It was supposed to start on Thursday night. But after getting home from work, and getting something to eat, and then it started to get dark, and I thought I could start on Friday. I woke up late on Friday morning feeling extremely totally completely unambitious. In my defense, I did just finish writing a workbook for the entire year, plus two weeks of summer camp materials, plus teaching summer camp. Plus I’m semi-pathetic.
Saturday I woke up feeling full of vim and vigor, or as my dad would say, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I took my bike on the subway, but decided at Kongik university station, that I really didn’t want to transfer, and rode my bike to DongSeoul station. I got a ticket to Asan, where my journey began.
Part of me felt is was cheating to take a bus to Asan, but then getting in or out of a major city like Seoul on a bike can be a bit, shall we say, interesting. I chose Asan because it was right on the road I wanted to get on. So when I arrived in Asan, I started on the road. I felt pretty good. Until the first hill.
I ran into a small little town called Sillyeon. Yes. That was the name, and I wanted to stay in a town with silly in its name, but unfortunately there wasn’t a hotel or motel, and the one yagkwaon looked a bit more than just dicey. So I continued to Yesan.
I thought getting to Yesan by 4 was pretty good considering it was my first day on the bike. I got a little hotel that had some pretty Bates-ish tendencies, as well as a whole lot of mirrors and a mural of a naked woman in the shower. I didn’t sleep well at all.
The road to Hongseong was mostly flat, although there wasn’t any water to be seen yet. I stopped at a rather nice little rest stop and met up with a group of Korean cyclists going in the opposite direction. They were on their way back to Seoul and I stopped for a bit longer than I had originally planned (not that I had much of a plan) and shared a brunch like repast and some tales of the road.
Just out of Hongseong I met up with 4 young Korean guys who were headed to Boreyeong as well as I was. They kidnapped me in a really sweet and adorable way. I told them they didn’t have to slow down for me, because I was after all, old and out of shape. They assured me, quite often that they wanted to go very slow as well. So slow and steady we went up hills and down hills. They nagged me to put on more sunscreen, and they stopped very often and went very slow. I felt kind of bad, but they assured me that they weren’t going slow for me, but instead, because their bikes weren’t good quality and one of them had a sore leg. They worried I was working to hard, and in general took very good care of me all the way to Boreyeong.
It was really beautiful. But. The sun was brutal. I mean brutal. The road was up hill, both ways and I realized that I really was out of shape. I was so unprepared. The 4 young men were taking a trip before going into the army. They wanted to make sure I knew they were not high school students, and to be honest, they were very kind and so good to me. It was kind of fun to be kidnapped by such nice young men. When we got to Boreyong, I wanted to get a room and stop for the day, even though it was still kind of early. As I said, the sun was brutal and I was out of shape. They wanted to go to Dacheon beach and I assume whoop it up before going into the army next week. At the cross roads they shook my hand and. Zoom. They were off.
The hotel I got was a bit more expensive than I wanted but was very nice. There was a view of the river and an absence of naked women murals in the shower. Once I checked in, I took a short walk. The downtown area was empty in the heat, so I bought some bread and a couple of cold drinks and headed back to the hotel. I was only going to lie down for a couple of hours, until the worst of the heat had passed. I woke up at 1:30 am. I decided that even though I was a bit peckish, I could wait until morning.
By 7 am, I was ready to go. I thought for a few minutes about staying in Boreyong for the day, but since I had some vim and a little a bit of vigor, I decide to make a go of it.
It was misty and almost rainy, and a few times on the down hill it was cold. The road was winding and mostly flat, at least for the first little bit. There were trees and lakes, and lots and lots of green fields and beautiful little farms, and some of my favorite roadside flowers. I made really good time, without a relentless sun hounding me or the draining heat ( a few time I even felt almost cold going down hill). At first I wanted to go to Janghang, but when I got there, I realized that Gunsan was only 10 more kilometers away. The road there was beautiful, with a sea wall that came almost up to the road itself. There were some interesting restaurant/bar/hotels up near the ocean, and the bridge was fantastic. The tide was out, so I saw ghostly ships stranded in the mudflats. The road from Boreyeong to Gunsan was the best part of the trip.
In Gunsan, the hotel I stopped at was apparently not in the cool, interesting part of town. It was directly on the road I wanted to go on in the morning, but there was a dearth of restaurants, or small shops. I did find a place that had galbi with a sweet mustard sauce and some of the best kimchi I’ve had in Korea (and that is saying something). I walked around a little, but there really wasn’t much to see in that part of the city. I have a feeling the central part would be quite interesting. I found a 7-11 and got a coffee and read my book.
From Gunsan I went to Ilksan. At first I was going to stop in Ilksan, but since it was only 9am, I thought maybe I should keep going. The only problem was, as I was eating some noodles for breakfast, was that I was tired. And my shoulders hurt from my back pack. And my face was starting to get burned (despite using lots and lots of sunscreen – I’ve decided that Neutrogena Ultra Sheer sunblock is almost useless). So from Ilksan I went down south to Gimje, and then to Buan. In Buan I really wanted to quit. I know that I had originally decided to go until Wednesday, and it was only Tuesday afternoon, but…. sometimes it is best to quit while you are ahead. (hence the semi- part of semi-epic). Buan was a nice little town. It even had a whale fountain. But it was still a bit to early and the road to Jeong eup was calling me. I am really glad I did.
On the road I passed one of the nicest very small town. It had tree and flower lined streets from the start of the town to the highway. And on the way to Jeong eup I ran into a couple who were biking to the bus station there too. We met up a few times and passed each other a few times, then at the end of the road we rode together to the bus terminal. I was kind of glad they took me along, because I would have gotten very lost.
Between their poor English and my worse Korean we did manage to communicate a bit, and I learned that they often took days off, and would take a bus to one town, then ride their bikes to another town, then take a bus back home. It gave me ideas.
Here are some more photos of the road:
I wanted to get some pictures of the cranes and egrets that hung out in the rice paddies, but they were not co-operative. As soon as I stopped to take a photo they would swoop up and gracefully fly away before I could get my camera out. They were kind of cool.
I got into Seoul at 10pm on Tuesday, and I’m going to call it a great trip.