The Wheel Turns – 2012 X-Country Ride: North and West, Into the Fires of Hell, the Badlands

After a night of sleeping through a classic mid-western thunderstorm, we woke to the evidence of its passing. Trees, already damaged by bug infestations, had toppled during the night with a few crossing the driveway. Nobody was going anywhere for a while. Large branches, like so much straw, were strewn about the open yard and gardens. It had that disaster look about it but no damage to the home or out buildings. It could have been worse.

These types of storms do little to alleviate the drought conditions. Though everyone is grateful for the water, the drop in ambient temperature and temporary fire hazard reduction, most of the water just runs off. The ground is just too dry to accept it when dumped all at once. There is generally more damage than benefit as evidenced by the work crews hard at it to clear the roads and high wires.

The work of cleaning up was one of those chores that give gratification at the cost of a little elbow grease. Good neighbors making the rounds of checking on their neighbors after the storm lent a hand in the effort. You gotta admire those young strong farm boys and the work ethic that comes along with them.

We took an extra day to put things in order before answering the call of the road. Kale’s mom and dad helped once again with the loading of the bikes with love and the best of lunches. This is one of my favorite places on the mainland and hope to have done it some wee small justice for its beauty and the people who live there.

US 30 got us across Indiana, Illinois and the Mississippi. Across central Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska. Falling barns that were remembered from previous tours were gone. Not due to development, but time. Others are taking their places, yet there was always something peculiar about the old ones. The wheel turns. Iowa was an oven on preheat.

A cool night at the Cobbler Inn, we always stop at the Cobbler when in the hood, helped to prepare us for the extreme temps that waited in South Dakota. Well rested, hydrated – though personally I could go for another six cups of coffee – we seized the day early, heading north along the Missouri River. Today would be a Sioux – Sioux run. Get to Sioux City, Iowa; keep going until Sioux Falls, South Dakota, keep going some more!

We had ridden far enough, reaching the surface of the sun. The term ‘hot’ no longer applied. One small mom and pop gas station asked that I pay for the ice that was put in water bottles and bandana. The bill was gladly paid. Ice doesn’t just appear. From then on I asked at each stop whether there was a charge for the ice. That’s how thankful you can be for something we take for granted. Without the cooling, hard can easily be turned into miserable and I knew that going there wouldn’t serve. There was too just much mindful enjoyment to be had in the miles ahead. The intense heat was taking its toll. How much longer it could be tolerated was a good question. Kale asked often, ‘How ya doing?’ There were times I wasn’t sure. As long as the riding skills aren’t compromised, there is a good chance you have a few more miles in you, if you want it. Then again there is no shame in calling it a day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The word ‘spectacular’ doesn’t go far enough for the sites and sounds of the country. The high plains of South Dakota are no exception. The expansive ‘barren’ landscape stretches the imagination to grasp its size. ‘Barren’ is a relative term. Let’s say it was barren of concrete, man-made stuff. The plains themselves are quite alive, if you look. It was an endless undulating dun brown landscape strewn with tumbleweeds and sage. A place where a run to a big box store is an all day affair. Abandoned wrecks and vehicles dot the hills, their patina of rust a few shades different than the surroundings. They look more like art than garbage and serve as a pleasant distraction to the endless road.

After hours of being mesmerized by the high plains, they suddenly start to break up into an unnavigable riot of small canyons and steep peaks more barren than the plains. We reached the Badlands. Flashes of Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen from the movie ’Badlands’ reel across the brain. The film catches some of it, but until you are standing in the middle of the eroded landscape do you really get a feel for the land.

Like the Arikaree Breaks in western Kansas, no doubt the Indians used the Badlands to elude their enemies. It was also sacred ground for the Sioux. For them this place was the heart of their heartland. We respected the beliefs and tread lightly on hallowed ground, leaving no trace. Do believe the underside of my chin had road rash from hanging my mouth open in awe of the scenery.

The campgrounds for the Badlands National Park is situated in a valley surrounded by the ragged peaks of eroded sedimentary rock. Perfect, keeping the people impact limited to a couple of low outcroppings. There are trails for hiking. Due to the fragile environment and dangerous slippery slopes it’s best advised to stay to the trails. Quiet, clean, potable water, bikers and bathrooms, what more could you want?

At midnight the roadway was still dumping its heat and over 100 degrees. It would not cool much before dawn.

Next: Cool mountain riding, molten roads.

