Sunday, October 31, 2010

Korea!

Here's a little run down of my trip to Korea.

Fly In:  Eleven hours of flying, after  flying from Michigan to San Francisco.  Three hours waiting at the airport in Seoul, one hour riding a bus to the hotel.  Twenty six hours since leaving Grand Rapids, it feels like I have gravel in my eyes.
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

First Day in Country: Four hours on a bus from Seoul to a beach hotel near where we'll start the race.  

Monkey is my co-pilot.
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

 We had a rest stop at a place that did wood carvings.  Not the usual bears and big-foots like you'll see in northern California.
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

An example of the terrain.
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

I have to prepare the bikes for the race and they have mostly arrived dirty from use.  My hotel room has a tub and shower head, but no shower curtain.  It became a great "bike wash."
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

At one point, a bird flew into my room through the open patio door.  It was dark outside and I couldn't convince the bird to fly back out.  I finally cornered it on top of some cabinets and carried it out the door, only to have it fly right back in.  Another round or birding, I caught it on a bike.  The second time, I closed the screen most of the way before letting the bird go.
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

Bikes ready for the race.
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

Racing, Day One:  The race starts in the northeast corner of the country at the DMZ.  The zone is two thousand meters on either side of a line.  No one is allowed in that zone, and both sides keep a close eye on it.  The war started 60 years ago, and the race was allowed to follow the edge of the DMZ to commemorate the anniversary.  Normally, most of the roads the race followed would be strictly off limits.  Though they will have the Tour de Seoul again, it won't be allowed to race so close to the DMZ ever again.  
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

Last night's catch.
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

The first day of racing showed two big climbs in the 110-mile course.  To say it was dangerous and difficult would be an understatement.  Crashes on the first descent put four or five riders in the hospital.  One from our team, Phil, went down when he came around a high speed corner to find a motorcycle lying on it's side in the middle of the narrow road.  He was out of the race but managed to also stay out of the hospital too.  
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

The hills caused the race to get very spread out, something it seems no organizer is ever prepared for.  There was a police escort out front, and a broom wagon and ambulance in back, but in between, there was miles of racing.  Local traffic frequently appeared.   Ironically, the race was safer when it got closer to the DMZ since there was no local traffic there, only the army.  

And in case anyone forgot rule number one (NEVER leave the pavement), these signs reminded you.  They aren't talking about coal mines.
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

RACING DAY TWO:  Another 110 mile stage but with much less climbing.  It took the pros 4 hours and 20 minutes.  Around 80 miles into the race, we passed through a town with a traffic light.  First one we'd seen in two days.  I like it better when there is no need for traffic lights.
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

We never forget that nearby are potentially hostile forces.  These blocks were in place to close the road in a hurry.  They were everywhere.
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ


RACING DAY THREE:  Final day, one minor problem.  The racers follow a lead car but today the lead car took a wrong turn.  Fortunately, the wrong turn did not take them off the course, just cut off about 12 miles of it.  Unfortunately, it put us about 20 minutes ahead of schedule, and that would be a problem anywhere a road closure was needed.  We sat on a closed freeway for twenty minutes, till we were back on schedule.  
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

Even with that break, the police at the finish line were not quite ready for us.  The winners were sprinting past traffic on the way to the finish line.  Potentially very dangerous but it worked out okay.   
From Korea, Tour de Seoul/DMZ

Impressions:  Korea is a very modern place.  There was certainly no "third world" feel to it.  The people were friendly but communication is tough, since even the alphabet is completely different. English speakers were fairly common where you expect them, hotels and at the airport, but to wander around on your own in town would be an exercise in charades.  Learn some key phrases if you go.

If you want to see/read more about the trip, check out the Breezer blog here or see what Phil wrote about his crash here.

I'm getting some rest for a couple days, then I'll begin my trek to Arizona, with a couple stops along the way.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Still Michigan.

I spent a few days visiting my old friend Ivan. We met in 1993 when I reported to Coast Guard Station Saginaw River. These days, we’ve both moved on to other things.

From Michigan 2010
Ivan and his family made me feel completely at home. They let me make a cake (and pretended to like it), and I made guacamole (twice!). Ivan even laughed at all my jokes.
From Michigan 2010
Okay, most of my jokes.
From Michigan 2010
I got to pick up the eggs from the family (free-range-ish) chicken ranch .
From Michigan 2010
I got to see his band “Sweet Justice,” both in a real gig and at a practice. And I got free Ukulele lessons (band and ukulele not pictured).

