Originally pressed in 1996 PROFANE EXISTENCE is bringing this quintessential anarcho punk masterpiece back in circulation.
In 1996 AUS-ROTTEN released their first LP “The System Works For Them” on an unsuspecting punk scene. It spread like wildfire in a pre internet era within a genre that mostly depended on tape trading. (at least is was pre internet for us penniless punks) “The System Works For Them” was the perfect mix of anger and intelligence that the scene needed at the time (and still does today). It was like a wake up call that opened the eyes and ears to many punks the world over. The messages where crystal clear and most us were hooked as soon as the beginning shouts of “Boycott” bellowed over the speakers. I don’t believe any of us ever expected their message to resonate so well within the scene, but even more surprising is how the songs are just as relevant today as on they the day they were written. Which is why PROFANE EXISTENCE has decided to repress this record. We feel that that messages that AUS-ROTTEN brought to the table are to powerful to ignore. We feel that this LP is important and therefore should be highly available and priced affordably.
PROFANE EXISTENCE has worked out every last detail of this release with the members of AUS-ROTTEN whom have been involved from step one. All tracks have been re-masted by Jay Matherson at the Jamroom studios. To be 100% honest we didn’t want to do a complete re-master of what we already considered a good recording. However when we opened the tracks on protools we noticed a few balance issues that required fixing. These fixes resulted in a tremendous upgrade to the overall quality of the tracks. We painstakingly scanned, puzzled, and photoshopped the original artwork to make sure that it was as close to authentic as it could possible be. We then went for broke by pressing in three different vinyl color combinations! Overall to say that we are pumped to release this would be an understatement, we are absolutely ecstatic to bring you this LP on PROFANE EXISTENCE!
To top this all off we worked with AUS-ROTTEN vocalist Dave Trenga on redrawing the classic “What Good Is Money, When There Is No One Left To Buy” design for a T-Shirt to concede with the albums release. This is a fresh take on an old image to create a new and original design.
Vinyl options are…
1. Standard black vinyl
2. “The Battlefield is Still Red” Bloodsplatter vinyl.
3. See through “Smoke”. – Available at SKULLFEST only
Silence are a highly active post-punk/peace-punk band from Pittsburgh, PA. “The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing” strives (and succeeds) to achieve the perfect balance between peace and post punk. By taking influences from The Mob, Bauhaus, Zounds, Killing Joke, Amebix, Crass, Conflict, Internal Autonomy and Joy Division SILENCE have created what can only be described a brilliant debut LP. At one moment this record is dark, heavy, and atmospheric and then the next moment it makes you want to dance and sing along. Lyrically SILENCE are much closer to the anarcho side of the previously listed influences. Lyrics focus on a variety of topics but often have a strong focus on the way punk and activist communities deal with political struggle in our current political climate.
“The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing” comes with a 16 page magazine size zine containing lyrics, personal writings and song explanations. Designed, printed and assembled by the band themselves in true D.I.Y. fashion.
Silence will be having a record release show in their hometown of Pittsburgh PA at the Rock Room Friday April 22nd with SHADOW AGE and SKELETON HANDS. Then later this month SILENCE will embark on a full United States tour to support “The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing”. Here is a list of dates. Be show to check in with the bands “bandcamp” or “Facebook” page for show updates.
When all that remains is a world in flames. Is that when they’ll say the wars are finally won? That wars are finally done?
They’re beating on the drums again, they’re fueling up the planes. The congressmen fall into line and sing the old refrain. In the name of peace they’ll burn the land and drop a thousand bombs.
Meanwhile we’ll just stay at home and go back to our sitcoms. It’s the same old song, we’ve heard it before. They’re beating the drums and they’re calling for war. What it’s supposed to accomplish, no one is sure But the victims are always the hungry and the poor.
Once the drums of war begin it’s hard to make them stop. The noise silences the dissidents once the bombs begin to drop. All those who call for peace will be mocked and pushed aside. In 10 years they’ll admit we were right after many thousands more have died.
Finally after many delays from the pressing plant the WARWOUND Demo’s LP “A Huge Black Cloud” is out and copies are moving fast!