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The Wheel Turns – 2012 X-Country Ride: The Calm Before the Storm

This tired biker woke to the smell of the sea coming in through open windows. The breeze was chill and the morning sun had just crested the eastern horizon. Everyone else was still in bed. Time to figure out the coffee situation and have a few before the day kicks in. Normally on tour you get one big cup of joe in the morning and that’s it. A worthwhile sacrifice to stay hydrated. Anything beats bonking. But we weren’t riding today, or the next few for that matter. It was time to rest and recuperate in a 1924 beach house that hadn’t changed much since those days. Our hosts were generous. It was nice to see the Aloha spirit alive and well on the east coast. Good company and comfortable surroundings made the time pass all too quickly. It is perhaps the kindness I will remember most of all, and the lobster, of course!

We crossed Maine, clipped the corners of New Hampshire and Vermont, and dropped into Connecticut for the night at Black Rock State Park. Clean campsites amid the pines and ash were perfect for our needs. A thunderstorm that was the vanguard of some serious weather passed through in the night, cooling the temp and washing some seriously dirty equipment. The plan was to stop at Max BMW and have oil changes and a routine service. The BMW’s have more than two hundred thousand miles in them if you keep up on your oil changes. It was also not a bad way to spend a few hours surrounded as we were by some of the best bikes ever made.

Our destination was Baltimore, Maryland. It would be a push to make it by a reasonable dinnertime. We did. If it’s one thing the east has, it’s an incredible highway system. Tolls were paid and time was made. Our impromptu sunset tour through Baltimore was an eye opener on so many levels. A heavy inner city that is that is in desperate need of funding, to the gentrified neighborhoods around John Hopkins University. A mighty cross section of American lives and lifestyles existed here.

After some pub grub we got a hotel in the heart of downtown. The Oriole’s had a home game, won, and the locals were spilling out into the streets in celebration. It looked like a lot of fun but this biker needed rest.

Across Maryland into West Virginia, the low green mountains, and history. This was Civil War country. The pride in their history is evidenced by the preservation of the sites of skirmishes and battles. We stopped often to read the brass plaques and learn of the place’s moment in time. It was as humbling as it was awe-inspiring and not to be missed by anyone.

West Virginia and southern Ohio is also coal country. It showed. Tough to hide a chopped off mountaintop. And tougher yet to disguise the lives created and destroyed in the process. Never the less, the countryside was beautiful. One sight was the Rushing Wind Bikers’ Church in South Ohio. It was next door to the god of motorcycles, a Harley dealer. We wondered if they were open on Sundays. That night we camped along the Ohio River, as sweet a spot as you can think of. Another thunderstorm in the middle of the night was hinting at the weather to come.

We kicked it up a notch the next day to cross Ohio and returned to the farm in Valparaiso, Indiana. After lunch we were both eyeing the weather. It was a coin toss. Kale had already tossed his.

“Let’s suit up, we are going to be hitting some weather.”

I looked at they sky again thinking ‘no way.’ Long before this moment in the parking lot I had learned to follow his advice. Even though I had a couple of tours already over the years, he still had way more experience. The learning never ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No sooner had we pulled out of the parking lot, the first drops hit. By the time we rocked the throttle onto the highway entrance the thunderstorm was full on. Kale’s theory is that if you keep on going, you will punch through the other side of the storm. A little water never hurt anything. The theory holds, however there is one exception. If lightning bolts are dropping around you, forget it and get under an overpass or gas station awning and wait it out. You don’t want to be a rolling lightening rod! Chances are you will see some other bikers standing around talking story, so the time is not lost. And you get to meet some really good folk.

This is the way the rest of the day went. Most of the time we rode right through the storms, other times, talk story. On the final push, around sunset, we hit a mother of storms that threatened to stop us ten miles from the farm. No lightning, so we rolled on. Speed was dictated by weather conditions and the amount of water on the road. There was no punching through this time, just a never-ending down pour. No complaints here. We put our kickstands down in the dark and driving rain, grabbed a few necessities and headed for the mud room to dump the wet gear.

Home is where the heart is. It was good to be at a home away from home. The previous days had brought some wicked weather to northern Indiana and with more due in the very near future there would be plenty of storm damage clean up to pass the time.

Next: North and West, into the fires of hell, The Badlands

The Wheel Turns – 2012 X-Country Ride: Heart of the Heartland

The high plains greeted us with a blast of heat like the furnace door had just opened. Hot as it had been, the ride to this point was just a warm up. Before the touring began, you thought, ‘man it’s gonna be hot,’ and were clueless to the reality that waited just down the road. If anything the road teaches.

The endless plains stretched on and on and on. Only interrupted by the irrigated corn, soy and wheat fields. Without the pumped water only the plains survived the harsh conditions. There were as many wet, green fields as withered dried up patches of what could have been a good harvest. Water is king and water rights in some desperate regions have been cut back to 1884 levels. This is an attempt to keep from sucking the meager supplies dry. On the brighter side, golf courses have stopped watering and you know what? The brown grass doesn’t stop the golfers and the water can go to where it is needed.

