Posted by Dean M. Cole

The Road to Africa

Following my three-week biker pilgrimage to Daytona Beach’s Biketoberfest via Panama City’s Thunder Beach Motorcycle Rally I broke camp and along with my new friend Naomi (Nene) hit the road. As you read in my last blog Nene, my new fellow world-traveling friend, was planning to hit New Orleans as the next stop in her great American backpack tour. Having previously decided to hit NOLA for a night or two en route to Houston it was a good fit for both of our schedules.

The trip was incredible. The interpersonal chemistry and easy conversations survived the ten plus hours of road time. We made it to the quarter and spent the next two days exploring the city. Wonderful memories and lots of fuel for my next blog to be sure. (Here’s her blog about it). Had a great time but after two days reality set in and I packed up, bid a sad farewell to Nene and headed to Houston with only two days to spare before my next African work hitch.

Back in Houston I spent the next 48 hours visiting family and friends, packing for a six-week work trip and two-week European vacation, and prepping the truck and trailer for long-term storage. I rented a covered space for the winter. It was big enough to accommodate them both with room to spare.

With all my affairs in order (sounds serious, huh?) I boarded a flight to Paris, France. I do enjoy flying Air France. What’s not to love about an airliner that brings you all the Champagne, beer, wine, and gourmet-ish food you want at no charge? The first time I flew Air France the person in front of me ordered Champagne and a Heineken … at the same time! Amazed, I followed suit, asking if I could have the same. To my delight the flight attendant smiled and said, ‘Oui.’


Anyway, I digress. Upon arrival I set upon the torturous transit to my connecting flight’s terminal. Where the French excel in the form of culture and dining they more than make up for in their horrible airport layout and transit system. While most airports have trams linking widely separated terminals Charles de Gaul Airport relies upon a bus system whose pickup point takes twenty minutes to get to, then runs every twenty minutes, and whose circuitous routing takes twenty minutes to get to your desired terminal. Thus what takes as little as ten minutes in Atlanta takes an hour in Paris.

Suitably down trodden (by French ground transportation standards) I finally made it to the gate. I hopped on the Air France flight to Malabo, sat back and ordered my now traditional glass (disguised as a plastic cup) of Champagne and frosty mug (disguised as a can) of Heineken.

Nine hours later I stepped from the plane’s cool and comparatively fragrant air into Malabo’s dank, rank atmosphere. While I try to enjoy my time in Africa, I’m quickly reminded of one of the reasons I didn’t want to come back. Regular bathing hasn’t quite caught on. For the most part it’s not a matter of logistics. Many times I’ve picked up local oil workers who have spent days to weeks on well stocked, billion dollar offshore oil facilities with excellent accommodations, private showers, and all the soap you can use. Dressed in their best ‘going-home-to-mama’ clothes they smell like a July to August vintage hobo.

Once again, I digress. On the positive side I’ve arrived on the night the Marathon Oil facility throws their biweekly ‘Quiz Night.’ Knowing I was returning that evening my Norwegian friend Heidi has thoughtfully included me in the invitations she attains from her contacts at Marathon.

Unwilling to surrender to the jetlag nipping at the edge of consciousness I unpack and freshen up. We head to Marathon, crossing from the dirt filmed roads and purely African roadside scenery into the surreally disconnected facility. We drive between homes whose style and landscaping would look perfectly at home in Suburbia, USA. I feel like I’ve received a temporary reprieve from the governor. As much as I love travel and experiencing different cultures and ways of life I do love the comforts of home. So with my true immersion into African culture put off a day we arrive at the quiz’s location.

It’s a fun event that takes place at the facility’s recreation center. Two-for-one cocktails and free food capped off with several rounds of trivia quizzes. After some delicious dinner and cold beers we divide into company-based teams and move to the quiz area. After lots of laughter, and several quiz rounds on various subject matters from inane to insane we end up scoring in the middle. Not that anyone cares what place you come in (although there is a steep punishment for winning – you must generate and host the next biweekly trivia quizzes). Since your neighboring team grades your answers there’s light-hearted scuttlebutt that some teams elevate scores of their rivals to ensure the other team gets to host the next event.

Happy we haven’t pissed anyone off enough to receive that punishment, and pleased with our middle of the road placing, we stroll back to our cars. Subdued, riding in silence, African scenery supplants Suburbia as we pass through the gates … back to reality (smells and all).

I look at my watch’s date window…

Only 41 days to go.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Dean Cole
Posted by Dean M. Cole

Biketoberfest’s Great Day!

Sometimes our life travels allow us to cross paths with remarkable people. A meeting which, in spite of its brevity, changes a part of us, either improving us or our outlook on life. People who unexpectedly open our eyes to whole aspects of the human condition we either never grasped or forgot about along our life journey. This was one of those moments.