Recorded in 1983, this record contains 15 songs from 3 sessions. With a few different takes you get a total of 25 blistering tracks. For those unfamiliar with WARWOUND, they are a UK band formed in 82. WARWOUND recorded 3 demos in 83 before disbanding and members went on to join THE VARUKERS and form SACRILEGE. These demos never received an official release… until now! Highly influenced by DISCHARGE, WARWOUND is one of the first bands ever to take D-Beat Punk to a raw and intense level. Recently reformed in 2015, original guitarist Damian is now joined by Ian Glasper on bass and Rat Varuker on vocals. After a few gigs in the UK word is spreading fast of the relentless onslaught of a live show these veterans put on. WARWOUND have also recently hit the studio to record for the first time in over 30 years. Needless to say WARWOUND is back with a vengeance!
For those of you who don’t know DEADLY REIGN, Its time to get with the program! DEADLY REIGN is a 3 piece D-BEAT killing machine with a legendary line up comprised of members from GLYICNE MAX, DOGMA MUNDISTA, SCARRED FOR LIFE, WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, KEGCHARGE, CENTURY OF WAR AND TILL DEATH. These guys have been at it for a long time and don’t fuck around when it comes to bringing you punk rock authentic and true to its sound and with their new single released on PE entitled SLAVE! These guys don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. So let’s get to the brass tacks and see what these guys have been up to. (INTERVIEW BY DUTCH WELCH FROM KRIGBLAST)
PE: So what are your names, what do you play, and how did you guys come together?
(RAYGUNN) I MOVED TO AUSTIN AND RAN INTO GUERINOT AT HIS DAUGHTER’S BIRTHDAY PARTY. UNKNOWN TO ME, MY WIFE WAS AND STILL IS GOOD FRIENDS WITH HIS WIFE AT THE TIME AND HE AND I KNEW EACH OTHER FROM THE PAST WHEN OUR PREVIOUS BANDS HAD PLAYED TOGETHER. WE GOT TO TALKING AND DECIDED THAT WE SHOULD START A BAND. I SAID, WE JUST NEED A BASS PLAYER/SINGER, AND HE SAID HE HAD ONE. HE CALLED HIS FRIEND GUSHAMMER AND HE WAS INTO IT. THEY HAD BEEN WANTING TO START SOMETHING TOGETHER FOR A WHILE. AND EVENTUALLY WE GOT THE BALL ROLLING (OR SHOULD I SAY, THE BEERS FLOWING?).
PE: You guys have all been in some pretty kick ass bands in the past. who played in what?
RAYGUNN – GLYCINE MAX, DOGMA MUNDISTA, KONTRAKLASE, AND SCARRED FOR LIFE.
GUERINOT – WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, AND KEGCHARGE.
GUSHAMMER – CENTURY OF WAR, AND TILL DEATH.
PE: Who came up with the name Deadly Reign?
(RAYGUNN) I USED TO HANG OUT WITH A KICK ASS BAND IN THE EARLY 80’s CALLED BODY COUNT. THEY WERE AN EARLY D-BEAT STYLE OF BAND (BEFORE THE TERM D-BEAT WAS AROUND) AND THEY HAD A SONG CALLED DEADLY REIGN. SO I TOOK IT FROM THAT. (AND YES, I AM AWARE THAT THERE WAS A BAND CALLED DEADLY REIGN FROM NORTHERN CALIFORNIA BACK IN THE EARLY 80’s, BUT THAT IS NOT WHERE I GOT THE NAME FROM).
PE: The music of DR is furious, in your face politically and socially. Whats the motivation behind your song writing?
(RAYGUNN) MUSICALLY, WE JUST TRY TO WRITE MUSIC THAT WE LIKE. THE KIND OF STUFF WE WOULD LISTEN TO AT HOME. NOT SO MUCH TRYING TO BE ORIGINAL OR GROUND BREAKING. MORE OF JUST PLAYING THE HARD AGGRESIVE TYPE OF MUSIC THAT WE LIKE. WE GET IT ALL TOGETHER AND THEN GUSHAMMER WRITES SOME LYRICS.
(GUERINOT) I’VE ALWAYS SAID I CAN’T AND WON’T BE IN A BAND THAT I COULDN’T ALSO LISTEN TO. WHAT WOULD BE THE POINT OF PLAYING SHIT THAT YOU DON’T LIKE? WE AREN’T DOING THIS TO PLEASE OTHERS, JUST OURSELVES.
