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!
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″!
“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.