Originally pressed in 1996 PROFANE EXISTENCE is bringing this quintessential anarcho punk masterpiece back in circulation.
In 1996 AUS-ROTTEN released their first LP “The System Works For Them” on an unsuspecting punk scene. It spread like wildfire in a pre internet era within a genre that mostly depended on tape trading. (at least is was pre internet for us penniless punks) “The System Works For Them” was the perfect mix of anger and intelligence that the scene needed at the time (and still does today). It was like a wake up call that opened the eyes and ears to many punks the world over. The messages where crystal clear and most us were hooked as soon as the beginning shouts of “Boycott” bellowed over the speakers. I don’t believe any of us ever expected their message to resonate so well within the scene, but even more surprising is how the songs are just as relevant today as on they the day they were written. Which is why PROFANE EXISTENCE has decided to repress this record. We feel that that messages that AUS-ROTTEN brought to the table are to powerful to ignore. We feel that this LP is important and therefore should be highly available and priced affordably.
PROFANE EXISTENCE has worked out every last detail of this release with the members of AUS-ROTTEN whom have been involved from step one. All tracks have been re-masted by Jay Matherson at the Jamroom studios. To be 100% honest we didn’t want to do a complete re-master of what we already considered a good recording. However when we opened the tracks on protools we noticed a few balance issues that required fixing. These fixes resulted in a tremendous upgrade to the overall quality of the tracks. We painstakingly scanned, puzzled, and photoshopped the original artwork to make sure that it was as close to authentic as it could possible be. We then went for broke by pressing in three different vinyl color combinations! Overall to say that we are pumped to release this would be an understatement, we are absolutely ecstatic to bring you this LP on PROFANE EXISTENCE!
To top this all off we worked with AUS-ROTTEN vocalist Dave Trenga on redrawing the classic “What Good Is Money, When There Is No One Left To Buy” design for a T-Shirt to concede with the albums release. This is a fresh take on an old image to create a new and original design.
Vinyl options are…
1. Standard black vinyl
2. “The Battlefield is Still Red” Bloodsplatter vinyl.
3. See through “Smoke”. – Available at SKULLFEST only
Silence are a highly active post-punk/peace-punk band from Pittsburgh, PA. “The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing” strives (and succeeds) to achieve the perfect balance between peace and post punk. By taking influences from The Mob, Bauhaus, Zounds, Killing Joke, Amebix, Crass, Conflict, Internal Autonomy and Joy Division SILENCE have created what can only be described a brilliant debut LP. At one moment this record is dark, heavy, and atmospheric and then the next moment it makes you want to dance and sing along. Lyrically SILENCE are much closer to the anarcho side of the previously listed influences. Lyrics focus on a variety of topics but often have a strong focus on the way punk and activist communities deal with political struggle in our current political climate.
“The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing” comes with a 16 page magazine size zine containing lyrics, personal writings and song explanations. Designed, printed and assembled by the band themselves in true D.I.Y. fashion.
Silence will be having a record release show in their hometown of Pittsburgh PA at the Rock Room Friday April 22nd with SHADOW AGE and SKELETON HANDS. Then later this month SILENCE will embark on a full United States tour to support “The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing”. Here is a list of dates. Be show to check in with the bands “bandcamp” or “Facebook” page for show updates.
When all that remains is a world in flames. Is that when they’ll say the wars are finally won? That wars are finally done?
They’re beating on the drums again, they’re fueling up the planes. The congressmen fall into line and sing the old refrain. In the name of peace they’ll burn the land and drop a thousand bombs.
Meanwhile we’ll just stay at home and go back to our sitcoms. It’s the same old song, we’ve heard it before. They’re beating the drums and they’re calling for war. What it’s supposed to accomplish, no one is sure But the victims are always the hungry and the poor.
Once the drums of war begin it’s hard to make them stop. The noise silences the dissidents once the bombs begin to drop. All those who call for peace will be mocked and pushed aside. In 10 years they’ll admit we were right after many thousands more have died.
Finally after many delays from the pressing plant the WARWOUND Demo’s LP “A Huge Black Cloud” is out and copies are moving fast!
Recorded in 1983, this record contains 15 songs from 3 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. WARWOUND recorded 3 demos in 83 before disbanding and members went on to join THE VARUKERS and form SACRILEGE. These demos never received an official release… until now! Highly influenced by DISCHARGE, WARWOUND is one of the first bands ever to take D-Beat Punk to a raw and intense level. Recently reformed in 2015, original guitarist Damian is now joined by Ian Glasper on bass and Rat Varuker on vocals. After a few gigs in the UK word is spreading fast of the relentless onslaught of a live show these veterans put on. WARWOUND have also recently hit the studio to record for the first time in over 30 years. Needless to say WARWOUND is back with a vengeance!
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.
“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.