(GUS) SOME LYRICS HIT RIGHT TO THE POINT, RELIGION. IT’S FUCKING 2013 AND HERE WE ARE STILL DEALING WITH RELIGIOUS NONSENSE! PEOPLE THE WORLD OVER ARE BEING PERSECUTED, MISLEAD, AND OUT RIGHT SLAUGHTERED OVER RELIGION. RATHER IT’S CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS, JEWS, OR WHATEVER FICTITIOUS BULLSHIT SECT THEY ARE IN. RELIGION IN ANY FORM IS UNCALLED FOR AND DANGEROUS! AND THIS COUNTRY USES IT TO PULL OFF SOME SERIOUSLY HEINOUS ACTS OF PURE AND UTTER VIOLENCE AND WAR. WE TOUCH ON THIS OF COURSE ON THIS RECORD, BUT MORE SPECIFICALLY IT’S DIRECTED TOWARD THE WORKING CLASS FOLKS AND THEIR DAILY STRUGGLE JUST TO PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE FOR THEIR FAMILIES. THE OLDER WE GET, THE SAME STRUGGLE REMAINS, EXCEPT NOW WE MUST NOT ONLY FIGHT TO FEED OURSELVES BUT FIRST FEED OUR CHILDREN AND LOVED ONES AND THEN WITH WHAT IS LEFT OVER, TAKE CARE OF OURSLEVES. SO WE CAN SLAVE ANOTHER DAY FOR A LESS THAN ACCEPTABLE WAGE. OVER THE YEARS I HAVE WATCHED OUR (PUNK) COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS WORK IN HORRIBLE CONDITIONS FOR SHIT WAGES WITH NO BENEFITS AND NO HOPE OF MOVING UPWARD IN THESE POSITIONS. AT THE END OF THE DAY THEY HAVE A SMALL CHECK THAT IS OVER TAXED AND A SORE ACHING BODY, THAT CONTINUES TO GET WORSE. “TELL ME IS THIS THE LIFE I’M FORCED TO LIVE TO PROVIDE FOR MY FAMILY?”…THE ANSWER IS NO! BUT NOT WITHOUT A FIGHT. WE HAVE TO CONTINUE TO POINT OUT THESE CONCERNS OVER AND OVER UNTIL THE POWERS THAT BE HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO LISTEN.
PE: You guys did a split with HELLKRUSHER not to long ago entitled Continuous Warfare. How did this collaboration come about?
(RAYGUNN) I HAVE KNOWN SCOTTY (HELLKRUSHER) SINCE THE MID 80’s WHEN HE WAS IN HELLBASTARD, AND I WAS IN GLYCINE MAX. WE USED TO BE PEN PALS, AND WOULD SEND EACH OTHER TAPES OF OUR BANDS, AND OUR FRIENDS BANDS. WE EVENTUALLY LOST TOUCH WITH EACH OTHER AND THEN YEARS LATER FOUND EACHOTHER VIA THE INTERNET. I SENT HIM SOME DEADLY REIGN AND HE LIKED IT. AND WE DECIDED TO DO SOMETHING TOGETHER.
PE: You guys all have family’s now and continue to tour, play shows, practice, record and work. How has DIY punk changed in your lives and how do you make it work?
(GUERINOT) WELL, I HAVE TWO DAUGHTERS BUT HAVING AN UNDERSTANDING AND SUPPORTIVE PARTNER IS KEY. HAVING KIDS IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE SO IN MY OPINION, THEY COME FIRST. WORKING AROUND THEM AND WORK IS USALLY PRETTY EASY. LATELY IT HAS BEEN A BIT MORE DIFFICULT BUT TRYING TO WORK OUT THE KINKS IN A SITUATION AND PUT PIECES BACK TOGETHER IS PART OF THE PROCESS.
PE: The new single from Profane Existence entitled SLAVE, what can we expect and do you have any future releases coming out?
(RAYGUNN) IT’S A LITTLE DIFFERENT THAN OUR LAST TWO RECORDS, BUT STILL THE DEADLY REIGN STYLE. NEXT WE WILL BE WRITING FOR A SPLIT 12″ WITH OUR FRIENDS KONTRASEKT.
