Postcards From Cambodia

The title of this blog is the name of a song by Bruce Cockburn. If you’ve never heard it before, give it a listen. The song speaks aptly of the many sights and sounds, and life, Mara and I experienced while being in Cambodia this last November.

 The flight was long, seventeen hours, but the layover in Narita, at the United Club, was a worthwhile break from the grind and prepared you for the next leg to Bangkok. From there it was but a quick hop to Siem Reap, Cambodia, Gateway to Angkor Wat. Low season was just about over. In about a month, the hordes of tourists would descend on this little town, bursting it at the seams. Mara hooked us up at a little B&B, ‘La Fromager’, that was off the main drag and quiet. A perfect little spot to view the frenetic pace of traffic and commerce. Really, just crossing the street there is like playing Russian roulette. There are no real rules of the road, but somehow the seeming chaotic, accident about to happen traffic patterns, flow swiftly without interruption. It’s a totally different scene than here in the states. You gotta laugh as tourists rent scooters and attempt to navigate the streets of Anytown, Cambodia. Yeah, we did it, too. There’s nothing like taking your life in your own hands. I have to admit that driving here would take a few years to get the hang of, if you survived that long.

 To go distances longer than you’d care to walk, forget the scooter and take a tuk-tuk. It’s cheap transportation, they’ll wait for you, and the best part is they drive!

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

 With Angkor Wat a fair distance from Siem Reap town, Mara and I, taking the advice of our driver, would arrive before dawn. Because Angkor Wat is so well restored one can begin exploring before the sun is fully up.  Nearly every stone surface has been carved, with rarely a blank wall. Hindu imagery collides with Buddhist creating a mind–boggling menagerie from massive stone heads twenty feet high, to a tiny Buddha image carved into an otherwise unnoticeable niche. Then there is everything in between.

 We used up every bit of our four-day pass visiting half a dozen other temples surrounding Angkor. These other Wats are not as restored and have a mystery all their own. Giant trunks of fig trees have grown through the walls, ceilings, and, well, pretty much everything.

 These places are huge. The moats surrounding them enclosed anywhere from fifty to one hundred acres. The Khmer population at around 900A.D. had to have been in the millions to build and maintain these monstrous undertakings. Of course, the fertile plains surrounding Angkor stretch as far as the eyes can see. And everywhere is rice, the lifeblood of a nation that is still sown and reaped by hand.

 History Cambodia’s got. From the ancient and much revered distant past all the way to the more recent bloody swath Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge tore through Cambodia in the late 70’s, not so very long ago. The Cambodians do not hide that particularly dark time as remnants of the killing fields and caves have been maintained and preserved. Not so much as a solemn remembrance of the past, but as a tourist attraction.  For the young tuk–tuk drivers, who will take you to hell and back again, the sights are just another stop on the tourist trek, much like the bat cave, the bamboo train, and the winery.  It’s strange and I wonder if they really understand what went down during the days of the Khmer Rouge. Does anyone?

The older fold remember. You can see it in their eyes, behind the smile. Fear. But life goes on. Monsoons come and go, flooding the rice fields and continuing the cycle.

Bamboo Train , Battambang, Cambodia

Bamboo Train, Battambang, Cambodia

 After about a week in Siem Reap we headed, by bus, to Battambang. It’s an old town with enough of its own history to generate a thriving bit of tourism. There are Angkor era monuments and enough Wats to do some serious temple hounding. Battambang is a bit of a hub for western Cambodia so there is a lot going on and worthy of a few days exploring and eating our way across town. With tourism not being the main point of Battambang’s existence, you get a good cross section of Cambodian life.  It may not all be beautiful, but it is real and fascinating. The working class is armed with their smile and are probably lucky just to have a job. Those not working are busy starving. Landmine victims hustle the dining tables at the edge of the street where they vie for space with homeless kids and hungry eyes.

