for our first tour, which was with Municipal Waste. We did a mini tour with them and ever since then we have been able to go on tours with amazing bands each year such as Los Dolares, ATU, CYP, Krang, In Defence, Pyroklast, Hellshock, and up next Raw Power . We have been to 13 countries and have done lots of releases on many different labels.
Ryan: guitar / low vocals / whiskey enthusiast. Well we started as a 3-piece and over a span of over 8 years, have ended up with 6 members. With 3 of us being guitar players we are able to diversify our songs in ways that we could only do in a studio setting. This obviously makes a difference live as well.
Ela: I’ve been the bass player for over the last 6 years. Recently, we came out with an LP/CD on Southern Lord Records called “Iconic Nightmare” and a 7-inch, “Domestic Terrorist”, released on Profane Existence (which is part of their limited edition singles series).
Toban: (Guitar) I think I might have the most arrests out of anyone in the band. Not like its anything to brag about. I did narrowly avoid another arrest a few weeks ago.
Derek: Guitar as well. I’ve been in the band for a few months and have been on two tours so far.
PE: The music is dynamic, to say the least. You’re not getting any half-assed riffs or mindlessly thrown together lyrics or production with your music. Elaborate on the process and what is the driving force for doing such a band. Punk is a political movement, it’s always been a political movement. Are you a part of this fray as a whole, or is this more of a personal, therapeutic outlet?
Ryan: I definitely believe in the power of the riff. Heavy and raging. Punk is a political movement, but I also see it as a community (full of musicians, artists, writers, photographers, open thinkers etc). A lot of us live/ have lived in punk houses and have been booking DIY shows for years. It’s something we do to contribute to it as a whole.
Toban: Ryan is the riff-master general of the band. He does a great job of coming up with some of the most incredible riffs of anyone I’ve been in a band with. Adding Bitty’s smartly composed lyrics and Hart’s hard hitting/tight drum style makes a great concoction.
Bitty: As far as what I write lyrically, I mainly write about personal experiences or historical events. I don’t tell people what they need to think, that is for them to figure out on their own. Also, I could not label myself as more than a realist and a situationalist.
Ela: Well in my opinion, I would say that we are a part of this as a whole, but it also is a personal outlet for me. We have all contributed to the movement in one way or another, but I think of punk as more than just a political movement. For me it is also about a unified community… where people come together, whether it is for political reasons, to share a passion for music, a hobby, art, etc. … and we definitely have that in Appleton, which is awesome.
Hart: I honestly wouldn’t say punk’s always been a political movement at all. The fact that DK, Meatmen, and the Germs, for example, all existed during one heyday suggests more of a harsh musical and broad social changeover than anything to me. For me personally, punk rock, metal and hardcore have always been a therapeutic and vindicating way of life that has consistently solved a lot of my life’s most harrowing, fucked-up times. It had a total bottleneck effect on how I raised myself mentally and emotionally. It was a really great thing to find out about when I was trying to figure out how to express myself when everything just infuriated or bored the shit out of me. Later, after I was free as an adult, I quickly found out it came replete with its own sense of community, and a totally viscous following I was never aware existed at all. This band is fucking great, cause we never throw a blind rhetorical blanket over our lyrical ideals, or even necessarily our instrumentation for that matter. We have a rough format that we’ve stuck to, but we all come from slightly different scenes and upbringings, and I’ve always thought it showed at least a little in our styles. I honestly don’t think the excitement of being in this band has worn off for any of us. Sure, growing pains have slowed our progress a couple of times, but whenever the next lightbulb goes on over our heads, it’s all go no slow!
Derek: For me, this is definitely a personal outlet. That’s what music has always been for me. Being the young’n metalhead in the group, I’ve kind of just been exposed to the world of punk houses and DIY shows recently. From what I’ve gathered so far I can at least say that the sense of community is beautiful.
PE: Your latest singles release on Profane Existence “Domestic Terrorist”. There’s no beating around the bush on this subject matter. Once again, can you elaborate on this specific release and the intention behind the subject?
Bitty: There have been a few times where I had local law enforcement “protect and serve” the shit out of me. As a kid in the 80’s from a small hometown, I’ve had guns in my face from the cops, hammers pulled back and screaming in my face. I have also had an off-duty cop put a gun in my face and ask me if I thought it was funny while he was wasted. You know of all the times I was ever robbed or assaulted, at least I knew if I fought back I stood a chance; I even survived an attempted homicide! But, it’s not so easy when you have to fight back against law enforcement. They just beat your ass and lock you up, even if they are totally in the wrong. I’ve witnessed so much personal corruption; to me it seems to be an extension of an abuse of absolute power. Now that, to me, strikes terror in any citizen.
PE: Bitty, you’re straight edge…maybe not self-proclaimed, but you don’t consume drugs or alcohol. Considering the genre of punk and it’s history of abuse with these elements, has this hindered your views on the movement?
Hart: Total interjection here! Dude, Bitty’s optimism actually astounds me. He’s seen more friends either die or completely lose their vitality as humans due to drug and alcohol use than I’d like to ponder. He’s remained pretty fucking pragmatic in his attitude toward his friends’ choices in that sense. I myself get pretty fed-up at times about my own friend’s use of drugs, especially certain ones. I’ve had plenty problems controlling my drinking in the past. I do believe I have a fairly good idea these days of when to dry out, but it can pull me into a real bad place. I start questioning what even matters anymore, and I start fighting everything that means the most to me. However, that’s where that community comes in again! I’m learning to seek out the right punks or no one at all when the time feels right, and I’ve been keeping up on it for a while now.
Bitty: Not at all. You don’t need to be like me in order for me to like you. The real moment that reinforced my decision was when I came home to a friend that lived with me and I found him in a pool of his own blood. He had tried to cut his hand off with a butcher knife while he was completely wasted and ended up with more stiches then an average shark attack. It really put a bad taste in my mouth about how substances can amplify bad decision-making skills. Although I am aware that most just use it to have a good time, truth be told, I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t my thing. But as long as you’re not hurting me or others in any way shape or form it’s your deal not mine. This is just a suggestion, have fun and do what you need to do to deal with things or get by, but try not to destroy yourself in the process. You might end up missing out on some good things in life.
PE: WARTORN is a great band, so with that….does WARTORN have anything they’d like to say to the world, it’s listeners or the masses in general?
Toban: In the words of country music legend Kris Kristofferson “Don’t let the bastards get you down”. Ryan: Thanks for the interview.
Ela: Thanks for all the support. We can’t wait to hit the road and tear it up again in a couple months!
Derek: May the force be with you. But seriously, I can’t wait to hit the road and I hope to see everyone reading this there.
Hart: As always, start 4 bands tomorrow and eat your fiber!
Bitty: Thanks for the interview Andy and everyone that helped us out and we’ll see you on the road. If you’d like to help us out with booking or have any questions, feel free to write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DESPISE are a four piece punk/crust/metal unit from the depths of the Minneapolis underground. Their 7″ release is a line of single’s being released by Profane Existence this year.
Interview by Andy (Leffer) of War//Plague
Let’s get this party started. First off…like most all interviews let’s start with who you are, what you do and what DESPISE is up to? What does the future hold after this PE single release? Also, expand on some each of your backgrounds, and what you were involved with prior to the band.
I’m Hannah, I do vocals and write the lyrics. I moved to Minneapolis from Chicago in 2010. I played bass and did vocals in Securicor from Chicago, and also vocals in Krang.
Zach: Hopefully we can put out some full length records seeing as we have a lot of material. As for before despise. I started going to shows at age 13 or 14. Played in a band called EZ Bleeders. We were rock/metal/funk/punk so everyone hated us but we just wanted to play. Grew up in uptown Mpls around a lot of older punks.
Hi. my name is Mike. I play bass real loud. moved to Minneapolis in 2009. its rad here.
What’s your thoughts on the Minneapolis punk community and how DESPISE falls into the DIY mix. There seems to be quite a good mix of punk and crust rising from the ashes of other previous projects within the Minneapolis scene. We had the 90’s and early 00’s that brought us DESTROY, STATE OF FEAR, ASSRASH, PROVOKED, PONTIUSPILATE, and needless to say MISERY, which is still going strong. Do you feel DESPISE is a part of this element of resurgence and is there still that dedicated @narcho thought process within the band?
Hannah: Definatly. Minneapolis has such a awesome punk scene/ community. So many rad bands that I have grown up listening to and have influenced me are from here.
Mike: well, if you want my grossly unimportant opinion, the scene and the music within it are two separate entities. the music is fucking fantastic. and only getting better.so many new bands and new faces. as far as where Despise fits into everything, i think we fit right in. if ive learned anything about minneapolis since ive lived here, its that its a weird fucking place filled with weird fucking people who like weeeeeeeeeeeiiiirrd fucking music. and if you havent met us, were a bunch of weird motherfuckers too. i fucking love it here.
Mitch: The scene has really picked up , it’s awesome to see so much activity now, it reminds me of how much was going on in the 90’s, so many awesome bands going on these days that local shows are always “stacked”, can’t even go grocery shopping without seeing people from bands or shows. It reminds me to be grateful , a lot of towns don’t have that. I definitely feel that Despise fits right in with what’s been going on.
Zach: I think despise takes a whole different approach to the punk scene. I don’t think of our music as being punk or even being really a part of this “scene”. I don’t make music for other people. I do it because its what I want to do
I know you folks had a bit simpler sound when you began. Straight up D-beat hardcore punk, but now it seems you’ve melded into a more crust, metallic sound. Was this an evolution of the band you knew would take shape, or was it more “fly by the seat” type thing?
Hannah: I think its the result of a combination of all of us taking influence from different sub genres of punk…grind, crust, black metal, d-beat, hardcore, etc…throw it all in a mix and you get Despise.
Mitch: It’s been a pretty natural thing as far as songwriting, the musicianship has lent itself to more technical stuff without losing our roots, really had no idea it would progress that way. Stay tuned for some good old fashioned though.
Mike: We always kinda had a general idea of what we wanted the band to sound like. the first batch of songs we wrote were very black and white, crust or metal. after that, everything just kind of naturally progressed into whateverthefuck it is today. zach is so talented when it comes to songwriting. he’s responsible for the metal parts. i just try to keep up and take care of the wicked awesome bass solos. we’ve become who we are together because thats all we can be. ourselves. when people ask what genre of music we play, i usually just say “loud as fuck” because i honestly have no fucking clue haha.
Zach: Crust is fun to play but as far as what I enjoy playing I usually drift more towards metal. Black metal at that. Probably we’re a lot of the metallic elements of our music comes out. Definitely don’t want to take all the credit for that because everybody helps meld the song.
What’s the ideology behind the lyrics and how the music is written?
Mitch: As far as the music goes it’s really just as simple as playing solid riffs and piecing the songs together as it sounds good, we’ll always come to a consensus before a song is finished, that way we all like the finished product. We try keeping things heavy and not being afraid to test the waters. Hannah will have to field the lyrics side.
Hannah: I write most of the lyrics…Most of which pertain to animal rights, vivisection, mental disorders, depression, drug addictions, negative effects humans have on the planet and our ecosystem, and of course cute bunnies taking over and killing humans.
Mike:Hannah has the voice of 10,000 angels. …burning alive in the fires of hell hahahaha. her voice is as much a part of our sound as our guitar and bass tones. but yea she takes care of the lyrics. all of our songs are about things that truly matter to us and to her. you can really hear that she means what she’s saying. we have some political stuff, animal rights, war is bad, so is jesus, blahblahblah. but the ones that stand out to me, the ones that make my cry a little every time we play them, are about real fucking shit. like how drug addiction is killing the scene from the inside out, watching all of our friends (and ourselves) die and lose their minds right in front of us and not being able to do anything about it, that feeling of hopelessness and desperation and shame you get every morning when you wake up and realize the world is still shit. im really grateful that i get to make music with three no shit honestly good hearted human beings.
Zach: Lyrics? We have lyrics?
Are you guys gonna tour and what about local gigs…big plans?
Mitch: Would be nice to do at least a little touring either east or west some time this year, locally, we definitely play our share. lol. Really want to get the rest of our recording released and get back in the studio, lots of newer songs. Hoping for all that this year.
Mike: I think so. i hope so. i let them do the planning for the most part. im down to party whenever wherever and however long they tell me to. but yea. another 7″ comin out soon, followed by what is bound to be the most epic full length record you’ll be listening to while you listen to it as long as you’re not playing a more epic record at the same time.
Hannah: We are planning on touring the east coast this summer. Hopefully the south and west coast after that. We’ve been playing a lot of local shows lately, especially with the release of the 7″. Hoping to record again soon!
Let’s end this interview the normal way. Last words or comments for the world?
Hannah:Up the punks! Ha.
Mitch: Thanks to Profane Existence for releasing the e.p. We can be contacted via Facebook or despisecrust@gmail we’ll have some merch available online soon.
Mike: Be yourself. fuck anyone who tells you you’re not cool or not good enough. this shit belongs to all of us. and if we want it to live forever, we need every single one of you. oh yea. and dont be a dick. seriously. why the fuck cant we all just get along? yea. sorry. fuck everything. upthapuuunnnxxxxx.
“The drifting night / begets my footsteps / I press this pavement / until my feet scrape / in the back of my head I / saw you in the back of / my head I found a knife / dangling from your face” – Pg. 99
ffffffFFFUUUUUUCKK. I shoot bolt upright in the midst of a terribly vivid nightmare and find myself both relieved and disappointed all at once as I hear the pattering of the rain on my tent. Relieved to be out of the nightmarish hellscape that was playing in my head, but disappointed because now I know I face another difficult morning, and probably another difficult day. I decide not to dawdle, the longer I stay warm in my sleeping bag the less I want to leave, and this kind of situation can be an incredibly slippery slope. I have a long ride today, since I didn’t get as far as I intended to yesterday, so to stay on schedule I really need to put in a solid day of riding.
I pack up most of my things, put on my now slimy and still-soaked shoes that I stupidly left out in the rain all night, and patted along the muddy path to the bathroom in my sleeping outfit to brush my teeth. Every step I take I feel my toes squish in my canvas sneakers and pretty soon a sickening, off-colored bubble of foam starts to form from the toes of my shoes from all the friction. I spot Dan and Zach at the entrance to the showers and I greet them. I’m incredibly fortunate to see them it turns out, as I was in such a rush to leave Beverly Beach yesterday that I forgot my Glucosamine, MSM and vegan multi-vitamins I take for my joints. Zach thoughtfully packed them in his bag, carried them all this way and now hands them over. Vegans stick together! Turns out they had to get a regular campsite last night, as all the hiker/biker sites were either taken by the time they got there, or horribly flooded from the heavy rain. They had to bite the bullet and shell out the money for a regular campsite, which is never fun. Zach checks his phone for vegan spots in Reedsport, since that’ll be the next town we roll through. He always seems to use the seemingly now obsolete website Happy Cow, which I actually hadn’t even thought about it in years since it never gets updated. Often times you check that site for vegan friendly places in towns and upon arriving at the restaurants you find out that it’s been closed for 5 years. I make jabs at him every once in a while for still using the site, but I respect the fact that people want to keep it alive.
I walk back to my tent and reluctantly dress back into my already wet and freezing cold clothes. At least I don’t have to go through the whole process of getting soaked again, I guess. I packed as quickly as my cloudy head would allow me and I pushed my bike out of the now mucky campsite and out of the state park altogether. Still regretting not being able to check out the sand dunes yesterday that lay not 100 ft from where my tent was. There’ll be a next time I’m sure, but this thought brings me no comfort unfortunately.
