Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life - Neil Strauss (2009)
Part IV. SURVIVE
After getting off the phone with Spencer, I made my first post on the Survivalist Boards—a plea for advice on how to escape the city WTSHTF.
Most of the experts advised moving out of the city immediately. But just like the decision not to turn my fingerprints in to the government, I wasn’t ready to compromise my freedom and enjoyment of life for security. A second citizenship added options and opportunities to my life; living next door to Kurt Saxon would only remove options and narrow possibilities.
Others responded with vivid scenarios worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. One poster, who went by the name Dewey, advised, “The best thing, given your situation, is to: arm yourself to the teeth to fend off looters and gangs, build yourself an excellent BOB, and keep a month’s worth of rations at your residence to weather out the initial exodus of sheeple and eventual gang wars. I’d lay low, let all the gangs kill each other off first (expect that within 2-3 weeks), then prepare to hoof it. Thus, an excellent BOB is essential, as is carefully selected firearms. You’re definitely going to need a semi-automatic rifle with high magazine capacity.”
Others gave less morbid advice that I never would have come up with myself. “Might I suggest a different path?” Lasercool wrote. “If escaping beforehand is not an option, you might want to get involved with the local disaster management organizations run by the government. Here in Miami, the police run a CERT team—Community Emergency Response Team. You can get decent training, a snazzy vest, and most of all contacts within law enforcement. You’ll be seen as one of the ‘good guys,’ and often that can make the difference between getting through a roadblock and not getting through.”
Finally, a handful of others on the forum insisted that I purchase a motorcycle with saddlebags and study local trail maps so I could escape via isolated mountain roads instead of crowded, chaotic highways.
The only problem was that I didn’t know how to ride a motorcycle. I’d tried once before during an interview with Tom Cruise at a motorcycle raceway. But it ended in disaster: while trying to brake on a turn, I wiped out on his expensive 955cc Triumph bike. Though he didn’t seem to mind the damage to the motorcycle, I was humiliated.
Fortunately, the survivalists were helpful and thorough. They suggested the best place to train: the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. They suggested the best survival bikes to buy: the rugged Rokon Trail-Breaker used by U.S. Special Forces in Desert Storm, the versatile dual-sport Suzuki DR-Z400SM, and the Russian Ural, a sidecar-enhanced motorcycle built to battle the Nazis. And they suggested the biggest hazards to watch out for: a saboteur stringing piano wire across the road to decapitate me, an attacker lurking around a corner wielding a two-by-four, and a motorist shooting me in the back to get a free motorcycle.
I was impressed by their imaginations. They reminded me of Katie and her movie-inspired fears. Maybe she’d make a good survivalist after all.
Since the risks seemed improbable, I signed up for a course with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and looked into the Rokon Trail-Breaker. With a two-wheel drive system, wide tractor-like tires, and hollow aluminum wheels capable of storing gas and water, the Rokon was a survival machine, able to ride through mud puddles and streams two feet deep, over mountains of rubble, and through snow-covered fields. While cars were stuck bumper-to-bumper on the freeway, I’d be able not just to weave around them, but to cruise along the median, the shoulder, the embankment, and even, if necessary, over the tops of abandoned cars.
For the next step in my evacuation route, I did something Spencer had advised when we first met: I researched flying lessons.
I couldn’t believe I was about to take my pursuit of offshore safety this far, but Spencer was right. If I was going to have a compound in St. Kitts, I’d need a way to get there. Though the survivalists recommended using a kit to build my own ultralight plane, my tool skills at the time prohibited anything with words like kit, build, model, or construct—unless they involved small interlocking rectangular blocks or cheap Swedish furniture.
“The most unforgettable day of your life will be the day you take your first solo flight,” Taras, my instructor at Justice Aviation, told me when I signed up for pilot class. “The second-most unforgettable day of your life will be the day you take your first solo trip somewhere.”
As I sat through his orientation, it occurred to me that flying lessons would be a long and costly commitment. On the positive side, spending time at the airport would enable me to make friends who flew planes and worked in control towers in case I needed them. On the negative side, a single-engine plane on a day with a good tailwind would only fly as far as Santa Fe on a tank of gas.
I decided to take a few lessons anyway, until I came across a better option. Though a single-engine plane wouldn’t get me to St. Kitts, at least it would get me across the border.
Before I could start flying, however, I needed to give Taras a copy of my driver’s license and proof of my U.S. citizenship, such as a passport or birth certificate. Between my flight lessons, gun purchases, and suspicious Internet searches (at least the ones I’d made before taking Grandpa’s anonymity advice), I was pretty sure I’d caught the attention of the government. I’d recently read that James Moore, the coauthor of a negative book on Karl Rove called Bush’s Brain, had been added to the no-fly list. Hopefully, I wouldn’t be next.
The tools we need to protect ourselves, I realized, are nearly identical to those that others are using to kill us. Perhaps the only difference between the good guys and the bad guys then is intent. Because by not trusting the state, I’d made myself indistinguishable from its enemies.