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″!
I just want to take this time to give a round of thanks to the people who helped me make this trip possible. I want to thank Starmichael and Kenton Cycle Repair for all their help and support in getting my bike ready by offering me the parts, tools and education to make it happen. I want to thank my dear friend Lindsay for taking the time to read every single one of these entries, fixing punctuation errors and syntax, and giving me helpful advice all along the way. I want to thank my partner Helene for all the encouragement and support I received along the way even though she was terribly afraid (and somewhat convinced) that I wouldn’t make it home alive. I want to thank Profane Existence for asking me and giving me the opportunity to post my journal through their blog; which by extension motivated me to get my stuff together and make a real project out of this journal. Lastly, I want to thank everyone who read the entries of this journal as they were posted, there were a lot more of you than I would have expected!
This trip was a real challenge, and when folks ask me if I had a “good” experience the answer is always a complicated one. The tour was certainly enriching in many ways, but “good” is a very subjective word in this context because there were many times on this trip that I sincerely wanted to give up. The 3 days of the storm were really, really intense and I can’t compartmentalize that when I relive this experience. On the other end, I met a lot of really genuine people and saw one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world from my bicycle. Whether this trip can be solidly classified as good one or not, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world.
So, all I have left to say is thank you for taking the time to read about a small portion of my life. I appreciate the positive responses I’ve received so far. I look forward to my next adventure and I hope that you’re planning yours right now as well. Sometimes the most satisfying trips are the ones that are spur of the moment, somewhat reckless and ones that you are terribly unprepared for. Stay safe, but have fun. Always.
Take care my friends,
Mike XVX, August 10th, 2014
Sunday, June 29th, 2014
“Cause I’ve seen blue skies / through the tears in my eyes / and I realize… I’m going home” – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Oh shit, I overslept! I think as I awake in the dense redwood forest. The canopy in here is so thick that it’s almost impossible to guess as to what time it is. Thankfully once I calm down I realize it’s not even 8 am yet, and I’m still on the schedule I set myself to hitch back to Portland today. I wanted to wake up and be out on the road no later than 9, and it’s still looking likely that I’ll be able to do just that. I pack my camp up and a more relaxed pace as my knee still has a slight twinge when it shifts from side to side. Walking and jogging doesn’t bother my knee at all, but any movement that recreates the motion of riding my bike sends a lightning bolt of pain up my left side. Really, really glad I don’t have to get back on my bike today, not sure that I’d even make it 20 miles on this knee.
After getting packed up I say goodbye to my redwood friend that I shared my campsite with, and took one last, crane-necked look at the top of this massive tree. I felt so very gracious to have been born on this planet in this moment. I hop on my bike and pedal across the campground, and the pain in my knee rises from a mild annoyance to an almost unbearable, searing bolt of pain driving north from my kneecap. The grimace on my face certainly would have scared off some children had there been any, but instead I roll past the check-in station and out onto Highway 99 where I’ll be trying my luck hitchhiking.
Last night by flashlight I made two signs out of old maps I had taken from the ranger station. I used a ballpoint pen to scribble on each sign “GRANTS PASS – IN A HURRY” and “PORTLAND”, respectively. The maps had writing on both sides to begin with, so in reality I wasn’t even sure that anyone would be able to read them. I flew my “GRANTS PASS” sign first, as I’m thinking it’s more likely that I’ll get a ride directly up the 99 to GP, and the “PORTLAND” sign might deter people from picking me up if they’re not going that far. I do my usual hitching routine; big smile, thumb out, passive stance and maintaining eye contact with the driver as they pass, as if to say “Yeah dude, I’m cool, don’t even worry about it.” Typically this works pretty well, but unfortunately I was unable to shave off my beard this morning, which can be a deterrent, as well as the sleeveless shirt that says “GO VEGAN!” on it. I didn’t bring any nice clothes (or scam-ouflage, if you will) along with me due to space issues, but I’m regretting it now as 20 cars pass me without slowing down. Every time a car zooms past me on the two lane highway, I look over my shoulder at the mountain lumbering behind. 80 miles and 2,200 ft of elevation I’ll have to climb if I can’t catch a ride up and over into Grants Pass. I cannot and will not do that today, it’s car ride or nothing.
