So Long Korea

Sunday was a bittersweet day for me. I woke up and I knew what I had to do. I had to disassemble the bike and pack it into the bike box. In doing so, it would conclude my riding days on my brother’s Bianchi. I have to hand back his beloved touring bike when I return to America. I’m glad he will finally have his bike back as I know he has surely missed it.

I had to get one more ride in before packing it up, so I headed out on the same route that Sean and I had done last week. This time I took Sean’s riding tip to heart (pedaling faster in a lower gear) and it was a big help. I did end up getting caught in some really hot Summer mid-day heat, but I wanted to expose myself to those conditions as they would be the norm for this Summer’s journey.

During this last ride, I did a lot of reflection on all of my rides in both Yeosu and Asan. I can wholeheartedly say that I have learned a lot about road biking in those seven months. Most notably, I would say tuning/maintaining a road bike, riding safe in cities, riding safe in the countryside, handling a road bike at fast downhill speeds, and climbing hills were all things that I learned. Changing a flat on the side of the road, was another thing. I can’t forget that!

I am looking forward to the upcoming touring adventures in America, but I think these past bike tours will hold a special place in my heart. I don’t know what else to say other than, so long Korea. See you in nine weeks.

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Riding with Sean from the Bike Shop

Monday (6/6) was a holiday here in Korea. I had been wanting to schedule a ride with Sean from the bike shop that I frequent. He works six days a week with only Monday off and unfortunately Monday is my busiest day of the week. So, this was our only chance. He also has been leaning more towards mountain biking these days whilst having a full carbon Giant road bike that has only been ridden a handful of times. It was my job to get him to break that habit and get him on his road bike. It literally weighs half as much as my cromoly steel framed bike. Jealous… however he didn’t have the really cool panniers that I have!

Starting at 7am, there were very few people out. He had a route which was very well planned. We started at the bike shop and headed out towards Daejeon (south), and went over some steep mountain passes. Luckily, I had done parts of his route before and knew about the steep grades. It was around 80km which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you factor in all of the mountains that we had to overcome, I was satisfied with what we accomplished.

During the trip Sean had given me some tips. He mentioned that I am doing too much of the work using my leg power. Instead he said that I should let the bike do more of the work (i.e. use a lower gear and pedal slightly faster). It’s surprisingly simple advice, yet effective. I will be keeping that in mind this Summer.

At the end of the ride, we took a detour and Sean let me to this store where little traditional Korean walnut cookies are sold. He bought me a box, and they were absolutely delicious. The picture that I have does not do the taste justice. I highly recommend them. Thanks buddy!

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Lame Wednesday

I headed out Wednesday morning, and as always added some air to my tires before the ride. I filled up my rear tire, then heard a leak. I blew out a tube, oh well, I needed some practice on changing tires when I’m out in the middle of nowhere. I fitted the new tube on and then started pumping it up with my hand pump. As I was about to finish, the stem broke in two. Lame to the nth degree! I have had it with the inefficiencies of hand pumps! They take forever to pump up a tire and right around the 85 psi mark, they become ridiculously tough to pump up. I knew exactly what I had to do. I went to my bike shop, and picked up a heavy duty floor pump that makes pumping tires to 110 psi a breeze. I also picked up a CO2 pump and some extra CO2 refills along with some new tubes. I also remembered that the front tire is getting really old and cracked and the rear was starting to show some wear as well. I decided on the Schwalbe Duranos. I had read that Schwalbe made very tough tires that were more puncture resistant compared to tires of the similar price range. After I checked out, I got the bike shop workers some beers and some snacks. They have given me so many free tune-ups that I had to show my thanks.

