T-minus Oh My Lord This Sh*te is F’ing Happening!

The last couple months have been a bit hazy for me. Evidence: A little while ago, while I was biking around the city, some jerk in a white SUV started honking at me. I gave him a piece of my mind through his tinted window, yelling things like “If you want to pass me, just do it!” and “I’ve got the right to use this road, too, you know!” (I was pretty proud that I knew how to say that). He kept honking, and eventually things escalated to the point where he stopped to get out of the car and I turned around, dismounted my bike, and prepared for the worst. I started mentally listing all the reasons why bikes are better than cars and why that fact alone ought to be enough justify any and all of my road behavior. The guy got out of the car, with a big fat smile beaming across his face. It turned out the SOB was in fact one of my best friend’s fathers and had been beeping to say hi. He asked if my mom had returned safely to the States, if I’d had a good trip with Jeff, and how long I’d been back – they were waiting for word of my return so they could invite me over for dinner. I did some quick calculations and told him about three weeks.  Only later did I realize that the answer was more like seven.

The last two months have been too good to call a funk, but too weird not to.  Even though I have a free place to stay, several families willing to feed me, a free means of transport, money in the bank, and friends all around, I’ve been a little confused.  Daegu feels so much like “home” that I can hardly imagine living anywhere else; and yet not having any work to occupy most of my time generally leaves me wondering why I’ve stuck around so long.  I did have to wait about two weeks for a new US passport and three for my visa for China, but in the meantime, I could’ve biked around the country, I could’ve done more prepping for my trip, I could’ve packed up more stuff to send home, I could’ve sold off the stuff not worth keeping. Mostly, though, I just killed the daylight hours cooking, doing dishes, reading Mother Jones, and watching the Colbert report, then headed out on weekends and evenings to hang out with a wide variety of splendid peoples I have been fortunate enough to meet while living here. Inevitably, the conversation would turn to my bike trip: when are you going?  are you ready?  what’s the plan? 

I could never answer any of the questions.  In fact, this is the reason that until now I haven’t blogged about the trip. I wanted to write something big and fluffy about freedom, something trumpeting up the trip and making it into some sort of Odyssey. The reality, though, was that inertia of just being around Daegu was stifling, too easy and pleasant for me to want to escape. Despite having been talking about the trip for six months and gearing up for almost four, it still didn’t quite feel real.  Even after giving away more than half my clothes to the Beatiful Store (think Goodwill), shipping all my mementos back to Virginia, and dropping $700 on a new used bicycle, I hadn’t felt that “click.” 

I still hadn’t felt it when two friends and I did a weekend ride about 100km (each way) down the Grand Canal river course, camping out for one night drinking rice wine and frolicking in the river. Even on the next trip, a week-long jaunt around Jeju, where two other friends and I rode about 60k a day and camped or mooched every night for a week, something was still missing. Even when telling just about everyone we met that we were in training for a longer ride, from China to who knows where, I continued deflating every sentence by adding…”but that’s just a plan in our heads.” 

Then, on Tuesday, my Chinese visa came in the mail. I had applied for the most massive one – twelve months, multiple entries, ninety days on each stay, figuring mostly that since the price was the same I might as well aim for the stars and wait for the consulate to crush my dreams. Instead, they gave me the green light, and I’m completely in the clear until July 2013!  Not that I intend to spend a whole year in China, but it’s good to know that I can pop in and out of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos, and maybe even Tibet (fingers crossed on that one) relatively freely.  Next thing I knew, I found myself in the dollar store, buying the last little odds and ends: a tongue scraper, some carabiner clips, CR2032 batteries, bag organizers, crappy rubber shoes.

Then I realized that, 1) I have everything I need, and 2) I don’t have anything left to do in Daegu.  Sounds like it’s time to go.  I woke up this morning, packed all my bags, and decided to give my bike one last tune-up. Unfortunately, it turned out that the back rim was bent pretty bad and needed some serious truing from a hand much more experienced than mine. I took it over to the old man who’s in charge of the longest-running bike shop in town (80 years) and had him work his magic, and I also bought a few extra spare parts.  Now, with the bike in good shape, and with all foreseeable problems properly prepared for*, I really have no excuse but to get the f on the road. 

So, with the intro out of the way, if I may, I’d now like to get to the real point of this post, which is that I bought lots of sweet stuff and need you to ogle it.** 

Here’s my brand new used bicycle.  I bought it from German guy in Seoul who was substantially taller than me, which means that the bike is also a liiiiiiittle on the big side. This means that you’ll also probably eventually see a post about me falling off.  The bike originally cost about 1400 dollars, but I got it for 700.  It also came loaded with a handlebar bag (about 60 bucks), custom climbing handlebars (50 each), a high-powered rechargeable flashlight (80), a wireless speedometer/odometer (70), and several safety lights (50). My buddy and partner-in-crime Mingyu also furnished me with a quality front and rear racks.  