A mere 10 minutes later a massive diesel truck towing a horse trailer passes me, and I see the woman driving mouth the words “Grant’s Pass?” silently behind the windshield. She then jerks the wheel to the right and comes to an abrupt halt on the shoulder. Without hesitation I grab my bike and jog over to her truck, as she climbs out and starts rearranging a bunch of stuff in the bed.
“Hey ,thanks for stopping!”
“Yeah of course! I saw you’re going to Grants Pass and I was like ‘Shit! I’m going there!’ Here, tie your bike down in the back, my horses won’t be too happy if you put your bike in their trailer, haha”
I remove my backpack off the front of the bike and hoist it vertically, panniers and all, 3 feet or so into the truck bed. I strain hard to keep everything balanced, as I don’t want to bang up the side of her truck after she so generously just stopped for me. I struggle and fight with the awkward weight until I get the bike settled in the center of the truck bed. She told me to tie it down, so I took one of my bungee chords and tied it securely from my bike frame to a ball joint in the floor, figuring if this mountain of empty cardboard soda boxes aren’t flying out the back of her truck than my bike should be fine. “Ummm…here let me tie up the wheel to this hook, it’s just… I know how I drive, you know?” “Oh yeah, sure” I say as she takes a nylon rope and threads it through my front wheel and securing it to one of the hooks on the edge of the truck bed. As she’s leaning forward to secure my bike, the back of her shirt lifts up, exposing a massive Desert Eagle handgun hanging out of the back of her pants. HOLY FUCK! I think upon seeing it. Followed by, She had to have shown that to me on purpose. Which I don’t blame her for, considering she’s out here picking up a stranger on a country road, and with 2 children as well I realize, as I glance into the cab. They’re both peaking at me through the back window and the little girl waves. Both she and her brother are maybe around 4 or 5 years old and they seem to be chatting about something.
After a couple minutes we get the bike secured to her satisfaction, and then we climb into the cab. “Sorry, just I know these roads so well that I drive kinda crazy on them.” I respond that it’s no worry, trying to suppress my concern of How crazy is it going to get?? As we’re pulling away from the entrance to the state park, I reach back and try to grab my seat belt but keep grasping air. I look over my shoulder to grab it just as a tiny, teacup sized hand grabs the buckle and slowly pushes it forward. I gently take it and look back to see the little girl smiling at me, and I smile and thank her. What a sweet kid. I find out the driver is named Sheron, and she’s about my height, with long brown hair and the slightest twang of a country accent. She used to live in Crescent City, but now lives out in Medford and is returning from a weekend visiting her parents. We make conversation pretty easily, and we find a common interest in animals and chat about our love for them for quite awhile. We also both enjoy traveling alone, and she tells me about all the places she wants to see now that she’s recently divorced. “My husband beat the shit out of me in front of my kids, so I left. Fuck him, I’m going to do things my way from now on,” she opens up to me. I typically find that people tend to tell me extremely personal things when I’m hitchhiking, partly because they’ll more than likely never see me again, but folks also tell me that I have a trusting face. I have no idea what a “trusting face” looks like though, so if you asked me I couldn’t say. I respond that I’m really sorry to hear that, that I’m glad she’s out now and her and the kids are safe, and then tell her a little bit about my childhood and how I was treated as well. Not to “one-up” her of course, but to let her know she’s not alone and there are plenty of people out there that choose not to continue the cycle of violence that their parents or significant others inflict on them. She seems to be a great mom, and her kids seem like sweethearts, and I tell her that. A bond starts to form between us, like so many other hitching situations I’ve been in, and I start to feel even more glad that she picked me up, and not just because I needed a ride.
