Bugs In My Teeth -or- Why I Ride

I feel privileged to be a guest blogger on my own blog, and a day like today is plenty reason for me to make my debut.

I started the day with my usual facebook surf.  Today, however, I chose not to ignore the birthdays and wished a happy birthday to Robert orr, the man who got me into cycling.
Turns out the army didn’t treat me too well.  While trying to clear out of my current duty station I ran into road block after road block (who knew the army didn’t work on Thursdays?) collecting all of one signature in all the hours of work I put forth.  This, however, is what gave me the impetus to ride my bike today.

Making my way along the han river I was astounded by the elevated level of shennaniganary that was taking place.  I’ve never seen so many uncoordinated people trying to learn to ride a bike without hands in the space of 45 minutes!  Fearing for my life I almost turned around, but I pressed on anyway hoping to make it out to the north side of paldang dam for the first time.  An hour into my ride I finally entered hanam city and made my way across the paldang bridge.

I was elated as I looked out over the valley that I was about to ride through.  I had one of those feelings of invincibility that, fortunately, is not strong enough to overrule good judgment to the point where you fling yourself over the railing of the bridge simply because you to feel the thrill of freefall.  Invincibility faded into contentment and that emotion was my companion for the rest of the night.

The newly paved bike path on the north side of the paldang bridge was built over the top of old railroad tracks.  Personally I think this is an idea that should be adopted by other countries.  The pathway is already cleared, the bridges are already built.  All you need to do is pour concrete.

Riding through unfamiliar territory transformed me.  I stopped looking at my cyclocomputer.  I no longer cared what my average speed was.  I wasn’t timing intervals.  I was taking in the world around me and there was a lot to take in.  

There were bike loving robots sculpted from junk.

(by the time I finished taking this picture there was a line of 4 koreans who wanted to do the same thing)
There were denizens dwelling within the robots.

There were flowers on the side of the bike path.
(I was disappointed that I didn’t see any Koreans copying this behavior.)

There were railway bridges converted for pedestrian/cyclist use.

There was a tunnel that was about 8 degrees cooler than outdoor temperature with motion activated lights

There were lights telling you when it was safe to cross a road that intersected the bike path.

This path was geared so specifically to the needs of the cyclists.  Many of the shops lining the path have free compressed air access for filling tires and a stock of basic cycling supplies.  Korea has also installed small phone booths along the bike trails that have a stamp inside allowing you to collect stamps from different locations around the country.

One of my favorite finds was the place where I stopped to have dinner.  I saw a sign advertising 10 gogi mandu (meat dumplings) for 3,500 won (approx. $3USD).  I walked up and found that the establishment was being run by two young boys with not an adult in sight.  There was a banner next to the establishment portraying its glory days with cars and customers lined up to sample it’s spectacular fare.  I sat down and bit into the most delicious mandu that I have ever had.  By the time I got to the 10th they were alright.  I guess the first was enhanced by hunger.

As night fell the bugs came out, but I just couldn’t seem to wipe the smile off my face.  I was stopping every couple of minutes to take pictures.  The Koreans walking along the path seemed pleasantly surprised to see a wayguk (foreigner) that could so expertly greet them in their own language.  Fortunately conversations never progressed far enough for them to be disappointed.  As I made my way home in the dark I started reflecting on the last 3 ½ hours and remembered why I started riding.  I don’t ride for the exercise.  I don’t ride to save the earth.  It’s not to save money, and it’s not just to get from point a to point b.

I ride for the freedom.

I ride to relieve stress.

I ride because I need to know what I will see in the next mile.

I ride because it’s fast enough to see a lot, but not so fast that you miss it.

I ride to celebrate other people’s birthdays…

and to realize that I  was the one who received the present.

I ride to meet new friends,

and for bugs in my teeth.

paldang dam

sunset over paldang dam

view from converted railway bridge

new railway bridge running parallel to converted bridge
valley from the center of the paldang bridge


Kristina said...

almost you persuade me to be a cyclist. so glad you didn't die in your bike crash way back when, and especially glad you got your bike fixed. Also glad to hear you are getting good protein every bike outing.

OUR HOUSE said...

Great post! If this post doesn't make people want to go biking, then I don't know what would. I've got to tell Joe to ride out there when he gets back.

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