PE: Closing comments, any last words?
THANKS TO ALL OF OUR FRIENDS THE WORLD OVER. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. ALSO, THANKS FOR THE INTERVIEW. AND BE SURE TO PICK UP THE NEW DEADLY REIGN ‘SLAVE’ EP ON PROFANE EXISTENCE! AS WELL AS OUR LP AND THE SPLIT WITH HELLKRUSHER. ALSO, WE WOULD LOVE TO GO TO EUROPE SOMEDAY, IF ANYONE OVER THERE WOULD LIKE TO HELP OUR BROKE ASSES OUT. HAHA! CHEERS – DEADLY REIGN
WARTORN are a whirlwind of thrash punk goodness hailing from Wisconsin. Since 2004, they’ve been hitting the touring and record release circuit with no looking back. Here’s a quick interview I did to let people know about their two latest releases, Domestic Terrorist 7″ (Profane Existence) & Iconic Nightmare 12″ (Southern Lord). – Andy Leffer
(This interview also appears in CVLT NATION)
PE: You know the drill, just give us the basics on who’s who and what’s changed in the past, in regards to any line up changes, etc. Also, give us some insight on where WARTORN is going. We want to know tours, records, riots, protests, arrests….the whole back story on WARTORN’s origins.
Bitty: (Vocals) The band started in 2004, with Ryan, Hart (on drums) and myself as a three-piece. Within half a year I got a call with an offer for our first tour, which was with Municipal Waste. We did a mini tour with them and ever since then we have been able to go on tours with amazing bands each year such as Los Dolares, ATU, CYP, Krang, In Defence, Pyroklast, Hellshock, and up next Raw Power . We have been to 13 countries and have done lots of releases on many different labels.
Ryan: guitar / low vocals / whiskey enthusiast. Well we started as a 3-piece and over a span of over 8 years, have ended up with 6 members. With 3 of us being guitar players we are able to diversify our songs in ways that we could only do in a studio setting. This obviously makes a difference live as well.
Ela: I’ve been the bass player for over the last 6 years. Recently, we came out with an LP/CD on Southern Lord Records called “Iconic Nightmare” and a 7-inch, “Domestic Terrorist”, released on Profane Existence (which is part of their limited edition singles series).
Toban: (Guitar) I think I might have the most arrests out of anyone in the band. Not like its anything to brag about. I did narrowly avoid another arrest a few weeks ago.
Derek: Guitar as well. I’ve been in the band for a few months and have been on two tours so far.
PE: The music is dynamic, to say the least. You’re not getting any half-assed riffs or mindlessly thrown together lyrics or production with your music. Elaborate on the process and what is the driving force for doing such a band. Punk is a political movement, it’s always been a political movement. Are you a part of this fray as a whole, or is this more of a personal, therapeutic outlet?
Ryan: I definitely believe in the power of the riff. Heavy and raging. Punk is a political movement, but I also see it as a community (full of musicians, artists, writers, photographers, open thinkers etc). A lot of us live/ have lived in punk houses and have been booking DIY shows for years. It’s something we do to contribute to it as a whole.
Toban: Ryan is the riff-master general of the band. He does a great job of coming up with some of the most incredible riffs of anyone I’ve been in a band with. Adding Bitty’s smartly composed lyrics and Hart’s hard hitting/tight drum style makes a great concoction.
Bitty: As far as what I write lyrically, I mainly write about personal experiences or historical events. I don’t tell people what they need to think, that is for them to figure out on their own. Also, I could not label myself as more than a realist and a situationalist.
Ela: Well in my opinion, I would say that we are a part of this as a whole, but it also is a personal outlet for me. We have all contributed to the movement in one way or another, but I think of punk as more than just a political movement. For me it is also about a unified community… where people come together, whether it is for political reasons, to share a passion for music, a hobby, art, etc. … and we definitely have that in Appleton, which is awesome.