Care to know about my load? I’ve got two 22-liter waterproof rear bags, two 15-liter waterproof front bags , a handlebar bag, a tent, a sleeping mat, and a 40-liter backpack with a sleeping sack in the bottom compartment, with the top empty for fruit or whatever else I decide to carry around. 

Handlebar bag: phone, flashlight, fake wallet filled with expired cards, camera, a bit of money, compass/thermometer/whistle/magnifying glass/LED,  plus waterproof wrap and belt for fanny-pack conversion. 

Front Bag 1 (“Cycling”): Toiletries/medical supplies, a hammock with incorporated mosquito net, tools, spare parts.

Front bag 2 (“Cooking”):  Two pots, two cup/bowls, salt and pepper, one container of leftover pampered chef chipotle seasoning, one spork/knife combo, one UV water sterilizer pen, one water bottle full of couscous, and a bag each of peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and raisins. Conspicuously absent: fuel for stove.  

Rear Bag 1 (“Computing”): Laptop, hard drive, mouse, harmonica, kindle, cords, chargers, books, maps, diary.

Rear Bag 2 (“Clothing”): One large organizer of riding/farming clothes, one small organizer of “looking like a normal person clothes”, one swimsuit, two towels, waterproof rain jacket, waterproof pants, waterproof cap. I’ll probably also stash my real wallet, passport, and cash supply somewhere in this bag.

Here’s the whole happy family. Meet Almost Everything That I Can Imagine Needing For The Next Phase Of My Life.

I loaded everything out and went out for a short ride around downtown this afternoon. Everything seems to handle well, and riding isn’t particularly tough. I was able to maintain normal downtown speeds of 25-30 km/h. Definitely enjoyed honks coming from taxi and bus drivers and the stares coming from pedestrians and everyone at bus stops.

The apartment complex just broadcasted a typhoon warning: close all your windows and remove all plants and clothes from your verandas. Good thing I’m not out in my tent tonight! Tomorrow, though, I’m out of here rain or shine.***


*anyone care to wager on how soon I’ll be eating those words?
**One other reason preparing has been so hard is that I hate spending money to procure unnecessary things that are made by using nasty machines and toxic chemicals to transform parts of our precious Earth.
***Unless, that is, it rains.
****Full disclosure: the plan is to cycle for a week or so around mainland Korea, then to spend a weekend plus a few more days here in Daegu to say bye to my best buds, who are all leaving in early August, then to spend one more weekend with my two Korean families, then to be out of Korea and into China by August 10th.  So soooooon!

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8 Responses to T-minus Oh My Lord This Sh*te is F’ing Happening!

  1. I’m so excited to hear about your trip! Bike trips rule. Have a blast!

  2. Bombanaut says:

    I know the PB is safe and sound. It’s going to see so much!

  3. JH says:

    Very impressive. I look forward to hearing about the trip. How’s your harmonica playing???

  4. Andy says:

    Trip sounds awesome. Be safe and have a great time.

  5. 이제 어디야 어디야 궁금하다!

  6. Jeje… “fake wallet” that makes me laugh a lot…!! Amazing…!!! Hope to do some trip like that when I grow up..!!^^

  7. Dave says:

    When I first read “dollar store” my mind pictured second hand store, and I was surprised that:
    a) they would sell a used tongue scraper.
    b) you would buy it.

    As for your packing/equipment strategy, I have two thoughts:

    1) find a way to strap your backpack to the back racks. Your back will thank you.
    2) I see you have some WD-40 packed. I’m not an expert, but I don’t think it’s recommended to lube your bike w/ it, as it’s more of a de-greaser. There are bike specific products that are ideal for your chain/gears, and front shock respectively. Maybe you already have them. There’s also the reasonable possibility I have no idea what I’m talking about.


  8. Mike says:

    JH: The harmonica skills are nonexistent but having now experienced some serious hospitality I really want to learn so that I can play people some tunes!

    DCP: The backpack is for sure strapped down on the back rack. Actually I found out that I can use the compression belts on my tent to attach my sleeping mat, then buckle my backpack around the whole kaboodle. Then with everything bungeed onto the back rack, the backpack gives me several compartments of access to the most frequently needed stuff, like pants and the reflective vest and cucumbers.