Biking soon warms me up and I forget about the rain for a little while. I make it into Reedsport, which definitely has a very southern Oregon feel to it. I pull over at a Mcdonalds to steal their wifi and I spot the Canadian bike trio I saw up in Lincoln City inside at a booth. I’m pretty sure I recognized their tent last night at the campsite as I was settling down for bed, but I’m not positive. I’m not totally sure either if they actually ate any food here or if they were just getting out of the rain, but I’d be amazed if they actually ingested any of that garbage and intended to bike the rest of the day. Ethical issues with Mcdonalds aside, the most iron-clad stomach couldn’t hold down their food and bike 80 miles afterward, this I’d be willing to bet on. As I was checking for tea houses nearby they all poured out of the Mcdonalds and one of the women greeted me. They told me they’ll be staying in a cabin tonight at a KOA site just to get out of the rain and dry themselves. KOA is the biggest ripoff campground chain that has ever existed, and I implore you NOT to spend your money on that garbage. They managed to find a cabin there though for $80 that they said they’d split between the 3 of them. They assured me it was a good deal, but I remain unconvinced. Nothing good can come of a KOA campground, even if it means sleeping indoors for a night.
I internet finds me a natural food store up the road and so I bike over and lock up out front, leaving my panniers on the bike. There’s nothing all that valuable in them, and at this point I’m confident that the likelihood of someone robbing me in these small towns is pretty low. I slosh in through the double doors, leaving a trail of muddy water behind me. I try to walk in circles in the store to try and disguise the fact that it’s me, but I doubt that it worked. I find the coffee shop in the back and order a hot chai from the incredibly unfriendly proprietor. I kept trying to be cheery and gracious but I was met with indifference at every turn. As I take a seat a tourist couple comes in and the woman uses the bathroom, but as she’s about to exit she neglects to buy anything. She seemed genuinely interested in getting something from the lunch counter, but she audibly complained that they were sold out of soup. Immediately the cashier fires back “So what, you just use my bathroom and don’t buy anything???”. Flabbergasted she gives half an explanation and then quickly walks out. “Dude, what IS this place?” As I settle in my chair and take my first sip of tea, Careless Whisper by George Michael comes on the overhead. I decide that life is ok in this moment, as the corniest saxophone line that has ever been written wails across the cafe.
I make my visit to the unfriendly health food store brief, and as I leave I reconsider my position about the “one meal out” blanket rule I had for this trip. I noticed in my online search earlier that there was a chinese restaurant at the end of town that seemed to have a lot of vegan options. I’m not going to lie either, the photos made their food look irresistible. I decide to treat myself considering the night I had, and the day that lay ahead of me. I parked my bike near a booth window so I could keep an eye on my stuff, and the server was friendly and said she was glad to see me out riding my bike. Another table full of older folks nearby jumped into the conversation and said the same, that they were glad I was out here on my bike getting exercise and seeing the coast. Then they all started talking amongst themselves about biking and how important it is for personal and environmental health, with the server encouraging them to get bikes and start riding around town, even if it’s just “biking to church on Sundays!” (I do not recommend this destination). She was super helpful when it came to the menu too, and when I ordered a tofu dish she warned me that it had beef broth in it (seriously? why??). She told me it could be made vegan though, and as she entered the kitchen I heard her shout at full volume “HEY JEFF HE’S A VEE-GUN. NO BEEF BROTH!” and heard an affirmative sound in response, not unlike a grunt.
My food turned out to be glorious, and I drank the entire pot of green tea they gave me. It was a good idea to stop here. No regrets here at all. Even better is I look outside and see the sun start to poke out from the clouds! Knowing Oregon this is going to be short lived, but for the moment I’m glad that I don’t have to go back out into the storm. Out front I change out of my wet socks and into my last dry pair. My shoes are still soaked, but I fear getting a rash if I continue on with my socks as wet as they are.
I leave Reedsport on a good note and continue on through the forest with the sun shining weakly down on me. I finally feel my rain shell start to dry, and within an hour my shorts are almost completely dried out as well. I start to make good progress again despite the howling wind threatening to blow me over into the road. Pretty soon I’m racing down the side of a hill, holding one hand on the handlebars and the other on the top of my head to prevent my hat from flying off. All of a sudden I hear a massive *ROARRRR* as a motorcycle flies up from behind me, dips into my emergency lane and comes within a foot of hitting me while revving his engine as aggressively as he could. I hold my ground in the lane and try not to be shaken by it, if I lose control of my bike at this speed there’s no way to get it back and I’ll end up going over a railing into who knows what. As he passes I see it’s one of those typical Harley Davidson-loving, cool dad-vacationing, wild-hogs watching fuckers that I see every once awhile at campsites. His motorcycle is purple, with a stupid looking tribal decal on the back and a woman riding behind him who he was probably trying to impress. I am seething with fucking anger, especially since this piece of shit is supposed to be on my side. Two wheels, you fucking bastard. I burn the image of his bike in my mind, hoping and wishing to myself that we happen to stay at the same campsite this evening so I can greet him with a face-full of bear mace which he so rightfully earned.
I reach another bridge, which typically means I’ll soon be entering a town. This time it’s North Bend, and as per usual I hit the “Bikes on Roadway” button to alert cars of my presence. I decide to bike on the sidewalk as I have on the other bridges so far, even though the signs advise you not to. I find it to be much safer than riding in the road on some of these bridges. I’m greeted by stormy winds that I fight with on the narrow sidewalk so I don’t topple off the 2 ft high curb into the road. The bridge is so long it takes me about 20 minutes to get all the way across it, and with such intense focus it’s a relief to relax my arms as I roll off the sidewalk and into the road on the other side. North Bend seems nice, and it reminds me of a mix of equal parts Astoria and North Lake Tahoe, if you’ve been to either. I also get a strange military feel from it, but I think that’s due in part to a Coast Guard Helicopter swooping low over the town over and over again.
After a brief ride across town I find a Safeway and park my bike. Dan, one of the Seattle guys, joked with me that it seemed that all the riff raff in these small towns seem to congregate around the Safeway parking lot. I decide to test his theory as I eat lunch on a bench out front. Sure enough I see a lot of sketchy characters drift through in my half hour there, including a bearded man with a basketball leering at a couple of teenage women, crouched forward, and talking to himself while holding the basketball at crotch level. I also see a woman yelling at her kids as they’re unloading the cart into her fancy SUV. The little girl is standing halfway on the cart and the mother starts to yell “STOP it! You’re starting to make me really MYADUHHH!” in a way that leads me to believe she’s shouted that way since she was a child.
Breezing through North Bend, and passing over a small section of Coo’s Bay, I finally find myself in Charleston. Here I teeter across an insanely windy bridge as I make my way into the tiny fishing village. The town reeks of fish and it instantly rubs me the wrong way as I see a “breakfast barn” with 5 ft tall letters spelling “BACON” on the side of their roof. I stop at a convenience store to use the bathroom briefly, see a few really depressed looking teenagers and decide I can benefit nothing from hanging around this place.
Soon I’m climbing a hill on the south end of Charleston which encompasses the last few miles before my sleeping spot for the evening. I come to a fork that I don’t remember clearly from the map, so I take out the now tattered and soggy piece of paper to take a brief glance and get my bearings. As I’m standing in the road partly up the hill, a kid on a mountain bike comes FLYING down the hill past me, screaming as he passes “THE STORM IS COMING, MAN!” I instinctively wave and thank him as I take a look to the sky, where near-black clouds are forming and the wind begins to howl even stronger. Fucking shit, what’s next?!? I hop on my bike and start working my way up the hill as quickly as my legs will allow to race against the impending doom looming above me. Eventually I reach the turnoff for the state park, which is about 2 miles off the main bike route, meaning that it’s 4 miles roundtrip to get out here. According to my map this place is the only park in the area that has hot showers, so I think it’s going to be worth the extra distance and effort. I follow the signs for Bastendorf Beach, now nearly frantic as I power up into the state park. Eager to set my tent up as quickly as I can before the sky opens up and I spend another night in a soaking wet tent. The hectic winds are already spraying me with light moisture so I know a heavier rain is coming soon.
After my last and frantic sprint up the hill into the park I finally roll into the campground and bike straight toward the check in station. The building that normally houses a park ranger that you check in with upon entry is closed, so I bike over to a self-check in station a few yards past it. SHIT! It’s cash only, and I don’t see any information about hiker/biker sites on the campground. I think as I realize there’s no card to fill out credit card information. Unfortunately for, and unwisely of me I didn’t stop to get cash out before I got here. There also wasn’t any indication on the map about any of the cheap hiker/biker stations, but that’s not unusual as the park rangers usually have a difficult time locating them on the state park maps as well.
I see the camp host scooting around in a golf cart near another area of the campground and I wave her over. A small girl is running alongside the cart as well, who I assumed was here with her family. When the golf cart reaches me the woman jerks the wheel to the right to come to an abrupt stop just as the little girl side steps to her left while running alongside. The cart comes screeching to a halt and misses taking the girl out by literal inches. “SEE! That’s why you can’t run alongside the cart, honey!”. I try to return my eyes to their normal size and get a hold of what I’m sure was clearly a very shocked look on my face before I start to speak to her. I had no time to waste, so our conversation is as follows:
“Hey, how’s it going? I don’t see any information on here about hiker/biker sites on the campground. Can you show me where they are?”
“Oh… yeah… well there aren’t any hiker spots here.”
“Well, on this state map I have *unfolding my map* it says this place has the cheap hiker/biker sites.”
“Oh, well then yes… yeah we have those. You can camp in any of these spots on this loop behind me.”
“yeah, but they’re not hiker/biker are they? They’re not listed that way on this map and there are cars over there. It says here it’s $16 to camp instead of the usual $5.”
“Well… yeah… they’re uh… hiker spots. Just choose whichever one you want and fill out the card. They’re $16.”
“Uh… ok… thanks”
As she drives off panic starts to hit me. I don’t have any cash, I’m miles from anywhere I could get it, and even if I had it there’s no way I’m paying $16 just to camp here for the night. It’s too stormy to even have a fire, so essentially I’d just be paying to sleep in a dirt lot and use the shower. I get back on my bike and start to pedal past the sites in the camp loop, seeing that the camp host went off in the direction of her trailer. I bike to the far corner to a campsite that seems to have the most privacy; the back of the site touches some open woods, and on either side of it are head-high bushes that obstruct the view to most of the camp. I set my bike on it’s kickstand and stand there for a minute, weighing my options and trying to think as quickly as I can. The sun’s going down, and it must be around 8 o’clock at this point, so I wonder if the host is done with her rounds for the night. I could potentially just set up camp, sleep here for the night, and get up early like I’ve been doing and leave before she even has the chance to check on me. The storm could also be a deterrent for her as well, since the wind has now picked up to an eerily forceful strength. No, I think. She already saw me roll in here and there’s no way she’s not going to come by later to make sure I paid. Ugh. At last I glance behind me and gaze off into the woods. There’s a small and rarely used path leading up and over a grassy hill into a very evil looking forest. Without hesitation I grab my bike and start pushing it down the path, momentarily glancing over my shoulder to make sure the older guy camping solo next to my site can’t see where I’m headed. As quickly and as silently as I’m able, I drag my bike up and over the grassy hill, and head in a straight line out into the dark woods.
A short distance into the woods I come to the rim of a cliff. Just below me is the road I biked in on, and there’s a small patch of open and level ground that I deem good enough to pitch my busted tent on. I clear some logs and debris out of the patch and realize the ground is incredibly soft due to the thick top layer of moss. I set up my tent as best as I can in the howling wind, and quickly place everything (bike included) inside. On nights where I felt questionable about the safety of my bike I’ve brought it inside my spacious 3 person tent, and tonight is no exception. After loading all of my gear into my tent I stand and hover just outside of it, feeling extreme anxiety about being discovered out here. I’m filled with dread thinking about having to repack all of my gear, bike the few miles back into town and have to find another place to sleep in this storm. My paranoia only increases as I hear children playing and yelling off somewhere in the campground, terrified that they might run out into my guarded nook in the forest. I could just see them returning to their campsites to regale their parents with tales of a strange, bearded, tattooed man sleeping illegally out in the woods. Well, to be fair I really have no idea if sleeping out here is legal or not. If I’m discovered I decide that I will assure whoever finds me that I somehow have the states permission to be camping out here on an undesignated plot. Who knows, it could even be true. That doesn’t matter really though, if the camp host doesn’t know what a hiker/biker site is I’m willing to bet that she doesn’t know the law concerning public lands, and regardless of what the law actually says I’ll still attempt to bullshit my way out of it. I’m willing to fight tooth and nail to just put an end to this day and be able to sleep peacefully.
I stand outside my tent studying my map for about 45 minutes, and I decide that if by 9:30 I still haven’t seen anyone come up and over that hill than I’ll be safe for the evening. This is of course a totally arbitrary deadline, other than having a placebo effect on my ability to settle in and finally get comfortable. So I check my map and mentally calculate how many days I’ll have till I’m in California to keep my mind occupied, but the thought of that even overwhelms me. I then focus on my days ride tomorrow, which is around 55 miles spanning from the edge of Charleston to a campsite just south of Port Orford called Humbug Mountain State Park. The forecast calls for rain again tomorrow, according to a sign I saw at the entrance to the park. Every day of this trip so far I’ve decided the night before how far I’m willing to ride the next day, always having fall back places to camp if for whatever reason I’m unable or unwilling to reach the park I’m trying to get to. According to my map there are a few state parks between here and Port Orford, but they’re all miles off my main route and from what I can tell not worth the extra effort, so it looks like it’s all or nothing out to Humbug Mountain.
9:30 comes and goes, and I finally decide to climb into my tent and settle in for the night. The wind is still howling and rain is starting to fall steadily; though the gnarled, dry trees that make up this forest are doing a decent job of protecting me from the elements. I still fear that a dead branch is going to break free from the tree and land on my tent, but that’s something I’ll worry about when the time comes. I get into my sleepy shorts (aka basketball shorts, because I’m a bro) and climb into my sleeping bag. Now that I’ve been off my bike for a couple hours I actually start to feel the cold air again so I’m thankful to have the 0 degree mummy bag I brought along. I realize I haven’t drank enough water today as I’m feeling strangely dehydrated, which is odd considering how damp I’ve been for the last 48 hours. I pull out the book I’ve been reading on this trip, “Different Seasons” by Stephen King, and I read a considerable amount of one of the 4 novellas in the book called “Summer of Corruption”. Without giving away any of the story, it is fucking brutal, and the suspense was amplified greatly by the storm rattling my tent and the silhouettes of the gnarled trees moving around outside the canvas. Every branch cracking or leaves brushing the forest floor put me on alert for being discovered, and only added to the suspense of my book. This is where my life has lead me this evening, reading this intense book in the middle of a primeval forest and braving a storm with nothing but a rickety fabric tent and a sleeping bag. As unpleasant as a lot of this day has been, I recognize that it is nights like this one that serve as a bench-marker for the times that I’ve felt truly alive, regardless if that was a pleasant experience or not. I envy your safe sleeping quarters this evening my friends, but I’m still thankful to be out in the world tonight. Sleep well.