I got home and put the new tube and tires in and it was around 4:30, meaning I could still get a decent ride in. I went over to check out the Hoseo Sports Day and then rode off on one of my favorite hilly rides. I was blasting down a steep hill and noticed something feeling a little off in the rear tire. I reached the bottom of the hill and inspected the tire. It was losing air. I must have installed the tube incorrectly. Well I could change the tube, that is if I wasn’t in a rush to cycle and had remembered to pack my new spare tube! I was pretty far out in the country side and while I did forget my new tube, I did remember to bring my CO2 pump. I hooked pumped it up and started riding back. It was a slow leak, however I still rode as quickly as I could back to the apartment. I had to stop two more times to pump it up but eventually made it back. The CO2 pump was definitely a huge help on that ride and will never ride without one (and spare tubes) again!

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Way out there!

“Ahhhhh finally,” is what I was thinking to myself upon my departure on Sunday. There have been too many days of rain, cold, and and lame weekend weather. I decided to head out to myeongsa, not the beach, but the mountain that bears the same name. It was quite the long ride-a-roo, over 6 hours. I want to get into the habit of riding 6 or more hours due to the upcoming tour around the states. If you know HWY 32 by chance, I was on it for hours and it’s not the most exciting highway in Korea. However, it’s not all that busy and has a wide shoulder, so I did it. It’s inevitable when touring in Korea that you will encounter drivers who LOVE to blare their horns at cyclists for no reason whatsoever. So, I do like to rid myself of those wonderful people as much as possible.

I eventually came to the mountain area and found this chill place to have lunch. It was a gazebo surrounded by water with plenty of shade. No one was there, and it was incredibly peaceful. I had some Pear Bag (Paris Baguette [a popular Korean bakery]) and then noticed that I had over lubed my chain due to my leg being covered in oil, nice!

As I was coming back to Baebang, I took some detours that I’ve wanted to explore. Two things that I found were worth the detours. One, a perfect small river to take my raft this Summer, and two, a nice lake where I could also take my raft. It’s been too long since I took my raft out. That needs to change SOON!

Another tour to come this Wednesday, thank you Hoseo University for the holiday!

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A not so great riding day

So I’ve been sick with the flu that is spreading around these days. I know a few other people that have it as well. It’s one of those flus that drains the energy out of you. My strategy so far has been to ignore it and proceed on with daily life as usual. I kept attending my yoga classes, and I wasn’t going to skip out on riding for this weekend. Is it wrong to be in denial about such things?

This morning, after drinking lots of orange juice and eating a sizable breakfast, I headed out on my ride to the back country roads. This was the first day that I started riding without a windbreaker (although I brought it along just in case). Headwinds started picking up, but as Tupac would say when he tours “that’s just the way it is…” I felt tired already because of this flu, but I reminded myself that if I were to get sick durning my trip across america, I would have to push through it. I returned to a place in the backroads that I previously ended short. This time, I wanted to explore a little more of it. It also had some killer hills, which is exactly what I wanted for training purposes.

I discovered that there is an awesome loop that takes me back to the university. I love discovering things like that. Sometimes while looking at Google maps in Korea, small roads can be a little unclear. I kept riding looking for things to take pictures of, but the landscape was bland as bland could be. Snapping a few pictures here and there is something I enjoy about bike touring, and I feel that a blog entry has to have at least a few pictures. So, I pulled off on a well-maintained and desolate road and shot a few photos. At least they show how nice the weather was that day. All in all, I rode for 2.5 hours, which is better than not riding at all.

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Cheonan Cycling Club

5:30am. I woke up after having a cycling dream. Yes, I dream about cycling. Does that mean I have a problem? I get the bike ready, have breakfast, then I’m out the door at 6:20.

