Escape From (Fill in Your City Here), 2009, by Bill in Chicagoland

I think as a boy my favorite stories were always about epic journeys or quests. I always saw myself as the lone hero; bravely making his way through a barren landscape overcoming impossible obstacles and having fantastic adventures along the way. As preppers I think many of us still believe that WTSHTF our trip to “Get out of Dodge” will be an adventure such as those we read in books. I’m afraid however; the reality will be much grimmer than we can imagine. I fear that it will be more like The Road by Cormac McCarthy or the recent novel One Second After by William R. Forstchen , than anything else.

I live in the Chicago metropolitan area, yes far behind enemy lines so to speak, and have been a prepper for most of the last 10 years. Like many of us I must live in a big city because of my job. I need money to survive. Living here is no big deal if you learn to ignore the local politics. My kids are grown and I have no long-term attachments here. If the world falls to pieces I always felt I could leave in an instant. I have the requisite pick-up truck, keep it full of fuel, pre-positioned much of my supplies with my son at a relatively safe location in a small town (population 5,000) about 600 miles from here. I’ve got my G.O.O.D. bag packed and I’m ready to go when ever things go south. Or am I ready?

Let’s review my bug-out plan. Wait a second, I have no plan! This blinding flash of the obvious hit me as I was stuck in rush-hour traffic last Friday evening on my way to my son’s. It took me nearly three hours to get from my apartment on the far north side of the city to I-80 on the far south side. This was the route I assumed I would take to skedaddle. Think about that; I was on Interstate highways the whole time, leaving at 8:00 PM, and it still took me nearly three hours to go less than 80 miles. What’s really scary is that I was thinking all along how light the traffic was. I had no alternative routes in mind. Yikes!

Well, I’ve got to tell you this dear readers, that realization scared the bejeebus out of me. I was so unready to bug out. I had the stuff, the means, the mindset, etc., however, in a meltdown near-panic situation, I would’ve have been just one more member in a stream of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the big city. This experience got me off my duff and forced to review what I will do when the next shoe drops in our ongoing economic nightmare.

I drew up a list of what was necessary to implement an action plan to “Escape from Chicago 2009”

1. Have a bug-out kit ready at all times
a. No problem I have a bug-out bag packed and ready to go. No last minute packing required. However; I hadn’t checked it in quite some time and when I did I found plenty of things to replace and replenish. Batteries lost their charge. Foods had expired. So did many of the common medications I packed. BTW, I also now have a 72 hour bag with me whenever I leave the house. You can never be sure when the worst thing you can imagine will happen.

2. Bring as much as you can with you.
a. Unlike many of you, I am not a man of any particular religious belief system. However, like most of you, I feel what makes us truly human beings is our compassion. I have to say that I don’t think while bugging out, I could look a frightened hungry child in the eyes and say no – nothing for you. Bring more than you need. If you don’t need to share then all the better; there’s more for you when you reach your destination.

3. No stopping to buy last minute items.
a. If it’s so bad you need to be bugging-out do you really think others don’t know that and are at that very minute stripping the local Wal-Mart clean? During the Los Angeles riots in 1992 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the grocery stores were near impossible to get to and if you could, it didn’t matter; they were closed, or had been looted, and were empty. Also, shop owners, for example, may attempt to defend their stores with firearms (a la the Los Angeles Riots) and you don’t want to be caught in the crossfire. <Sarcasm on> I know, I know, Chicago has very strict gun laws so there won’t be any shooting except by a few gun-toting NRA/survivalist types <Sarcasm off>.

Finally, one interesting image comes to mind when I think of someone “liberating” goods from a Wal-Mart. During the Katrina emergency I recall seeing a video of a very obese woman wading through chest deep flood water, polluted with who knows what, holding a Dyson vacuum cleaner she had “liberated” over her head. No electricity, no home, no floor for that matter, but she had an expensive vacuum cleaner she had probably always wanted. Also, an interesting side note is the lack of bookstores looted.

4. Be sure to “Right size your bug-out vehicle
a. Simply put, don’t try to put a 10 gallon load in a 5 gallon bucket. Have a big enough vehicle to accommodate what you need to bring. If you have too much stuff, try to pre-position the bulkiest and heaviest items ahead of time. Be sure to leave enough room in your vehicle for people and pets. If you can’t pre-position the bulkiest stuff at the far end; consider renting storage space in some small town along your intended bug-out route. If necessary, keep a small trailer at the midpoint as well. Also remember that unexpected things may/can/will happen and you will need to change your plans accordingly. Therefore, only the non-essential “nice to have things”, not the essential for survival things, should be stored at waypoints along the way.

5. Don’t oversize your bug-out vehicle
a. A corollary to the above is having a vehicle that is too big. Big is not always better. We’ve all seen in footage of the highways during the Hurricane Katrina and Rita emergencies. Massive Gridlock. If/when you need to get off the highway onto a secondary road you’ll need to know if your Jumbo Superbago or SUV with the extra-long Airfoil trailer can negotiate any tight turns and/or low clearances on your Plan B, C, and D routes. I don’t even want to discuss how much fuel bigger vehicles consume.