Hart: I honestly wouldn’t say punk’s always been a political movement at all. The fact that DK, Meatmen, and the Germs, for example, all existed during one heyday suggests more of a harsh musical and broad social changeover than anything to me. For me personally, punk rock, metal and hardcore have always been a therapeutic and vindicating way of life that has consistently solved a lot of my life’s most harrowing, fucked-up times. It had a total bottleneck effect on how I raised myself mentally and emotionally. It was a really great thing to find out about when I was trying to figure out how to express myself when everything just infuriated or bored the shit out of me. Later, after I was free as an adult, I quickly found out it came replete with its own sense of community, and a totally viscous following I was never aware existed at all. This band is fucking great, cause we never throw a blind rhetorical blanket over our lyrical ideals, or even necessarily our instrumentation for that matter. We have a rough format that we’ve stuck to, but we all come from slightly different scenes and upbringings, and I’ve always thought it showed at least a little in our styles. I honestly don’t think the excitement of being in this band has worn off for any of us. Sure, growing pains have slowed our progress a couple of times, but whenever the next lightbulb goes on over our heads, it’s all go no slow!
Derek: For me, this is definitely a personal outlet. That’s what music has always been for me. Being the young’n metalhead in the group, I’ve kind of just been exposed to the world of punk houses and DIY shows recently. From what I’ve gathered so far I can at least say that the sense of community is beautiful.
PE: Your latest singles release on Profane Existence “Domestic Terrorist”. There’s no beating around the bush on this subject matter. Once again, can you elaborate on this specific release and the intention behind the subject?
Bitty: There have been a few times where I had local law enforcement “protect and serve” the shit out of me. As a kid in the 80’s from a small hometown, I’ve had guns in my face from the cops, hammers pulled back and screaming in my face. I have also had an off-duty cop put a gun in my face and ask me if I thought it was funny while he was wasted. You know of all the times I was ever robbed or assaulted, at least I knew if I fought back I stood a chance; I even survived an attempted homicide! But, it’s not so easy when you have to fight back against law enforcement. They just beat your ass and lock you up, even if they are totally in the wrong. I’ve witnessed so much personal corruption; to me it seems to be an extension of an abuse of absolute power. Now that, to me, strikes terror in any citizen.
PE: Bitty, you’re straight edge…maybe not self-proclaimed, but you don’t consume drugs or alcohol. Considering the genre of punk and it’s history of abuse with these elements, has this hindered your views on the movement?
Hart: Total interjection here! Dude, Bitty’s optimism actually astounds me. He’s seen more friends either die or completely lose their vitality as humans due to drug and alcohol use than I’d like to ponder. He’s remained pretty fucking pragmatic in his attitude toward his friends’ choices in that sense. I myself get pretty fed-up at times about my own friend’s use of drugs, especially certain ones. I’ve had plenty problems controlling my drinking in the past. I do believe I have a fairly good idea these days of when to dry out, but it can pull me into a real bad place. I start questioning what even matters anymore, and I start fighting everything that means the most to me. However, that’s where that community comes in again! I’m learning to seek out the right punks or no one at all when the time feels right, and I’ve been keeping up on it for a while now.
Bitty: Not at all. You don’t need to be like me in order for me to like you. The real moment that reinforced my decision was when I came home to a friend that lived with me and I found him in a pool of his own blood. He had tried to cut his hand off with a butcher knife while he was completely wasted and ended up with more stiches then an average shark attack. It really put a bad taste in my mouth about how substances can amplify bad decision-making skills. Although I am aware that most just use it to have a good time, truth be told, I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t my thing. But as long as you’re not hurting me or others in any way shape or form it’s your deal not mine. This is just a suggestion, have fun and do what you need to do to deal with things or get by, but try not to destroy yourself in the process. You might end up missing out on some good things in life.
PE: WARTORN is a great band, so with that….does WARTORN have anything they’d like to say to the world, it’s listeners or the masses in general?
Toban: In the words of country music legend Kris Kristofferson “Don’t let the bastards get you down”. Ryan: Thanks for the interview.
Ela: Thanks for all the support. We can’t wait to hit the road and tear it up again in a couple months!
Derek: May the force be with you. But seriously, I can’t wait to hit the road and I hope to see everyone reading this there.
Hart: As always, start 4 bands tomorrow and eat your fiber!
Bitty: Thanks for the interview Andy and everyone that helped us out and we’ll see you on the road. If you’d like to help us out with booking or have any questions, feel free to write us at email@example.com.
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.