I fit the bike in my car, then entered Hochunsan (Hochun Mountain) into the navigation. It was a little further away than I thought, but I managed to make it there by 6:55. There I met Ho Ju (I’m pretty sure I’m butchering his name) and Sa Wol (Korean for “April”). I was waiting for more members to show up, but no one else came so it was just us three. We started out at a nice pace, and I thought to myself that I could easily crank out this ride. At around the 35km mark, we hit some really strong headwinds, and me being like a mast and a sail, especially with my windbreaker on, I was struggling. Luckly, I was able to take my mind off of the wind and instead focus on the nice scenery. We arrived at Doeksan (I think that’s how its spelled). We powered up some intense hills, then took a break next to a restaurant and convenient store. Those nice dudes wanted to buy me a drink, and even though I told them that I would buy, they insisted. So, I asked for a beer. They were a little dumbfounded, but just accepted it as some sort of crazy waegook ritual. I tried to explain to them the benefits of drinking beer while exercising, but I don’t think they understood.

We started out again and maybe it was the beer in me, but I had the urge to not touch my breaks for the whole hill (or mountain that is). I left my two partners in the dust. I slowed down for them to catch up once the hill was over. Riding back was great because now the wind was one our side. We got to know each other a little bit too and talk about cycling trips, and et cetera.

Towards the 80km mark, I was feeling completely worn out. The marathon that I recently ran came into mind. This was like the final leg of the race, and I just needed to power though it. We made it back, and I was super starving. The only thing that would help this dire situation was Domino’s Pizza. I got the bike in the car, said our goodbyes, then rushed over to Domino’s and got a large pizza, which when I arrived home ate in one sitting. I can’t think of too many things in life that are better than victory pizza!

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Daejeon Trip

So after I woke up early on a beautiful, but still cold Saturday morning, I started thinking of trips that I’ve wanted to do, but have not yet done. Daejeon came to mind, and even though it’s definitely a full day ride to just get there, one way, I decided to go for it. I was thinking that I finished all of my work on Friday, and if need be, I would cycle there, then crash in a motel, and ride back on Sunday.

I set out on an epic ride that took the better part of a day. I rode along Hwy 32, which was one of the more desolate highways leading to Daejeon. Parts of the highway were newly paved with wide shoulders, while other parts were worn and had zero shoulder. I started thinking that maybe I’m a crazy waegook with a death wish, riding on these precarious roads. However, it’s not like I have a lot of options with going from city to city in Korea. “Bike friendly roads” doesn’t really translate well into Korean. My crazy thoughts were soon dispelled when I randomly glanced across the road and saw another cyclist. For some reason, that put me back on track and gave me a little more confidence.

At around the 3.5 hour and 100 km mark, I made it to Daejeon. As a side note, I started measuring distance in kilometers because they are like “mile juniors” or “baby miles.” Everything from running to cycling seems easier when using baby miles. Anyway, Daejeon is one huge (geographically) city. I was starving when I got to the gate of the city, and was desperately searching for a pizza restaurant. When all I found was Pizza Hut (yuk), I went for some KimBap Nara.

After eating, I became very tired. I was thinking that if I were in the States, I would just find a patch of grass and lay down for awhile. But, this being Korea, it’s not socially acceptable, unless you’re completely wasted on soju.

I was pedaling on reserve energy when I found Chongnam University. I entered the university and found a quiet wooded park area with a nice fountain. No one was there, so I pulled up to a bench and crashed out for an hour. It was well needed. By the time I woke up, it was already four o’clock. I knew that if I started back to Asan now, I would be riding in the dark on a not so safe road. I road around town and found the bus terminal. I headed in, and bought a ticket to Cheonan. It was my lucky day because the bus was set to leave in eight minutes.

I road back from Cheonan, then dropped by my favorite bike shop to see my buddy Sean. He mentioned that the Cheonan cycling club was meeting tomorrow morning at seven and were cranking out a 90+ kilometer ride. I wanted to say politely that I will have to decline due to my large ride today, but I’ve been searching for a group of people to ride with for some time now. I told him “I’m in!”

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Abandoned amusement park? Kimchi Land!

Well, I went out for a ride on another cold Sunday. Winter lasts for six months here in Korea just to let you know. I wanted to explore some of the back country roads around were I live. I stopped off at a Family Mart to get some food and drinks because I was really heading into to the middle of nowhere.