All the while we’re flying up the 99, and she was not exaggerating about her driving style. She’s surpassing the speed limit a considerable amount, all the while towing a trailer filled with 2 horses and 3 baby calves. We’re passing these epic, picturesque landscapes,and now that I’m off my bike for the first time in a week I realize how little time I have now to take in all the sites that the Rogue River/Siskiyou Forest has to offer. The speed that we’re passing mile-markers now is fascinating to me and I feel like I’m riding in a car for the very first time. As we’re talking about cabins and our individual desires to build one out in the middle of the woods, away from civilization and any human being, we round a bend that brushes up along the river.As we’re taking the turn we spot 2 half-naked hippy guys, complete with dreadlocks, skinny frames and long beards standing in the emergency lane of the highway. The entire contents of their backpacks seemed to be emptied all over a car turnout as if it was the floor of their living room. We stop mid-conversation as we see one of them is standing there in only his undergarments, while the other, also only wearing undergarments, gently massages suntan lotion onto his back. Both of them were grinning like it was the greatest experience of their lives as an epic river roars behind them. I have just enough time to let out a laugh and think WHAT IN THE WORLD… as we fly past, the speed only giving us a second to take in everything we saw. Like a polaroid snapshot, that image will forever be burned into my mind, and I am thankful for that as it makes me laugh every time I think about it. Sheron, who’s used to living in the middle of nowhere, far away from anyone, was even more perplexed than I, and that made me laugh even harder. I suspected a slight hint of homophobia in Sheron’s reaction, but I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she just thought it was a funny scene to come flying past. At the same time though I was tempted to alter a popular phrase I’ve seen on T-shirts and shout at her “Some hippies massage suntan lotion onto other hippies – GET OVER IT!” Obviously this wouldn’t have gone over well and she would have let me out of the truck back there with the hippy dudes, but in retrospect that actually would have been pretty rad.
In what seems like no time at all we reach Grants Pass, where Sheron will be transferring to a different highway back to her home in Medford. I thank her profusely as she helps me get my bike unlashed out of the truck bed, and I get another glimpse of that monster of a handgun she keeps in her waist band. I’d trust her with a gun over a cop any day though, I just want to have that noted. I’d even support her if she used it on that piece of shit ex-husband she told me about, but I don’t say that out loud as it’s not my place, plus what’d happen if I had said that and she ended up doing it? Or if I ended up writing it, like I am now…fuck. Whatever. We say our goodbyes, and both her kids start asking where I’m going and why I’m leaving. It’s sweet and sad and all at once I feel bad for them, as children are usually the ones who suffer and are affected the most by domestic violence. Often times their plight goes unnoticed as they’re prisoners in their own home. Outsiders were nearly powerless to help me when I was a young one, and I feel equally as powerless as I wave goodbye to them now, silently wishing them luck with their lives and also wishing that I could tell them it’s not their fault, and that they’ll grow up to be loving, gentle and wonderful people if that’s what they want. I say thank you again to Sheron and begin pushing my bike across the swelteringly hot parking lot of a hardware store, turning my front wheel to downtown Grants Pass and pushing on towards home.
Once again, I stop off at a McDonald’s on the outskirts of downtown to use their bathroom and their wifi. I posted an ad a couple days ago on Craigslist asking for a ride for my bicycle and I up to Portland, and so far I have a few responses. For those not familiar, the 5 is a heavily traveled freeway and my chances of getting picked up and driven straight home from here were much more likely than if I was still on the coast. I read over the emails I received: one ride seemed promising, but she’s not leaving till 5 pm, and it’s only 10 am now. I save that one for later. The next email has only one run-on sentence and it says “me and the boys headin to portland got room for u”. I don’t get a good feeling from this second one, mostly because it sounds like there will be too many people in this car for my bike to fit, but whatever gets me home will work. I text both of the numbers from the texting app on my ipod just to cover all my bases. I decide since I don’t have any immediate rides out of town that I might as well try to hitch out in the meantime, so I hop on my bike and follow signs to a 5 freeway onramp nearby.