You looked forward to the long sweeping arms of the irrigators. They brought a moment of damp, near cool, when passing them. Then passed and the furnace doors opened again. Shade became a sought after friend. It was the first thing you looked for when parking. If none was available you put the kickstand down nearest the closet shadow, then made a dash for it to dump the suit and cool down.

Regardless of the temp, it was Sturgis season. Harleys ruled the roads and small towns on their way to that single location. The population of Nebraska doubles for the week of the rally and close to that number for the weeks before and after. It was still a few weeks before the official days of thunder and already thousands of bikers were on the road. In a fortnight, on our way back, the party would be in full swing. The thousands of bikes would surge geometrically in number creating that never-ending rolling thunder. More on Sturgis when we pass through South Dakota.

Nebraska stretched on before us. Every five to ten miles you’d slow to roll through a farming community. The silos were the town square and where the action was. Then every so often you hit a big town with a population of five thousand. What got me was the architecture. The late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen’s were the boom time for these places and little had changed since then. The folk that live along Route 6 take a certain amount of pride in keeping their history around them. Fast food joints and fuel stops, stuccoed and glitzed, seemed oddly out of place in these places of beauty out of step with time.

The pauses at towns in no way slowed forward progress. The stretches in between were a posted 70mph and we used up every bit of it. 5PM and it’s still hot as hell. The heat really doesn’t kick in until around 11AM at which point the some sadistic weather person keeps dialing up the temp until you are riding on the surface of the sun. It’s not until the sun sets that a respite is given. We rolled into the Lincoln, Nebraska KOA just after sunset and just a little toasted. I will admit, for once, I showered like a tourist, letting the cool water do its thing. By the time I got back to the campsite Kale had the Jetboil fired and dinner was a few minutes away. Heads up, getting a good loaf of bread at some point during the day makes for better dinners.

We talked of the road, the things we saw, what went right and equally as important what wasn’t right and planned the next day. This got to be a pretty standard routine. Debriefing, followed by a briefing. It works. You touch on all the necessary stuff then drift into talking. We were both tired. Tomorrow would be our first deadline.  Kale needed to be in Chicago while I had to stop in the Quad Cities. There was only one other. Catching my flight back.

We rode into the sun, the cool of the morning still with us. The 1200gs and f 650 gs were quiet intruders upon the rolling hills of Iowa. The omnipresent dun brown of the prairies began shifting to ever greener pastures and fields cruising into the Mississippi River basin. The waning cool was offset by a rise in humidity. If its not one thing, it’s another. You accepted it, what else were you going to do?

The riding was quick. We were making time today. One more fuel stop before the Big Muddy. We shook hands. “See ya in Valpo.” Kale rolled out first, the big 1200 r taking on the freeway effortlessly. I was right behind him, having no intention of losing my navigator until the river.

Eighteen hours of rest and it was back on the road to meet up with Kale in Valparaiso, Indiana. This small stretch of road, that should have taken no more than four or five easy hours, stretched on into the night while I poorly navigated the country roads of northern Indiana. Herds of deer were forever bounding across the asphalt in front of me, giving the rider ample opportunity to test those new abs brakes. Riding around in circles began to take its toll. I called Kale and laid down in a Kmart parking lot, basking in the orange glare of high-pressure sodium lights. Kale picked me up a few long minutes later and I went to bed.

I woke to the pulse and rhythm of the heart of the heartland. Sixty acres of forest and pasture. The deer were grazing and eyeing the garden beds as coffee brewed. A train whistle, off in the distance, heralded in a new day. Heavy dew shone off the bikes making them look cleaner than they were. No washing until the motorcycles returned home in Oakland with the exception of windscreen and mirrors. All those bug guts and sprays of mud had meaning.

Walking the open grounds around the house and barn revealed a dozen small projects that needed attending to. It was something to do and a way to earn your keep. Nobody rides for free, nobody.

Next: The East, traffic, sweltering madness and serenity.

The Wheel Turns – 2012 X-Country Ride : Into the Heat

No more mister nice guy. Bishop was behind us. If that is what the road had in store for us then the lane ahead was just a little sweeter. Man, cause it was getting hot. We checked to make sure our vents were open for cooling. It was then I noticed Kale always had his main zipper up while I had unzipped mine hours ago to catch the wind.

