Wherever Your Legs Take You
Soon after arriving in Korea, I bought myself a bicycle to commute in to work. At that time, we lived in a suburb of Hwaseong, in Gyeonggi Province. The town wasn't cycle friendly. In fact, it was hazardous to use the bike. My safe commute took me along agricultural service roads, beside rice paddies and under freeways. In 2010, we moved to Geochang, a town nestled in Daekyu mountain, and Jiri mountain just 25 kms to the south. In contrast to Hwaseong, this location has over 15 kilometers of dedicated biking lanes that run along a pristine river, and are all within walking distance from the residential areas. There are also more trekking routes into the nearby mountains. Furthermore, the nearby motor routes are safer for cycling, than the roads in Hwaseong.
I had given away my first bike when I left Hwaseong, so after living here for a year, I hit on the idea of biking beyond the bus routes in order to explore these beautiful surroundings. I soon found a few mates who were eager to join me on rides of around 30 or more kilometers. For myself, it was like a bug that didn't let go of me. I wanted to go farther and reach greater elevations. The longer rides grew even longer and more frequent, and while I did many memorable rides with friends, I did most of them alone. One of the first really long rides I completed with an Englishman who was teaching here. We rode out here one afternoon and ended up at Hapcheon in the evening. After having supper, we started on our way back again. On our way back, a wild animal (perhaps a small deer or pig) rammed into my companion, injuring him quite severely. He nevertheless insisted on pushing on and we made it back here early the next morning. It was during this ride, we also ran out of celphone battery power. As we relied on our phones to route us back, we were really following our noses and the Korean road signs, in total darkness. I resolved soon after that night to invest in a Garmin Edge 800. A reliable and rugged beast of a navigational tool. Unlike newer models, it has a capacitive touch screen and very long battery staying power.
Here's the route I took on a ride to Jinju in 2014. I did the ride alone, slept the night in Jinju, and made my way back the next morning. A great adventure, some of it, in single digit temperatures! A lot has changed since then. My motivaton for cold, long rides has diminished, and my weight has increased.