 Cambodia is not for the squeamish. There is just too much reality going on here. Just how long can you hang cow parts in an open–air market at 90 plus degrees? Plus there are more parts to a cow, or any other meat for food than you can imagine. Restaurants advertise that they don’t serve dog, rat, cat, or birds. Nice of them to let you know, but if you are a meat eater, there’s a good chance you’ve already had some.

Dried Fish at Market

Dried Fish at Market

 After four or five days of a comfortable bed and hot showers at the Lux, it was time to catch a bus for the half­­–day ride to Phnom Penh. The main road to the capitol is a little off the tourist route. Most of the towns and villages economy revolved around agriculture, not tourism. The most obvious sign of this was that the stores only sold things you needed. No shiny new plastic or impractical clothing or trinkets. Fresh fish, dried fish, fermented fish, unknown fish, trays of deep-fried bugs, veggies, flip–flops, rubber boots, and tools. What more does one need? It was only as you closed in on Phnom Penh that you began to see stuff that you didn’t need, for sale; ridiculous clothes, a lot of cell phones, plastic things, cheap booze and hookers. And once in the city, that was all you could get.

 Phnom Penh rises from the rice paddies and surrounding country like a darkened parody of western life. Modern skyscrapers jut obscenely from the crumbling early twentieth century facades. The action is along the Mekong river waterfront. The quay teams with Cambodians and tourists wandering the well–lit concrete in search of something to do. One thing the evenings along the quay had to offer was a Cambodian version of public jazzercise set to hip–hop. A couple hundred locals with matching shirts squared off a section of concrete and did their thing. Smiling faces in various degrees of physical conditioning sweated it out. Why and how are good questions! Trying to put a happy face on a ghetto of crime? Then came the fireworks. The first salvo had about half the street ducking before they realized the explosions were for entertainment. A visible police presence keeps the black market discreet. The market for flesh not so much. Hookers abound with children in tow to satisfy one of the darkest tourist markets I have ever seen. Ex–pat Russians have taken a liking for Phnom Penh and seem to own the place. There is even a Russian market that is packed at night. Shoulder to shoulder insane shopping and eating. I think Mara and I spent more time trying not to lose each other than anything else.

 Daytime in Phnom Penh is hot and we would find ourselves working the shaded side of the streets. With a couple weeks of traveling under our belt, Mara thought a massage was in order. With massage parlors lining the waterfront we figured this to be a no brainer. After a few inquiries, we found that the place we were looking for was on the other side of town. You see, the parlors on the waterfront come with a ‘happy finish’. We found a place by the central post office where the massages were done by the blind. I must admit to being quite pleased at the end of the massage, if not happy too!

 The capitol city offers a plethora of attractions to occupy your time. Those of us who love old temples will not be disappointed. Many of the Wats have been restored or have restorations underway. The Royal Palace and grounds are being fixed at this time. The temples themselves are fantastic with a detail of construction that marvels the eye. Gold and the vibrant colors of the spectrum radiate from the repaired structures. The old ones like the Angkor era temples, 900 A.D. to around 1100A.D., are now bare rock when originally the were all painted and gem encrusted.

 Step ahead ten centuries and you have modern Cambodia. If the recent history is more your thing, any number of tours go to the many killing fields and bombed out rice paddies where the craters are still visible. You have the opportunity to view as many skulls recovered from the killing fields as one could possibly want.

Or, if you wish to wade in a little irony, you can take a half day ride to view some killing fields and then go feel what its like to create one. By that, I mean going to the shooting range and fire some extreme weaponry. Handguns, Ak-47’s, RPG’s, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, fifty caliber machines guns, and some ancient iron.

Where else could you get the chance to shoot this stuff! Cambodia! Something for everyone! Even our hotel room had a painting we had to cover with a sarong…

Modern Art - Phnom Penh

Modern Art in our Room – Phnom Penh.