These stretches of southern Nevada and Utah can get rather desolate and fuel is ever a primary concern. Needless to say we filled up at every chance. The longest distance between service stations was 172 miles. Kale knew his bike had the range. The F 650 gs had yet to be tested. The numbers crunched but would they reflect reality? We rode conservatively as the idea of being stranded for some hours on a shadeless strip of asphalt sucks. Tonopah to Ely Nevada, is one of the few remaining stretches of exquisite nothing. The bikes made it without dipping into reserve eventually arriving at Baker, Nevada, gateway to Great Basin National Park and the Lehman caves.

Being one of the least visited national parks has its upside, less people, less impact. This camp stands out amongst the others for its solitude. There were other campers but no one, it seemed, wanted to intrude upon the rushing mountain stream’s babble in the silence over the great basin. It was awesome and one of the darkest places on the planet making star viewing some of the best.

Then of course, the Lehman Caves. We signed for the first tour of the morning. No one else did and therefore received a private tour. Once again was darkness and deep silence with only an occasional drip of water to disturb it. Stalactites and stalagmites created a maze of translucent spires in total darkness. It is a living cave. Oddly, now that I think,about it, our flashlights were illuminating the natural rock/crystal art that would have otherwise never been seen. Nothing was to be touched. Nothing was. Wow, and yeah man, the whole place was pretty far out.

The cool mountain air was far behind. We dropped into the basin, diverting from Route 6, to lean into the twists and turns of Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Monument. Both have truly amazing rock formations that have to be visited physically to appreciate. Once we were through viewing the rpm’s came on again and the fun began. Tight hairpins to sweepers the roads had it all making the experience complete in a biker kind of way. But man it was getting hot.

Three days into the dry hot weather dehydration and overheating hit like a brick. I was drinking like normal and that was the problem. Normal was simply not enough for the riding conditions. I bonked. Inside the convenience store was the cool and ice cold sports drinks to slam. Without which, the whole damn thing would probably have ended right there. It didn’t and there was something to learn. Drink lots of water. Yellow is not mellow!

This seems like a good point to drop in a safety issue, especially with the contiguous 48 having the hottest weather on record. Dehydration is a sneaky bastard. You reach for a coke when what you need is water. The caffeine keeps you from hydrating. Every chance you get, you have to be drinking fluids. The hot dry weather sucks the moisture right out of you as fast as you can take it in. Even faster.

Most of the riders we saw this tour chose jeans, sneakers, and a tank top for their riding gear. It’s a personal choice. However with all that skin exposed you’re drying out like a drop of water on hot asphalt. Hmmmm, good metaphor.  You don’t notice because you are not sweating, the sweat vapors off too fast at 70 mph. A full riding suit like the Aerostitch Roadcrafter, aside from the protection, acts as another layer of insulation against the heat and dry conditions, helping you retain your liquid while the venting keeps you comfortable. Anything to keep from bonking.

For the heat I used a bandana with a couple handfuls of ice rolled inside and tied around my neck. Every stop you renew the ice. It was a simple solution to keep your brain from sizzling and keep you alert and sane. Riding temp at 70 mph, fresh black asphalt, sun overhead, 107 degrees. That’s hot!

We headed northeast. If not directly on Route 6 it was close by. That road had an uncanny knack for following us, or us it. Boulder Co. was the destination. Family, hot shower, home cooked meal, good conversation, and a firm bed never felt so good. Stuart, a rabid bicycle racer, was kind enough to explain to me what proper hydration is all about. Got it! Yellow is not mellow. Pee clear! Okay, okay, enough already with the pee!

Taking an extra day I rode down to Manitou Springs Co. to see Jon Renaud of Back To The Books, bookstore. He carries my novels at the store along with a fine selection of independent authors. Back To the Books’ inventory is as varied as it is eclectic with an excellent children’s section. Manitou Springs, the mountain village, is a shock of vibrant colors in a verdant mountain setting. It works. From here you can make the assault on Pike’s Peak, a 14ner. The village was also nearly victim to the forest fires that raged through the Colorado Springs area a couple of months ago. You could see large swaths of blackened trees and that was just from the road. No doubt the interior was scorched. The town was spared. Manitou Springs is a sweet stop after hanging tight through the twists and turns of mountain road it took to get there. Hydrating and psyching for the return ride.

Back to the road. The bed, family, and friends were now behind us. From Boulder we zigzagged two laners to hook up with Route 6. Out of the pan and into the fire!

 

 

Next down the road: The heart of the heartland

Back to the Islands (RoadTrip 2012)

Aloha! 7843 miles later from Oakland, CA to Southwest Harbor, Maine and back again it’s good to be home. I wish to thank you all for thinking of me, sending your good wishes and great good love to keep me going and get back on the horse when the times got tough. The route was planned and then navigated by my riding partner Kale, whose forethought, wisdom and vision made the ride a truly remarkable tour across this great country of ours. From July 7 till August 3rd, full moon till full moon, clad in Aerostitch one-piece Roadcrafters, we traveled without regard for the time, yet with great regard for each other and the land that passed beneath our wheels. Long hours in the saddle gives one time to think, not think, ponder, dream and open one’s heart to the road.