“The storms are on the ocean / the heavens may cease to be / this world may lose it’s motion, love / if I prove false to thee” – The Carter Family
I woke up this morning a little past 8 am again, my body is kind of settling into a new schedule it seems. One thing I enjoy about sleeping outside isI rise when the sun does, and that in turn means I usually get to bed at a reasonable hour. Plus, there’s nothing like strenuous athletic activity to remind you that when it comes down to it “food is fuel” and “sleep is for recharging”.
I get fully packed up around 9 am and said my goodbyes and goodlucks to the few other cyclists I’ve come to be familiar with at these camps. Some of them I’ve seen only once before, but I can tell a camaraderie is building between us. I mount my bike and coast down the hill that the hiker/biker site is on and pedal out of the state park. I hung a left on the 101 and take the first few strides toward another long day of cycling.
It’s freezing cold this morning, and the air is heavy and damp. The fog is almost as thick as it was last night and I feel the need to wear my rain shell due to the crisp air. It takes me about a half hour to warm my legs up so they stop moving like rusted machinery, but once I get my rhythm back I’m jamming down the highway and making good time. Before I know it though the short 6.5 mile ride from the state park to the town of Newport is over and I once again am cruising around a new place and taking in the sights. Newport isn’t much to look at though, I gotta be honest with you. It seems pretty industrial and downtown looks just like a long, tattered, chewed up old strip mall. Probably not too unattractive when I take into account a lot of other place I’ve visited over the years, but after cycling through these quaint and extremely beautiful coastal communities, Newport seems to be in stark and unfavorable contrast.
I stop at a small market to stock up on supplies, including some athletic tape since my hand is beginning to form a painful palm bruise. The bruise started to form partway through my ride yesterday, and this morning it’s killing me to a point where I mostly ride one-handed. I didn’t bring bike gloves with me unfortunately, so wrapping it in a $2 bandage seems to be a cheap, temporary solution to this problem. The old worn rubber grips on my Schwinn cruiser bars probably weren’t designed to be comfortable for 400 mile rides, but how was I supposed to know that? Haha. After I stock up on what I need I cross the street to the Starbucks where I use their wifi and do my “not dead” checkin once again. I don’t bother getting a tea as there’s a massive line flowing from the counter all the way out on to the patio where I’m sitting, as much as I may want one this morning. Heavy, sleep laden eyes bore down on a sweaty punk guy as he uses the facilities without intending to purchase anything. “FOR SHAME!” I imagine them screaming. I can hear the irritable tone in their conversations, and it seems as if they’re probably all a moment away from strangling one another if it meant that they could get their coffee before someone else. I’ve grown tired of this town already, so I head on my way, not looking back for a second.
I continued down the highway at a good clip until I caught up with the Australian guy who I recognized from the campsite last night. I chat with him for about 15 minutes while riding in his draft, and eventually overtake him while bombing a hill and tell him I’ll see him in the next town. About a half hour later I start to see a lot of pretty impressive rock formations as I’m flying down the highway, and soon I see signs for “Seal Rock” coming up pretty soon. I decided to take a break and pulled into a turnout to check out the view. There weren’t a whole lot of seals within view, but the chain of tiny islands that sit just off shore was definitely worth the stop. Eventually the Australian guy caught up to me and pulls over as well. We exchange pleasantries and I find out his name is Tristan while we both chat about our individual rides. He’s riding solo as well, from Vancouver, BC where he’s currently living, and all the way down to San Diego. He had a considerable beard consistent with someone who’s been on the road as long as he had and he also was wearing a pretty cozy looking pair of boardshorts that I secretly envied. As is the same with pretty much everyone I’ve interacted with who’s bike touring I liked him pretty much instantly. I think it says a lot about someone’s character if they’re willing to hit the road solo, armed only with a bicycle and a tent, cover a huge distance on a small, human-powered machine and leave everything behind for an undetermined amount of time. Pretty soon Tristan and I are joined by a woman I non-verbally refer to as “the woman who never talks”, who I also recognize from the last camp and infer is riding solo as well. She pulled up about 10 feet behind us and gave us a small wave while she checked out the view. I lingered for a few more moments but decided to keep going before I got too comfortable and it gets even more difficult to press on.
Hours later I find myself climbing yet another massive hill. It’s still foggy out, and the air is becoming increasingly more damp as the day progresses. Soon I feared it would start to rain and make this ride that much more difficult. The headwind today has been considerable, and already my muscles were straining to keep a pace that I feel satisfied with. I realized I’m incredibly hungry now, on the verge of “hanger” (so hungry that you get mad) so I decided to pull off at a convenience store at the edge of an RV park at the crest of a hill. I bought an iced tea and asked if I could use the microwave for my Tasty Bite packets. The woman is extremely helpful and chats me up for a long time while I meander through the store. Even though I’m in a hurry and I’m starving I politely carry the conversation since she’s being so kind to me, even setting me up with plates and cutlery to better enjoy my food off of. I took my food to the benches out front, and as I’m eating it begins to lightly rain, which then gives way to pouring rain. I am not in the mood for this right now I think. My only hope is that this rain will cease in the next couple of hours, but my experience growing up on the coast of southern California tells me that a storm could be coming soon.
I pedaled on through the pounding rain, some moments even losing my vision because the rainfall is so heavy. I try to get in a positive mindset and stay focused to the task at hand, recognizing how this trip is proving not only to be an incredible physical strain but a mental one as well. Eventually I make my way into Yachats, which now I start to think will be my new favorite town on the Oregon Coast. It’s small and full of kite shops, surf shops and cheery looking people having a great day in spite of the rain. I pull off the 101 and follow signs to a Post Office, where I drop in some postcards for friends near and far. Even though it’s the middle of the week, nearly every Post Office I’ve seen in these small towns is closed, or only serve as PO box stations. I thankfully bought postcard stamps already so I wasn’t put out by it, but it’s definitely something I need to keep in mind next time I stop.
Regretfully I pedal through Yachats and continue on my way, stopping to snap a few photographs of what I fantasize to be my future place of residence. Soon I cross town and I’m back out in the woods, laboring down this two lane road. Some town folks in Lincoln City warned me that once you get south of Newport the roads considerably change for the worse, and that it becomes less touristy and less populated from there on out. So far this seems to be the case, as the road gets rougher with every mile, the emergency lane had whittled down to being only a foot wide, and on my right is usually either a sheer drop off a cliff or a 5 feet drop into a ravine; sometimes with no guard rail at all. I’m spacing out at this point in my ride, thinking a bit about the rain, about my sore muscles and about my hand which still stings even with the bandage protecting it. The next thing I know I feel my bike start to drag to the right where the ravine drops off, and before I can correct myself I know that my balance is going to send me into the ditch. “oh SHIT!” I yell as I careen off the road, barely getting my front wheel up to prevent myself from flipping over my bars. I drop 4 feet down into the ditch with a heavy thud, my elbow and ribs hitting the side of the road on the way and my upper body flopping partially into the lane of traffic. I immediately scramble to right myself as I have no idea if there are any cars approaching from behind. Thankfully there are none, and as I swear and spit I drag my heavy-as-shit bike out of the ditch and then check the wheels and the components for damage. Thankfully, and amazingly, there seems to be none. Both tires are still inflated and soon as I start biking I carefully watch both wheels for even the slightest wobble. There are none, so at least I have that to be thankful for. Unfortunately my shin, elbow and ribs are now killing me. I cracked my ribs on that side several times over the course of my life from skateboarding, so slamming down on the concrete just now didn’t help much with that at all. What a day this is turning out to be.
Checking my map I realize I’ll be approaching the one and only tunnel I’ll have to cross through since I skipped over the other that’s just south of Astoria. This is the “Cape Creek” tunnel near Heceta Head, and the photographs I saw of this tunnel did not prepare me for the ominous cavern that loomed on the hill, beckoning me toward it to receive my fate. The grade is incredibly steep here, and there is absolutely no emergency lane to bike in anymore. What’s worse, there are massive, two-trailer semi trucks flying past me on this road despite the rain. They kicked up mist and instilled terror in me as they passed me going 4 times my speed. After a struggle up the hill in my lowest gear I reach the mouth of the tunnel. A button sits on the edge of the bridges and tunnels on the coast that sets off a series of lights that warns other drivers that we’re passing through, as well as legally reducing the speed the cars are allowed travel through certain sections. I feel these warning lights are a placebo for the cyclists at best, and drivers typically do whatever they want with impunity and without remorse. I stop for a moment to catch my breath, sit at what almost feels like a “starting line” and prepare for my mad dash through the several hundred feet of tunnel ahead of me. In one motion I slam my palm into the button and the race is on! I get both feet in my straps, shift up and start jamming through the darkness as quick as I can, 2 bike lights blinking on the back of my seat post. Thankfully the car directly behind me slows to the required 30 mph, and eventually matches my pace to protect me from other cars in the narrow passageway. The cars behind this thoughtful person start blaring their horns in anger, creating a deafening sound that multiplies and magnifies in the stone tunnel. What the fuck, man! I almost utter, but I stay focused on the task at hand. A few moments later I inch my way out the other end of the mountain side and breathe the fresh air of victory, only to realize there’s still no emergency lane and another formidable climb ahead of me. Fuck this day. Seriously.
Through asthma induced wheezing and legs feeling like they’re made of rubber, I finally approach a plateau where the grade levels out and offers a view of the ocean. I pull over in a turnout and take a look at what I just accomplished with this mad dash up this towering cliff, and my prize is the view in front of me now. The heavy fog still looms in the air, presenting a sinister and spectacular view of the Heceta Head Lighthouse a mile or so down the road. Directly beneath me a group of Sea Lions lounge on a series of rocks, one of them sleeping directly on his face with his arms splayed in every direction. He’s immediately my favorite. My wheezing and my enjoyment of this jaw-dropping view is only interrupted by an older woman who approached me and asked me where I was biking from. I told her that I started in Portland a few days ago and I’m met with the now expected “that’s great! good for you!” response. She’s friendly and we chat for a minute, and I thank her for considering how fucking scary and dangerous it is out here for bikes and as I tell her about some of the more disrespectful drives today she yells curses into the air.”You’re cool”, I think “but I gotta go”. She wishes me luck and I thank her again.
Soon I reach a small building with a very full parking lot, and I realize these are the Sea Lion Caves I saw on my map as I was going over it last night. If you pay a fee there’s an elevator that will take you down into a cave where you can view the Sea Lions in all their slumbering and barking glory. As tempted as I was to take the elevator, I was totally broke, and instead I set my eyes on the counter that had about a dozen different types of fudge on display. I ask the woman behind the counter if any of them are dairy free, and I get an immediate response that all of them have cream and butter. “FUCK!” So I grab a few postcards, including a pretty awesome holographic one and head on my way.
The grade eases up a bit once I pass the Sea Lion Caves, and even though I’m still powering up the side of this impressive cape in the rain, I breathe a small sigh of relief as I think the crest must be coming soon. I eventually make it to the visitors center for “Devil’s Churn” and decide I should stop and ask about where I can find “Thor’s Well”, one of the main things I wanted to see on this ride. The park ranger was really helpful as usual and marks it on a map for me, explaining that it’s really simple to find. I take a short walk across the parking lot and take a look at Devil’s Churn, which is a narrow crack in the rocks that traces back all the way to the base of the cliff. The tide flows through the ravine and as waves crash around inside the mist it creates sprays to a considerable height. I film it with my camera phone to show friends later and go back to grab my bike. The ranger tells me it’s all downhill from here till the turnoff I need, and I reach the spot in less than 5 minutes. Excitedly I rush back and forth along the railing overlooking the rock formations to try and find the well. I can see some of the formations he mentioned, but no sign of Thor’s Well. I find some info placards along the railing but not one of them mentions this geographical oddity. I finally saunter over to the far corner of the railing where I see two women standing and I ask them if they know which one is Thor’s Well. They say they were wondering the exact same thing, and that the only thing they think it could possibly be was a tiny little hole in a rock several hundred feet away and inaccessible by foot. It doesn’t look to be churning in quite the way the ranger said it would be, but I take a photo of it and several other rocks just in case and decide to look it up later. Another anti-climactic end to what I built up to be so exciting! I told probably 10 other people about how I wanted to see this thing on my trip down, and none of them had heard of it, and now I know why. Well, whatever, at least I got to see it… I think?
Fuck, it’s still raining. Hard. Maybe I don’t need to mention that, but I’m thinking I need to illustrate how thoroughly soaked I’ve been all day. My shoes are squishy when I walk around, and if I wasn’t biking all day and keeping my body warm I’m sure I’d be at risk for all kinds of nasty colds. After a lot more rain I finally roll into Florence and stop at the Fred Meyer at the edge of town to restock my protein bars and get something to make for dinner. As I’m locking up out front I see the woman who never talks, and we both wave to each other. She locks up her bike and heads inside a moment after I do. I perused the fruit and vegetable section when I spot her again and I went over to chat. I’m guessing by her accent that she’s probably German, and though she speaks English really well I understand the shyness of speaking a language that isn’t your first in another country. We talk about our days and she tells me she was thinking of getting a hotel room that evening to get out of the rain. I tell her I’m envious because I wish I could do the same in light of having had a hard day, but unfortunately I can’t afford it. She asks if I have a place to sleep yet, and the way she phrased it confused me as to whether she was offering to share her hotel room with me or if she was just interested in where I was staying. I decided to assume that she was just interested in where I was staying, and I tell her I’m staying at another state park about 5 miles south of Florence called Jessie M. Honeyman. As I’m answering I see a look of disdain drift over her face, and for a moment I wonder if she really DID mean for me to infer that she wanted me to stay with her. Awkward as can be I quickly change the subject and eventually end the conversation to collect the rest of my supplies. Weird times. As I’m packing my bag to leave the Fred Meyer an older fellow walks past me and remarks with a smile “Looks like you brought the rain with you, thanks a lot!” and gives a small laugh. I smile back, all the while thinking “ha-ha, fuck you. Rain jokes. So good.”
It’s been a rough day, to say the least.
*Squish, squish* goes my shoes as I saunter across Florence on my bike, which I’m rapidly finding out is another town I’m less than impressed by. The sand dunes down here are pretty awesome though, and I do have a good laugh as I coast past a church called “Our Lady of the Dunes”. What were they thinking! I bike past several towering sand dunes that I regrettably did not photograph, due to my desire to get to camp and end this difficult day. One street I biked past dead ends at a 30 ft sand dune towering steeply above the sidewalk, which makes for an otherworldly sight. Soon enough I finally roll onto the side road that leads to Honeyman state park, a place that is surrounded by beautiful sand dunes. I see signs all over for rides in sand buggies and ads for dirtbike, quad and sandboard rentals. Unfortunately the weather won’t permit me to enjoy any of that today, but I’d gladly settle for a full nights sleep.
I approach the ranger station, pay for my site, and receive a terrible explanation as to where the showers are located on the property. I don’t bother asking for a map because it’s raining so hard at this point that it would just disintegrate into my hands. I arrive at my spot and begin to unpack my tent as quickly as I can. Unfortunately the long day leaves me disoriented and irritable, and I wrestle with my ramshackle tent for 15 minutes before I finally get it to sit upright with the rain guard on. In that time my tent had filled up with a considerable amount of water that added more to my frustration. I actually say out loud to my tent “I’m sick of your shit!” and toss my bags inside and storm off toward the showers in my still soaked clothes. Thankfully I managed to borrow some really nice waterproof panniers from a friend back in Portland, so at the very least I’ll have a dry sleeping bag and a dry pair of shorts to wear tonight when I sleep. I have to stay positive here.
