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 email@example.com.
“You can’t put your arm around a memory, don’t try” – Johnny Thunders
I rose at 9 am to the freezing air blowing through the valley. It FINALLY stopped raining at least, and the sun is peaking out of the clouds high up above Humbug Mountain. My usual morning grogginess has now elevated to include blurred vision and severe disorientation as I stumble out of camp to take a quick shower. As I return to my tent, Dan offers me his old biking gloves since they’ve worn down considerably and he ended up buying a new pair. I answer in the affirmative and he balls them up and tosses them over the thorn bush separating our camps. I thank him profusely, as I’m looking forward to doing away with the dull ache in my left palm that has plagued me for days.
I leave the camp in a good mood after I say my goodbyes to folks, and upon exiting the park Tristan catches up with me and we bike together for the first hour or so. We chat about Australia and I tell him about my travels out there, and he tells me about his life in British Columbia now. My knee is killing me this morning as the cold air is not doing my joints any favors. I bite my lip and press on, hoping that once I get warmed up it’ll become more bearable. If this wasn’t my last big ride, I would have stopped to rest it for a couple days for fear of causing damage, but since I’m almost at the finish line I press on. I stop at the top of a hill to remove my rain shell, as cumbersome and unnecessary as it’s become in the now direct sunlight, and Tristan continues on as I wave him goodbye. He mentions that he might stay at Jedediah Smith State Park where I’ll be tonight, even though it’s a few miles off of the 101.
It was an easy 20 miles to Gold Beach, as odd as it must be to read “easy 20 miles” when referring to cycling, but once you get into the rhythm of your bike tour this is how things start to seem. There was little to no headwind all day, and the terrain was bearable with amazing views of the coast (as usual). I ended up making great time, so I lingered in Gold Beach a bit longer than I normally would have. As I’m crossing town I spot the holy grail of bike tour stops – a used bookstore, complete with a teahouse AND free wifi. Better yet, I walk in and I see my buddy Tristan reading and catching up on emails as well! This was my greatest find of the day and I bask in its glory for an hour and a half while I chat with Tristan and enjoy my tea. The barista is super friendly and accommodating about my freakish-vegan-“how do you live??” dietary needs and this also warms me up inside. After Tristan heads on, I linger for about 45 minutes longer, transitioning from “I don’t want to get up right now” to “I want to stay here forever” before I finally force myself to move on.
Another beautiful 26 miles and I find myself in Brookings, OR – home of the trench coat lady. It definitely has a “southern Oregon” feel to it as I roll into town. As I’m on the northern outskirts of town I pass the South Coast Lumber Company with a sign welcoming me to Brookings. I found it unfortunate that they didn’t add a tagline of “Please enjoy the surrounding forests while you can, as we are actively destroying them.” Maybe they have a suggestions box I can drop a note in next time I come through?
The first interaction I witness while arriving in downtown was a man in a roadwork van have a shouting match with a woman at a fruit stand. I couldn’t make out what they were yelling at first, but as I passed I heard her yell, “BECAUSE I DON’T DO BUSINESS LIKE THAT. THAT’S WHY!” as he responded with, “YEAH BUT BILL DOES!” which was met with “YEAH WELL BILL AIN’T HERE.” I let the battle of “Brooking’s Fruit Stand” rage on as I continued down main street.
Once again I found a McDonald’s, stole their wifi to find vegan options in town and then treated myself to the third restaurant meal of my trip. It’s funny considering that I kept telling myself “one and only one meal out” before the trip started, but this Thai place looked too good to pass up. Plus, I’m worth it! As I’m using the bathroom at the restaurant I noticed some graffiti on the wall claiming that “Bam Margera was here” in 2007 complete with that stupid heartagram symbol. First of all, Bam, you spelled “wuz” wrong. Second, I doubt this was actually you anyway, and even if it was who would care that you ate here? I don’t know, maybe people do. I constantly underestimate the absurdity of celebrity worship in this country, and I pleasantly have been able to avoid much of it by not having steady access to internet on this trip.
Brookings, like most Southern Oregon towns, is patriotic to the point of discomfort for me. I mean, Nationalism is shitty to begin with, but there’s a weird biblical air to some of the stuff I’ve seen in town. I passed a motel that had a marquis out front reading “The patriots blood is the seed of the freedoms tree [sic]” which turned my stomach in a weird way. What the fuck does that even mean? I think. As I’m rolling past, I remember that the 4th of July is coming up in the next few days, explaining the existence of all the firework stands and tattered american flags. I’m filled with a huge sense of urgency to get home before the nightmare known as the 4th of July descends upon the campgrounds across the Pacific Northwest. “Celebrate a place you just happened to be born in that’s divided by invisible and arbitrary borders by blowing things up and scaring wildlife!” What a great way to celebrate the birth of a nation! (Do I even need to say that this last statement is laden with sarcasm?)
