July 21, 2017

Freehold Friday: Cover Reveal and bug out bikes

Howdy Freeholders!
There’s lost of excitement around the Freehold this week, so lets get to it. First, the Writing Update.

Writing Update

The countdown has begun! One week from today, Solar Storm: Season 2 launches with Episode 1: CONTACT. There’s still time to preorder and get the convenience of having it auto-delivered right to your device as soon as Amazon releases it. While you’re at it, strap in, because things are about to get wild for Jay and the gang. With that in mind, here’s the cover reveal!

The other almost done project is Oathbreaker, the next Wildfire Saga book starring Cooper Braaten. It’s in the final editing stages as we speak and I’m super excited to get this one out there. Look for it soon! (If you want exact dates one when my books are released, sign up for my mailing list and you’ll know before everyone else!)

I’m making good progress on the other episodes in Season 2 of Solar Storm and somehow I’m managing to still crank out about a chapter a day during summer vacation—don’t ask me how because I don’t freaking know. The kids haven’t burned down the Freehold yet, but don’t think for a second that they wouldn’t try if given half the chance, but they’re too busy fighting each other and trying to eat hand soap (yeah, don’t think they’ll do that again!).

Annnnway, I’m pretty darn excited about this weeks blog. It’s got everything: preparedness, fitness, gear, and time outdoors. What the hell am I talking about? Well, read on, friend, read on!
Practical Prepping: The Bug Out Bike
I can see your face now. The what? Doesn’t this fool know there’s things called cars out there?
Yes, yes I do. But here’s the thing, if you’re honest with yourself, being prepared means expecting the unexpected and getting ready to deal with shit that others don’t have the time/patience/inclination/wisdom to think about.
Why would a bicycle be a good mode of transportation during a crisis? Oh, many there are too many reasons to list—I put serious thought into this for about 30 seconds and came up with a bunch, but I’ll get to that in a minute (along with the downsides). For starters, you need to set the stage: what kind of crisis are we talking about?
At the top of the list is the true post-apocalyptic nightmare that seems to be looming ever closer on the horizon thanks to North Korea: a nuclear EMP attack. If you’re reading this blog, you know what that means. If you just stumbled on this looking for dancing hamsters (first, no), here’s a brief explanation: someone sets off a nuke at the proper altitude, generating an intense electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that fries the power grid by overloading the circuits of anything connected to it (much like a solar storm, hint hint). Where a natural event (<cough> the Solar Storm) will cook just about anything connected to the grid if the pulse is strong enough, an EMP operates on another level as well, potentially (I say this because there’s no hard proof…yet) killing delicate electronic circuits in things not connected to the grid at impact. If that holds true, then things like cars with computer controlled steering/traction/emissions (whatever) will be fried along with cell phones, pacemakers…just about anything electronic.
What would the roads look like if 90% of the cars just died when an EMP went off up on the edge of space? Well, for starters we’d have the mother of all traffic jams at every intersection in every city in every state (except maybe Alaska). Cars would die and if their drivers are smart, they’d let them coast to a stop in a controlled manner. But most drivers aren’t, so we’re going to be seeing accidents everywhere. And if cars are affected, so will the ambulances and tow trucks and fire trucks and police cars…starting to get the picture? One fender bender, easily moved off the side of the highway today, will block several lanes (maybe the whole road) in an EMP and then everyone who’s car died behind that initial block piles into each other…total chaos.
The survivors will be walking. Remember that scene from season 1 of The Walking Dead? Where there’s a huge traffic jam and the survivors are hoofing it, checking cars for supplies and then a zombie herd shows up, like a migration or something?
Think how much easier that would have been to escape if only they’d had a few bikes.
Zombies aside, bicycles—as anyone in a major city can likely attest—bikes can zip in and around cars and into tight spaces were no driver could hope to go. Think about how that could apply to any of several situations we might prepare for: if hurricanes shut down a coastline and debris and traffic snarl the roads, a bike can move relatively easy (as long as you don’t hit a nail, but we’ll get to disadvantages in a bit) and unimpeded.
If you come to a roadblock (manmade or otherwise) in a car, your options are limited to turn around and find another way, or smash through it (really bad idea unless you’re driving a Mack truck or a tank). With a bike, instead of smashing through something, depending on your load, you can just pick it up and traverse over the blockage, put the bike down and be on your way (assuming there aren’t two-legged predators waiting in ambush).
Keeping with the traffic concept, let’s say your in a major city somewhere and a disaster is declared, whether it be natural (or impending natural) or manmade, something has happened that has caused a mass panic leading to a general evacuation of the city. Streets are clogged and there are cars everywhere. A bike can go right along the road in the grass, it can head down to railways and ride along the right-of-ways, and it can follow rivers or park trails, walking trails, sidewalks, you name it—on a bike, you can find almost limitless paths out of the city where a bigger vehicle wouldn’t be able to go (legal or otherwise).
So a bug out bike has great mobility, we all get that. But what about utility? With add-on panniers, you can haul stuff on over the rear wheel and with the addition of a rack, you can attach a box or just about anything you can imagine, up to and including Rubbermaid totes of gear or food. You can strap on bags behind the saddle (that’s seat for you muggles out there who drive or walk), in between your legs from the top bar, even hang bags (or baskets) from the handlebar. 
And that’s not even touching one the idea of towing a bike trailer. You could easily take a child carrier and stuff it with food or supplies or what have you (if you don’t have kids of course) and be able to bring a sizable stash of supplies with you as you escape whatever disaster caused you to bug out.
If you do a Google search for “DIY Bike Hacks,” you’ll find days’ worth of instructions, images, and videos on how to modify your recreational cruiser into an end-of-the-world battle box on two wheels. Even better, with a little creativity, you don’t need to drop $30,000—I’ve seen mods in PVC, wood, even aluminum yardsticks! People have hacked apart shopping carts and added 5 gallon jugs as panniers—it’s really crazy what some folks can think up, and these people are just trying for utility right now, they’re not thinking what if
Let’s look at another big benefit of the bicycle: fitness. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not in SHTF shape, but I’m trying. Beyond being able to carry your stuff, you get a great workout that’s low impact (until you fall or someone tries to knock you off your bike). That could be the biggest selling point for those in training for disaster readiness. Practice bugging out with your gear by hauling it around, get used to the load, build endurance and strength, and get in shape.
All courtesy the humble bicycle.
To that end, I’m going to start a series of posts about practicing what I preach.