I walk to the showers, literally peel off my clothing and stand in the hot water of my private room for probably 45 minutes. I put my head against the wall, closed my eyes, and let the water warm my whole body and tried to chase away my blues. What a day, what a fucking day… and it’s still pouring rain out. I mean, it’s raining harder than I’ve seen it rain in a long time, and I don’t even want to begin thinking about having to put on these wet clothes again and go back out into it. Since they’re already soaked anyway I use Dr. Bronners to wash my clothing in the show, so at the very least I’ll have the benefit of them being clean. I painfully and regretfully put my wet clothes back on and trudge back to camp to fix my crappy tent and get ready for bed. I left the bathroom with a huge roll of paper towels to try and soak up the water trapped on the bottom of my tent, and after about a half hour I finally get everything dry enough to feel comfortable taking out my sleeping bag. I sit completely still for another few minutes afterward to pinpoint all the leaks in the tent, where they drip and how the water pools. The moisture is just sweating through the rain guard at this point, and the only way to avoid getting drenched over the course of the night I have to sleep in an extremely awkward position. Almost like a giant question mark.
I pull out the Stephen King book I’ve been reading and it’s almost enough to chase off the thoughts of wishing I was home, warm and in my own bed. This is the first night that I’ve felt the pangs of being away from home and it’s hitting me hard. I could tolerate almost anything right now just as long as it would STOP FUCKING RAINING; but no. I have to endure it with no warm food, no dry clothes and no fire. Somehow I’m extremely dehydrated as well, a reminder that I forgot to drink enough water today even though I’ve been drenched for the past 10 hours. A lesser, and possibly wealthier person would throw in the towel, bike back to Florence and get a hotel room. To be completely honest, if I had the money I might have, but that’s not the hand that I was dealt here. I read for a bit longer until I’m confident I’m tired enough to be able to shut my eyes and not wake again till the morning. I’ll deal with whatever I have to deal with tomorrow. This night is sad, lonely and cold, but I’ll survive regardless. At least this day is over and I’m another town closer to my goal. Goodnight my friends.
“And me, yes I, do I want to burn? / Is there something I can learn? / Do I need a business man to promote my angle? / Can I resist the carrots that fame and fortune dangle?” – CRASS
Woke up again around 8 am this morning and felt pretty dang good about it as well. I got my things together at a more relaxed pace than usual, partly because I wanted to enjoy the morning and partly because I wanted to give Zach and Dan a chance to pack up in time if they were still interested in riding down to Lincoln City together. I went over to check on them to see if they were thinking of heading out soon, and immediately knew the answer when I saw that their camp was still almost fully constructed, haha. They said they’d probably catch up to me in Lincoln City, the next major town over and that I should just head out if I’m ready. We were the last two groups left at the camp, everyone having left a few minutes before I had woken up. The idea of being the last person here by myself while everyone else moved on was an extremely depressing thought, so I decided to press on. I wished both of them luck on the first hill of the day, which was literally just outside the park grounds according to our maps, and headed out of the park.
I rode past the ranger station and took a right onto the bypass I took out here that runs as an alternate to Highway 101. The air was heavy with mist this morning, not quite raining, but not dry either, so I put on my rain jacket but stayed in my shorts. I’ve never been a pants guy, and I like to feel my legs unencumbered by heavy fabric as often as possible. This proved fruitful as I was immediately sweating profusely within minutes of climbing the cape, and only would have eventually ripped off my rain pants out of anger and discomfort. This hill is as bad, if not worse, than what the map warned me it would be, and first thing right out of the park did not make it any easier. A few miles up the cape I pass one of the groups from our camp the night before, I greet them with a good morning and push on. Not 10 minutes later I pass the second group from our camp, and then as I finally near the summit about a half hour later I pass the third and final group. At the risk of sounding like a bike jock, it was refreshing to be passing these lycra clad, professional looking bike tourists on my 35 year old Schwinn strapped with heavily worn panniers. I guess I can be a bit competitive sometimes, but mostly it’s just about showing folks it’s not the money (or in this case, the gear) that gets you up the mountain. It takes heart, and unfortunately a lot of rich fools don’t have that. Punks in the front!
After passing the summit I descended into a long valley, guarded by tall trees on either side, and quickly built up speed on this chewed up old road. All at once I came soaring out of the woods as the tree line abruptly ended on either side of me, and the view opened up to sand dunes that stretched over the horizon in all directions. Out of the sand dunes grew a sparse forest of Doug Firs, trunks buried under several feet of earth, creating an extremely odd effect, almost like something out of a science fiction film. I immediately blurt out “WOOOWWWWW” as I come sailing down the hill as I’m just so overwhelmed by what I’m seeing and can’t contain my reaction. If a bear saw me fly past in this moment I’m sure he would have been extremely confused as to what was going on, who I was talking to, and how I was moving so quickly. I am so freaking lucky to live on this planet I thought to myself. And it’s true, I really am lucky. For all the things life has thrown at me there are many things I am so thankful to have seen and experienced, this being one of them.
As I begin my climb out of the valley several miles later, I find it increasingly more difficult to pedal and begin to feel every little groove and bump in the road as I’m coasting along. At first I think it’s the road itself that’s just rough, but as I look at my back tire I realize I’m losing air. It was probably punctured earlier in the day or last night and is now slowly leaking. Fuck. First flat of the trip. Thankfully I’m prepared, as I brought along the appropriate tools and some extra tubes I bought at Kenton Cycle Repair, so I remove my bags and get to work. I flip my bike, remove my wheel, let the remaining air out of the tube, and run my tire lever across the side of the wheel to pop the tire off. It comes off in a snap, and I give it a look for a few minutes to make sure there aren’t any gaping holes in the rubber. It looks good, so I rifle through my pannier to get out an extra tube and toss the popped one back into my bag. For future reference, old tubes are great for making bungee chords, bracelets and many other things since they’re so durable. Soon after I begin work on my back tire, an Australian guy I’ve never seen before comes riding up and let’s out a long, drawn out “BUMMERRRRR” when he sees what I’m up to. He then asks if I need to borrow an extra tube or a pump, but I thank him and tell him I’ve got it covered. He then wishes me luck, throws a “have fun!” over his shoulder and is off on his way. After another 10 minutes or so I get everything set up properly, pump up my tire with the handpump I brought and put my bags back on. The handpump is pretty cheap so I don’t get my tire as inflated as I’d like, but this is good enough for now. Feeling satisfied and accomplished I continue on.
After a long while of cycling through some incredibly beautiful forests, and almost taking some wrong turns here and there thanks tomany confusing signs, I roll through Pacific City. This town is quickly proving to be one of my favorites on the coast so far, as it’s a tiny little surfing community with massive rock formations just off shore. Hulking monoliths loom in the morning haze, as it was still very damp at this point in the day, creating an extremely ominous and awe-inspiring sight. Surfers unpack their surfboards down on the shore and zip up their wetsuits in preparation for what looks like a pretty awesome swell. I intended on stopping to take a photograph of the beach, but the haze was so thick that any photo I could have taken would just turn out to look like a wall of grey fog. I scratched the idea and continued on, making another mental note as this is a town that I would love to revisit again sometime soon.
A short ride brought me to the southern edge of Pacific City, still maneuvering on a series of scenic roads parallel to Highway 101 that my map and all the “coastal bike route” signs advised me to take. Arriving on the last stretch of road before connecting again with 101 I’m stopped at a bridge by a construction flagger. He tells me that unfortunately the road is being repaved and torn up pretty badly for the next several miles. He added that he let a couple cyclists go past about an hour ago and they biked a few miles up the road only to be turned around and sent back. They then had to ride back into Pacific City to take a detour that adds about 6 miles to the days route. I was soaked all the way through, and I probably looked pretty pathetic, because he then told me to stand under a tree on the side of the bridge while he radios the construction crew. He says something inaudible into his walkie-talkie, and gets a crackled response back that was amazingly even more difficult to understand than the initial question. He waves me back over to where he’s standing and tells me that they’re going to allow me to squeeze through the bulldozers on my bike to save me some time. It would be dangerous and the road was rough, but that it was doable if I was willing to risk it. I said I definitely would and thanked him profusely as he sent me on my way with a huge smile; followed by a “have a great trip!”. There’s has to be a reason as to why people in this part of the state are so nice, and I think I’ll attribute it to the fact that they live in such a beautiful place.
I bike for about a 1/4 mile on the extremely rough road which is stripped all the way down to the gravel, thankfully the dirt was packed heavily enough that I could still ride on it without my wheels sinking in. It was slow going because of all the massive potholes and patches of gravel, but I made progress regardless. After a short period of time I look up and see that a pilot car is driving down the road and intercepts me in a dramatic fashion. At first I think he’s going to stop me and turn me away, but instead he busts a u-turn once I reach him and he begins to escort me up the hill with his lights flashing and his “PILOT CAR – FOLLOW ME” sign welcoming me on the back of his SUV. I couldn’t believe it! They sent down this pilot car meant for other motor vehicles to lead me safely through this road construction! Pretty soon we start passing bulldozers, steamrollers and other massive machines; all of the workers smiling at me, waving, giving me a thumbs up and wishing me luck on my day’s ride. Everybody seems so happy and excited and all at once I feel like an astronaut coming home from space and being driven in a ticker tape parade in the back of a convertible. I wave back in a diplomatic fashion and shout “thanks!” more times than I can remember with what must have been a very toothy smile; all the while stifling laughter as best I could.
Eventually we get to a section of road that’s just pure sand, so I hop off my bike and jog alongside the pilot car to keep up with. The pilot car slams on his breaks so abruptly that I almost run straight into the bumper. He then rolled down his window and tells me that we can take our time as I’m the only person he’s escorting for now. As I walk alongside the car he asks me where I’m from and where I’m going, seeming genuinely interested in why I was motivated to bike such a long distance by myself. I chat with him until we get to a rideable section of the road and I jump back on my bike. Soon the gravel eases off and gives way to a single paved lane, and eventually that spills out to the end of the construction zone where a huge number of cars has piled up. I wave to the pilot car and yell a final thank you as loud as I can, and smirk at the puzzled faces I pass who sit staring at me, mouths agape . Yeah, they sent that car down just for me. Deal with it.
A few miles later I found myself back on the 101 heading south once again, and after an hour I approach another “coastal bike route” sign pointing me down a side road to the left. It’s a beaten up old road that’s just labeled as “Old Hwy 101″, but I decide to trust these signs as they’ve never given me reason to otherwise up till this point. I don’t see any indication of this turn off on my map, but after looking at the hill that lay directly ahead of me on my original route I decide to head in this alternate direction. It takes me about an hour and a half before I start to feel like maybe this wasn’t such a good decision, and I realize it’s too late to make any reasonable alterations. I hadn’t seen any sign indicating how far I was from anything or where I was since I had got on this road, and this steady climb that is increasingly becoming more and more steep with every mile is not instilling me with much faith that I’m heading the right way. Pretty soon I put the few houses that are on this road behind me and I find myself once again in yet another State Forest climbing a massive hill. At this point I feel nearly hysterical in my suspicions that I just biked who knows how many miles in the wrong direction and that I’ll have to backtrack all the way to where I turned off the main 101 and waste hours of my time. I hop off my bike briefly to check my ipod, as I thought I remembered it had a compass in it somewhere. I had no idea if it would actually work without internet access, but as I studied it and walked in circles it seemed to keep consistent in telling me that I was in fact heading roughly south-ish. I hopped back on my bike and slowly began sauntering up this hill again, realizing I must have climbed at least 1,000 feet at this point. My frustration then manifesting itself into a shouting of curses out into the woods “FUCK. I’M FUCKING LOST. WHERE THE FUCK AM I. THIS SUCKS. DAMN IT.” for a good 10 minutes. Just as soon as I ceased my shouting I spotted a truck full of firewood coming around a bend up ahead. I hopped off my bike and waved my arms to signal I wanted him to stop. He pulls up and both him and the dog riding shotgun in the truck cab peer out at me. I ask if this is the correct way to get to Lincoln City. He assures me that it is, and then proceeds to give a very detailed and unnecessary history of “old highway 101″ and that when they built the new freeway over the mountain that it wasn’t as scenic as this road is. After patiently hearing him out I thanked him and continued on, graciously accepting his good news. Graciously enough that I listened to the whole story I deemed as “information that will never prove useful over the course of my life”. But hey, I’m a storyteller as well, and chances are you’ll place this journal in that same category.
When that stressful section of highway behind me, I eventually reach Lincoln City. It is a welcoming sight; a pleasant vision on the horizon. I’ve played shows out here a few years back and I have a lot of good memories from that time. This is also home to my favorite skate park in the entire world, so for you skaters out there be sure to take note of that. I rolled up to the first coffee shop I see in town, called “Beach Town Coffee”, and order a soy chai after a series of questions to figure out if the chai mix was in fact vegan. The young woman behind the counter remarked at how sweaty I was with a laugh, and then asked me where I biked from. I told her Portland and she went on to give a series of excited “good for you!”s and “You should be proud, man!”. Dang, people here are so friendly! I then find a table in the corner and send out my routine “I’m not dead” emails and relax with my tea while I catch my breath and try to stem the heavy sweat that’s pouring out of me. After catching up on correspondence, I stand to pack my things and leave when the owner of the café comes over to say hello. At first I’m a bit taken aback since he didn’t look too friendly when I first came in, but he asks to see my map so I take it out and show him. He points to a small section of Highway 101 just south of town and tells me there’s an alternate route through the cape that actually takes me under the Highway and saves me from biking up a huge and extremely dangerous hill. Apparently all the local people who commute by bicycle know to avoid it and encourage others to do the same. He then, like the barista, started to shower me with overly encouraging “you should be proud!”s and told me I’m a good guy for doing this trip and making it happen on my own. I would have never known about this alternate route if I hadn’t chatted with this guy, so I keep a mental note to try and converse with folks in towns to pick up other helpful tips like this one. Plus, it’s so easy to talk to people out here, on account of them being so nice.
I weighed my options here in town for how I wanted to spend my time and money. I had 2 options here, which were either to stop at a repair shop and get my back wheel trued, or eat to thai food at a place on the other end of town that I found online. I could only really afford one, so I decided that since my back wheel wasn’t rubbing on my brake and affecting my riding at all that I’d treat myself to a hot meal. I biked over and locked up my bike to a fence just outside the window of where I chose to sit. I ravenously ate a plate of phad thai with tofu and a thai iced tea with coconut milk; the combination of those two things being closest to heaven that anyone can ever get (it not being real place after all). While I was enjoying my food I took notice of a group of punk-ish looking kids getting out of a street racing car in front of the restaurant. There were 6 of them, and all at once their conversation stopped as they turned to my bike and started to check out my spoke cards. I have two spoke cards in my front wheel from the Red and Black Café back in Portland, which is an all vegan, worker owned and run coffee shop. The spoke cards are a picture of Bruce Springsteen with a circle A on the back of his denim jacket, and text that reads “the only Boss we listen to”. They all started giggling and got on their knees to check it out, which was fine. What was not fine was when a woman with dreads pulled one of the cards out of my spokes, stood up and started to walk away with it. All at once I saw RED. Immediately I dropped my food, stomped out the door and confronted all six of them.
“Hey, are you stealing my spoke card?”
“Uhhhh.. well… no I was just trying to read what it says”
“That’s bullshit cause you were walking off with it. Even if you were just trying to read it I don’t know any of y’all and you’re out here touching my bike, which is not ok.”