 Is the country safe to visit? Absolutely! Travelling families were everywhere, from couples with toddlers to more mature family groups. Travelling in Cambodia is similar to other locations in Southeast Asia. As long as you don’t go out of your way to do anything stupid, you will be all right. A.K.A., if there are riots, stay near your hotel. Don’t poke the tiger. Health care, however, can be an issue. The rule of thumb is, anything beyond a minor cut should send you running to Bangkok for decent health services. Cambodia’s is sketchy and expensive. Best to get to Thailand, quick!

 Local food, café food, and street cart food was safe to eat and delicious. After a couple days eating lunch at one place, they will start to offer you more exciting local food to try. Take the chance and you will be delightfully surprised with your taste buds screaming for more.

 History, culture, food, agriculture, and natural beauty, yes I have to say again Cambodia has it all. In our two and a half weeks there, we had just scratched the surface of this marvelous place. There is little doubt that we will go there again and immerse ourselves ever deeper into Cambodia’s mystery and splendour.

 After a few days in the city, it was time to head out into the country again. This meant flying out of Phnom Penh to Krabi, Thailand. With more than a little reluctance, we headed by tuk–tuk to the airport, not knowing if life would bring us back again. We certainly hope so. Ahead, however, lay Thailand. It has been twenty years since being there. Change comes to everywhere and it should be interesting to see what the future has done with Krabi by the sea.

 Next: Thailand, culture shocked!

Horror for Horror’s sake: Not

Having just watched the original Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein I realized great horror is timeless. More importantly the tales of the undead shed light upon the human condition, our humanity or lack of it. Ironically enough, the Frankenstein monster turns out to be more human than its creator or any of us for that matter.

Great horror does more than just frighten and entertain the reader. It should also enlighten. I have written four extremely dark and gruesome novels, all with truckloads of gore and imagery that is hard to shake. But is that the story? No, far from it. All of my writing has a firm foundation in friendship, honor and the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do for you. Without it the story falls apart. My protagonists are not pillars of society, but rather part of the evil that writhes through the pages. They eat, burp, shit, doubt themselves and basically have all the frailties of everyman. The antagonist, my monster, is more the darker side of humanity than some slime dripping creature with insane teeth. Greed, ignorance, envy, power and hatred are far more haunting than what lurks beneath your bed.

The horror hits home when the reader sees himself reflected in evil. We all have a little of it in us and once you get a glimpse, a certain morbid curiosity compels you to keep reading. Like a zit in the morning mirror, you have to look close, taking in the disgusting details before the final squeeze. Splat! Yes, we are that freaky as people.

My characters are human thrust in to a super human situation. It is who we are, not what, that makes the leap of believability of my novels that much easier. Of course it doesn’t hurt that first few pages set a cruel hook and you won’t be released until the final pages are finished. The pace is wicked and action non-stop and gore, over the top. But it is not horror for horror’s sake. The violence and blood-drenched scenes serve a purpose. But remove them and you’ve torn the heart out of the work. It is the nature of the beast.

The readers of horror novels are probably the best judge of what works and what doesn’t. Thus far the ‘anoxic zone’ series and my new breakaway novel, ‘Out of Stone,’ have received the nod of approval from readers and reviewers around the world. I will admit to being criticized a few times for excessive violence and the use of disturbing imagery. I stand guilty on all accounts. Only the readers can sentence me for what I have done. At this point I can live with the verdict. They would like some more.

Tired of pablum horror? Sink your teeth in to something that might bite back!
Check out the links below.

www.promotehorror.com/2013/04/out-of-stone.html

 http://www.blackwaterbooks.com

Aloha john g

OUT OF STONE: Reviews and feedback

 

With my latest novel Out of Stone in print for the last few months, fans and professional reviewers are having their say about it. Though not one to pat myself on the back, I have to say I’m pretty stoked about what is being said.

Nick Buchan, from Australia, wrote an excellent review – check it out at: 

www.nickbuchan.com/horror/out-of-stone-john-g-rees

Out of Stone was the first independently published book Nick took the time to critique. I’m happy to say he wasn’t disappointed.