I also got to see the town, Grand Haven, Michigan. The downtown area has seen better days. Apparently, this is the result of a plan to heat the city sidewalks and make the place more appealing to tourists during the winter months. Ivan said the project was suspended during the summer months, but has been in progress for over a year.
From Michigan 2010

From there, I headed across the state so I could get together with buddy Paul for a mountain bike race. I was just along for support, not planning to race.  Good thing, too.
From Michigan 2010

Paul tearing up the trails on our pre-ride.
From Michigan 2010

About 6 miles into our pre-ride of the race course, the left side of my handle bar broke off. We had just come down a bumpy decent and Paul was following me on the fast and narrow single-track. Suddenly, he sees my front wheel swerving wildly and hears me yelling “don’t-crash-don’t-crash!” Somehow I kept the bike upright and got it stopped.


My handle bar breaks off while I'm riding and my pulse is only 104. Cool under pressure or what!
From Michigan 2010

Paul said later that was some of the most amazing bike handling he’d ever seen. Or, maybe he thought it. Or maybe I thought he thought it.

Here Paul is seen tearing up the race course on his way to a respectable 12th in the Expert class.
From Michigan 2010

Also seen this week: four-door cab, full sized bed, and a five-foot extension to the frame. Bet this handles like a great lakes freighter.
From Michigan 2010

Tomorrow I fly out heading to Korea for three days of bike racing on the DMZ.  When I get back I plan to head southwest for Arizona.  Read about that trip here!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Central Michigan

I spent a few days in Grand Rapids, my adopted hometown, with Jeff and Catrina, one of my adopted families.

From Art Prize

While I was there, I was able to cruise through ArtPrize, the very large art show/competition Grand Rapids has held for the past two years. The art is displayed over a large neighborhood and although I took what I thought was a lot of pictures, there were over 1700 artists displaying their work. I barely touched the surface in two days.
From Art Prize

From Art Prize
More art pictures here if you really want to see more.
 
Grand Rapids is a great town with a lot to offer. Museums, shopping, bicycle trails… one of my favorite restaurants is there. But I have to keep moving. To stay longer than I did would threaten the status quo. Make me ask and attempt to answer questions better left unspoken. So after a short break, I hit the road again. But I’m just killing time, I have to be back in Grand Rapids to catch a plane in a couple weeks, a brief trip with the racing team. Meanwhile, a chance to wander.
From Michigan 2010

I’ve been camping in the National Forest outside of Big Rapids, Michigan. A nice quiet place where I can take a motorcycle to breakfast in the morning and spend the afternoons on a bicycle, before settling in with a good book. It would be nicer if it was a tad warmer.
From Michigan 2010

This solar-shower works great when it's warm outside.  When the temps are in the 50s, you have to get creative to get a hot shower.
From Michigan 2010

I just finished an epic, James Michener’s “Centennial,” a 1200+ page story about the history of South Africa. The opening chapters describe life 13,000 BC, and the story ends in the 1970s. Michener was nothing if not thorough.

That book done, I started in on “These Are the Days That Must Happen To You,” which is the English version, the American version of the book was simply titled “Endless Horizons.” The author, Dan Walsh, is one of my favorite writers. After working for a motorcycle magazine, Walsh chucked it all in and hit the road on a motorcycle, intent on seeing the world (I could never do that). Here’s a sample: while he was in Africa and got a text message from his girlfriend, leaving him for someone else:

“Like fingers being slammed in car door. Like a wire brush scrubbing a burn. I felt like Hillary Clinton. I felt like the Ethiopian navy - when Eritrea won independence in a vicious civil war, Ethiopia lost its coastline. The navy were left stranded in the Indian ocean, home port occupied by hostile forces, condemned to drive for ever in a life of rum, sodomy, and the lash. As easily as a fist becomes a hand, Lou broke my heart and I fell into a very dark place.”

I know a lot of the story from the magazine articles that it is made from, and it has a happy ending, though it hit’s a far deeper bottom than even that paragraph suggests. Let me know if you want to read it next.

So, as I have so many times, I find myself having that familiar conversation with my old friend, Map, asking "where next?" From Michigan, I plan to head south and west, visiting friends along the way, but heading for a winter in Arizona. As always, the details of the trip will be posted here as they become available.
From Michigan 2010

From Michigan 2010

From Michigan 2010
Robert Frost took the road less traveled by.  I have more time than him, I took them all!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hello from central Michigan

I have a long-ish update written, reviewed, re-reviewed, all set to go.  But I'm camping, very rustic style, and so I have to ride the motorcycle to town to blog.  Unfortunately, I arrived in Big Rapids with a nearly dead battery on the laptop and the power cord is in the front seat of the van....  Here's a couple pictures to hold you over.

This little fungus dreams of being a big beautiful rose.
From Michigan 2010

It has a bit of growing to do though.
From Michigan 2010

Morning ice sculptures
From Michigan 2010