“Geeze, well… sorry.”
“Just don’t touch people’s bikes. People tend to be sensitive about being robbed, you know.”
I snatched my card back and watched all six of them trudge off. I momentarily felt like a dick about it, but then I remembered “wait, no, they were about to steal my shit and then tried to make ME feel guilty about it.” C’mon punks, get your shit together. There are better people out there to steal from, after all.
After I finished most of my wonderful meal, and pack up the rest of it for later, I thank the proprietor and go to unlock my bike out front. As I started to get everything in order I was forced to bend over in an awkward fashion to unlock the frame from the wooden fence. As I’m leaning over I hear two women walk behind me in the midst of a conversation, and I felt something solidly brush up against my ass. Furious, and thinking “what fucking now” I spin around expecting it to be one of them who touched me, “what the fuck is it this town all of a sudden?!?”. To my surprise and embarrassment I realize that neither of them touched me, but what brushed up against me was the curious nose of a gigantic great dane who awkward lumbered past. After I faced him he then proceeded to lick my arm in his goofy way while the two women coaxed him along and apologized. I let out a small laugh and gave him an ear scratch before he sauntered off. What a day this is shaping up to be.
A short time later I roll through Lincoln Beach, just south of Lincoln City, and realize I need to fill up my water and decide I could use some fruit as well. Eating fresh fruit on this trip is the most enjoyable I can ever remember having it. Every time I stop and eat a nectarine or a peach it’s like the best thing I’ve ever tasted in my life. I ride through the parking lot of a small strip mall and stop at a market to get my supplies. As I’m exiting the building a guy with cut off jean shorts sitting against the wall a few feet from my bike looks over at me. He’s next to what I assume is his hand-painted Volkswagen bus. I say hello to him and he then offers me some swedish fish he’s enjoying. I’m pretty sure those are vegan, but I don’t know because I’m not a huge candy fan [pause for dramatic gasp], and I’m not what some would call a “junk-food vegan” [pause for boos], but mostly just the thought of eating candy in the middle of my ride today does not sound like a good idea [pause for ‘that sounds reasonable’]. I thank him and decline, and we both dip into the conversation people out here seem to have a lot that I’ll refer to as “where you going and where you been”. A few moments later a group of burly guys all dressed in hot pink shorts walk out of the market and they all pile into the bus together. He then wishes me well on my trip and as they’re leaving the parking lot he lets out an epic wolf howl and throws a fist up in the air for me as they tear off. I throw one back and think “yeah, I still got it! “. As I’m lashing up my bike to continue on my way, a dude on a child-sized Schwinn with a banana seat and ape-hanger bars rolls right up to me and starts chatting. “Fuck, if I stop and talk to everyone I’m never going to get to California.” I’ve been told I look approachable, the reasons for which are beyond me. There are times when I hate that I look friendly and think “oh please don’t stop and talk to me”; this being one of those cases. He’s wearing one of those cabbie style hats and a shirt from a bar that says “I went Balls Out at Grass Land”, complete with a drawing of a tiger laying on his back, splayed, displaying his garbage for all the world to see. “How do you have the guts to leave the house wearing that?” I think. He starts in right away with the “where you going, where you been” routine and when I mention I just came down from Tillamook he starts to sniff the air. “Well, I can’t smell it!” he says with a laugh. That sentiment I can agree with, at least. Then he continues on by saying how excited he is for tourist season to be here, and that he knows the REAL reason as to why I’m out on the coast this time of year, with a not-so-sly wink. I consciously don’t ask him what he’s talking about, so he continues on anyway by talking about all the “female German tourists” out here, and that they always come in TWOS, if I know what he means *wink wink*. I start to think that he has a very specific story he wants me to ask about, and I am not taking this idiot’s bait. “Cool, thanks. Have a good day” which really means “fuck off, man. leave me alone”. I managed to escape out onto the highway before another sketchy word could be uttered.
Soon enough I reach the turnoff for the route called “Otter Crest Loop”, which is what the owner of that cafe was telling me about. I hang a slight right to follow the signs and head through a small neighborhood and eventually underneath an overpass for the 101. The uphill climb is daunting, but at one point when I catch a glimpse of the 101 and how much higher it takes you I silently thank that man profusely for sharing this information with me. I even have my own little bike lane on this road, and the only car lane has shrunk to a single lane that I have yet to see a car on. I’m all alone on this little road the entire time, which is a welcome break from the heavy traffic on the highway today. Plus this little loop mostly follows the cliff side, and the views here are spectacular. Again I find myself gasping out loud as I turn corners and catch views of the dramatic and massive rock formations just offshore, as well as the turbulent surf slamming into the rocks 100 feet below me. What a world we live in!
I finally reach the pinnacle of this hill and find myself in a parking lot, but as to what it’s a parking lot for I have no idea. All of a sudden I hear a voice yelling at me in a southern accent: “Hey! Hey you!”. I look over and an elderly man is crossing the parking lot on foot and heads in my direction. “Go check out the view from that building! It’s amazing!”. “Uh, ok!” I respond and bike through the parking lot past him and find a tiny building called “The Cape Foulweather Lookout”. I leave my bike teetering against a bench in the grass out front and walk in. There were a bunch of park rangers hanging out and chatting inside, and they all fell silent as soon as I walked through the threshold. “Oh, uh, some guy just told me to come in and check out the view…” One of them immediately pipes up “yeah, absolutely! it’s right there if you want to give it a look”. I walk through the gift shop into a small backroom and gaze out the window, and I am definitely not disappointed that I took that southern fellas advice and stopped here. The view shows the cliff dropping away just past the property line of the house and opens up to yet another picturesque view of Oregon’s rugged coastline. After getting my fill, I grab a couple postcards for friends from the giftshop and as I’m paying the cashier tells me that I’m lucky, that they were only about 2 minutes away from closing before I came in. I say I hope I didn’t hold her up and she said that it was perfect timing on my part. As I’m leaving the building a group of people walked down the steps toward the entrance, and to their dismay the door slams shut behind me just as I left. Another baffled look from strangers and another moment of feeling special!
I learned from the postcards I bought that this building is over 75 years old and that during WWII it was used as a lookout for enemy ships and subs. It also, amazingly, survived the countless storms that battered this coast since 1937. One of the postcards was an old black and white photo of the lookout with a zeppelin flying past in the background. Apparently there’s a hanger for blimps and zeppelins just north of here in Tillamook where these used to fly out of and were used as scouts during the war. I’m a bit of a history nerd I suppose so I find this extremely interesting. You probably don’t though, so moving on!
After reaching the end of the Otter Crest Loop, I rolled into Beverly Beach State Park later that evening, it being my home for the night. I saw no sign of the Seattle guys all day and wondered if they were already here when I coasted down the hill past the ranger station. I eventually find the hiker/biker area, even though it’s not clearly marked on the park map, and it seemed to be just a grassy field with a barbecue pit in the middle. I didn’t think this could be the place, but I decided to hang around and rest here regardless if it was or not. There was only one other person there when I arrive, a guy in the corner of the camp with his tent tucked away in the trees. I set my tent up just on the edge of a strip of forest which looked like it could have been filmed for an epic scene in Lord of the Rings. I referred to it silently as “hobbit’s hollow” as I set up my camp. Eventually the guy from the corner came over to chat with me and I greeted him. He was an older guy named Larry, possibly in his 60’s, biking down the coast solo, like me. He told me he was a gold prospector by profession, and that he was going down to Coo’s Bay to find his fortune. He said he knew where all the gold was and was going to head down there and make his millions. Then he followed up with that by telling me he’d been at this campsite for 3 days. Wait, you know where gold is, and you’re hanging out at this campsite doing nothing for 3 days. Why aren’t you down there digging it all up, getting rich and then coming back here after you make your money? Why wait?. I realized though that trying to analyze this would be like rationalizing the irrational, as much as I’d like to think otherwise there is not much left in the world to prospect and dig up in search of a fortune lying in wait. I ended my conversation with him on the pretense of “dinner” and went back to my tent. Shortly afterward all of the groups from the last campground rode in at a staggered pace, looking ragged. I found out a lot of them didn’t know about this secret Otter Crest Loop that spared you at least an hour of biking and a lot of effort as well. Among the people coming in were the Seattle guys, Zach and Dan. I jested that they didn’t catch me and I hadn’t seen them all day, but it turned out Zach got a flat right out of the park and had to stop and change his tube. I said that was a bummer and we caught up about how our days went. They mentioned that when they get to Coo’s Bay they’re going to rent quads to ride around out on the oregon sand dunes. Quads, we agreed, was another thing that we all collectively made fun of until we all actually tried one, and realized “wow, this actually really, really fun”.
Eventually I got up and decided to take a look around the park, since this state park borders the ocean just like the one from last night. I walked down a path past the visitors center and through another section of campground, and it brought me to a tunnel with a small stream leading under the Highway 101 bridge and out onto the sand. The stream was heavily choked with massive pieces of driftwood, some of them even tree-sized. I went for a short walk along the sand, but the fog began to roll in thick and fast, and soon I couldn’t see more than 10 feet ahead of me while I aimlessly wandered down the huge stretch of sand. I decided I wasn’t in the mood to get lost on a strange beach, so I ended up heading back in the general direction I came from and eventually found the tunnel again back into camp.
On the walk back to my tent I had lyrics for a new song pop into my head, and I wrote them down in my ipod. I used my imagination to try and envision what the guitar parts would sound like as well, and I tried to write this out, but all I ended up writing were things like “bum da dum daaaah, browwww” and decided that future me would read it and be like “what the fuck was I thinking?”. I finished the lyrics in about 5 minutes and decided I’d work the rest out later when I got home.
I arrived back at camp, grabbed my backpack and then walked down from the hiker/biker site on a snaked and steep path to the showers. Once again I had what seemed like the greatest, most fulfilling shower of my life, and I tried my best not to exclaim “oh, yeaaaaaaah” (akin to the kool-aid guy) when I was in there. At this campground the showers are all in their own private and individual rooms, and as I was showering I heard some kids causing a ruckus right outside my door. I thought for a minute that they were just playing tag or something, but as I left the shower I noticed that they had written on the ground with an old piece of charcoal from a fire pit. The message that they left me read: “Hi Mr. Taco”. My immediate reaction was: “how do they know I love tacos?” and was followed by severe confusion. Later, as I walked back to my camp, I saw a little boy in the road writing another message in charcoal and then sprinting off upon finishing. As I arrived I saw that this message read: “you stink mr. taco”. I laughed and continued on up the path to my tent. If this last message was truly about me I have no rebuttal, I do stink, and often. Punx!
After an unceremonious goodnight to folks I climbed into my tent and prepared my bedding. Another day down, and several more to go. It’s finally starting to feel like I’m making real progress on my ride, and I’m thankful I’m not feeling it in my knees yet. Common complaints I hear from friends of mine who have done bike tours almost always mention some sort of joint pain, particularly in their knees. My final wish for the day, though, is to encourage you to start prepping for your own bike tour, if only for a weekend trip. It’s an experience unlike any other, and I’m willing to bet you won’t look back on your life later and be like “Wow, I really regret riding my bike through all those beautiful places”. There are so many amazing things to be seen out in the world, and I maintain that those things are better seen from bicycles. Goodnight my friends.
“This is why events unnerve me / they find it all, a different story / notice whom for wheels are turning / turn again and turn towards this time” – New Order
I awake to the sound of songbirds and running water from the creek just a few feet from my head. It’s probably about 8 am or so, and I rise feeling calm and rested as the sun just barely peeks out from behind the trees. There’s not much to do or see in this part of Tillamook State Forest, so I end up making my morning brief by eating a couple protein bars, pack my things up in about 15 minutes time and head on my way.
It’s about a mile walk uphill on this unpaved road before I get back to the main highway, and it is a constant struggle to push my bike up this steep hill with loose gravel under my feet. Last night I was too tired to care about hitting rocks and potholes in the road on my way down, so I stayed on my bike and coasted down; but now on my way back up I’m amazed I didn’t pop a tire or break a spoke in doing so. I need to be more careful about things like that, I’m not used to biking with this much weight and I could ruin my wheels even before I get to the coast; this thing has got to really last me.
I make it up to the highway in about 15 minutes with my arms already worn out and little rocks in the bottom of my shoes, a perfect recipe to drive you completely insane. I stop for a moment to clean out my shoes and socks in the cool morning air, mount my bike and then continue on toward the summit. According to the map I’m just a few miles from the peak, but none of that seems to matter in this moment as I’m met with an immediate and extremely steep grade right out of the gate of the state park. It’s not even 9 am and here I am sweating profusely and greedily gasping for air due to the elevation change. Thankfully traffic is lighter this morning, and it certainly makes the difference on some sections of the hill where there’s no shoulder, or the shoulder is obstructed by debris, or in some cases where the shoulder disappears and drops 100 feet down the side of a cliff. Definitely not nerve-wracking at all… not even a little bit.
After much swearing, pleading and sweating the ground levels out and I approach the summit. I know this because the summit is clearly marked with the elevation by a very official looking sign; something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Though it could be just something I’ve just never noticed because riding in a car doesn’t necessarily prompt you to look for things like that. Even though this is only day 2 and I’ve hardly made any progress on the trip as a whole, this still feels like a considerable victory and I feel triumphant as I pass the elevation sign. This is the highest elevation I’ll need to climb on the entire trip, and it tops out at a massive 1,586 feet. The air up here is so thin that even now that I’m resting for a moment I still feel on the verge of passing out. I stop for an extensive photo op at the sign and then continue on my way down the other side of the mountain.
All of a sudden I’m thrust from making slow and labored progress up the side of this mountain to flying down the other side. Never have I climbed a hill that had such a dramatic and abrupt transition as this one. I’m flying past rest stops, parked cars, over bridges with no emergency lane and even taking the car lane for myself on occasions when the shoulder didn’t provide enough room. I’m nearly matching the speeds of cars on the road and it’s both an exhilarating and terrifying sensation. I don’t pedal for at least an hour, and I’m riding the brakes most of the way down to try and keep my speed at a manageable level. Another promise I made to friends before I left was to watch my speed coming down the capes and mountains here, haha. I consider myself a bit of a thrill seeker so I’m tempted to see how fast I can get this thing down the side of this mountain, but I know I’ll disappoint a couple people back home if I go flying off a cliff at 50 miles an hour. The compromises we make for our friends, am I right?
Eventually I make a stop at a place called “Lee’s camp store” which was marked on one of my maps as being the only convenience store in the state park. This stop is coming not a minute too soon as my water jug is nearly empty and I needed to pick up a couple of small things that I forgot to grab before I left Portland. I get a gallon of water from “Lee”, the proprietor, who is actually not Lee at all. I think his name is Gary or something; I overheard him talking to a regular customer at one point. I also grab a lighter for future campfires (one of the few uses straightedge kids actually have for them) and an impulse buy of a tiny packet of Emergen-C just to ensure that the cold air last night won’t give me a cough. The instructions encourage you to mix these Emergen-C packets in water, but doing it that way tastes horrible, so I usually just eat them dry and let the sand-like granules dissolve in my mouth and foam up like I have rabies. Usually Icrack a goofy smile at someone while doing so as well. It is both childish and delicious, these things of course not being mutually exclusive. I recommend giving it a try.