 

Image

  Yes, Out of Stone is perhaps my darkest work yet. My father-in-law, Jack, had a rough time with it. Okay – he’s 80 plus years old and not exactly my demographic, but disturbing prose and imagery knows no age limit.

  Having built a strong group of readers with my first three novels, it was with some trepidation in getting the fourth out there. My writing pushes the envelope and you never know if you’ve gone too far.

  Out of Stone is also my second book that has a woman as the main protagonist. Halocline was the first. In fact, a character that we meet in Halocline is the lead in Out of Stone. Funny how things work out. Though related to the ‘anoxic zone’ series, Out of Stone is a stand alone novel. It is not necessary to read the previous novels to appreciate this one. But it does help and you will get a few more of the jokes and inside dish.

  When writing Out of Stone, it seemed, at the time, to be a lighter work. Less violence, drug use, coffee, and cigarettes does not mean less of a story. Oh, there is more than enough of the above to satisfy anyone, but I really tap into the darkness on this one and that’s when it gets freaky. In an attempt to lessen the rampant gore, I found pathways into the fiendish nature that lies within us all. When you see a little of yourself in the evil I have created, that means I have done my job. Having your mind blown is more frightening than having your head blown off.

  With the first edition of Out Of Stone available in paperback and all of the e-pubs, we at Black Water Books can take a breath, but only one because the work of writing and publishing is never-ending. With reviews coming in, we will be doing a second edition in the next few months, incorporating some comments into the cover and, having found a few errors in the first edition, re-editing the novel. It happens. No one is perfect and my readers deserve the best I can deliver.

  As this is being written, new reviews have popped up on Amazon.

www.amazon.com/Out-Stone-john-g-rees/product-reviews/0983192073/

Each touched on different aspects of the novel; all of them positive and a few so ‘spot on’ it is scary. These should help inspire you to pick up a copy and the story itself won’t let you put the book down. It is that good!

  Again thanks to everyone who helped to make Out of Stone a nightmarish reality.

  The only way to really understand what I’m saying is to read the book.

  Check it out at www.blackwaterbooks.com/Out_Of_Stone.html

Aloha, john g

 

 

 

Cooking with Blood…

ImageWell, all right. We at Black Water Books are pretty stoked after receiving several reviews on my new novel, Out Of Stone. It seems I’ve done it again with phrases like, ’where does he get this stuff?’ and ‘Couldn’t put the book down…’. Plus my favorite, ‘You’re a sick f*ck john g.’ If you have read any of my previous works I’m sure you would agree.

Out Of Stone begins with a brief introduction of our main character, Sechra. A skeleton version of her backstory reacquaints with her twenty years later.

With the stage set and your mind already a bit twisted by her childhood experiences the tale plunges into the macabre tapestry of her destiny. Legends of ancient Romania and allegoricals far more recent are woven into the fabric. The threads of the lives of others, the why and how’s are sewn into the background of our understanding.

Of course, as happens in most of my work there is a shadowed history lesson too. The dark ages of Eastern Europe are about as bleak a time for mankind as it gets. Yes we get to go there and live for a while. This trip is strange yet familiar. Man’s in humanity to his fellow man are timeless. Be thankful it’s only a book.

As books go this one rips and you’ll be turning the pages as fast as you can eat it up. It has been brought to my attention that there are a few minor editing issues. Reading a raw manuscript it’s not. Out Of Stone is neither under done nor over cooked. I consider Out Of Stone seared. Burnt on the outside and bloody on the inside. Personally I’d bring a knife and fork. Enjoy the feast!!!

Available online at www.blackwaterbooks.com/Out_Of_Stone.html
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Out-Stone-john-g-rees/dp/0983192073
and other fine places!

‘Out Of Stone’ Rocks!

Out Of Stone by john g rees
Out Of Stone by john g rees

My new book ‘Out of Stone’ continues the saga of the epic ‘anoxic zone’ series. Twenty years have gone by since we last met Karuna and were introduced to the child Sechra. Jake and Johnny have left the scene along with their arch nemesis, Vlad Tepes III. To say they took evil with them would be a lie. You cannot battle against darkness and expect to win.