See, I have a bike from 1999, a Trek 800 Sport that I rode in college, then mothballed until my parents retired to Florida in the mid-2000s. Dad took it and used it down south until he bought a scooter (that he’s gotten up to about 80mph!). For several years it sat unused until it was returned to me when we lived in Texas. The tires died down south and she sat neglected and dusty for another 6 years, hanging from the rafters in our garage in Wisconsin. The above picture was after I inflated the tires this week to see if they’d hold air…they did. For about 24 hours. But hey, that was long enough to snap a picture, then hide her in the garage again in shame. I don’t think any of the neighbors saw…
And now that I’ve recognized the utility and fitness factor (and my kids are learning to ride), it’s time I dusted the old girl off and thought about getting her back into fighting shape. I thought about going with something modern and new for this project, but realized that this bike and me have been through a lot. 

This scratch here was where I skidded across a rain-slick road after history class one day at the University of Delaware and almost ate the grill on an oncoming car.  Notice the fine patina of orange/brown dust just above that nasty black scratch. The chain, the wheels…ick. Almost 20 years of use and abuse and neglect coating the drivetrain. I have my work cut out for me. She’s still got the little spoke reflector and original dork disk, for crying out loud.
It’s hard to see, but the right handlebar is just slightly off kilter next to some rust, from where (at UD again) some motorist wasn’t paying attention and flung open his door as I passed. I almost ripped that door off (I’m a pretty big guy and when you get me moving at a decent clip, it takes a lot to slow me down). He was furious at first, until he realized a kid hit his door on a bike, and I lay sprawled in the road. My front tired needed to be tried after that and the front spoke reflector died.

Anyway, my point is me and this bike have had some fun. Though she’s got a bit of rust and the tires look and feel dry-rotted, I think she’s structurally sound. So I’m going to do some book-learnin’, tune her up (something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the ability) get some new tires, make sure everything’s lubed up and tight, then see if I can’t bring her back to life.

Once that project is done, I’ll see about doing some SHTF mods and I’ll be sure to post about them here. 

On top of all that, as a way to keep me motivated, I’ll keep a fitness progress so that anyone out there thinking of losing weight or getting in shape as part of their readiness routine can see what an average Joe can do with a bike and some determination.
And, just for shits and giggles, I’ll test out dictating on the bike to see if I can not only combine fitness with preparedness, but add in writing as well.
So tune in next time, where we start the resurrection and I’ll go over some disadvantages of a bike (not trying to talk myself out of this, just being honest) as a bug out vehicle. Maybe we’ll even touch on why you want to bug out at all…or maybe that’ll be a separate post. Who knows! There’s so much to do and so little time…
Till next time, muchachos, keep your heads down and your powder dry.