Monday, February 8, 2010

Bike or Hike?

At dawn you were surprised by what looked at first to be a WTSHTF (When the $#!t Hits The Fan) event which quickly turned out to TEOTWAWKI and now you're stranded many miles from home.

The lights, TV and clock radio went out simultaneously in your hotel room. Looking out your fourth floor window you see the whole city is dark. The phone didn't work anymore nor the elevator. You suspected this isn't a local WTSHTF event. Your just recharged cell phone is dead, as is your laptop. EMP?

Your large dark gray airline compatible suitcase is also a rucksack that came with you as checked luggage so you've got your genuine Swiss Army knife and genuine Leatherman multi-tool in addition to 50 feet of 550 paracord, a boonie hat, a good pair of hiking shoes (with two pairs of wool socks and a packet of Moleskin stuffed inside), pants (with small first aid kit in one cargo pocket and a space blanket in the other), shirt (compass and Bic lighter in one breast picket and waterproof matches and a bullet space pen with waterproof notebook in the other) and a jacket with gloves in the pockets.

You empty out your suits and shirts from the suitcase to the bed repacking the big bag with two hotel blankets and the extra roll of TP the hotels always provide. Then you put on your hiking clothes.

You consult the local phone book then tear out two yellow pages and a map page.

You take both bags down the fire stairs to the lobby where confused business sheeple are demanding hotel management "Do Something!" right now.

Your smaller camouflage pattern carryon is also a backpack which, you can piggyback onto your large pack. You fill its pockets with complimentary hotel matches and fruit.

As you munch on what is likely the last cream cheese covered bagel you'll ever see (even if you survive) you contemplate the continental breakfast bar.

Handy little individual size boxes of dry breakfast cereal? Light but bulky.

Handy little cups of yogurt? Maybe one or two for the first day, but they'll spoil soon without refrigeration.

Handy little cartons of juice and milk? Same problem and they're leaky.

Handy little packets of honey? Yes! A compact nonperishable energy source that is not only food but an anti-bacterial agent. You take them all.

Crushing some of the dry breakfast cereal boxes flat you extract the flattened wax paper bags from the cardboard and stuff them into the camouflage backpack with the honey.

Bottled water? You betch'a! Ed Begley, Jr. be damned! Humans need a gallon of water a day so you load up the side pockets on both packs before leaving the increasingly hysterical business class to their whining as you walk out the side door with an open carton of juice in one hand and a half eaten bear claw in the other.

Poking around in a nearby construction site you find a two and a half foot long piece of one inch rebar with one end cut at an angle. It'll have to do until you can find something better. You 'dismount' the smaller bag and carry the small backpack like a satchel with the rebar sword/club between the handle straps so as to be instantly available yet not obvious.

Wearing the large bag as a backpack you walk forcefully, like you know where you're going, with your head on a swivel looking out for danger from all sides. People tend to avoid you on the sidewalk.

By ten am it's pretty obvious to everyone that "something" is going down. The owner of the pawn shop has come down to guard his goods. You have to talk your way in by offering to pay with cash then shop by sunlight coming through the windows.

You slit open one of the secret compartments in your carryon bag and show him the hundred dollar bills. He informs you he can't legally sell you any pistols from the case, however he'll sell you his 'personal' .38 stub nosed double action revolver. For an extra hundred dollars he throws in his holster and a box of bullets.

Outside, as you consult your yellow pages and the map, you see him rearming from stock. You head for the sporting goods store stopping to buy some road maps at a gas station along the way.

You must get home as quickly as possible, but the roads while not impassable will be patrolled by local cops turned highwaymen and desperate refugee sheeple unable to think outside the trunk of their cars. Eventually thirst and hunger will force them off the highway. In the meantime they'll be sponges absorbing the resources of any who come near.

Freeways and highways offer smooth, convenient, fast travel; out in the open where you can easily be seen from afar and ambushed from cover.

You've decided your choices are hike or bike, but offroad.

The few employees that showed up for work at the sporting goods store are mostly just standing around. With no power to run the cash register or credit card machine there's not much for them to do.

You find a ready to go mountain bike on display with saddlebags and a rack for mounting them. Grabbing some other gear and a topographical map of the nearby park from the camping department you take the lot to the manager who says he and the employees are just there to watch over the merchandise until the power comes back on because accounting wants him to sell everything through the register.

You show him some hundred dollar bills saying you'll take a hand written receipt now and he can mail you the register readout later. He sells you the bike and gear but won't sell you any guns or ammo. You talk him into selling you a hunting knife and a plastic backpacker's camping trowel instead. He doesn't offer change or a receipt and "forgets" to charge sales tax. You don't bother to remind him he'd need an address to mail that receipt to you.

You spend the last of the hundred dollar bills filling up your packs with freeze dried food.

As you're packing the food some boisterous customers enter the store so you exit the store quickly then install your rack and saddlebags with your Swiss Army knife and Leatherman multi-tool under a tree behind some bushes in a large vacant lot across the street from the store.

With the Swiss Army knife and Leatherman tool on one side and the revolver on the other your most basic survival gear is on your person at all times. You fill the small camo pack with food and water stowing the rest of the freeze dried food and large backpack in the saddle bags you head off across country as the sun hits it's zenith in a sky devoid of airplanes.

By dusk you've reached the suburbs. Staying off the roads has cost you a lot of time but you haven’t been robbed, mobbed, molested or arrested. It's a good tradeoff.

You find a small tree atop a small rise surrounded by large bushes. You disappear into it with a last look around to be sure no one is watching.

You dig a Dakota fire pit and heat some water in the Sierra Cup on green branches over the pit without bothering to remove the store's price tag then pour it into a package of the freeze dried food.

From your position you eat your food and watch the candlelit houses as the dusk turns into dark.

Resting until rise of the crescent moon as the fire burns out you fill in the hole before walking game trails to the railroad tracks. Careful to take your last compass reading several hundred feet from the metal tracks you determine the direction you want to travel before pushing the bike up onto the tracks. The spaces between the railroad ties make it too bumpy for bike riding so you walk.

A few miles later you're at the railroad crossing. Both the railroad and the road will take you home. Or you could break new trail between them which would take even longer.

Riding the bike on paved surfaces would be the quickest way home, provided you weren't waylaid on the way.

On the plus side the bike's tires would be nearly silent on the pavement and riding at night would vastly decrease the chances of running into other refugees. In theory you'd be past anyone camped by the roadside and disappearing into the darkness before they realized you were there.

But as Yogi Berra once said: "In theory there's no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is." You'd be exposed on the roadway and a bullet is faster than a bike.

Walking the bike on the railroad tracks would be the second fastest way home but, again, you don't know how bad things are going to get or how soon. There'd be no trains, of course, but there might be other refugees and the raised railroad line would make you obvious to anyone who happened to glance in the direction of the railroad tracks.

Both road and railroad would tend to go through towns and cities. Also roads tend to accumulate homes and businesses along their route. One of the principles of Escape and Evasion is to avoid people and the places people frequent like buildings, trails, roads, and railroads.

You could abandon the bike and use your Escape & Evasion skills breaking new trail through the wilderness with just your backpacks. It would take much longer, but you could be virtually certain to not run into any Robin Hoods.

It's all a question of speed vs. security.

What would you do; bike or hike?

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