History will not repeat itself within these pages. You, my dear reader, deserve far better than that. Tepes is just a pawn in evil’s chess game. The game is young, with more disturbing, more powerful pieces yet to move. ‘Out Of Stone’ is one of those moves.

Two supporting characters in ‘Halocline’ have been forced into play. Whether by chance or fate, it is hard to say, but for Sechra and Karuna the game turns exceptionally ugly.

Sechra’s innocence was torn from her at an early age. In a moment of hatred, desperation, and fear she opened her little soul story to the breath of darkness. Unknown to Sechra and those she loved this darkness, this evil directed her, guiding her to become a master sculptor. After a series of frightening and unsettling experiences, Sechra must take a treacherous journey by motorcycle deep into the mountains of the Transylvanian Alps. A dark fate awaits her.

Karuna, in her love for the child she raised, must reach passed the darkness within her own soul if she wishes to save Sechra from a fate worse than death. Sometimes love is not enough.

‘Out of Stone’ is a challenging, disturbing search to discover what will happen when Sechra finishes her final sculpture!

Enjoy!

OUT OF STONE: the New Novel

Having spread my soul wide open to the cutting edge of the editor, endured the ruthless attack on the manuscript, I have survived. A little shredded perhaps, humbled to be certain, yet more or less intact. My new editor, Martin Coffee, did an excellent job cleaning up some horrendous grammar (you want a real horror story you should see my uncorrected proofs – now that’s scary), kept the characters where they belong, righted my wrongs, and got most of the jokes. You can always tell whether someone is really reading your story or just correcting. Not put off by the vulgarity and some of the over the top graphic descriptions, Martin Coffee read it. He also liked the story, a lot!  So much so it has inspired him to read my previous works. ‘Right on, Martin!’

  Receiving your edited manuscript back comes with a frightening thrill. Incorporating the changes and editorial suggestions brings the work into its full dimension, cleans it up, and in general makes the novel ready for you to read. Editing is a milestone in the publishing process. It is the end of one phase and the beginning of another.

With this publication we are pursuing some of the tricks used by the big publishers. Advance copies of the novel have been sent to top horror reviewers in the country, Colleen Wanglund and Jeff Padget. These folk know good horror when they see it and they won’t let some palsy imitation sneak through. For me they are an acid test that could wind up in my face, because they tell it like it is. I hold confident. Their reviews will be part of our promotional package and be published in the book with their permission.

The story line holds, the action intense, character development full, and enough blood and mayhem to make one of my readers, R, miss some sleep. She can no longer read the story before bed. I like. R is vastly intelligent and highly critical and will have no qualms about giving me shock treatment if I have pulled any punches. R will also have her thoughts about the story published along with Colleen Wanglund and Jeff Padget.

Very soon the manuscript will be sent to Danil Mugaliev for final formatting into book form, for both hard copy and e-editions. We have worked with him on anoxic zone, Halocline, and Black Tide and look forward to his expertise and suggestions. It was his idea to use the syringes for chapter separation in anoxic zone. A very clever man.

Speaking of, we will also be using Mohamed Sadath for our cover design as well this time. His creativity on all three covers of the previous books has been outstanding. He’ll have his work cut out for him this time.

Front cover design, title, back cover, bio, publish, easy, right? Yeah, right. It’s a challenge and a half to get a professional looking product out there. As a self-publisher, you do all of these things yourself. Of course you have to farm out some of the work. You cannot edit yourself. That’s a given. Formatting and cover anyone can do, but if you want it great, get a pro. Your limitations are few, budget and imagination. Hell, I just wrote a book so the imagination is there. The budget is what it is. We do the best we can with what we have.

