This is the final installment of my Chuseok holiday bike trip across S. Korea. (I know what you’re thinking, Thank god she’s done harassing us with 20+ picture posts of Korean countrysides and lackluster quips about her navigational skills.)
We woke up at 6:30 and checked out of our hotel by 7am– all of us were anxious to get on the road for fear we wouldn’t be able to make it to Busan that evening. Why the rush, you ask? Well, the Chuseok holiday period was officially over and the next day we would have to resume working. Plus, I had reserved train tickets in advance and was worried that if I missed my train, I wouldn’t be able to get on another one… all of the bus and train tickets had sold out across Korea (literally) because of the holiday exodus.
After grabbing some convenience store breakfast (soy milks and crackers!), we headed out. Since Esther and Moon Young would be taking a different route than me, we said goodbye and I sped off on national road 79. I decided that I would no longer be following a bike route, just national roads. I didn’t want to mess around with twisting river routes that would lazily take me into Busan while devouring unnecessary mileage and hours. Naturally, this would pose some [not so safe and not so legal] problems for me… More on that later. For now, look at the mountain views and clouds!
I followed national road 79 (below) until it became Rt. 1008. The fog cleared up fairly quickly.
(See! No more fog…) I was diggin’ the traditional houses and storefronts that lined this somewhat busy road.
Rt. 1008 eventually became national road 25. I should mention that while this might be a “shortcut” in that I wasn’t following the meandering 4 River bike route, it was by no means easy– I still had to climb a handful of hills and mountains. Oddly enough, even after biking nearly 300 miles my legs were feeling great and I was able to attack the hills on day 5 much more successfully than on day 2. Guess I was ready to get home to my dog…
By 11:30 am, I had cycled over 35 miles and had reached Gimhae, the last big city to cross before hitting Busan. I sent out messages to a handful of friends who were cheering me on virtually (oh the powers of the Internet) to let them know just how close I was… I was only a few hours from having a celebratory beer!
Pretty soon after seeing the sign announcing the city of Gimhae, I came to another sign that informed me (roughly) of how much longer I would be in the saddle… I was so close! 50 km! 3 hours! I kept thinking about what my celebratory lunch would be. Bipimbap? A sandwich and beer? Pajeon? A bowl of coffee ice cream?! If only I knew then what was in store for me on national road 14…
I turned off onto national road 14 and cycled on and on and on and then up a ramp and wait, was that a “No Cycling” sign that I just saw? I continued up and up and up, working my way up the hill, worrying about the sign… but decided that the ramp would most likely just spit me and the 4-wheel traffic back into the city. Nope. No such luck. Turns out I was headed straight for a series of tunnels that bore through a mountain range. There was literally no way for me to turn back– no matter the decision I made, it would be dangerous (cycling against traffic vs. cycling though tunnels). Deciding that it was best to just continue on, I covered my nose and mouth with the handkerchief, turned on my lights, and hugged the shoulders of the tunnels as best I could on the bike. Tunnels are scary places, my friends: the sounds of automobiles screaming by is nothing short of intimidating; the air is noxious and polluted; and there you are, stuck, with no place to turn if there is a problem.
So, yeah… that happened (sorry mom!). As soon as it was humanly possible (3 terrible tunnels later), I got off of damned national road 14 and onto Rt. 1042. After re-configuring my route and laughing at how insanely stupid and frightening all that was, I continued on… closing in on Busan.
I worked my way down Rt. 1042, but I was noticeably slowing down. I think the excitement of the morning coupled with the adrenaline rush from tunnel-cycling got to me. My thighs felt like old, cracked rubber bands.
After crossing over a colorful bridge, I had arrived in Busan Metropolitan City. But, this, unfortunately, was not my final destination… I still had another 8- 10 miles of city-biking ahead of me… womp womp.
At last I had arrived at my destination: Busan city. I was beaming, noisome, and absolutely drained… I felt like I had run a marathon and crossed the finish with hundreds of spectators milling about, none knowing the effort that I had been through just to be there. And quite unlike the Seoul subway system, there was no fanfare… only traffic. All thoughts of beer and bipimbap had been replaced with thoughts of sleeping on the 4-hour train ride back to Cheonan. Also, I missed my dog. And my sunburn hurt. BUT EFF ALL THAT– I WAS IN BUSAN AND MY 5-DAY TREK ACROSS KOREA WAS NEAR COMPLETE!!
(I still had to get to the Busan Train Terminal to catch my train, which meant a bit more biking was ahead of me still. Oh, and it was uphill biking at that. FUN!)
At least the landscape looked interesting (err, industrial)…
I think at this point, I had reached critical mass. I was merely working in autodrive and all else was secondary– the traffic, my need to urinate, the fact that I hadn’t eaten lunch. Fortunately, I was “with it” enough to ask some locals to take my picture at various scenic points, and perhaps even more fortunately, they obliged.
I finally decided that I could spare a few minutes to pee… but where to put my bike? Bathrooms aren’t as available here as they are in the States, so I took a street elevator down to Busan’s subway system and found myself a squatter. I had actually gotten yelled at by some subway worker moments before I snapped this bathroom pic. He wasn’t happy with the fact that I had brought my bike through the station and kept telling me to go to some other station– I firmly told him I had biked from Seoul and had to piss. After several minutes, he backed off and let the emotionally unstable foreigner do her thing.
After relieving myself and purchasing a deserved ice cream, I biked the remaining kilometer to the Busan Train Terminal and circled it. I had wanted to see the ocean and the train terminal was actually quite close to the water but instead of finding a beach, I only found an industrial port. I didn’t have tons of time to mess around searching for something comelier, so I decided to bike around before ultimately picking up my ticket.
Soon enough I found myself outside of the train terminal, posing for my B.A.S.K. completion picture. Moments later, a terribly agressive man asked for my phone number and a date before accosting me with a photo sneak attack (yeah… I don’t know. He took my picture without asking me. I was unhappy about it, but too tired to tell him that he was a jerk.).
One would think that it would be all smooth sailing from here (especially as it was post-mountains, post-tunnels, and post-agressive-photo-taker), right? Wrong. The terminal was thronged with people trying to secure tickets back to their homes as school and work resumed the next day. Without much thought or worry I waited in line to pick up my ticket (thank god, I thought, happy that I had decided to reserve my ticket two weeks in advance). At the counter, the woman looked at me, then at my bike, back to me, my bike, me. The woman then told me that I couldn’t take my bike on the train. I protested– I had used the same exact train line only 5 days earlier (with my bike in tow!) and no one had stopped me. Apparently it was some new rule that the Chuseok fairy had instituted to test my spirit and emotional stability. Needless to say, I failed the test. Tears happened. Emotions happened. One of the other terminal workers took pity on me and my apparent socialization issues and told me to follow her down to the train conductor; she wanted to see if he would let me on the train– if not, they would have to cancel my ticket.
Thankfully the train conductor was a nice guy and allowed me to get on his train with my bike (really I just don’t think he gave a damn). I was incredibly thankful and relieved, but I doubt it showed– I fell asleep as soon as I sat down and opened a can of Cass beer.
Day 5 Stats:
Distance: 59.8 miles (Cheongdeok to Busan)
Money Spent: ₩3,000 (soy milk + crackers) + ₩1,000 (Pocari sweat) + ₩4,000 (kimchi rice ball + ice cream) + ₩2,000 (beer)= ₩10,000
Times Lost: 0