Luckily this onramp is underneath an overpass, providing me with complete shade and protection from the intense heat this morning. It’s not even noon and it’s already nearing 100 degrees, there’s no way I’d last 20 minutes out here trying to find a ride if I had to stand directly in the sun. After about an hour I get passed by probably 80 cars or so, many of them not engaging me in the slightest, or giving me the “only going a little way” pinch-hand signal I’ve come to know over the years. Also, most of these cars are packed with people already so there’d be no room for me and my bike anyway, even if I took it apart. I decide to give myself another half hour, and if no one picks me up in that time than I’ll bike out to downtown Grants Pass and wait for my definite 5 pm ride from the woman with the mini-van who offered to take me. As I’m nearing the end of my efforts for now, I’m passed by a lipstick-red hatchback car driven by a woman probably in her 40’s. Across the windshield is a MASSIVE decal that just says “COUGAR” with flowers on either end. The sticker was so large that there’s no way it wouldn’t obstruct your vision, but that statement was just too important not to put out there I guess. Through giggles I utter under my breath “Right on lady, you get it!” as she passed.
I throw in the proverbial towel just before noon, mount my bike and start making my way toward downtown. It is unbearably hot, and I can actually feel myself getting sunburned. I thought that growing up in So Cal and surfing for most of my life would have prepared me for being in the sun day in and day out on this trip, but as I’m getting burned I realize “That’s not how skin works.” I feel like a dummy, but a bronzed one at that, as I coast past the strip malls. I eventually make it to downtown and stop off at the Safeway, in search of food and confrontations with the local riff raff. Sure enough I get both of those things within 10 minutes. I seat myself on a shaded curb in the parking lot and treat myself to a cold can of Amy’s chili, all the while being approached by a parade of questionable people, many of whom try to tell me just how MUCH Jesus loves me. “Uh huh,” I respond, not having the energy to spout anything overtly blasphemous this morning. Not-so-fun fact as well: the “Army of God” piece of shit who murdered Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who worked at a women’s clinic and provided abortions, was from here. So you can imagine my reticence about engaging anyone about the teachings of an abrahamic religion, regardless of how offensive that religion may be to me. The concern for my own life is only eclipsed by my concern to not be constantly bothered about the existence of a supernatural being, so for now I keep my mouth shut so I can relax. Thankfully I was eventually approached by a couple of odd folks who were not of the religious variety, so I got to have interesting conversations with them instead. We talked about bikes, how far you could ride on bikes, and canned chili, since these were the only things they could discern I was interested in. One guy did tell me about an organic tea house up the street though, so I decided that sitting in an air conditioned room with a warm tea and access to my email sounded like the perfect plan right now.
I biked the 2 blocks to the tea house (Grants Pass is a really, really small town) and on the way I passed a venue I’d played at not more than a month previous. I locked my bike up out front and dragged my bags inside with me, feeling the cool blast of air hit my scorched skin as I entered. Setting my bags aside I went up to order. I scanned the menu for a London Fog, or even a maté latte, but I settled for a chai (I’m a tea snob, deal with it). After I place my order she offers me 2% cow milk or hemp milk with my latte. This is how our conversation went after that:
“Do you have soy milk?”
“Oh yes, we do. But you know… I always discourage people from getting it, because soy is SOOOOOO bad for you!”
*trying my hardest not to roll my eyes*
“Well, I dunno, I’ve been vegan for 10 years and haven’t had any issues because of soy, so I’ll just have that.”
“Yeah, well I understand if you prefer it. I’m not supposed to have it cause I’m lactose intolerant.”
“Oh, you’re what?”
“I’m lactose intolerant, so my doctor told me I can’t eat soy.”
Perplexed and amused I wait for her to correct herself and realize that the key word here was “lactose.” Amazingly she doesn’t correct herself, and I then had to suppress laughter as I paid for my drink. It’s kind of fascinating that she works here, and also a bit scary. Maybe coffee places should ask “Do you know what lactose is?” before they hire people so they don’t accidentally kill anyone. Something to think about I guess.