I get a lot of odd looks from the locals as I’m taking a rest on the bench out front, and I assume it’s not just because I have a mouthful of foam. It’s probably a combination of the foam, my smell, my ancient and overloaded bike and the Conflict “Ungovernable Force” sleeveless shirt I’m wearing that has a photo of riot cops getting their asses’ kicked. They probably don’t get a lot of people biking down this highway and climbing that mountain too often either, which is understandable because climbing that thing was total bullshit.
After my brief rest I continue on my way down the mountain, quickly passing the 2 other state campsites on that touch Highway 6 and eventually the grade starts to level out. I can tell I’m getting close to the coast because I can smell the salty air and feel a slight ocean breeze blowing through this valley. I grew up a 10 minute walk from the ocean in Southern California, and whenever I come out to the coast it always feels like I’m heading home. Unfortunately this also means that the headwind starts to increase in strength, but I don’t mind as the breeze is refreshing and cooling me off after a long day in the sun. I eventually get spit out of the valley after following a beautiful and roaring river for miles, with houses on the other side that are only accessible by bridge, and bottom out in some farmland on the outskirts of Tillamook. The wind is now roaring against me, and fighting it is like pedaling through mud. This wind immediately goes from refreshing to irritating over the course of an hour, and what’s worse is that a bump I hit on my way down the mountain knocked my back wheel out of true, giving it a slight wobble. It’s not bad enough to effect the brakes or how the bike handles, but just seeing the wobble bothers me enough to where I obsessively look back at it to see if it’s getting worse every few miles.
Man, it stinks out here too. I mean, it really, REALLY stinks out here, and the refreshing sea air can’t mask it in the slightest. There are dairy farms on either side of this stretch of highway for miles, which gives Tillamook it’s reputation for being such a foul smelling town. The TIllamook cheese factory is out here as well, which I’m sure you’ve heard of or seen their products in stores, and from billboards I pass I learn they offer tours across their production line. I’m sure though that they don’t offer to take you out to the barns where female cows are forcefully impregnated, kept in small enclosures and eventually have their babies ripped away from them as they scream and struggle to protect their young. I’m sure they also don’t tell you that if the cow is born female that they’re sent off to be impregnated as well and live out the same fate as their mothers. Lastly, they CERTAINLY wouldn’t tell you that if the calf is born male they’re sold off to a veal farm or raised as veal right there on the same grounds. It’s truly a despicable industry, but I digress. All I’ll say is the best way to put an end to violence such as this is to go vegan and leave the cheese out of your diet completely. Otherwise you end up with smelly towns, sad mother cows, tortured calves and rich, asshole ranchers. It’s a losing combination, I assure you.
I was in the fight of my life against this headwind, but eventually I power through it and arrive in downtown Tillamook. This town is a lot busier than I expected it to be, but I realize when I arrive in the city center that it serves as a junction for a few major roads, and also is a necessary fly over if you’re going anywhere up or down the coast. Highway 6 deadends at the 101, which will be my Highway for the rest of the trip. I’m thankful for that, as the 101 is one of the most beautiful and scenic highways in the world, in my humble opinion. I coast through downtown for a bit looking at the various tourist shops, but I’m mostly interested in finding a cafe with wifi, tea and a bathroom; the three basic needs I have when stopping in town. I also promised a couple folks that since I don’t have a phone on this trip that I’ll check in with them via email at least once every two days, even if it’s just to say “hey, I’m not dead”. This is actually a responsibility that comes up quite often in my life, if you can believe it.
I spot a Safeway at the edge of town, and across the street from it I see a small cafe with a big “WE HAVE WIFI” sign hanging out front. Business owners – be sure to advertise this fact; you will at the very least be receiving my patronage when I’m traveling. I lock up my bike and decide to visit the cafe first, and while entering I realize that it’s just a single diners table and a few booths in what looks like the hallway of an indoor mall. Kind of an odd set up, but not too surprising as these small towns usually have multiple businesses that share one big room like this. I sit in a booth and order a cup of tea and the only vegan and gluten free thing on the menu – the tomato soup. At first I was a little bummed to only see one thing on the menu I could eat, but the tomato soup turns out to be amazing, and I regret not ordering a bigger portion as soon as I’m done. I check my email and write to concerned parties as to my whereabouts (i.e. I’m still not dead) and try to cool down from the difficult ride I just finished before I get up to leave. I tip the server generously, as she’s the only one working and was extremely helpful with finding me vegan stuff on the menu. Also, as a general rule you should just tip service workers. That’s how they make a living. Seriously. Give them money.
I leave my bike locked up out in front of the cafe and cross the street to make a stop at the Safeway for supplies. While crossing the parking lot I see a red-faced cyclist with two touring bikes parked next to him. I get the impression he’s taking 5 while his touring buddy is inside getting snacks. I give him a wave and he waves back as I drag my heavy bags through the entrance of the store.
With my business concluded at Safeway I return to my bike and follow my map to the state park I’ll be sleeping at tonight, a place just South West of here called Cape Lookout. “Cape” on the Oregon Coast is just a fancy word for “huge hill next to the ocean that you have to climb on your bike”, and that’s exactly what lay in store from me as soon as I leave town. Having already had a pretty strenuous day due to the headwind, this was a challenge for my leg muscles. There are a lot of little side routes posted on my map that are deemed safer and more scenic for cyclists than some sections of the 101, but in this moment I start to doubt the decision to take this route and the added few miles it requires. My cares drift away though as they usually do when I start descending the other side of the cape, and after I leave the more populated areas of Tillamook behind I enter the state park, where the view of the ocean is breathtaking. I mean, it is so unbelievably beautiful out here that I can hardly describe it, so I might as well spare you in hopes that you’ll travel out here on your own to experience it for yourself. It’s late in the day, so the sun is starting to drift closer to the ocean, soon to be entering what us photographers like to call “the magic hour”. In this hour, with the wind blowing past me as I’m descending the cape, I have a view of the most dramatic landscape my eyes have ever had the privilege to be laid upon. My only regret in this moment is not making enough room for my SLR camera so I could take photos.
As I’m enjoying myself and bombing the cape down the other side, I slowly start to feel the wind sweep underneath the brim of my hat and begin lifting it off my head. Before I can get a hold of it, it goes flying off me and sails through the air as my hand comes down on the top of my hatless head. FUCK!!! I gently apply the brakes and dip to the left to make a u-turn and start the climb back to where my hat lay in the road. Upon arrival, and as I’m trying to set my bike on the kickstand in just a way so it won’t tip over, I see an SUV climbing up and over the hill and approach my hat at a considerable speed. I decide it’s all or nothing at this point, so I ditch my bike and bolt out into the road, grab my hat, and frantically run back to the other side again to dodge the car without looking back, thinking looking over my shoulder would only slow me down. I realize how foolish this act was as I look up and see that the guy had slowed and then completely stopped on the side of the road to allow me to grab it. I then remember hm, sometimes people stop for you when you run out into the middle of the road, since (and I don’t know why) I just assumed this person would run over my hat for whatever reason. The guy then pulls up alongside me and rolls down his window, just as I notice a “Bike Portland” decal stuck to the side of the car. I’m not sure what that company is exactly, but I agree with the sentiment. YEAH! BIKE PORTLAND! He asks if I’m from Portland as well and I respond that I am. He takes a glance at my bike and says “interesting set up!”, which is both a nice way of saying “what were you thinking when you made that thing?” and also what I imagine to be a common phrase I’ll be hearing on this trip from this moment on. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford a fancy bike setup, and I hope that people realize that as I’m kicking their ass climbing these capes with a beat up old Schwinn while they’re on their $1,000 bikes.He seems nice enough though, and I’m sure he didn’t mean any offense, so I remain polite. We have a pleasant exchange, aside from the awkward pauses between topics of conversation where we either just kinda stare at each other or a car squeezes past us, irritated that we’re in the road. He’s apparently taking a group from PDX on a bike tour down certain sections of the coast. He drops them off and they bike down the 101 and then meet up with him again at the campsites. Seriously? People pay for the privilege of doing that? Do they not know how easy it is to get a map and do it yourself? I finally end the conversation as I’m eager to get to the campground and wish him a good day and a “maybe I’ll see you at the hiker-biker sites!”, which is another exchange that I think will become very prevalent on this trip.
I roll into Cape Lookout with a fair amount of daylight left, and I seem to be the only one here so far. The hiker-biker sites are cheap here as usual, $6 as opposed to the expected $5, but I can’t complain as the campground is really well maintained and the biker sites are far away from the the inane conversations and horrible country music being blasted over in the RV area. There are also free showers here, which are the two sweetest words one can hear after biking all day in the hot sun. Soon after I get my camp set up, I’m joined by two other guys claim the spot directly across from mine. I recognize one of the guys as the fellow I said hello to at the Safeway back in town. They seem like nice dudes, so when I head out to take a shower I ask if they can keep an eye on my stuff for me, since the showers are a 5 – 10 minute walk from this section of the campground. They give me the thumbs up and once I reach the bathrooms I have the most exhilarating and refreshing shower of my life. The water is only one temperature, which is luke-warm, but I feel like the luckiest guy in the world in this moment.
After I return to the campsite, I scrounge up the wood left behind in my fire pit and build a decent sized fire to cook my dinner. After I heat up my Masala and a small box of quinoa pasta I got in town, I wash out my bike shorts at the water tap and hang them on a stick over the flames to dry them out. I sit and enjoy my food while keeping an eye on my shorts to make sure they don’t fall off the flimsy and stick and into the fire. After I’m done eating I head next door to chat with the two guys across from me, feeling like it’s important to familiarize myself with other folks I’ll be sharing spaces with. Their names are Zach and Dan and they’re both from Seattle, and it turns out Zach is vegan as well and knows some folks that I’m familiar with from California. They’re both friendly guys, but as I fear more and more that I’m encroaching on someone’s personal space and their private vacation I head out and take a walk around the grounds to see the sites. There are some pretty awesome sand dunes on the other end of the park according to this map I got at the front desk, so I hop on my bike to ride to the other side of the park and check them out. After riding with so much weight on the front, riding my bike like this feels awkward and my arms uncontrollably shake from side to side. It’s the strangest feeling, almost as if my arms are flailing about as if independent from my body. Thankfully I don’t crash and I make my rounds before returning to my tent. My tent itself is actually only about 10 steps from the beach, I realize I forgot to mention. On my return to my site I notice a few new groups of cyclists in the campground; 3 people, who I find out are Canadian, taking the spot off to my left and a group of 3 women set up just behind me. I can hear the waves crashing from my tent site and it’s a familiar and well appreciated feeling, so I grab the Townshend’s Kombucha (my favorite brand of botch) I bought at Safeway and decide to drink it on the hill overlooking the ocean just down the path from me. As I’m enjoying my beverage and watching the sun sink below the horizon I think that I wouldn’t trade places with anyone in the world right now; this is where I want to be today, and any care I have in the world has instantly dissolved, if only temporarily.
Pretty soon the quiet is broken by shuffling behind me, and I see Dan and Zach hopping a fence I’m sitting near with a frisbee in hand. They tell me they’re going to go toss it around on the beach and invite me to come with, I agree and tag along down to the shore. We have a fun and rambunctious game of catch with the frisbee, which Zach tells me he bought at the thrift store back in town for a quarter. We all joke about how when we see other people tossing a frisbee around we typically make fun of them, but like most things you don’t realize how awesome it is until you start playing. We’re zipping it over our heads, catching and throwing from between our legs, making dramatic running catches, and daring each other to really go for it and dive hard into the sand. We all keep reminding each other repeatedly that whoever chucks it into the ocean has to swim and get it, and we have a few close calls and some wet shoes when the disc lands in the shallows and starts getting dragged out to see with the tide. We all also get thoroughly covered in sand by the time it gets dark, even though none of us dove headfirst for a catch, but we decide to call it as the sun drifts further toward the horizon. Afterward I return to my perch on the hill to watch the waves, and Dan (who tells me he’s an Arborist by profession) climbs a very dry and extremely tall tree a few feet behind me to get what he claims will be ultimately a better view. He gets probably 40 ft up in the tree, and he’s even so far up that it’s impossible for me to photograph him with my little ipod camera in this rapidly dimming light. He shouts down that to his dismay the tree branches are blocking what he expected to be an amazing view. We both sit in silence for quite a while, and as he begins to climb down I spot a couple walking down the beach far off in the distance. They’re walking just along the edge of where the water touches, when they both stop for a moment and face the ocean. I assumed at first that they were just taking in this glorious view we were having. But oops, no. Wait. No, he just dropped his shorts and is peeing on the sand. He’s pulling the “I’m just looking at something” move while he pees with one hand on top of his head and the other clutching a beer can. Meanwhile, the woman just stares off in a random direction until he finishes, not convincing anyone that nothing weird is going on because she’s not even looking at the ocean. He then zips up his fly and struggles to pull his shorts back on properly with one hand, not wanting to let go of his brewski even for a second. What a precious moment.
After they leave I decide I’ve had my fill of both beautiful sunsets and people urinating on public beaches for the day, so I head back to my tent and start getting ready for bed. Zach and Dan are still up so I chat with them for a while, but as yawns start to spread around the circle we eventually call it a day and wish each other goodnight. Last thing I tell them I say before heading off to my tent is that if we’re leaving at the same time in the morning and they wanted to roll down to Lincoln City together that it could be a lot of fun. Even though I’m doing this trip solo it’s always nice to meet cool folks, and there will be plenty of opportunities to have time to myself when I need it. Plus, they told me they have a pretty rad stereo they blast music from as they ride.
I finally climb into my tent, change into the basketball shorts I like to sleep in and unpack my sleeping bag from my pannier. Another night of being pleasantly and thoroughly exhausted, so I’m thinking I won’t have any trouble falling asleep. The sound of the waves and the salty air are a soothing presence as they drift through the mosquito net of my tent, and it’s a gentle end to a difficult but fulfilling day. Goodnight world, I hope you’re all as happy as I am in this moment.
“I’ve looked through all the windows / I’ve gone through all the drawers / more empty now than ever before” – Cursed
My head is killing me. I woke up this morning with a horrible migraine, that and the pile of new-used shirts next to my bed are the reminders of the show I played last night at Hollywood Babylon, a vintage clothing shop in Portland. I have what is commonly referred to as a “bangover” in heavier music circles. Wherein an individual rocks out and “headbangs” so hard that they wake up feeling headachy, disoriented and irritable the next morning.
I have a history of getting really severe migraines on and off since I was a child, so I can definitely tell when one of those is stirring in my head. It’s 10:30 am and I need to make a decision here. Do I spend the day resting, trying to fight off this headache and leave tomorrow morning? Or do I power through it, go with my original plan of leaving today (albeit late at this point) and risk passing out while cycling or making my migraine so severe that I’m stranded somewhere? I rested till about noon, had some tea, listened to some music and finally decided it was time. Today’s the day!
Most of my packing was finished last night, so that didn’t leave me with much to take care of this morning, thankfully. My borrowed waterproof panniers were stuffed with a borrowed sleeping bag, my tent, cookware, bike tools, tubes and an extra tire. On the back rack I used an old bike inner tube to lash my tent poles to the frame, and on top of the poles I tied a plastic, square gallon jug of water with a bungee chord. In my front basket sat my backpack, with a really cool “jungle net” style bungee chord with multiple hooks securing it in place that I got from Starmichael. I considered getting a front rack for my bike and borrowing more panniers, but since I already had a pretty nice Chrome waterproof backpack I figured I might as well use it for it’s intended purpose. The unofficial theme of the tour so far seems to be “work with what you got”, which I guess is kind of the unofficial theme of my life up until the present anyway, so this isn’t much of a surprise. The bike looks a little funny in comparison to a lot of typical touring bikes you’d see, but everything’s secure and the bike rides well so that’s all that matters here. I’m pretty proud of the work I put into this thing and I’m not afraid to admit it, I stood and basked in it’s DIY punk-as-shit glory for a few minutes before I decided it was time to leave.