Kale understood the route far better than I, for he spent countless hours doing research in preparation. The fearless leader, with a GPS mounted to the left side of his handle bars, iPhone at the ready, he led the way on a BMW gs 1200r with a twisted throttle and eyes on the far horizon. I followed, not for lack of experience. This is the third tour and I ride daily on the Big Island, but for lack of any sense of direction, I could get lost in an empty parking lot. Living on an island, you can always find your way home if you keep going. The hours were long and we generally didn’t reach camp until after the sun went down. Asses sore, arms and hands in need of stretch and rest; tired, hot and reeking odor – our smiles stretched as wide as the miles that had rolled under the rubber that day. When I say hot, I mean really f*#@!ing hot. From Cali to Maine the sun glared with anger upon the land. We were only passing through. My heart went out to the good folk that lived their lives beneath the overheated summer sun.

For the most part, the route followed the old highway system, Route 6, envisioned by Eisenhower in his youth as a young army officer. Years later, after becoming president, he implemented this vision into reality by uniting our country with a highway system. The road, like the chosen destinations were, as Kale’s father put it, ‘austere and remote’. This is one of the reasons there was no blogging during the ride. There simply was no internet service available. That in itself was a unique experience that more of us should try. Cell phone service was as sketchy as a service station.

Fuel was by far the more important of the two.

For those of you whom I had hoped to visit, while spinning the wheels of a new BMW f650 gs, you have my apologies. Blame the road. She was making all the calls. To everyone I did meet – Mahalo – your presence and kindness were comfort to this skinny ass across the endless miles.

There will be more written in the coming weeks concerning the motorcycle tour. Thank you all. Man, it’s good to be home.

ImageMahalo and aloha, john g

p.s. Versatile riding apparel, like a friend is never truly appreciated until it is needed. Ride safely; protect your self.

A NOVELIST’S RESEARCH RIDE

When I started writing I suddenly found myself reading more than ever before. The reason was research. An idea, a vision of sorts was becoming words on paper. Alas imagination will only take you so far, unless you’re writing something so far out that there is no research data available. Good luck with that.

While writing the first fifty pages of ‘anoxic zone’ it occurred to me I didn’t have enough. Of imagination and inspiration there was plenty, yet without facts and details of different time periods there was no way to tie my vision to reality. This also helps the reader to make the leap of believability. While I wanted to have a firm foundation for the novel I did not want to rewrite history or give a history lesson, at least one you weren’t able to catch me giving. There’s the rub, trying to find a balance between fact and fiction and weaving them together seamlessly.

Mark Twain gave the best advice concerning this conundrum, and I paraphrase, “Don’t let too many facts ruin a good story.”

The funny thing is that the research does not end – it evolves. About the time you think you’ve got it, you will find yourself back with your reference material. As I’ve stretched my bounds with the second book ‘Halocline’, and the third, ‘Black Tide’, so has the research grown to accommodate new ideas, locations, action and drama.

Doing my ‘homework’ has taken on a new level as well. I still Google my brains out, but for my next works some of the study will be experiential. I have had the good luck to tour the U.S. on a motorcycle a few times with my friend Kale. This ride will take us from the west coast to the east coast on Route 6, the longest trans-con in the states. Two lanes will carry us through the heart of the heartland, where a good deal of my next book will take place. Route 6 goes right through my hometown where the incubus began.

A ride of this length, well over ten thousand miles, requires a good deal of research of its own for the trip to go smoothly. Riding sixteen hours a day means you’d better be suited properly for comfort and protection, not only from the road but also the elements. Being unprepared will make the journey miserable and miserable sucks. Kale is a lifetime rider and remembers the days when blue jeans and a leather jacket were de rigueur. For touring now he recommends an Aerostitch Roadcrafter one-piece suit. I was lucky enough on my first two tours for a friend to loan me one of his Roadcrafter’s for me to use. You quickly learn how function and comfort can come together in such a sweet package. But after two borrowings, and if you’re going to keep riding, you have to get one of your own. This year I worked with the good people at Aerostitch to get my sizing correct and purchased my first ‘Stitch’. This is one of the only motorcycle suits still made in the U.S.A. with a quality level that surpasses anything on the market.

From the blistering deserts of southern Utah to the frozen peaks of the Rockies the Roadcrafter was made to make the best of it. You can ride with next to nothing on or be fully fleeced and you will be covered in comfort, protection and a style that can’t be beat. It’s also the only road gear you can don in ten seconds, which in my books, will be a very handy feature as there are often times when it’s better to run than stay and fight. For those of you who have read my books, Jake gets the shit kicked out of him more times than I can remember. An Aerostitch could have saved him a few learning curves.