The working title of the new novel was Sechra, Tears of Stone. It works. It’s a great title. Unfortunately, Tears of Stone, has been used to death, literally, figuratively and any other way you can imagine. So it gets round filed. After due consideration and googling every stoned combination of words, the publication title will be ‘OUT OF STONE‘. The significance of the title will come clear when you are reading .

Black Water Books hopes to have hard copies and e-editions available in early 2013.

Not using any song lyrics this time should hasten the process a bit, haha. Sorry, it’s an inside joke but I’m sure some old British rocker might consider my comments (on using a couple of his song lines) slanderous.

We are very excited about getting, OUT OF STONE, on the way to being a published work.

If you haven’t read my previous works, get ready!

THE FOURTH NOVEL: Into The Depths Of Hell

The initial edit completed as well as the follow-up rewrite for my new novel; working title –Tears of Stone –and is now being formatted to send to my editor and readers. Having sailed into uncharted waters with my first three books, anoxic zone, Halocline, and Black Tide, and setting new standards for gore and violence, the fourth could to be no less than a horrific ride into the gaping mouth of hell.

Tears of Stone(working title) revolves around a young character we meet in Halocline. Twenty years have passed since the revolution that created a free country. Freed from the yoke of Megacorp and a tyrannical, cruel and insane despot, the country grew and prospered. Slavery and slaughter during the revolution however left the country with nationwide epidemic of PTSD. Most dealt with it. A few unfortunately, did not. This opened the gates of hell once again. A metaphor, for they had actually never really been closed.

Our protagonist, against the odds, survived the barbarically horrendous revolution, at which she had a front row seat. What was witnessed in those early years hardened the tender areas of youth. The seeds of hatred fell upon the fertile soil of her mind, giving her strength to endure the madness.

In a twist of fate the girl is saved from the nightmare her young life had become, but not before her hatred had taken root. Her life on the run from the madness of the revolution was replaced with one of privilege, education and art. Through her art, the girl turned woman, and was able to relieve herself of some of the memories life had bequeathed her. Notoriety and fame would come from her ability to carve stone, touching her life, changing it forever.

As her talent blossomed so did the darkness that so early in life reached out for her. The hatred, anguish, and horror at seeing her family and community brutally tortured, slain, and placed in chains, wanted to live amongst men. This thing, this hatred, this evil would use the girl it bonded with so long ago to bring it to life.

The first few pages set the hook of the story. Then, until the end, we get deep into our characters’ heads to understand the nightmare their lives have become. More than one antagonist exerts pressure on the tale. Hatred, evil, greed, revenge, are my usual nemeses. Once again they rear their ugly heads to wreak havoc on mankind, being truly the sources of all that ails us. Our tale takes us on a ride into the macabre, literally. If you have read my previous works you know how wild things can get. And they do get a tad outré. Not to disappoint my readers, the action and intensity is up to par. My wife, Mara, after doing the initial read, aside from being grossed out, said that ‘this may be the best thing you’ve written.’ I’m good with that, because she is right. Though Tears Of Stone is a stand alone read, the story is related to anoxic zone, Halocline and Black Tide, therefore reading one of the previous will shed some light on a few of the inside jokes and characters. Hold on as I take you where few readers have gone before.

The Wheel Turns : Decompressed

Before leaving on what turned out to be an epic journey, of both an outer and inner nature, I finished my fourth novel. The working title is ‘Tears of Stone.’ That title however has been overworked to death. I had hoped to complete it so my wife, Mara, could read the manuscript while I was motorcycle riding.

It always comes as a surprise to finish an idea in written form. You can tell when the end is near, 100 pages, 50 pages, but when it comes – WOW!!! Suddenly the writing is over and the rush of a ‘high’ is on; a somewhat sublime rush that is. Sure there are details that need attention, there always are, but they do not spoil the moment. Having the novel completed emptied the mind of worry, allowing the call of the road to come in loud and clear. That and the excitement of what Mara would say about the story when I returned. A month later I got the green light. After a rough edit the manuscript is ready for a rewrite, which I am doing now.

