Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Inaugural Bike Ride

Well, I mentioned a few weeks ago that I recently bought a bike. It is a "folder" but it's more of an iron beast. I will probably never attempt to fold it and carry it, as it weighs a ton. Literally. But, anyway, with it being monsoon season, I haven't had many chances to ride it. I have taken it to work and back a few times (on the rare day that it wasn't pouring rain), but this weekend I had my first chance to really ride it!
Conveniently, this weekend was also the start of my summer vacation! So, Saturday morning I got up bright and early (around 7:30am), and Romeo and I headed out to the stream near my apartment. This is the stream I usually run near, but we took the lower level bike path and headed south.

my folder - purchased for 20,000W !
Romeo is a for-real biker. He does between 30-100 miles each time (it seems) so I was just praying I could make 5 miles so he wouldn't be too disappointed... He was so patient and encouraging with me, though! The few weeks I'd had the bike already allowed me to get a little used to it, and I felt around 90% comfortable on it.

Romeo told me that for now we would ride until the first park area, about 2 miles down the stream. I nodded and we were off! We passed the point where I usually run to and turn around at. About a quarter mile past that we get to a point on the path were it is pretty exclusively bikes. It was lined with the most gorgeous red and yellow flowers. They were so big, too! Just really LARGE flowers! I was so happy to see them! There was a little hill I battled up, but I made it. My bike is such a piece of crap that the gears don't even change so I was peddling my heart out the entire time.

After around 30 minutes or so, we took a sharp right and crossed a small stream and then went back left to meet back up with "our" stream. Then I saw what looked to be a community park complete with a miniature water park, baseball fields, soccer fields, skate park, and more. It was there that we stopped for our first rest. I marveled at Korea, once again.

I love that Korea is very outdoors-centric. This massive city of Seoul strategically built a web of bike paths around the streams and rivers and people USE THEM! And communities build parks and complexes were families can just play outdoors together. It's amazing! I've never seen a community (in America, as an eye-witness) that embraces the outdoors as much as this one. People genuinely enjoy being outside and being active. I mentioned this to Romeo. I told him that I feel that if America really embraced this type of lifestyle, we would probably have a lot less health problems! Yes, Koreans have a pretty healthy diet, but they also drink a lot and smoke a TON. So they have the possibility to have some major health issues. Yet, they are outside constantly and active well into their senior years (I have seen MANY old people hiking and passing me!). If Americans could make this change, just to be outside and be active, I think we would see a big difference.

Anyway, I digress...

Back to the biking! We rested around 10-15 minutes then jumped back on our bikes to continue our path. I was feeling good! We crossed the stream and made our way around to the Han River (the large river that splits Seoul into north and south. We had another 10 minute pitstop for water and to give me a rest. By then, I could feel my bum getting a bit sore. I'm not used to being on a bike for this long (around an hour by now) and I was starting to feel it! But, we forged on.

We biked along the Han for a little while longer and I pondered the disastrous state of the river. For people who love nature (hiking is maybe the #1 hobby of adult Koreans...), the river was very polluted and trashed. I am surprised that there has not been more of an effort to clean up the river. There were several deserted areas where I think maybe restaurants used to be, but now is just a cove of trash. At one point, Romeo counted 6 abandoned soccer balls in the banks. So sad and disgusting...

Eventually we came to a very crowded area with loads of pedestrians. We saw that there was a massive line for a pool and wondered at how long the wait was for everyone in line. A little ways past this, we stopped again for a break. We ate a bit of food from our backpack and I wandered around this small park area taking photos. There were tons of people among the trees, some napping, some picnicking. It was just cute. There was also a cool fountain and garden area.

a cute old Korean ajusshi reading his newspaper. :)
fountain in the park. 

Anyway, after that, Romeo asked what I wanted to do: take the subway back (which would involve carrying the bikes for at least a little while up and down stairs), or bike back. While a bit tired, I wasn't worn out yet so I decided we should bike back. Along the way, we saw one of the checkpoints for this biking system in Korea. They have passports and as you bike these designated trails, you collect the stamps at checkpoints. Once you complete certain ones, you can get a medal. Romeo has already gotten 2 medals and biked almost 700km in Korea, but being my first bike ride, he decided to give me passport as a present. So, I had to get my passport stamped at the checkpoint!

We started to head back but got sidetracked by this big metal building that looked like a spaceship. We decided to check it out. (I later googled and found out it is part of Ttukseom Resort area - which included the pool and gardens. Unfortunately these pictures are borrowed, not taken. I forgot to take some myself.)

Well, I'm still not completely sure what it was, but we found some food vendors inside (along with some AC!) so we had another rest. I got a strawberry ice cream cone and it was heavenly! We wandered through the building then looked out one of the windows and marveled again at all the people! We decided that they couldn't ALL be for the pool, and ventured out to find out what the deal was.

We asked at a booth that said something about foreigners, and the girl told us it was a flea market! We could just go inside, but that the massive line was for people wanting to sell things. So, we walked in. It was just a bunch of ajummas and ajusshis (old women and men) selling junk. It was pack and at one point I thought I got my butt felt up but it ended up being an ajumma's bag brushing by me. At that point I decided it was a bit too crowded for my taste so we left.

Finally back on the bike path home, we blew through the trip back with only 2 small (~5min) stops. By the last mile, I was really feeling the burn in my thighs and bum! I knew I was going to be sore tomorrow!

Finally when we completed the path, I pressed "stop" on my RunKeeper app, and saw that we had gone a shocking 18 miles roundtrip! I couldn't really believe it! I felt SUPER accomplished and proud! I was very tired by the end, but I think I did really well. Especially considering that I couldn't really coast at all due to my gears being messed up. I worked that entire trip! In total, including detours and breaks, it took around 4 hours. I think purely biking it might have been about 2. But I didn't care! It felt awesome!

After a shower, and about a two hour nap, I was STARVING! It was a really awesome starving though, because I knew I had EARNED it! According to RunKeeper (which I'm not sure I trust 100%) I burned nearly 1,100 calories!

Romeo and I decided to get some Italian (a rare treat in Seoul) so we went to a place in my neighborhood called Denny's Kitchen ("good person and food story" is the tagline....) We shared a bowl of cream pasta and a gorgonzola/spinach pizza. It was DELICIOUS! I'm kind of used to the style of pasta/pizza here (not really like American style) but I really enjoyed this. It filled both of us too!

After a walk back, we had made some room for ice cream and I treated myself to a trip to Baskin Robbins - 1 scoop strawberry, 1 scoop cookies and cream! YUM!

By the time my head hit the pillow, it had been an incredibly long and empowering day! I felt amazing and I can't wait to do another trip (which Romeo is already planning). I think he is quite proud of me and I loved being able to share that time with him, since he absolutely loves to bike.

An excellent start to my summer vacation! Now, to fly to Jeju-do. :)

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