I make my way through and out of Brookings, the last town in Oregon, and finally fulfill my destiny by biking over the California border! A wave of emotion washes over me as I spot the “Welcome to California” sign on the horizon, and in that moment I found it so difficult to believe that I’ve ridden this junky 70’s Scwhinn nearly 400 miles across the state of Oregon. Nothing like the feeling of success that only an overly-ambitious and terribly under-prepared adventure can bring. I stop and take about a dozen photos, trying to time my iPodto take photos of me casually leaning against the sign post, and failing miserably in getting a decent picture. Right on the other side of the border I stop to use the bathroom at a gas station in the parking lot of a casino. I find out they have free wifi so I’m quick to post on my social media accounts that I made it to California, and that I now am officially beginning my journey back home. It feels like the end of an era, and yet I’m still very, very far from home.
I breeze through several eery small towns and follow the signs advertising the alternate Pacific Coast bike route. Most of these routes don’t take me anywhere near the coast, and instead I find myself cycling through sweltering farm land. At one point I pass a field of cows just as one of them begins to sit down. As she settles in I yell out to her “Yeah that’s right! Take a load off, my friend! Take 5!” only to realize right after I’m done shouting that the house next door is full of people and has all of its windows down. Leaving no way that they didn’t hear the weirdo on the bike shouting at a group of cows. Fuck it. My loyalty is to the cows.
A few miles past what is now referred to in my mind as “Cow City,” I’m making my way through more farmland and approach a small farmhouse on the edge of a field. Suddenly a small terrier comes running across the backyard barking at me as I get closer. Just as I begin to think “Oh, there’s a fence there, it’ll be fine”, this dog LEAPS through a jagged whole in the chain link fence and charges straight for me! I SLAM on my breaks and almost skid to a stop, missing him with my front tire by inches. Only really missing him because I turned my wheel to the side just in time as he bolted toward me. As I struggle to get a hold of my heavy and awkward bike, he begins darting back and forth, nipping at my feet as he does so. Seconds later a man in a pickup truck pulls alongside me and laughingly says “Oh, that’s Charlie. Just tell him to go home.” and pulls away without a word more. I start to sternly say “GO HOME, CHARLIE!” as he darts back and forth in front of me and gets shockingly close to biting my front wheel. Soon I hear a little girl in the field yelling at him as well, demanding he go home and yelling “BAD DOG!” He refuses to back down, so I try to just pedal off and once again he lunges and out of fear of running him over I stop. The girl storms out of the house and scolds him, and he finally retreats a few paces back from me. I see my moment and take off. He almost pursues me for a second and then gives up as he’s repeatedly told “BAD DOG!” by the girl and picked up and placed back in the yard. That dog was willing to stop me from passing that house if his life depended on it!
Down the road I pass Pelican Bay State Prison, which is weirdly part of this “scenic alternate route” that these signs are leading me down. I figure though that if you’re going to tour the U.S., you might as well see all the prisons, considering that there’s such a huge percentage of people incarcerated in this country. Prison is just about as American as apple pie and lifted trucks after all. A few miles later I meet a couple of goats hanging out in someone’s front yard on leashes, and then the world seems alright again.
I am now in officially uncharted territory. Well, uncharted in the sense that I didn’t print out maps for Northern California, so I honestly don’t know where the heck I am and how far I am from Crescent City. I’m supposed to transfer over to Highway 99 a few miles before I even pass through the town, and I get the sneaking suspicion that I’ve overshot it as the day stretches on. An hour after my first feeling of “Oh shit I’m lost” I enter the city limits of Crescent City. Cursing myself, my bike and anything and anyone else I can blame for this debacle I pull over in the parking lot of a motel to try and pull up a map on my Ipod. As I’m checking the map I realize I overshot my turnoff by about 10 miles, which feels like an insane amount after biking for around 75 miles today already. Angered but not deterred, I finally find a road nearby that’s a straight shot to Highway 99, and the campground that’s listed is just a few miles past that. I make my way across Crescent City, and realize as I cruise that it’s a pretty rough place. I pass run down trailer parks replete with fighting and screaming residents, garbage all over the roads and giant monster trucks roaring past me. I also bike past abandoned factories and mills out on this rural road, a sure sign of lost jobs and economic disparity. Some areas of this town remind me a lot of Detroit, but probably in the next few decades a lot of cities will grow to resemble Detroit as well (I love Detroit though, just need to clarify that).
Amazingly the map I downloaded is still up on my Ipod when I stop to check how much farther I have to go. Unfortunately, the map claims that there should be a campground where I’m standing, but all I see are more goats. I’m now on the rim of the Jedediah Smith State Forest, but no signs indicate a campground anywhere. I’m almost panicked as I’m rounding 80 miles and can’t seem to find my home for the night. I make it to the junction for Highway 99 and decide to stop at a small apartment building to ask for directions.