The tale revolves around a character you meet in Halocline, my second novel. Her story takes place twenty years after the revolution. She is now a grown woman with her own savage history and dark destiny to contend with. In dealing with horrific memories of childhood, that assault her constantly, an artist was born. Her art was a cathartic to relieve the conscious mind of the cruel and hideous visions.

As therapy the art worked in a psychiatric kind of way, creating what appeared to be a normal, though somewhat driven, personality. The unconscious mind, however, has a way of undoing the neat little knots we tie things up with. Life began to unravel when she finished the last piece for an exhibition.

Hell was just about to be unborn through her art.

It is a rather twisted little story about hate, revenge, ignorance, greed and the little things you never see that go on right behind the eyes. You just never know what someone is actually thinking. Trust me, most of the time you don’t want to know either.

You have to dig deep to come up with a tale like this. Although related to the previous novels, it is also a stand alone read. Of course, reading the first three novels is recommended as they are as ‘rip your throat out’ as it gets and… you’ll get a few more of the inside jokes. Like the others – anoxic zone, Halocline and Black Tide, you are grabbed on page one and ripped through a ride of terror and the macabre that will leave you gasping at the end… and wanting more. From the coast of Romania on the Black Sea, to Istanbul and the Transylvanian and Carpathian mountains, a journey into the darker parts of our minds and souls is about to be published.

Actually it will be a few more months until we print. Worth the wait to be sure and a chance to catch up on your reading. It’s back to work for me. When you call yourself a writer you better be doing just that. A little concentration, a little discipline and a lot of being able to sit there for hours at a time, waiting for blood to flood the page as you try to contain it, turning the crimson flow to words. And tuning out the unimportant distractions, aka, the cell is off. That’s what voice mail is for. Running with the ball for as long as you can each time you get it. But mostly it’s just doing your best that makes all the difference. It’s that ‘your best’ part of the equation that makes anything possible.

When you are doing your best there is always time to help others do it, too, but that’s another blog.

Aloha!

The Wheel Turns – 2012 X-Country Ride : Wheels on Fire

THE MACHINES, THE GEAR, THE PLAN, THE RIDERS

Suddenly all three things started to fall into place. Time, money and desire. You make these things happen and when the moment comes you are ready and jump! The motorcycles were BMW: a ‘95 gs 1200r with close to 100,000 miles, just broken in. We would roll that odometer in a few days. The second machine was a ‘10 F 650 gs chain drive with less than a thousand miles. Not broken in, yet! Both had hard side bags, top boxes manufactured by BMW and Touratech, a welcome addition for anyone going long distances.

 The gear was simple enough. Safety comes first, period. The Aerostitch One-Piece Roadcrafter had everything we look for as riders when it comes to protection and kick ass looks. Plus you can put it on in few seconds and get it off just as fast when the sun is hammering you with 111 degrees, as it was in Kansas (and almost the whole ride). With the leg and main zippers fully zipped, the vents wide open we rode comfortably. Zipping down the main zipper to provide ‘more’ airflow, for me, was counterproductive. The extra hot wind stole your body water at a wicked rate. Zipped and vented provided the proper balance for safety and comfort.

Helmets, boots, and gloves are always de rigueur. Each rider chooses what is right for themselves. Mine was an AFX with visor and smoked windscreen. Both aided well in keeping the relentless sun at bay and giving superior airflow and view. Kale’s was a traditional SHOEI, his touring boots and gloves, custom. Mine varied in that they were steel toed Wellingtons and roper’s gloves.

 

 THE PLAN

 The route was clear enough. Take one of the original trans-cons (also the longest) from one terminus to the other.
U. S. Route 6 – highway of the Grand Army of the Republic – fit all the necessary requirements. A plus was that Route 6 runs as a two lane highway for much of its length. There are sections where she runs concurrent with larger freeways yet always seemed to return to the double band of black.