Things were going along just fine until I hit the mother of all hills. Scratch that, this was a mountain. It was the never ending mountain. It just kept going and going. I have never walked a bike up a hill here in Korea and I didn’t intend to start that day. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done on a bike. I almost passed out when I was about 75% up. Once I reached the top, I stopped to take a picture. Although, it wasn’t a very good picture. I thought it would be fun to ride down and take one of the interesting side roads that I saw. I went down the mountain screaming! I immediately realized why some touring bikes are now being built with disc breaks. It was challenging to slow down. I was thinking to myself at the time, there is no way my car could make it up this hill. It would die!

As I neared the bottom, I took that side road and came across this abandoned amusement park appropriately named: Kimchi Land. Just kidding. But, there were no rides, just a bunch of random pods sharped like fruit with noraebangs (karaoke rooms) inside of them. There were also areas that families could make traditional Korean food. Way in the back was what looked like an abandoned apartment building. The whole thing was really creepy. It would be nice to go back there someday (or night) and check out more of it.

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Touring Asan and Cheonan

Today was a little different than most days as I actually took some time to plan my trip. I thought that by researching some of the popular destinations in the Asan/Cheonan area online, I would see some really cool sites. I planned to see some of the hot springs, botanical gardens, folk villages, and kimchi making villages. I didn’t really find anything all that interesting at any of the destinations. Most of them seemed more geared towards families with children. The Dogo Hot Spring looked interesting, but the price of admission was $15 to $20. I thought long and hard about spending $20 to relax at a hot spring for a few hours, but decided I would rather spend that money on an after ride pizza.

There really is nothing better after an entire day’s ride, than a Domino’s pizza. So, I kept on heading down a not too traffic heavy road and then got hungry. I thought that I would eventually run into some town with a restaurant, but I ended up in a farmland area. I didn’t feel like risking going any further as I was becoming starving. I turned around and headed back, eventually passing Soonchungyeoung University. I found a pizza place, which was really the first restaurant that I saw, and went in. The owner was nice enough to let me bring my bike inside. There was really no place to tie it up outside.

Finally, and perhaps the highlight of this trip was that I found $20 on the side of the road. I first thought it was fake money. I’ve seen fake (play) money on the streets as some companies like to create flyers that resemble fake money. But, it turned out to be real. It was the perfect way to end a ride!

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Trip to Namseoul University!

So, on Sunday, I got an earlier start and was geared up for a full day
ride. The time is drawing near when I must start training for riding
across the states.

I figured I’d add a few more pictures this time around. I always start
off a ride at either paris baguette or dunkin donuts! I take a few
bagels with me to eat later on the ride.

I headed over to the bike shop after paris baguette because one of my
pedals went bad. So, I picked up some new pedals, and got a tune up. I
love that bike shop! They really know there stuff there and unlike
other bike shops in Korea, they have parts on hand. They don’t need to
order parts each time.

I then rode around downtown to the bar I was at the night before. It
was trivia night, and well my team didn’t come in first. We’ll just
leave it at that. The bar’s name is Adonis and I’m not sure how it got
that name.

That catwalk next to the bar is pretty cool. I sometimes see people
jogging up there, round and round they go. Not very healthy if you ask
me with breathing all of those fumes from the cars down below.

Namseoul University was huge! It had a modern feel to it and it also
seemed like a small town in of itself.

I then rode around some nice small farm roads that had next to no traffic.

Funny enough, I just kept going and going for six hours, then it was
like hitting a wall. My body told me that it couldn’t take anymore
abuse. It wasn’t a gradual let down at all, just an abrupt halt in
pedaling strength. Oh well, I made it back to Hoseo, then got some
Isaac’s Toast, then got some shopping in at Lotte Mart.

BTW, I got a call from Lotte Mart today saying that I won, 5,000KW. YAY!



























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