The Shaky Squad

Possible alternate titles include “New Beginnings”, “A Clean Start,” “On the Road Again,” “Three Rules, Two Years” and other puns, wordplays, and allusions that I have decided it’s better not to waste time trying to think up or write down. That’s because I’ve got better things to write about…like how, after three months of estivation (at least as far as cycling is concerned), I’m finally riding again. This time, with friends.

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That’s right, there are other people insane enough to do this with me. May I introduce: The Shaky Squad! Does that sentence need to end in a question mark?

Let me rephrase. Please allow me to introduce: The Shakies!

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What is this “Shaky” moniker that I’ve been throwing about so joyously? It all started in 2007 when two shy middle school girls in one of my hagwon classes were taking turns reading out loud from a textbook. They each read a couple of sentences with relative ease, then came to a stop. I encouraged them to continue reading, but they only hung their heads in silence. I pushed a little harder and got them to read the first few words, but they both seemed unwilling to go any further. Figuring they were having pronunciation trouble, I thought I’d try to help them out. “This word is ‘Shaky.’ ‘Shaky.’ Both girls blushed, swallowed giggles, and refused to meet my gaze. Something was up, but I couldn’t get them to divulge just what.

Later, when I asked my boss, all became clear: in Korean, the word μƒˆλΌ (pronounced “Say-key”) can mean a cute baby animal, your pinky finger, or, to quote the dictionary, “(offensive) bastard, (informal) creep, (offensive) son of a bitch.” It’s only natural that we would turn it into a term of endearment, right?

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Now that that’s out of the way: readers of this blog will certainly be familiar with Shaky the First, Mingyu Lee– he had already been planning a monstrous cycle ride for several years when I first met him, and while I had kicked the idea around a bit after hosting some cycling couchsurfers of my own, I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to make it happen had I not had Mingyu to set out with. We left Korea together in August 2012, rode for about ten weeks down the east coast of China, and then went our separate ways because of visa complications, and perhaps unspoken desires to try riding solo. After a month-long reunion in Taiwan last winter, we split again, not knowing when or where we’d meet again.

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Sometime in late August, mostly out of the blue, I got an email from him that went something like this: “Where are you? Thailand, right? I want to ride again. With you. I’m arriving in Bangkok next week. And bringing a friend. Come meet me at the airport.” Can do!

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Despite never having traveled abroad at length before we took the boat to China, Mingyu has been an awesome traveler from the get-go. He’s happy to sleep on floors, poo in the woods, and scrape by on fried rice for weeks at a time; only God knows the source of his boundless energy and endless optimism. In all the time we’ve traveled together, I can only recall one time when he complained. It was because we had ridden so much that day that he hadn’t had a chance to play his ukulele.

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Shaky the Second is Chris Buchmann. He and I go back even further. We met in 2008 in Daegu and quickly fell in brove. We bonded primarily over both being WashU graduates and both having attained a above-average mastery of the Korean language. Living on opposite corners of town, we were never able to spend that much time together. To make things worse, Chris left for India shortly after we met, then I went back to the USA shortly after he returned. When I came back to Korean in 2009, I lived on his couch for a month before I left for India. Then, when I got back (again), he left to attend grad school in Seattle. Throughout it all, there was a constant give and take of stuff – me selling him my possessions, him selling them back to me later and then some. Perhaps most importantly, Chris sold me the projector that I used for my Daegu Green Living eco-film nights and the bicycle and panniers that became the first step on my path to cycle vagabondage.

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Throughout the past five years, Chris and I have kept in touch pretty regularly, conversing often about those terrifying questions that all expats have to ask themselves every so often: “Where should I go next?” (answer: anywhere, as long as it’s on a bike) and “When should I go home?” (answer: not yet). Having lived abroad for the better part of the last ten years, and even in places as remote as West China and The ‘Stans, Chris is well-schooled in the art of getting along while being completely lost.


Perhaps even more impressive is that Chris has decided to ride for charity – he’s aiming to raise $14,000 (one dollar per kilometer between Bangkok and Turkey) for Liberty in North Korea, an organization that helps North Korean refugees make it safely to South Korea and elsewhere, where they can begin to lead happy and healthy lives. If you’d like to support him, please click here or on the photo/link above.


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Shaky the Third is Minsung Kim, a friend of Mingyu’s through farming and baseball in Korea. He didn’t have the time or the cash to set out with us last year, but now he’s saved up a bit. He’s also been reading our blogs over the past year and knows what to expect. He’s got a passion for politics and deep talks, and an interest in vegetarianism and other means of saving the world. That, and a pair of fresh eyes with which to enjoy the road. I’m glad to welcome him to our posse.

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Other news of note: my and Chris’ tent sponsorship is alive and well. Our Big Sky Revolution 2P tents made it from China to Wyoming to Arkansas to Thailand in one piece (so to speak) and have now made it through three nights’ worth of camping. As advertised, they’re light (half the weight of my last tent), compact (half the packed-down size), and yet still spacious (same footprint as before). In fact, the tents are so great that they may actually lead to some shaky strife. If I ever wake up in the middle of the night to relieve myself in the forest, I won’t be surprised to find Mingyu or Minseong snuggled up in my bed when I get back. We haven’t had to pitch them in the rain yet, but my tent did survive the barrage of acorns and gooseberries that dropped down out of the canopy of Khun Chae national park.

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We promised Bob, the dude behind Big Sky, that in return for a good deal on the tents we’d send him occassional photos that make the tents look awesome. Sweet, we were going to do that anyway!

By the way, did you notice anything strange about that picture? A little something lacking, perhaps?

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Yep, I let Mingyu do this to me. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time at temples? Actually, I think of shaving your head as something like a ten-day silent meditation retreat: it’s something that everybody should try once. How can you know yourself if you’ve never taken a break from all the craziness of the world at large? Likewise, how can you know yourself if you’ve never even seen your own scalp?

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There was also a sort of ceremonial aspect to the shearing. Just over a year ago, after arriving in China but before starting to ride, Mingyu sheard off nearly two years’ worth of hair. Why not do it again? But for real this time.

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Now I know: I look a bit like either Nosferatu or Valdemort. Curiousity satisfied. Time to get started covering it all back up again.

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Note the gear reduction: goodbye old tent, old sleeping mat, and a few other useless things I had been toting around for far too long. Hello, compact sleeping mat, high-tech tent, and ukulele!


Five days ago, the Shaky Squad officially hit the road. So far we’ve made it over two mountains, camped in two national parks, hitched a ride to some hot springs, doused ourselves in waterfalls, cooked sticky rice pancakes, whipped up some makeshift guacamole, tried a new moster fruit, and rented a cute, pink cottage. Life is good!

180km left until Laos. See you again before then, hopefully!

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3 Responses to The Shaky Squad

  1. lea says:

    Guys , i just can’t stop to laugh . so good picture ahaha
    wish all the best on your trip . Good hair dresser , mingyu will know what to do when he will comeback … somewhere πŸ˜€
    See ya πŸ˜‰
    Michi Saekkiyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa !!!!!

    • Michael Roy says:

      Lea! Thanks for stopping by! And for commenting here on my blog rather than on my post. λ„Œ μ§„μ§œ μ„ΌμŠ€μŸμ΄μ•Ό! μ—΄κ³΅ν•˜κ³  μžˆμ–΄λΌμ΄!

  2. ian chen says:

    Maybe light bulbs won’t be needed in nights,The Shaky Squad has TWO natural.