 The western terminus of Route 6 is cause for some minor dispute between Bishop Ca. and Long Beach, Ca. Each claims to be the official end, or beginning, depending on how you view such things. Bishop was chosen. To make up the difference our first day of the tour took us through Yosemite; The Tioga Pass, Lee Vining, down the eastern range and across the first of many great basins to the town of Bishop. From then on it was little more than following the map. NOT!

The eastern end of Route 6 is Provincetown, Mass. It’s a fair distance, no matter how you look at it, and just the first half of the journey.

 THE RIDERS

 Kale Williams, old enough to know better, young enough to still give it a go. A life-long rider, Kale still renews his skill level by taking courses and of course, applying what he learns to the road. He has been criss-crossing the roadways on two wheels since the original Kawasaki Kz 650 hit the market. Kale knows the road and the road knows him. It’s always a pleasure to tour with that kind of experience; you learn something new every day.

  John G. Rees, that’s me – author, daily rider (Suzuki dl650) and one of a few who can sit in the saddle for 12 hours and go for more if that’s what it takes to keep up with Kale. Then there are the tools. I know how to use them. They always come in handy to either keep us on the road or, as was most often the case, aid another biker or motorist on their way. There is always time to stop and lend a hand especially on some of the stretches in the middle of nowhere that have suddenly become somewhere for somebody.

 As with most journeys of this nature, there is more than one tour happening; an inner and outer trip. We were prepared for the outer adventure. The inner would require all our strength, endurance, compassion and kindness if we were to make it the entire way as we had begun. A couple of bikers and miles to go.

 ON THE ROAD

 The first day was a warm up. San Francisco Bay to Bishop, Ca. via Yosemite, the Tioga Pass and Lee Vining. The Pass and Lee Vining was a downhill run with s-curves, hairpins, shear drops, and captivating views. Into the first of many natural basins we met the future – long stretches of arrow straight road and the sun overhead in a cloudless sky. There was a warning with the bright sun and warm air that rushed passed, stealing minute quantities of your body water, continuously, unnoticeable. Soon there would be no warning. When you are standing in the fire, you know it!

 The roads were clean, devoid of tourists and perfect for breaking in a new bike. The F 650 gs shifts effortlessly, allowing the rider to give the road ahead all of their attention. No box of rocks here! We were cruising the day away, with the exception of the caveat, the ride was uneventful. A couple hundred miles and change later we pulled into our first campground in Bishop, Ca.

 This campground would prove to be a prime example of what we would be encountering in the way of rustic accommodations. The parks were clean, staff, friendly and helpful, grounds and campsites level and amenities in good repair. Then, of course, the folk who camped in every conceivable level of comfort; from semi-sized RV’s to one the size of an old VW bug, harem tents and one-man’s – we all had a common desire; to be at this place, at this time, and to share its beauty around. Whether a smile, getting or giving directions (I was forever asking where the *&%# am I?), talk of the road, bikes or lending a hand, the goodness of the people shined through. And we saw this everywhere! In times such as these with less and less of the time we so desire, that there is always time to help someone else.

I will admit to a bias here. Bikers, underneath all that gear, leather, gloves and helmet are some of the nicest peeps you will ever meet. It all starts with a smile.

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NEXT UP: INTO THE HEAT

DREAM THE DREAM OF DEATH

In two days the dream becomes a reality. The ‘anoxic zone’ series of my horror books will be made available to you in a major Kindle way. A tidal wave of death will flood the mind, washing away any preconceived notion of what horror is. Isn’t it about time you lost some sleep due to the macabre imagery of what you’ve read or forgot about your favorite show because you can’t put down the book?

Lower pricing now and on the 28th of January FREE ‘anoxic zone’ downloads on KDP Select by Amazon! Both ‘Halocline’ and ‘Black Tide’ will be next up! Free downloads and grave bottom pricing!

Here’s your chance to get your hands on some of the most gruesomely disturbing literature ever written. Don’t miss it!

In another time I would have gone to prison for writing this stuff.