I use the bathroom to take what is known amongst us traveler kids as a “sink shower” to remove some of the smell that seems to be emanating from me. I have another rock in my shoe, and upon removing it I realize that it’s actually in my sock. I remove both of my socks just in case and realize my tan line makes it look like I’m still wearing them. What a fun few weeks it’ll be getting rid of all the weirdly untanned areas I’m going to have from sleeveless shirts, bike shorts and ankle socks. As I’m finishing I see that I got a few more emails, and a couple texts on my ipod app. I get a text from the woman with the mini-van saying she’ll be in GP around 5:30, and also another text from the run-on sentence guy that just says “hey man can u meet at sharis in 20 minutes.” Shari’s is a chain not unlike Denny’s that’s popular in the Northwest, but I have no fucking idea where this place is in Grants Pass. I text back “Do you have room for both my bike and myself?” and he responds a few minutes later with “yeah maybe if we take it apart.” Fuck that. Not biking to who knows where for a “maybe.” I text back thanks but I’ve already got a ride out of town and return to my seat and my tea. Fifteen minutes later I get an email from someone asking if I’ve left town yet, and I immediately write back that I’m still here. He says he’s leaving town in 10 minutes and if I still wanted a ride I could come along. I text him back that I definitely would, and tell him to meet me back at the Safeway. He agrees and I take my time finishing my tea, as it’ll take me all of 2 minutes to get back over there.
I leave the tea house and make my way back across town, now wearing my rain shell to protect my tender shoulders from the sun. It makes for a hotter ride but at least I can’t feel my flesh being baked by the sun anymore. I hop off my bike just as a guy my age and a bit shorter than me approaches me across the parking lot. “Neal?” I ask and he nods and we shake hands. We walk over to his car, which is a tiny Honda Civic and I ask if he’s sure my bike will fit if we take it apart, since his trunk is completely full. We decide to just give it a try, and I go to work on my bike, removing both of the wheels. I tell him we should put my sweater down on the seat so the chain and the chain ring don’t get grease all over his upholstery, but he tells me his car has “lived through a lot” and it’ll be fine. I’m not sure he realizes how difficult it is to clean this shit off, but if that’s what he wants, then I’ll oblige. We finally wedge the frame in and get everything settled, hop in the car and head out of the parking lot. He tells me he’s out here visiting a friend and that he just watched a documentary about Craigslist rides and was interested in trying it out. “Lucky for me” I say, as we pull up to a gas station.
I ask Neal how much he wants for gas, and he kinda gives me a “Whatever is fine” answer, making this whole interaction all the much more awkward. Money exchanges are always a bit uncomfortable, especially when it comes to Craigslist rides. I offer him $15, because in reality that’s all I have in cash and he says that’s fine. His car is small and probably gets decent mileage, but we’re still over 4 hours and 250 miles from Portland, so I think the amount I offered is still a bit on the low end. Either way he seems satisfied, so it all gets sorted and we continue on our way. It’s a dream to roll the windows down and have fresh air blowing in my face, and I’m glad to be entering the last leg of my journey. We make great time up the 5, until we come almost screeching to a halt in the middle of nowhere as we approach a wall of traffic. We’re moving at a crawling pace for almost 3 hours, and we have no idea what the holdup is. I keep looking over to the emergency lane and think about how much farther I could have gone by now if I had been biking. The worst part about being stuck in traffic is Neal’s complaints about the heat, the traffic, the lack of A/C in his car, the heat, the traffic, the heat etc., etc. to a point where I almost tell him to shut up. He’s a nice guy but right now he’s getting on my nerves big time, as I’m also in the same car, experiencing the same discomfort but not blabbing on about it. He then pulls off the freeway to try and find an “alternate route” on his phone, even though I assure him we’re going through a pass and there won’t be any frontage roads that’ll take us north. He pulls over anyway, and finds a route his phone suggests that requires us to backtrack nearly 30 miles, not including the distance it’ll take us to get to a moving section of the 5 from this side route. He almost takes this route till I put my foot down and tell him to get back on the freeway, as it’ll probably clear up soon anyway since we’ve been on it for hours. I’m exhausted and not in the mood to be driving in circles out in the middle of nowhere, and I’m sure this comes across as he gets back on the 5 again. A half hour later the freeway opens up, and we realize all this traffic built up because we were reduced to a single lane for seemingly no reason. No workers, no road machines; just cones directing us to a single lane. Super worth it, obviously.