Since you write about what you know, motorcycling is working its way into more and more of my prose. My next book has a young woman riding the mountain roads of Romania on a BMW Adventure bike in search of an evil that entered her as a child. Now with a customized Roadcrafter that has an inside slip pocket for a twelve gauge riot shotgun that pulls out through one of the suit’s side vents she just might make it. Seems pretty cool to me.

Research is key to many good books. The better you study up, the more likely the words will come out better than expected. Readers can always tell when a writer is being lazy or full of it. I try very hard not to let that happen. It’s crucial because once they feel like they’ve been had the book gets put down. I do not want that to ever happen, to anybody.

Come July when Kale plans on riding cross-country, no doubt I will sit down, if I can, and do the day’s journal and write some till I fall asleep. This sounds a whole lot better than working out the kinks and chaffing of poor quality riding gear. You see, we ride sixteen to eighteen hours a day, everything must fit perfect. Thus the Roadcrafter made by Aerostitch in the U.S.A.

Kale and I will be sharing the trip on my blog and facebook so when the time gets closer I’ll be getting the word out. Pictures and everything!

There is no doubt in my mind that each day of the ride will be twenty–four hours of deep research that I hope to share with you in my upcoming novels. If you haven’t yet, check out my website at www.blackwaterbooks.com

See you out on the road!

DIVING INTO THE –ANOXIC ZONE SERIES- A THREE BOOK EPIC

The excitement boils. My novels will be hitting KDP Select promo in tandem – with ‘anoxic zone’ already online and its first free download set for next Saturday, Jan. 28th.
My three books will be shuffled into view weekly, beginning with ‘anoxic zone’, until our time is up. Free downloads and epubs at incredible pricing. This is a great opportunity for the public and us in releasing the novels to a worldwide group of readers. For those that have read my books this is a chance to pick them up cheap for your Kindle. And for you those of you who haven’t, well…
NOW’s the time to read the best of outre’ horror that is available on the market today! It’s a wicked ride. Make a pot of coffee and hold on!!!

www.amazon.com/anoxic-zone-ebook/dp/B004GEAGYQ/

WHEN IN DOUBT CONSULT THE DOCTOR

Becoming a writer came with more than I thought. Sure you got a good story line, characters and a tale to tell. So you do it. Pay the price in time, use your sitzfleisch and sack your social life to bring your novel to life. Your fingers become messengers while your mind flirts and dashes with a thousand ideas. All the while you’re still trying to maintain a focus and not become sidetracked, sticking to the story. Perseverance furthers, and, if you’re lucky, writing what you’re supposed to be, the story starts writing itself, as it should. You are just the interface. This is a very cool thing, what surfers call being in the zone. So you run with it.

Well, at some point, unless you are a boldfaced liar, you begin to question your self. This is only natural. Hell you’re a hundred and fifty pages into it and there isn’t a person in the world that can answer your queries. Does it make sense? Is it any good? Do you think people will like it? And, especially with my work for its lack of rectitude, who am I going to offend?

At moments like this I consult the doctor:
Be who you are and say what you feel…
Because those that matter…. don’t mind…
And those that mind… don’t matter.

   -Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

ADVENTURE, DEAD? THE HEMINGWAY SYNDROME

Well maybe not dead, but nowdays it’s more limited to victims of war and disaster. This in no way lessens their despair and struggle for survival, but epitomizes the rare qualities exhibited by true adventure. It happens during the course of our nominally uneventful lives when suddenly our reality is upended and we are forced to make decisions we are unaccustomed to making; like surviving the next few minutes, hours, or days that have nothing to do with business, status, or your portfolio.

Whether it is water rising too fast to escape or the world falling down around you, this is some thing you did not pay to experience. True adventure will leave you spent, in pain, broken and bleeding, if not dying. There are few enough who are willing to pay the full cost of the ticket. But to those that do, goes the real prize. You see the price is your life.

Several years ago my friend Kale and I rode cross-country on motorcycles. A priceless experience not without its moments when shivers went up your spine as adventure licked your tires. My excuse for this was to crash my nephew’s wedding and see some family faces. I must say, at this point, that rolling into a wedding reception on a touring motorcycle and one piece riding suit is about as cool as it gets.