A New Friend

She stepped from the house. Greetings are exchanged as nervous glances are cast at the chopper’s low form and the passenger pad’s Spartan accommodations. The previously stated concern about its lack of a sissy bar is written across her face. Swallowing hard, farewells to her host are proffered and she mounts the bike with a style and grace belying her claimed inexperience with choppers of this ilk.

Not wanting to scare her (yet) I gently accelerate from the curb. Merging into traffic I feel her legs clamp down on my waist as the baritone rumble of the pipes echo off adjacent buildings. In the heart of Daytona Beach I turn south with a mind to motor along the beach a bit.

Refusing to be completely tame I crack the throttle and the engine’s considerable power thrust us to cruising speed. Her arms grip me with excited energy. Linked together we fall into a comfortable synchronicity; man, woman and chopper streaming as one down Florida’s beachfront Highway A1A.

After placing a few miles between us and the bustle of Biketoberfest’s heaviest crowds we happen upon a diner with a reasonable line, or queue as my new British rider calls it. Checked in we wait outside for our table, mimosas in hand (a little hair-o-the dog for us both).

We fall into comfortable conversation; along the way finding more in common than anticipated by either. She tells me she is a writer and blogger. “You’re a writer?” I asked, digging for my business card. Misunderstanding my dismay she says, “Yeah, University educated and all!” in a tone that said ‘Not a wall flower here!’ Ignoring her protestations I finally produced the card. Knowing this is a large coincidence I hand it to her sure that merely saying ‘I’m an author too!’ would engender doubts about the veracity of that assertion.

Initially united only by our common love of the biker universe and the social network we’re now amazed to learn the other is a writer. She a blogger and an author of short stories; me a blogger and science fiction novelist. And (drumroll please) we’re both full-time world travelers. What are the odds?

Our table is ready. We take our seats. Breakfast is delicious and the conversation continues effortlessly, albeit at the quicker pace of excited discovery. Diner sounds abound. ‘Order up!’ calls echo, pencils scratch at dog-eared tablets. Aprons swish, coffees splash, cups clank, and silverware chimes. The restaurant’s bustling cacophony fades into the background as we trade stories of travel and writing. Eventually looking down we’re surprised to find our plates already empty. I gaze around; the diner’s clamor rushes back to the forefront.

Let’s go.

Back to the chopper, time to work our way north. Ormond Beach’s Broken Spoke Saloon is our final destination but there’s time for a few stops along the way. Merging into traffic I accelerate hard and hear a squeal of pleasure. 

I like Nene. She’s good people.

Through a break in the buildings she points out the beauty of the beach. Realizing I haven’t stopped to smell those particular roses during my stay in Daytona I look for a place to stop along said beach. As if on cue a beachfront park materializes on our right. Pulling in we park, stroll along the boardwalk, and find a place to watch the ocean and chat. 

I’m intrigued by her, by her mannerisms, her worldly experience, and her passion for life. A barely contained sweltering desire to explore the human condition burns through her chaste eyes.

The bonds of friendship form as two people from radically differing backgrounds find rich common ground.

This day is turning out better than anticipated.

Back to the chopper. She asks if I have a name for my bike. ‘Big Bird,’ I say. She burst into laughter and in her British accent says, ‘It’s perfect!’

Picture time? Yes. With that I take my first picture of my new friend with her new friend, Big Bird. She’s overly self-conscious, deciding she hates the pics. I think she looks great and tell her as much. 

Ready for our Hollywood moment?

Yes! She mounts the bike and off we go. A few short minutes later we make the left onto Main Street, joining the parade of bikes. Heads turn, she thinks it’s because of the bike, I think it’s her (of course the bike doesn’t hurt either). Pictures snap, flashes pop, and thumbs are raised. No time to stop … hell, nowhere to stop.

With Main’s madness falling to rear we roar over the bridge back to the mainland. Was that an island?

Next stop Ormond Beach … I thought. On the way we end up stuck in traffic directly in front of a motorcycle shop whose proprietor, in a bit of serendipitous synchronicity, got me out of a mechanical jam the previous day.

Spotted we are beckoned; not wanting to tempt karma I acquiesce and cut across two lanes of stationary traffic. (The bead of sweat on my brow and knowing a cold keg of beer was tucked in the corner of his garage had absolutely no bearing on my decision … yeah right!)

Chance, Biketona’s owner and self-proclaimed one-man-show, is living the life I considered while building my chopper. In his shop he works on and builds custom choppers. To help make ends meet he sells biker apparel and biker paraphernalia. In his spare time he heads a bluesy rock band that can be seen throughout the Daytona area.