Eventually we roll into Eugene, and Neal says he wants to stop and grab some food in town. I unenthusiastically agree because I don’t care for Eugene, but he’s the driver and I’m sensitive to the fact that he wants to stop and eat. We pull over near the University of Oregon and he walks into a Subway while I hang in the parking lot. As he’s leaving with his sandwich he asks if I want anything, and I say no thanks and that I actually gave him my last $15. He then says, in a very fatherly manner (even though we’re probably the same age), “Well… we can’t have you going hungry, you sure you don’t want anything?” I thank him again and decline, not wanting to feel like I’m taking advantage of him. Plus, my thoughts were of nothing but Thai food from the restaurant down the street from my house, and I didn’t want to spoil my appetite for that. After scarfing down his dripping sandwich we get back on the freeway, and a short drive later we finally enter Multnomah County and eventually Portland’s city limits. I instruct him on how to get to my house off the freeway, and most importantly how to get back on the freeway after he drops me off. Portland is a notoriously difficult city to locate a freeway onramp in so I’m very meticulous with my instructions. As we’re driving past a park near my street, I see two of my housemates having a picnic, and from the looks of it they’re having a romantic time as the sun set behind them. I try to roll down my window in time to scream “PERVERTS!!!!” but it’s too late. Finally Neal pulls up in front of my house and I drag all my belongings to my front door, realizing as I’m removing my bike frame that there’s a HUGE grease mark on his backseat. He sees it too and just kinda shrugs. Sorry dude,I tried to warn you!
I say goodbye to Neal and finally walk through the threshold of my front door, immediately ordering take out at the Thai place and I then walk down the street to pick it up. Slumping down on the couch I celebrate a successful trip with Pad Thai and Thai ice tea while I stare blankly at the wall and listen to music. The lack of human conversation is a nice shift from having to make pleasantries while riding in a car with people all day. I think Depeche Mode wrote a song about “enjoying the silence” maybe? Haha. Anyway, it’s good to be home and now I finally have time to sit and reflect on my trip.
The reality of me being back home takes a while to sit in, I still constantly feel like I’m in bike tour mode. I keep mentally taking stock of how much water I have with me, identifying locations of power outlets in rooms, and dreaming of flat and level ground to pitch my tent on. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m sleeping in my own bed tonight, but that’s going to take some time to get used to. I saw a lot on this trip, and in the future when people ask if I had a good first bike tour it will be a complicated answer. In a lot of ways this trip was extremely difficult, and I felt that both my physical and mental strength were pushed to their respective limits. I wanted to cut corners a few times on this trip, and if I had the resources to do so I might have; but ultimately not having the best equipment or having money to fall back on makes for a more interesting story. The 3 days of the storm were by far the toughest, and magnified the difficulty of the ride and the loneliness that only nighttime can bring. On the other end, this trip was filled with amazing experiences, kind and interesting people and some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing. The Oregon Coast is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous places I have ever traveled to, and I fantasize about building a treehouse at the edge of a cliff and living out the rest of my life along the shoreline.
As time passes, I’m sure the coast will grow in mysticism for me as nostalgia sets in, but I think this journal will help keep me grounded in reality. I’ll be counting the days till I can return, though. The next tour I’ll plan will now be one of experience, and not of experimentation like this one. I’ll learn from my mistakes, be better prepared and ultimately make a longer trip; maybe even all the way down to Mexico. It took me a long time to set my life and creative projects aside to make this trip happen, and now that I have, I realize what I’ve been missing. I waited too long for other people to be ready to take this trip with me, so I threw down the gauntlet and challenged myself to do it alone, and I’m so very glad that I did. I want to thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and ramblings, because if it wasn’t for the encouragement of my friends, the motivation to keep such a log would not be there. I want to again thank Starmichael and Kenton Cycle Repair for all their help with getting my bike ready for this trip as well, punks stick together!
I want to reiterate how lucky I am to be alive and to be surrounded by so many thoughtful and caring people, and how gracious I feel for opportunities that I’ve had to see what I’ve seen and do what I’ve done. It’s easy to forget that sometimes, and it’s adventures like this one that help to remind me that life is worth living. Tonight is my final entry for this trip, and I wish you all the best summer you could possibly have, whether that be on a bicycle or not. Take care of yourselves and each other. See you out in the world, my friends.