Other than my bike gear I just have my wallet, a couple pairs of shorts, biking shorts, a pair of pants, several sleeveless shirts (essential), rain pants and jacket and some bear mace (obviously not to be used on bears). I worked out a very conservative budget for this trip, only allowing myself one day of eating out, as I’m not even certain I’ll have enough money to finish the trip and eventually get home. On top of that I haven’t had a cell phone for almost a year, and though it’s a liberating experience, not having it for this trip terrifies a lot of people who care about me, haha. I guess people get freaked out when you decide to bike 400 miles with no money, no phone and no backup plan if shit goes south. Who knew?
Only one of my six housemates was home, so I bid her farewell and awkwardly carried my heavy bike down our front steps. I’m not one for big dramatic goodbyes anyway. The sunlight is killing my already sensitive eyes while I start biking down our street, it’s noon and the sun is overbearing. I decided early on that I was going to use my sunglasses sparingly on this trip born out of a mortal fear of getting “reverse raccoon eyes”. I’m going to be seeing a lot of sun on this trip, and whatever I’m wearing will be outlined with a tan for weeks to come.
Ok, first thing’s first, bike across town to the Max stop and board the Hillsboro train. One of the maps I printed at the library explained the easiest way to get from Portland out to Tillamook, and one of the thing it suggests is bypassing the suburbs of Portland by taking the light rail we have in the city referred to as “the Max” to the edge of Hillsboro (a portland suburb). I arrive at the Rose Quarter Max stop and wait a few minutes for the first train. I’m concerned there won’t be enough room on the train to maneuver my awkwardly huge bike, but since it’s the middle of a monday I’m feeling ok about it. A few trains go past before mine arrives, and they were all almost completely empty, so I feel a bit more confident that I’ll be able to fit my bike on the next one. Pretty soon my train arrives, and guess what? It’s so thick with passengers you can’t even see the other side of the train through the windows! Hoards of zombie-looking commuters going to who the heck knows where. Where did they all come from and why are they all seemingly going to Hillsboro? In a panicky fashion I rush back and forth between cars to desperately find a car I can squeeze my bike in, but to no avail. The doors close and the train leaves the station. FUCKERS! I already paid my $2.50 for the ticket, so I decide to wait for the next train. I rearranged my bags and slung on my backpack to make it a little easier to navigate my bike on the train, and thankfully the next train that arrived was strangely, almost eerily empty. I brought my bike on board, lifted it up onto one of the wheel hooks and breathed a sigh of relief as I settled in.
A few stops later a street punk around my age with a mohawk hops onto the train. He immediately rushes over to the handicap seating area, for what I think initially is to take one of the seats, even though there are dozens open all around him. Those seats are technically reserved for folks who find it difficult to get to other parts of the train, so I was pretty bummed. A second later I’m surprised when I look over and realize that a man with a walker is inching his way off the platform and onto the train, just as the punk guy holds down one of the spring loaded seats and offers his arm to help guide the man to his seat. Faith in punk restored! I always have a sense of pride when I see punks helping other folks out, and although it really shouldn’t be a surprise to see somebody treat another person with common decency and respect I was still silently stoked to see someone on my team taking the initiative. The man with the walker had a “Legalize Gay” shirt and after he sat down looked up at the street punk and said “check out my shirt!” and the punk dude responded with something inaudible and smiles. Then the guy with the walker turns to me and points to his shirt, and as he’s too far for me to communicate with verbally, I just give him a thumbs up and a big smile. Good start to my day.
Several miles later the train ends at the edge of Hillsboro, a veritable wasteland in my opinion. It’s been a few years since I’d been out here, but a wave of unpleasant court memories flooded back to me, including the day I spent in jail out here. A few of us locked into lock boxes at an anti-vivisection protest at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and had to be cut out with high powered saws. We were protesting Oregon Health and Sciences University’s continued use of non-human animals in frivolous, cruel and wasteful experiments. It made international news, and we spent the day and most of the night in jail celebrating with our other cellmates who were so excited that they just saw us on TV. They also stuck an informant in our cell with us who tried to bait us into bragging about any illegal activity regarding the animal liberation movement. He told us he was “vegan straightedge” and then proceeded to tell us about his weed growing operation, and how much he loved eating steak. Surely whoever instructed him to say these words to us to build some kind of camaraderie failed to mention what they ACTUALLY mean, but at the risk of sounding tangential I’ll get back to the story at hand.
I get my backpack situated back in it’s basket, pull out my map and find that I can fit it conveniently in between my backpack and the netting, displaying the map clearly for me as I ride. This makes it easier to just have the directions laid out in front of me for the day so I don’t have to keep stopping every hour or so to reorient myself. As I’m trying to determine what direction is West I eventually ask a kid on a mountain bike. He eagerly tells me where I need to be headed and from the inflection in his voice I get the idea that this town is boring enough that when a strange and sweaty dude on a bike asks you for directions, it’s pretty darn exciting. I thank him and head off.
It feels good to finally just start pedaling consistently. It gives me the feeling that I’m finally on the road and making this happen. I bike through some neighborhoods and eventually get spit out on a road through some farmlands on the way to a town called Banks. I pass a few extremely old abandoned barns and houses and make a mental note to return here at a later time to photograph them with my nice camera. I reach Banks in about a half hour, and finally connect with Highway 6 which is a straight shot out to Tillamook, OR which is the nearest coastal town. The 6 is a small, 2-lane highway much like most of the highways and roads I’ll be taking down the entire coast, but unfortunately the traffic on this one is a bit heavier than most according to the info I found online. It’s not terrible to bike on the shoulder here, but it’s also not my favorite as I’m constantly passed by massive RV’s and trucks going well over the speed limit.
I pull off on a side road a couple hours later to refill my small water bottle from my gallon jug and eat a couple protein bars. The majority of the food I brought for this trip are a variety of different food bars, and these pre-cooked indian food pouches made by a company called Tasty Bite. I’ve had them time and time again on the road, and since they have several different vegan choices and are small and compact enough to backpack with they’re an obvious choice. As I’m standing in this small road about 100 ft from the highway I start to unpack my backpack to pull out a protein bar. Not 3 minutes later a big, lifted truck pulls down the road from a private drive further up the hill. He drives up alongside me and strains to be heard over his diesel engine as he yells “WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT HERE?”. I tell him I just stopped to refill my water and check my map, and he responds “YEAH WELL THIS IS A PRIVATE ROAD. WE’VE HAD SOME TROUBLE OUT HERE.” and then pauses for a considerable amount of time while staring at me through redneck-style sunglasses. “Oh, ok. Well I’ll be out of here in like 5 minutes, tops. Just gotta put my stuff together and then I’ll be leaving” ASSHOLE. He gives me a nod, pops his truck into gear and pulls out onto the highway. What a dick.
After finishing my bar a few minutes later I strap my backpack into place and coast down the side road toward the highway. As I’m about to turn back out onto Highway 6 I see “lifted truck guy” pulling back onto the side road again, giving me a friendly wave. Why were you gone for only 5 minutes? I wave back with all my fingers and not just the one I want to show him and continue on.
This route turned out to be tougher than I thought it would be. I mean, A LOT tougher than I thought it would be. On the map it looks like a single day’s ride due to the distance, but that’s before you take into account the elevation as well. It’s only about 70 miles or so from Portland to Tillamook, but people (like myself) often forget that you have to climb over 1,500 ft in elevation over the course of 20 miles. The ride down the other side I’m sure will be a breeze, but fighting this climb with this heavy bike and a pounding migraine is almost too much to bear. To make matters worse, as I was rounding a turn up an especially steep area of the climb, I almost get hit by an RV barreling up the hill. I was warned about these RV’s, and I hadn’t forgotten the warning either. These giant, semi-truck sized vehicles for some miraculous reason don’t need a special license to drive, meaning that the people driving them have had no training in doing so. Thus creating a lot of deadly collisions, particularly more deadly for me than for them. As I’m rounding a turn, this particular asshole RV driver cut the corner too closely, stepped over into the emergency lane where I’m biking, and comes within about 2 ft of hitting me. I’m already hugging the railing as closely as I can and as the RV passes me I’m temporarily deafened by the roar of it’s engine and the blast of air it displaces as it passes. They must have been going around 65 miles an hour in a 50 zone, while I was maybe doing a meager 15 miles an hour up this hill. Even worse, as they pass they’re dragging a boat behind their giant caravan so it bounds and bounces past me with a horrible screeching noise that rattles me to my core. I was hit by a car from behind a few years ago, and I still get anxious when cars drive past me from behind. “FUCKING ASSHOLE FUCK YOU!” I scream as I give them a finger that they probably couldn’t see even if they bothered to look back. So fucking pissed.
Once I calm down I take a look at my map, and see that it indicates 3 state parks that touch this Highway in the Tillamook State Forest. I assumed I would get at least to the 2nd or the 3rd state park on the route, but as I’m nearing the summit the pounding in my head and the rapid loss of sunlight are both telling me to cut the day short. I started late in the day as it was, and I made a promise to some folks back home that I wouldn’t be biking at night. When I start to see signs for Gales Creek Campground I decide that will be my home for the night, might as well play it safe this evening since it’s my first day out. I follow the signs down a gravel road that drops into a valley about a mile down. As I’m coasting down the hill I’m approached by a lifted truck leaving the park, and instead of pulling aside and letting me pass he continues on unabated and I almost fly off into the ditch as I swerve into a thick gravel patch to avoid him. What is it about driving a lifted truck that just immediately makes you an asshole?
I roll into camp just as the sun is dipping beneath the trees. The shade is a welcome relief from the sun, and this campground is pretty near empty. Just the way I like it, and not surprising for a Monday night. There’s a guy and a dog off in a corner who look like they’ve been here for a while, with a big stack of firewood and a large, well maintained tent. There’s a family about a 1/4 mile up the road (I can tell because I can here the kids yelling and screaming) but at the site I eventually pick I have almost complete privacy as I can’t see anyone in any direction I look. It’s a pretty rugged campground, no bathrooms in our camp circle and the only running water is drawn from a well with a hand-pump: the liquid that comes out tasting strongly of metal. I fill out one of those little “honor system” forms for campsites with my name and site number, drop a $5 bill in the envelope and put it in the little box that the ranger comes by and collects. In my experience the ranger rarely ever comes by on weekdays, and I wonder if I’ll regret paying for the site tomorrow if I end up never getting checked in on. I justify not paying these fees in my mind by saying that giving the state park money empowers them to sell off public lands to logging companies out here (which they do); but in reality, and more immediately, I’m just on a razor thin budget and find it difficult to justify paying money to sleep in an empty lot where I clean up after myself and leave no trace of my presence. Whatever though, I won’t lose sleep over it. And sleep right now sounds amazing.
The back of my camp pushes up against Gale’s Creek, the water from the stream only about 4 feet from where I pitch my tent. After I get everything set up I strip down to my shorts and take a quick dip in the freezing cold water. This passes well enough for a shower in my opinion, so I soak for a bit and climb out when I start to get hungry for dinner. There’s no left-behind fire logs in my fire pit, and I’m too tired to search for dry wood in the forest, so I end up eating my Chana Masala and Punjab Eggplant cold out of the frying pan I brought along to cook with. Even though it’s luke warm from the sun it still tastes like a dream, and I’ve never been more thankful to be eating than I am in this moment. Dear me, this is delicious! I scrape the pan clean and wash it with the metal-water from the well, careful not to get any food residue in the camp and attract wildlife. Not that I don’t enjoy being around wildlife, but I’m not stoked when people feed wild animals, then those animals get used to being fed by humans, they then eventually become aggressive toward humans and then end up getting shot or poisoned by different humans. It’s a horrible, human driven cycle and the only ones who really lose are the non-human animals. So yeah, clean up after yourself.
I make sure all my gear is put away properly and that all three of my bags are in my tent for the night. I lock the frame of my bike to the metal chain rooted in the ground that locks the picnic table in place and I climb into my tent. Who would steal a picnic table? The ground under my tent is extremely rocky and jagged, and I didn’t bring a sleeping pad, but I am so tired that I hardly notice. I listen to the Game of Thrones series on audiobook for a couple hours to see what all the fuss is about while the light fades out of the sky. The fading light then gives way to glowing stars that are perfectly visible through the ceiling of my tent. I’d be amazed if it ends up raining this evening, so I don’t bother putting on the plastic rain guard over the top of my tent. It’s deadly silent and beautiful up on this mountain, and it’s exactly what I was hoping for. Even though my head is still throbbing from this morning’s migraine I feel peaceful and content in my sleeping bag. It’s cold up here, especially for June, and I’m thankful to have brought a low-rated mummy bag along with me thanks to my housemate Lif.
I finally start to drift off once the darkness fully envelops the forest, and I start to doze thinking of Dire Wolves and Valerian steel, with the sound of the Gale’s Creek babbling in the background just a few feet from me. I recognize the potential here for strange nightmares, but I have nightmares every night, so this doesn’t necessarily concern me. I’m just glad to be out in the world right now and to be experiencing the wild places of Oregon, which I still maintain is one of the most, if not THE most beautiful state in the US. With that to be debated amongst yourselves I’ll leave you to your night, and I’ll be left to mine. Sleep well my friends.
This week in “It’s the End of the World as we know and I feel fine, a look into Israel’s racism, riots in Paris in solidarity with Gaza, resistance to oil and gas infrastructure in Turtle Island, including actions in Utah, Vermont, Washington, 6 Nations and Unist’ot’en, the defense of Pizzeria Anarchia in Austria, PETA’s latest asshole move, new music by Rob Hustle, and an interview with Doug Gilbert on his book the “I saw fire”.
“I like my town with a little drop of poison / nobody knows they’re lining up to go insane” – Tom Waits
I’ve decided my route. Well, at least part of it. To be honest only the first day’s ride, but that’s something at least. I was originally thinking of biking out of Portland and heading Northwest up to Astoria, OR and then doing the entirety of the Oregon Coast from one end to the other. Through much deliberation though (and advice from concerned housemates) I decided to scratch that plan and instead bike directly from Portland to Tillamook, which is a straight shot on Highway 6. It cuts 3 days off my timeline and it’s still about 20 miles further to bike to Tillamook and then down to Crescent City, CA rather than if I had got a car ride to Astoria and started there. A bit heartbroken as I love Astoria, but it’s only fair considering finances, time, and of course the health of my knees. Also, I’ve seen that section of Oregon so many times and there are parts of the coast further South that are totally new to me. Goonies never say die, though. I’ll be back to you soon Astoria!