After making the rounds I settled in next to my mom for the duration. It was her I really came for after all. It was nice. I love my mom. The seats around the center table filled and emptied like cards shuffling. At one point a gentleman across the table began a conversation. He was the father of the bride, I think, but a close relation at any rate. I introduced myself as the brother of the mother of the groom. For convenience I will call him Chuck.
“Ahh, I’ve heard a lot about you,” Chuck said as if he heard not quite a lot, but more than a little.
“I hope it wasn’t all bad,” was my glib response. You see I am the black sheep.
“Not at all, you’re the adventurous one,” Chuck smiled.
Okay he had me and we had a pleasant talk about a few my ‘adventures’, the bulk of which revolved around the books I am writing. I gave him a signed copy of my first book, asking that he get in touch after reading it. He never did. This came as no surprise. Although my books have a solid foundation of honor, a man’s word and the golden rule, I have a rather peculiar way of getting there. Not everyone is ready for what I have to say or how I say it. To each his/her own in their own time. I would have liked to hear his views though. C’est la vie. Now where was I? Oh yeah, ‘the adventurous one’.
When I think of my travels and the work I’ve done, the word adventurous does not come to mind. Hard, unforgiving, perilous, dangerous, and stupid do however, and I have the scars to prove it. But adventurous? In retrospect I suppose, maybe, but I never really considered it. At the time you were too busy busting your ass, saving it, or saving somebody else’s. Afterwards you were too tired, in too much pain to appreciate it and onto another job. You never gave it a second thought. You lived it, you didn’t think it.
When you’re in an adventurous situation you do not think to yourself, ‘Wow, this is soooo exciting, what a rush!’ It’s more like ‘Holy shit! Look out! Run! Help!’ Maybe later you laugh about it. That is if no one was hurt too bad. But when no one is looking you’re busy checking your shorts.
Most of the ‘adventurous’ things I’ve done were not done for the excitement involved. They were done to cover the cost of living, a job. The work just looks and sounds thrilling. The reality was it was simply hard work with one drawback; fuck up and you’re dead. There aren’t too many jobs out there with that kind of kicker. Plus, at the time, I was young, still invincible, only dimly aware of the dangers involved and kept it that way. Oh you knew about them, but you didn’t spend much time thinking about them. Because once you did it was the beginning of the end of adventure for you, my friend. We didn’t take risks without knowing the danger, for that is being a fool. We just disregarded them. There were bills to pay, a job to finish and another soon to begin.
I think all people, somewhere inside them yearn for adventure. The common dream being cataclysmic destruction wherein our lives are irrevocably changed and not necessarily for the better. But we become better or worse for it. Yeah we’d all like that one, but it will never happen, at least not the way we dream it to be. The earthquakes, tornadoes, and tsunamis in recent years are but isolated occurrences, a sampler of what it would be like and most certainly less desirable than the dream. Reality generally is. But your average life is far more mundane than that. It grinds away at you every day until you die unless you are thrust into circumstances beyond your control. In which case you will probably still become extinct, but for a short while will have truly lived.
There aren’t that many ways of life left in the first world that have a first-rate access to risky, life-threatening work. A few, fewer yet are those willing to actually do the work.
When a person’s thirst for adventure is not allowed to be slaked, we will search for ways to compensate the loss. The most common is vicarious, a.k.a. movies, documentaries, reading or the virtual world as methods of escape into the rush of living. Doing nothing to feel like you’ve done something. Ironic, huh?
For others the compensation comes in the form of physical activities. Sports like tennis, skiing, diving, that require good physical conditioning to do well. Then there are the races. Ironman, marathons, bicycles, where top physical condition is the rule, not the exception. These exhibitions of strength and stamina are incredible and satisfy the inner need through endurance. Endurance equals adventure in that respect, for that is what adventure is, enduring.
Then there are those who, after riding a desk for the last thirty or forty years still have the romantic desire and reasonable health to have a little adventure. (We all know that if you put yourself in a position where your life may at some point be at risk, it just might be. In other words, if you want an irritating itch it’s best to find some poison ivy.) The youth is past its prime but the desire not so, and they stayed reasonably fit. So they decide to travel to places with names that evoke danger, grandeur, and mystery. Everyone wants to be the Rolex person on the inside cover of the Smithsonian.
What they get is a slightly watered down version of what its like and way more comfortable. The entire tour is prearranged with a top quality outfitter that has an excellent reputation of bringing them back alive. Everything has been well planned and nothing is left to chance. Of course the tourists know this, but that is not the point. The illusion has been satisfied. All life is illusion so no doubt special health insurance was bought in case the illusion gets a little too real, as well as supplementary insurance in case you had bad weather. Dressed to the tens in the latest gear, you exit your first class seating and are hit by the smells of life. Before you get too enthralled you are whisked away to a 5 star and a coldie.
Now you’re in the third word – well the part that the white man is allowed to see anyway.