I forgot to mention, in addition to being a biker enthusiast Nene is a lover of music: Jazz, Blues, and Rock; A Capela to Garage Bands… This is turning into quite a serendipitous day. She falls into easy conversation with Chance, admires and is admired by his band, and buys an Ace of Spades Zippo lighter.

Seeing the joy she gets from this acquisistion, her excitement at the way it feels, even its smell I think back on our day’s discussions and have an epiphany. My admiration for her grows as I grasp how deeply she cherishes the magic of life. She loves the essence of it; as if she sees the integral beauty of each molecule of a thing. Whether that thing be a crooning A Capela voice or the underlying constituent smells of gasoline, leather, and oil that make up the biker experience. She values it all, not taking any aspect for granted.

Her fresh perspective wipes the fog of complacency from my life lens.

I like Nene, I’m better for having met her.

We bid farewell to Chance and friends and head to the Broken Spoke Saloon. We have a morning (and now early afternoon) long goal of arriving in time to register Big Bird in the Bike Show. Arriving with mere minutes to spare we register. I drop off the bike for a final detailing; she buys us some beer. We walk, talk, and laugh.

‘So where are you headed next on your great backpacking adventure?’ ‘I’m planning on heading to New Orleans Thursday.’ she says.

And the hits just keep on comin’.

Amazed I tell her I’m heading to Bourbon Street tomorrow on my way back to Houston. ‘You should ride along.’ Casting a doubtful look at my radical chopper she says, ‘On that … with my giant backpack?’

‘No I have a fifth-wheel toyhauler.’ Comprehending (after a bit of American to English translation) she stands back and gives me the ‘is he a serial killer?’ appraising lookover. Her serial-killer detector apparently returning a negative she smiled and said, ‘Maybe.’ 

Big Bird, dressed to kill, is in position, awaiting the judging.

A mechanical bull? Want to? No. You? No. A couple of cocktails later we’ve both ridden it, laughed about it, and bonded over it. The Biker or Not website’s Meet & Greet is happening twenty feet from Big Bird’s perch. Nene and I are both members. Previously two-dimensional online personalities morph into living breath three-dimensional bikers. Virtual friends become real, stories are swapped, and laughs are exchanged.

Nene and I are talking with such natural ease I almost miss them calling my name: Big Bird has taken first place. There’s a trophy, lots of pictures and handshakes. People pat me on the back commenting on how happy I must be. 

Looking from the bike to Nene and our fellow BON members I decide they’re right.

It’s been a great day!

Here’s a link to Nene’s blog about that day (told you she was a blogger too).

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Posted by Dean M. Cole

Underground Hangar Entrance

Today’s volume of totally useless trivia: As many of you who read my book already know an underground hangar entrance at Southern Nevada’s Area 51 is the setting for two key scenes in my Amazon Top Rated novel SECTOR 64: Coup de Main.

What you may not know is I based that hangar’s location and description on a feature I saw on Google Earth’s images of the secretive Air Force facility adjacent to Groom Lake.  While researching the novel I did an in depth visual scan of the airfield. If you look at the base’s layout you’ll notice a not inconsequential distance lies between the hangar facilities and the runway complex. I reasoned that if you had a vehicle who’s very appearance would stand out you’d want a shorter path to the runway complex.

During my search I found the feature pictured above. While it may only be a jet-blast shield, its position seemed out of place and inconvenient for that purpose. Usually jet-blast shields are positioned to protect roads and structures from said jet blast. Also, the dirt behind/above it appears groomed as though work had been done there. Look closely and you’ll see parallel dark lines leading into the feature’s center.

I created a Google Earth Placemark for it. Click here to open a Google Map centered on the feature.

What do you think?

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Posted by Dean M. Cole

Morpheus Takes Flight (kind of)

So I’m minding my business, having a beer with my neighbor (Pilot Disclaimer: It was my week off) when I hear what sounds like a fighter jet doing a full throttle ground power check on the southeast corner of my block.

“What the hell?” I scream over the din.

“Morpheus,” he yells.

“Morpheus?” I queried back. “What, did I swallow the red pill?” (Pilot disclaimer: This is a reference to ‘The Matrix’ … not drug use.)

So he proceeds to tell me about this new lunar/planetary lander developed jointly by NASA and Armadillo Aerospace. They are doing tethered test of it in the field behind my house. For those that don’t know, my subdivision forms the northwest boundary of the Johnson Space Center (JSC). While the first word spoken from the surface of the moon was ‘Houston’, as in “Houston, the Eagle has landed,” JSC is not typically the home for rocket test. I return you to the fact that my house lies within 100 yards of NASA’s boundary and less than 900 yards from the site where the above photo was taken. Actually, the trees in the background of the picture and the video below are my subdivision.