I have also made a fair amount of progress on my bike thanks to my buddy Starmichael at Kenton Cycle Repair in North Portland. I got an email from him inviting me down to work on my bike in his shop, so I rode down there on my wobbly tired Schwinn and got to it. We listened to a mix of old Johnny Cash related bands (The Highwaymen and his other duets and collaborations), Roger Miller and some others. During which I told him about my idea to play a set at a family-friendly market in town that I was invited to and only play traditional folk songs from the darker, more depressing end of the spectrum. For example: “Waiting Around to Die” and “Don’t Let the Sunshine Fool Ya” by Townes Van Zandt, “Big River” and “I Guess Things Happen That Way” by Johnny Cash, “Clay Pigeons” by Blaze Foley and of course a handful of Tom Waits songs. He recommended I cover “One Dyin and a Buryin” by Roger Miller, which is Miller’s acoustic, pro-suicide ballad sung in a traditional manner. The market attracts a large number of people each month, mostly families, and we’re here in his shop laughing and thinking about me getting up on stage on a bright and sunny day and just depressing the shit out of everyone.
My other idea I floated to fill the 2 hour set was to get up on stage without my guitar, grab the microphone and belt out “WHEN A MAAAAN LOOOOVES A WOOOOOMAN” until someone unplugs me or drags me off stage. I guess that’s what you’d call career goals maybe? Certainly ambitious to say the least.
I worked on my bike all day while he welded a frame in the back, and in the end I installed a heavy duty front basket, new pedals and straps, a rack over my back wheel, changed out and replaced all the little bits of hardware that were mismatched or rusted, and tried to true my wheels but ended up watching Starmichael do it for me instead. I replaced the back wheel also as the spokes were frozen in place and I wanted to get another 700 wheel to match the front one anyway. There are few things in this world as satisfying as working on a bicycle, especially when you have the appropriate tools and parts. Starmichael gave me an insanely good deal on all of that stuff, and some of it even free as it was used and not in good enough condition to sell but not poor enough to throw away. Fuck yeah punks! So yeah, if you’re ever in Portland and need your bike repaired go check out Kenton Cycle Repair, and be sure to drop the secret phrase: “I’m punk as fuck” and they’ll work their magic.
After I got home I took a walk to the library and printed out a few “Bike the Oregon Coast!” brochures that the state of Oregon put out. The pamphlets were huge, and printing stuff at the library can go from extremely cheap to extremely expensive very quickly, so I ended up only printing about 15 pages or so of what I thought I’d actually need. Whether this proves to be a fatal mistake is yet to be seen. These do seem super helpful though, as they list not only the cheap state campsites that have showers and hiker/biker sites but also the towns that have bike repair shops. There’s also a fair amount about some awesome natural spots to check out, my main interest lying in a place called “Thor’s Well” just south of Yachats, OR. From what I could ascertain it’s an oval shaped hole in a rock that has water flow up and out of it during high tide, which is represented well in some really awesome photographs I found online. It wasn’t marked clearly on my map so I wrote it in with pen, as well as a few other things I found on my internet search.
Just a few days left now to get ready, and I’m still not even close to being done! I can tell it’s going to be down to the wire here. On top of getting ready for this I’m also playing a show on Saturday night at a vintage clothing shop with a band I play guitar in, Intentional Overtones, so I’m concerned I might wake up on Sunday not feeling physically ready to make that initial ride out to the coast. I decided if worse comes to worst and I just feel totally wrecked from the show that I can leave Monday morning, but ideally I want to stick to my original plan. We’ll see what happens, for now it’s time to rest!
Here is the first entry to a journal that I kept when I attempted to ride my bike across the state of Oregon. Over the next 10 nights I’ll be posting a new entry from this trip on the Profane Existence blog. This was originally meant to be a zine (just meant for a few friends to enjoy), but at the request of others I’ve decided to share it with a larger audience. I feel incredibly honored and grateful that PE asked me to post it here, as they’re a publication that I’ve looked up to since I was a young punk.
I want to state first that this journal is in no way a “how to” manual on how to do a bike tour. You’ll notice that I did this trip without a helmet, a cell phone or an itinerary to leave with someone in case I went missing so they’d know where to search for me. If you have the means to attain these things, please do so! Be safe out there and look out for your friends! I was lucky my lack of safety gear or a way to reach folks didn’t prove to be fatal, so please don’t follow my example in that respect and take chances that you don’t need to.
I’ve tried to capture this experience as accurately and as honestly as I possibly can. I’ve omitted some small details here and there, mostly for space reasons, but I’ve documented every significant event that happened along this ride. I think that the entries explain themselves well enough, so I won’t go into much detail about what you’ll read here. I appreciate you taking the time to check this out and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I would say as much as I enjoyed living it, but that unfortunately isn’t possible. I want to incentivize you to go out and create your own adventure, and I hope that in some small way this journal helps. There are a lot of amazing things out there just waiting to be experienced, and some times all it takes to make it happen is a 30 year old bicycle, a backpack and an overly ambitious attitude. Stay curious and inquisitive, my friends. Sometimes it’s the only thing that helps me feel truly alive.
I know that people have a hate on for soy and tofu, but I honestly think Soy gets an unfairly bad rap.
In part I think it is because soy is often associated as “the vegan food” even though tons of vegans don’t eat soy, and tons of non vegans around the world regularity eat soy. None the less, people who are anti-vegan, including industry – often will attack things they deem as “vegan things.” Another example of that is articles like Can Vegans Stomach The Unpalatable Truth About Quinoa? Which was an odd article since quinoa is eaten by people around the world and vegans only make up a small percentage of those people. Never mind that most the arguments could apply to nearly any industrial crop.
Now I am not saying Soy has no problems, any industrially produced monocropped cash crop definitely does. What I am saying is that soy gets a disproportionate amount of criticism compared to other crops. Here’s the thing, most of the time when people hear you eat soy and reply with a statement like “oh you better watch out, soy isn”t healthy because…” they end up pointing out something that is common in other foods as well – foods which they eat and never think twice of. For example, Soy is known to contain Phytoestrogens… You know what else contains Phytoestrogens? Try: nuts, seeds, oils, breads, oats, grains, legumes and even animal flesh. Flax seed is actually the food highest in Phytoestrogens, and I think any nutritionist or dietitian out there would tell you the health benefits of eating flax far out way any potential disadvantages. In fact, I saw a certified dietitian speak last year who has been vegan for 30 years, and she was asked about soy, she wasn’t too concerned about it. Flax, like soy is also high in tons of important nutrients like EFA’s.
A second weird criticism is this idea that most soy is GMO. Aside from the fact this simply isn’t true – at least not where I live – it also isn’t exactly unique even if it was true. People do this thing where they cherry pick the science they will cite based on what agrees with the things they already want to believe, and I think this is what is happening here as well. I see it all the time, where people will be concerned with GMO’s in some foods, then gorge on junk food or other processed foods that are completely GMO. In the case of soy, read the package. It isn’t that difficult. Where I live most soy sold in stores is labelled GMO free and Organic; and most the soy that isn’t labelled as both is labelled as either GMO free or Organic. And for the record I don’t shop at some fancy yuppy store either.
The other direction that anti-soy rhetoric often comes from is an ecological one, in which the arguments are just as equally flawed. one common one is that soy is causing the rainforest to be cut down to grow soy crops for vegans. This simply isn’t true, the parts of the rainforest being cleared to grow soy are not for human consumption but rather to feed beef and dairy animals. Most the soy we consume here is grown in places like California. Now again I am not saying that makes it ok or there is no issues with it, but rather saying that the problems are not unique to soy. Pretty much every crop we buy from industrial farming is grown with the same problems and then shipped thousands of miles. None of these problems are unique to soy. As much as people might want someone to blame, vegans are not at fault – industry and agriculture are.
Back to the health thing, there is 2 other aspects of the arguments against soy that I find absolutely silly. One is that most the people I have met who ever try and say how unhealthy soy might be, have never actually read any of the studies about it. They are simply repeating what they have heard some where.
The second, well let me tell a short story. When I first moved to Victoria, and got involved with Food Not Bombs, I would meet these people who would tell me things like that I shouldn’t put pepper in my food cause it can be hard on the colon, Then I would see these same people go out to all night dance parties where they would consume MDMA all night, and not sleep for days. I have seen this patterns often, of people who don’t seem to live healthy lifestyles or care much about health who take it upon themselves to lecture me or others about how soy, or pepper is unhealthy. The reality is this, there are more more unhealthy things most of us do than eat soy. In fact, there are far more unhealthy things most people eat than tofu.
Aside from that, I fucking love fried tofu! I can eat an entire pack, 14 ounces, as a snack – 14 ounces is 65g of protein! You can hate soy as much as you like, but I am gonna fry some more up with Cajun spice and sesame seeds! Your loss.
On July 4, 2 activists from Vancouver Animal Defense League locked themselves down to the inner railing of the chuckwaggon race track at the Calgary Stampede. Marley Daviduk and Samantha Baskerville used bike U-locks around their neck, in this inspiring act of civil disobedience. PE took the opportunity to ask them more about what they did, why they did it, and what they hope to achieve.
This interview with Marley and Sam was conducted by Comrade Black
PE: Why are you targeting the Calgary Stampede? It seems far away from home for a Vancouver based group?
Sam: I lived in Calgary for about 7 years and have always thought poorly of the Calgary Stampede. When this opportunity was presented to me, I couldn’t say no.
IMarley: I’ve been a horse person my whole life and my love of horses is what brought me to veganism and activism. Ever since I was young, the Calgary Stampede, specifically the Chuckwagon races, has been on my list of issues that needed to be dealt with. It came to a point where I felt that the Chuckwagon races were vulnerable and lacking public support. I hoped that an action like this would give us the opportunity to bring national media attention to the event and, for the first time, to their sponsor GMC. The Calgary Stampede may take place in Calgary but it’s an event that puts Canada in the public eye.
Sam:Being the largest rodeo in Canada, we knew that this action would raise international awareness and really enlighten people on the deaths and risk of injury during the Chuckwagon races.
PE: Was this action pre-planned, or improvised based on opportunity?
Marley: We started planning this event more than two years ago. This event was actually supposed to take place last year until Calgary was hit with a devastating flood, and much of the downtown core was under water including most of the Stampede grounds. The Stampede adopted the slogan ‘Come hell or high water’ and the show went on. We decided it would have been an inappropriate time to address this issue, the media was rightfully wrapped up in covering the devastation of the flood. There was a MASSIVE amount of planning and preparation involved with coordinating a crew of more than 18 people in 3 locations. In the last two years we have had dozens of strategy meetings, training sessions and fundraising events. Sam and I had locked down to just about every basketball hoop, cat scratching post and fence post in East Van to train for this. We had to be able to get on the track, lock down and dispose of the key in less than 30 seconds, in full view of a crowd of 20,000 people. It would have been reckless to attempt this without serious preparation efforts.
PE: How did you get onto the chuck wagon track without being noticed or stopped?
Marley: All it took was a plaid shirt. Just joking. We paid for tickets to get into the venue and both Sam and I had our bags searched. Our bike locks were in our bags and we had prepared for the search by filling our bags full of tampons and pads knowing most people wouldn’t dig through them. The security guard took one look inside our bags, and basically recoiled in horror and pushed us through. Once we were in the grandstands, all we had to do was hop over one small barrier and we were on the track.
Sam:It was pretty easy. We just ran from the beer garden down the inner track and locked down. It took several minutes before security reached us.
PE: You have a lot of firsthand experience with horses, yet I have read some people are trying to dismiss you by claiming you don’t know what you are talking about…
Marley: It seems like the most common response from Stampede officials in response to opposition is that ‘these dang city folk simply do not understand the ways of the horse’. I understand horses as much as any of them, but it doesn’t take an expert to acknowledge the risk of injury and death associated with the Chuckwagon races. This years death makes it the 10th year in a row horses have died during the event. Denny was a 12 year old thoroughbred, he died of an aortic aneurism near his kidneys, resulting in massive internal bleeding.
Sam: My experience is minimal in comparison to Marley’s but I did have a horse while growing up and took lessons as a child. Regardless, when one or more horses are dying every year from an event that only lasts ten days, you know that something is wrong and change is needed.
PE: Did you have any expectations of the outcome? Were you hoping this would shut down the race?
Marley: We were hoping that our actions would get national media attention and we knew that would happen even if we got tackled before we had a chance to lockdown. It would have been great to have prevented the races from happening that night, but due to unforeseen complications we had to lock down earlier than expected which gave them more time to locate a grinder to get us out.
PE: In the video, the officials with the stampede covered you with a black tarp. What’s the significance of the black tarp?
Marley: They covered us with the black tarp, which is the same black tarp they use when a horse goes down on the track. They use it so the crowd cannot see what’s happening.
Sam: I felt like we were that tragic mess that they were trying to hide from the public. Just like they do with the horses.
PE: Are you facing charges now? What are the repercussions?
Marley: We are facing mischief charges, our court date is on Aug 20th. We are banned for 99 years from the Stampede and we cannot approach within 3 blocks of the grounds.
PE: How can people help?
Sam: We need to keep this momentum going by sharing information, helping the Calgary activists, and by voicing their opinion to GMC to ask them to end their sponsorship of the Chuckwagon races.
Marley: People can help by contacting GMC the sponsor of this event, asking them to pull their sponsorship. @GMCcanada 1-800-263-3777 They can support our legal defense and the cost of this action by donating here. The cost of moving a crew of 10 people more than a 1000km’s to Calgary was pretty expensive and we were not able to find a lawyer in Calgary who was willing to do pro-bono work for us.
PE: What other campaigns are VADL engaged in? Have you had much success?
Marley: For the last 1.5 years we have been targeting Canada Goose retailers with protest campaigns (Canada Goose jackets with wild trapped coyote fur). Our efforts have resulted in 2 (out of 14 Vancouver retailers) dropping the brand and adopting a fur free policy. For a more detailed list of our campaign history please visit www.vancouveranimaldefenseleague.com
PE: Some people feel the tactics employed by VADL are controversial and too confrontational; why do you choose these tactics? Are they proving effective?
Sam: Protesting outside the venue was no longer bringing the attention that we need (although I still appreciate their efforts and encourage them to continue) so we had to amp it up a bit. And look, people are talking and the support has been overwhelming.
Marley: Sometimes I think we get more criticism for our tactics from vegans in the movement than from the opposition we target, especially when it comes to those who are involved with large multi-national organizations. We choose these tactics (pressure campaigns) because they work, and they provide achievable goals; which keeps people involved and motivated. Civil disobedience, like a lockdown, is not something we see very often within the Canadian animal rights movement, and yet actions like this have been such a massive part of AR history. We hoped to inspire activists across Canada and show them that there really is a diversity of tactics available that go well beyond vegan outreach and we hope to see more actions like this happening within our movement.
PE: Where can people get updates on your actions? Is there a way people can get involved with this campaign or VADL in general?
PE: Is there anything else you want people to know about the stampede?
Marley: We want other activists to know that we chose the Chuckwagon races because we felt there was a tactical advantage to isolating this race, not because we are at all okay with any other rodeo events.
Sam: While Marley and I cannot participate in direct protests against the stampede, I strongly encourage Calgary activists to continue the fight. The rodeo consists of events that cause extreme stress to the animals involved and continuous action is needed to bring the abuse to light so that more people will raise their voice against the Calgary Stampede.
PE: Any last advice for other activists?
Marley: My advice to other activists would be to pick a tactic/tactics that you are comfortable with and work at them without condemning the actions of others. I see so much public criticism of campaigns and tactics, specifically coming from people with little or no knowledge of historical campaigns and what has worked in the past. All I can ask of people is to embrace a diversity of tactics, please challenge yourselves, and finally lets learn about the history of our own movement.
Sam: don’t be afraid to push the limits a little bit, as long as it’s done safely and you are prepared to face the consequences responsibly.