This isn’t going to turn into an essay on tourist bashing. Far from it. Regardless of how much insurance you have to protect you and your travels, once you cross the border you’re in another world. All the protection money can buy will not put a first class hospital in the middle of the Sudan for you if your appendix bursts. When your transportation breaks down in the rainforest highlands there is no auto club to come and get you. Your feet have just become more important than ever before. You gear up and start to follow the other stranded travelers taking your first steps along the road to getting the hell out of there.
Not that anything like that would happen, but it could and does. In the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia some twenty-five years ago, we were on a twenty passenger second-class bus going from one mold encrusted Raj era tea plantation to another. We were traveling with the local people like we always did. It saved money over the first class ride on a real road with a bus full of tourists and was always much more interesting. About the time we reached the vicinity of the middle of nowhere the old Mercedes chugs, craps out and dies.
A heavy damp rain had begun an hour before as we drove higher into the mountains. The once dry road was now mud with trails of brown water racing through in rivulets. The landscape looked as if it had never seen the sun shine, a sodden rot of grayish deep green. After a few minutes of conversation that we didn’t understand fully, the van began to empty and belongings removed from the lashings atop it. Our bags were thrown with the rest into the brush along the roadside. As near as we were able to glom, the passengers were heading on. Another bus would be sent once it was sure that this one did not arrive. How long? A shrug of the shoulders was the only reply.
We talked about the options for this is a potentially fucked up situation. You’re in a third world country, white, all your money is around your waist, what insurance, the sun is setting, and you really have no idea where you are. Strange things can happen when the sun goes down and your imagination takes over. Should we stay or should we go? Sit in a damp bus waiting or follow the herd and hope we find someplace to stay and something to eat. Having turned a wrench a few times I figured well, it’s either major mechanical, in which case we’re fucked and in for a long walk in the rain, or maybe it’s something simple. It wouldn’t take long to figure out. If the bus was doomed we could always catch up.
The driver, who of course was staying with his rig, went through the motions of poor communication as we went down a basic check out. We soon discovered the accelerator linkage was broken. Pair of vice-grips, adjustable wrench, multipurpose screwdriver, and some wire was all it took to MacGyver the works, and of course someone who was willing to get all greasy and muddy, busting a few knuckles while crawling around underneath the bus to do it.
We picked up the stragglers first followed shortly thereafter by a bunch of smiling faces who were as happy as us to get out of the rain and where we all were going. The perk was the look on their faces when they saw a filthy white couple smiling at them from the back of the bus. Talk about making some points! It was a mild adventure but nonetheless had all the requirements for a true experience. A situation presents itself inspiring the question, what do we do? From that moment on our actions were dictated by the predicament and to make the best of it.

All adventures pretty much go that way. When everything goes just the way it’s planned there is no adventure. A good time perhaps with nice people just like yourself getting a taste of the wild. But it’s not the tourists that get the true adventure. It is the guides and laborers who live the safari, or roundup that truly live the life. The rest have merely paid to experience it.
It is when all hell breaks loose that the adventure starts. The working staff kicks into overdrive to save the tourists who are too busy worrying about their stuff and complaining that this is not what they paid for. Adventure is not something that is paid for. You may hire someone to take you to breathtaking vistas, but have something happen out of your control that rips your breath from you and the next person you are hiring is a lawyer.
Adventure is for those who choose to live it. Life choices and circumstance can put you in the game or out of it. Age, unfortunately, is a major factor. Those of us who left the tour behind long ago and forged our own way have paid the price of our yearnings with bodies worn out from a lifetime of hard living. Eventually we become sidelined while the adventure goes on, leaving us behind with our memories and sore backs that can no longer bear the load. We have become out of the loop, an observer.

This realization comes with a brutal blow to who we are, what we were and what we have become. I call this the Hemingway syndrome. That period from when you stop being a player until you come to terms with your new reality. It is a time change from relevancy to obscurity. Some of us will accept it, eventually. Others will struggle with the dilemma, while others refuse to let go. This in itself is an adventure of sorts. Except this time the battle is an inner one. We will come to terms with it gracefully… or not as is usually the case.
My personal learning curve was hard and ugly. I didn’t let go. Life was torn from my grasp and left me crippled. It took a long time to learn to be thankful for every ache, pain, and disability and see each one as a memory.

So the next time your car dies on a lonely stretch of dark road, or a storm, or other kind of adverse conditions present themselves realize it is an opportunity to take life into your own hands and do something with it. This does not mean picking up your cell phone either and letting drama overwhelm the moment. Take charge, take control of what you can and make the best of it. Take a lousy unplanned event and put a positive spin on it. It’s all any adventurist does anyway.

Aloha my friends. Good luck, do your best, it will be enough.