John and Jahyoo
Before my immaculate summer vacation, I was having my last adult class. The students were asking about my summer plans. I obliged and told them all about my plans to couchsurf and hitchhike across Japan. The return, buy a new bike and journey across the open roads of Korea's finest country side they can offer all the way down to Jeju Island. I got a lot of oohs and aahs and some wows and a few "I envy you"s. One student asked how I felt about riding across the country on a bike like that alone. After a quick 3-5 seconds of hard thinking, I responded in the most logical and language-barrier friendly way I could, "Free." I thought a bit about this conversation on the road. I also thought about a good name for my bike. I was on some mountain somewhere and was thinking about that conversation.
I pulled my bike over and in my cellphone, I looked up the word for free and then freedom. I like the word Jahyoo. It felt good. Plus, it wasn't difficult to pronounce. That is how I came up with the name for her.
So, I packed my shiz and hit the road Jack. The weather was amazing when I left. A slight breeze but not a cloud in the sky. A good temperature, enough to make you appreciate the feel of the flow as you rode along at 120 kph.
I rode along for quite sometime. I stopped pics and snacks sometimes. I ended up coming upon some clouds. I stopped at a store to ask about the weather. Lots of rain I gathered as they offered me a cigarette and soju. They were kind enough to let me check the internet. Weather wasn't looking good for my trip.
really reminded me of a ride I took with my dad and his mom in Tennessee
"Should I turn around and go back." Hell no! Onward march. I covered me back with the rain pack I prepared. However, I was unprepared for myself. I didn't even have so much as a long sleeve shirt. The drizzle would come and go for a bit, then finallty it opened up a little more. I stopped in a tiny village and asked some guy on his porch if there was a place to stay there. I had already decided that I would be stuck in some in the tiny place for a three day stint while it poured on me. He said no and that I had to go to Taepaek which was about an 90 minutes away. I asked him if I could buy a jacket or some kind of long sleeves. He walked into his home and game me the most hideous sleeves I've ever seen and asked for 3,000 won. I said thank you as I took the wet money out of my pocket.
random beautiful spot along the way
Once in Taepaek, I went to the police station to ask for a cheap motel. They had me follow them and took me to a motel. Apart from the one cop not knowing is numbers too well, I was able to check-in pretty easily for 40,000. Of course, there was no dryer for my soaking wet clothes. I took a long hot shower and wrung out my clothes the best I could. Luckily I had a hair dryer.
I sat in the room and held the hair dryer on my clothers for a while. I read while I held so it wasn't a complete waste. After about 30minutes or so, a Macgyver moment spawned and rigged up the hair dryer to hang and blow on the clothes. I rotated things often. This went on for a few hours I believe. I spent most of the time reading my book and a little bit writing in my journal.
I became very fond of the journal during this trip. It was a gift to me from my friend Christy back in Georgia. It is a handmade book from Honduras. She bought it in New Orleans when she went on an art trip for her college art club. It is made of cornsilk, asparagus and all sorts of random foods. Everyone who sees it thinks the world of it. I am very appreciative of the kind gift. I have been writing as small as possible on the pages and using the front and back (of course) so that I can puts lots of stories in it. I will try to put some exerts from there in here since they were more "in the moment" rather than this current reflection.
I left the room and hit the streets. I tried to contact some couchsurfers in the area but there were only two.
To my surprise, when I was leaving the PC room, I saw one of them on the street. I recognized him from the pictures on his profile. I stopped him to tell him that I had sent him an email. He informed me that it would not be a problem to stay with him, but I had already checked into the motel and he was on his way out of town. So I asked where the foreign communitys pent their evenings. He told me. I checked the bar later that evening but there was no one there. I spent most of my time that night hair drying my clothes. The shoes took the longest. I ended up going to sleep with the dryer running. I was fortunate and woke up several times throughout the night and rotated the shoes. Luckily, the dryer never overheated and all of my things were almost completely dry by morning.
fog rolling off the mountains in taebeak
I woke up pretty early, around 6 or so. The weather was damp and cold, but not raining. I wasted no time. I hopped on the bike and hit the road. This portion of the trip was a bit nerve wrecking. It was cold, misty and about as foggy as I had ever seen. I was pretty high up in the mountains and there were many rains bands from Typhoon Kiko (the culprit of all my bad weather) SW of the country. The thing I had the biggest problem with was the bad Korean drivers. They apparently fail to see the necessity of lights in heavy fog. I'm talking about 10-15meter visibility too. I went down some very steep and slippery slopes, as well us up some as well. Once I finally made my way out of the fog, needless to say I was quite relieved. Of course, there was no sun, but no fog did me just fine.
What laid ahead was well worth the white knuckles I had more than accumulated during this adventure. It was one of the most beautiful journies of my life. I regret not having taken more photographs, but as we all should be keenly aware of, pictures never do nature the justic that it deserves. Everything was extra green too and lush because of the rain. I was very pleased with the trip at this point. This was when it turned into the real adventure. The fog rolling off the mountains, the cars rolling along and smiling at me as I pass them by, the rural busstops and the old and young people waiting for the bus, the occasional village with the traditional architecture, the many-many, oh so many rice paddies, small gardens, big gardens and medium size gardens with little old ladies and men picking the vegetables from them with their little asian hats and bicycles waiting by the road to carry their load for the day, the smell of fresh air, vacation and freedom, mountains, lakes, ponds, streams and rivers as far as the eye could see and not a damn care in the world :). This was how I spent the second half of my vacation on this the year 2009 in South Korea.