As I roll into the lot I see a big group of guys replacing a tire on a Ford Bronco, and decide not to bother them (plus the added unease of approaching a huge group of dudes to ask for directions), I pull up alongside a guy sitting on his porch. I ask him if he knows where the campground is, and he doesn’t look up. I ask again, and again no response. I ask again, and this time he finally sees me and says “Uhh…what?” I ask a 4th time and he again says “What?” The 5th time I’m about to give up, just as he starts to sputter something out, because I look past him into the apartment and realize how sketchy this whole scene is. I see people inside rustling around, looking FREAKED out that I’m standing near their doorway, and finally a woman rail-thin with gnarly scratches all over her face and eyes bugging out comes out and asks what I want. I repeat what I’m looking for and she finally calms down, “OH, yeah that’s like 20 miles up the mountain” as she points toward the 99. “Oh fuck, are you serious? 20 miles?” I say. “Yeah, yeah. It’s way up there man. It’s almost all the way at the top of the mountain. I can’t believe you’re riding up there.” FUCK! WHY?!
I start to pull out of the parking lot to take on this stupid and seemingly unnecessary challenge when all the guys fixing the Bronco tire stand up and face me. There’s probably 8 of them, many of them sporting gang tattoos on their faces, and there’s an awkward silence for a few moments. One of them then asks “Where you trying to go, fool?” I answer and they all immediately brighten up as one of the bigger guys, with probably the most facial tattoos, responds in a jovial and warm manner, “Oh yeah man! That’s just right up there! Shit, you’re biking up that mountain?” I respond yes and they all let out a collective sigh, and he responds with “Damn, be careful on that road, homie. There’s no bike lane and people drive like dicks. It’s fucked up.” I agree and tell them I’ve already biked like 80 miles today and I just wanted to sleep, they all seemed pretty impressed and told me that it sucks I have so much farther to go. As I’m about to leave, a skinny guy with droopy eyes asks, “Hey though, you got any trees?” Assuming he meant weed (or “marijuana” for the layperson) I let out an awkward and drawn out, “Uhhhhhhhhhh. No.” and we all have a good laugh. I thank the gentlemen and hop back on my bike, them shouting encouragement toward me as I begin my trek up the hill. Making friends everywhere I go, I guess. What a day.
I begin my last and final ascent of the day, up into the massive California redwoods. It’s still daylight out, but upon entering the state forest it’s soon blacked out, leaving me debating whether I should have put my bike lights on. The two lane highway is not well traveled at this hour, but the people who do travel down it do not drive in a courteous manner and I find myself yelling, swearing and spitting at RV’s and other cars as they fly past me. In what seems like no time at all I begin seeing signs for the state park campground, totally quashing the original estimation given to me by the folks at the apartment building that it was “20 miles up at the top of the mountain.” I’m thankful that they’re wrong, and I pull into the state park sore, tired, aching and slightly lonely. I pull up to the ranger kiosk, and wait a good 30 seconds before the woman sitting with her back to me realizes I’m there. The redness in her eyes and slow manner of her speech leads me to believe that she’s been “doing some pot” during working hours. I pay her the typical $5 for the hiker/biker site and then ask her if any other bikes came in today. She says no, that there was only 1 person out at the hiker/biker area, and I immediately felt bummed that I won’t be seeing Tristan or any of the other people I’ve met on this trip tonight.
I pull into the grounds, and I pick a site that borders up against a massive old growth redwood tree. It must have been at least 50 feet tall, I couldn’t see the top as the glare from the sun was too much to bear. Speaking of bears, apparently one had been spotted at camp recently so I’m advised to keep all my food in the “bear box” in my campground. Normally I don’t bother and just sleep with food in my tent, but this time I lock it in there as I’m instructed. I get my tent set up and walk the 1/4 mile to the showers on a small path through the woods. Upon arrival I realize that the showers cost $1 for 10 minutes, which is an insult compared to the FREE showers that the Oregon State campgrounds offer you. THIS IS WHY I LEFT YOU CALIFORNIA! I think, as I storm out of the bathroom. I pass some kids tossing a frisbee around on my way back and I awkwardly have to walk through the middle of their game to get past. An uncomfortable moment passes as I interrupt their fun and they all silently stare at me as I shuffle down the path. FUCKING DEAL WITH IT!
^Sharing my campground with this fella
I get back to camp and the loneliness of the silent grounds hits me hard. Having shared campgrounds with mostly the same people every night on this trip, it feels odd to be on my own once again. I’m tempted to build a fire, goof around and swim in the nearby river, but with no one to hang out with I end up just climbing into my tent instead and continue reading my Stephen King book. Today was my last day on my bike, and tomorrow begins my hitchhiking journey home. I was originally going to bike up the 99 to Grants Pass, but I’m rapidly running out of time and I definitely have run out of energy. The 80 miles and 2,000+ ft climb to GP to link up with the 5 does not sound like a fun time to me right now, so I’m going to throw myself upon the mercy of the hitchhiking gods. Once I get to Grants Pass I’ll begin a search for a rideshare on Craigslist, and failing that I’ll find an onramp to hitch off of and hope that someone who stops will have room for my bike. As proud as I am of finishing this ride, I have to remind myself that I’m not done yet, and that tomorrow could still be potentially the hardest day I’ve seen this week. It’s still a 5 and a 1/2 hour drive back to Portland, and I could get lucky and get a ride all the way home in one go or I could be stuck on the side of the road all day and never catch one. We’ll see how it goes in the morning, but the 95 mile ride today took a lot out of me and now it’s time to sleep. Thanks for reading, friends. Wish me luck tomorrow.