“Cool!” I say to said friend. Because … it is! They are using eco-friendly methane based propellant and its size along with NASA’s safety protocols give me a warm fuzzy.

Hopefully I’ll be able to pull a lawn chair and cooler (Pilot disclaimer: filled with soda if it’s my week to fly) to the field’s edge for the untethered test.

Here’s a link to an article about it on

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Posted by Dean M. Cole

Why Do We Think We Know It All?

As a science fiction writer I try to root my stories in the possible. However, if taken to the extreme of Hard-Science Fiction stories become quite limited. To be sure many an author has produced quite fascinating stories within those limitations, Sir Arthur C. Clarke high among them.

I regularly see reviews and forum comments about various books and subjects in which said commentators make disparaging remarks about authors who have spaceships that magically travel faster than light, communicate faster than light, or somehow violate physics as we know it.

As I said in the beginning of this article, I try to root my stories within the possible, but having the imagination of … well, a writer I imagine that we may not know everything there is to know about the universe.

I do understand that E=MC2 ties space and time together so that you can’t change one part without affecting the other. But we humans who:

  • Don’t know how many dimensions or forces form our universe.
  • What dark energy is.
  • What dark matter is (or if either exist)
  • Why the universe expanded at superluminal (Faster Than Light – FTL) speeds for a time after the big bang
  • Why its expansion is accelerating today

somehow feel certain that FTL travel, communication, or anything else is impossible.

To me it’s as arrogant and assuming as those in the 1800s that said speeds over 100mph would kill you and those in the early 1900s that said travel faster than the speed of sound was a feat man would never accomplish.

Before I present my fictional workarounds (to call them theoretical would make me the biggest pompous ass of all) let me first say that I’m not a physicist, hell I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. So there are likely glaring holes in my fictional workarounds. Also, as an author I generally chose not to put my readers to sleep so these are ideas that, for the most part, do not get explained ad nauseum in my books. Till today they merely floated around in the back of my mind as a self-defense mechanism. They allow me tell myself: “I’m anchoring my tale in the possible.”

The basis for my workarounds: I believe three areas that we as a society are just starting to nibble at, three areas that, once figured out, will either lock us into our piece of the galaxy, or open up the universe to us are:

* Dark Energy:

Its apparent anti-gravity effect. Can it be manipulated?

*Undiscovered Forces:

For every force in the known universe there is an associated particle, either known i.e.: Electromagnetism – Photon, Weak Force – Intermediate Vector Bosons, Strong Force – Gluon … and so on; or hypothesized i.e.:  Mass – Higgs Boson (aka God Particle), Gravity – Graviton … and so on.

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and the US’ Tevatron have recently hinted at as yet unknown forces. Who knows how many underlying forces may exist and how they might be manipulated.

Electricity and magnetism are two sides of the same coin; Yin and Yang if you will. Manipulate one and you generate the other and vice versa. What if some new force or a new manifestation of an existing force, i.e.: electricity and magnetism, rises from the data and turns out to be the Yin of gravity’s Yang. In that scenario just as you can manipulate magnetism to generate positive and negative electricity, you could manipulate the new force or manifestation of gravity to generate positive or negative gravity.

* Extra Dimensions:

If we fully understand them and how they tie into the underlying fabric of space-time could they open up the potential for my book’s fictional FTL Parallel-Space travel? (again, see Heim’s Quantum Theory)

What about using extra dimensions for communication. Theoretical physicists postulate the existence of additional dimensions beyond the three spatial and one temporal that we perceive. They tell us these dimensions, existing near the Plank level (the smallest theoretical size), have no size in our universe, but are like curled up dimensions existing adjacent to our dimensions throughout the entire universe.

Now suppose an advanced race, has decoded the mysteries of the universe, i.e.: they’ve unified Quantum Mechanics and Special Relativity, they’ve unified gravity and electromagnetism (see Heim’s Quantum Theory), and even taught cats and dogs to live together in perfect harmony. Employing their mastery of the universe they learn how to expand one of those curled up dimensions just enough to accept an energy state. That energy state (say, half of a quantum pair) could then be manipulated to convey a signal, creating a data-stream.

This extra-dimensional dimension has no size other than that created through their manipulations. So this data would have nowhere to travel, but it could be accessed from anywhere in the universe … who says you couldn’t have instantaneous communication across the universe? (at least fictionally)

In Conclusion (Finally)

Once again, I’m not a physicist and I’m sure there are plenty of theories that would rule out most if not all of my fictional workarounds.

The region between proven facts and the waterfalls at the edge of the universe (here there be dragons) is the realm of science fiction and fantasy. While I like to think my work leans away from said falls and dragons, I’m okay if it takes literary license from time to time. The truest measures are my reader’s opinions, and their willingness to suspend their disbelief whilst they roam my universe.

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