6. Expect no fuel to be available along the way
a. My Dodge pickup gets 18 mpg fully loaded and I have a 22 gal fuel tank. For those of us who are lacking the math gene; that works out to 396 miles per tank and my destination is 600 miles away. Hmmm. That means I need an additional 10 gallons or so. Three options present themselves; get a larger fuel tank, carry gas cans, preposition fuel along the way.
b. Option one is too pricey $1,000 plus in my case.
c. Option two means using three 5 gallon gas cans. The problem here is that in order to be prepared to leave at any moment; I’d need to keep them all full. My biggest problem here is where to store them. As I mentioned, I live in an apartment so that’s really not an option I’d use except in the direst circumstances and I’d hate to leave them in my truck either. I’ll have to figure this one out.
d. Finally, Option three requires storing them at waypoints along the route. This is a so-so solution. The primary route may change and you can’t count on being able to get to it before you run out of fuel. Secondly, most storage faculties have a serious prohibition on the storage of flammable, toxic, or explosive items.

7. Enough cash or “realistic” barter goods for a few weeks
a. This is one area that I can’t really give any solid advice. Who knows what’ll be acceptable legal tender or barterable goods. You always read in the “Survival Canons” that certain barter goods will be useful. Honestly, I can’t imagine some 7-11 or Wal-Mart clerk accepting pre-1965 silver or ammo for the loaf of bread or gallon of gas I want to buy. Not in the first few days first anyway. I’d suggest that initially, good old greenbacks will do. How many to bring is the big question ($500 $1,000? Fives, Tens, or Twenties?). I can almost bet that by the time the Schumer hits the fan, most, if not all, banks will be shuttered for a “Short term-bank holiday” and ATMs will likewise be shut down . “No checks please.” Inflation may be rampant and gouging will be the name of the game. Remember Dan and TK’s trip in “Patriots” ? $50 a gallon for gas may not be too farfetched.

8. Route selection
a. Take your time starting tomorrow and carefully route the best escape route you can. Note that best doesn’t always equate with fastest. If the shortest route takes you through, or by, a major urban center, you’re just jumping from one frying pan into another. Use your GPS en-rote to see what other routes are nearby. Use on-line mapping software, on-line (Google or MapQuest) or a PC or Mac-based routing program. Test different routes and compare times and distances. Most of better routing software also shows gas stations, food, Wal-Mart’s, etc., along your route. Learn to use the software now; not when it’s crunch time. Again, Dan and TKs trip in “Patriots” . Parallel routes to the Interstates perhaps?

9. Expect Societal Breakdown
a. Don’t count on your neighbor’s good intentions. Yep, you know which neighbors I mean. They’re the ones down the block with all of the expensive toys who had nothing put aside for an emergency and now are demanding you provide them food, water, and even transportation. Be prepared for incidents of aggression, attempted assault, and theft of supplies. You may need to resort to serious means to defend yourself and your loved ones traveling with you. (I hate to keep referring to “Patriots” but the description of the Laytons’ harrowing trip out of Chicago will be much truer than we care to think. )
b. Be especially wary en route. When you stop for whatever reason, you may be approached by others wanting food, or fuel, or other essentials. Help those you feel are truly desperate to the best of your ability. However, you may have to be rather aggressive to deter insistent requests by overly aggressive fellow refugees. This is a good time to be traveling with like-minded, security-conscious friends, so that all concerned can provide mutual security and back-up.

10. Trust but verify
a. I was originally going to title this section “Trust no one”, however, I feel that is just a bit to cynical. There will be those you meet along the way who are true Samaritans. But, there are also those may have few if any compunction related to “liberating” a few of your items as a donation for their efforts. Or, in the worst case, there will be some full-blown predators out there masquerading as shepherds waiting for the sheep to come to them. Be wary of all help; including that from our friends in the government.

11. Be wary of Government help.
a. I don’t know what will happen if I need to bug-out; but one thing I can be sure of is that if you should stop for help at any government facility; the first thing they will do is ask if you have any weapons with you. This is pretty much standard police procedure in any case. The second thing they will do is take any weapons you have from you. It’s as simple as that. They will claim they are doing it for your own protection but you can be certain you will never see your weapons again. Confiscating weapons was illegally done in New Orleans and few of the confiscated weapons were ever recovered. As unconstitutional as it was, they still to this day, justify taking the weapons as being in the best interest of the public. Forgetting of course that they were seizing the weapons of people least likely to use them against the forces of law and order an all the while never venturing near the danger zones in New Orleans where the actual goblins with illegal weapons resided. Additionally, you can probably also be sure that they will also take whatever food, or other goods you have that they deem necessary, to redistribute it among others who weren’t quite so well prepared as you. How dare you greedy selfish people who prepared have more than others who didn’t?

I hope that you will think about what I have presented here and do your best to be prepared. I hope you all make it to your destinations safe and sound.