Have I mentioned that I bought a new bike? I honestly can't remember. I bought it from Craigstlist a few weeks ago, and sold my old rusty tank. My new one is definitely an improvement over the old one. I actually really love it. Anyway, since I only have a few weeks left in Korea, around 6 weeks when I bought the bike, I've been trying to use it at least once a weekend. So last weekend, Romeo and I decided to do an excursion he had been wanting to take me on.
Originally we had planned to go on Friday after work. However, it was his last day of work, and he wasn't feeling up for a trip. We decided to postpone it. But when Saturday rolled around, we decided at about 7pm that we should do it that night.
The plan was this: take the last subway out to the suburbs to the Yangpyeong Station. We would arrive around midnight and get a motel. We would then get up at 4am, get on our bikes, and head to the area that he really wanted to take me to in order to catch the sunrise. He described the area as "Korean Heaven".
What really happened: after throwing our stuff into a backpack, we peddled our butts off to Gunja station about a mile away. We made it on the second to last train from Gunja up to Sangbong, and caught the last train from Sangbong out to Yangpyeong. No problems, and in fact it was going quite well. I didn't need Romeo carry my bike up or down stairs in the subway (like I had with the tank), since it is not very heavy, and I am pretty much a beast ;)
On the train out to Yangpyeong, we didn't have seats for a little while. Finally, the further out of the city we got, the more seats were vacated and eventually we got seats across from our bikes locked into their designated spots. I was getting very sleepy by around 11:45, and nodded off on the train. We finally got to our stop at about 12:20am.
After a couple miles, we came to the road that ran parallel to the river. We didn't have to go far to find the motel we were after, which said VIP on the sign. I took that as a sign that it was going to be expensive, so we decided to ask if they rent by the hour (since we would only need it from around 1am - 4am to take a little nap), but when Romeo popped his head inside, we saw that it was expensive even for that amount of time ($50 for the night, $30 for 3 hours).
We decided to head further into the town and check out some of the other motels on the map. The next motel was located above a noraebang (singing room), and when we rolled up, about 7 extremely drunk Korean men came stumbling out. We decided to wait til they moved on before Romeo would go inside and leave me with the bikes (thanks for looking out for me, Romeo!) The men decided that we were very interesting and rather than leaving, I got stared at very intently. When Romeo realized what was happening, he immediately decided that it wasn't worth it to wait and check the place out. We moved on.
A few blocks away we headed down a street that boasted 4 or 5 motels. The first one we stopped at on that road looked promising with a sign that said, among a lot of Korean that I couldn't read, 15,000W! So I'm thinking, 'Hey, could be a good price!'
Ten seconds after going inside, Romeo came back out with the news that they were full. We were both surprised because Yangpyeong is such a suburban town, and even in big cities, motels are rarely full unless there is a festival.
We checked out the other 4 or 5 on that road, and every single one of them was full. We were shocked! Romeo even asked a few places, "Is there a festival or event?" Of course, we got no answer.
So, after around an hour of motel searching, we went back to VIP place, but realized that they were also full. I was surprisingly not worried and even in a pretty good mood. The weather was very pleasant, in the mid-70s. I even went so far as to suggest that we sleep outside. Romeo almost always takes his tent with him on bike rides, even short ones during the day, just in case. Of course, that night, he hadn't. We had really counted on finding a motel.
We decided to start biking in the general direction we were going to take the next morning and see if we could find a motel along the way. We biked maybe 6-7 miles down the road and finally found some more motels, all of which were full. We consulted a map and choose a green area to check out to see if it would be possible to sleep there. I bought a cheap 4,000W mat at the 24 hr CU convenience store, and we headed to what we hoped would be a park.
When we were nearly there, we road down a dark road and I saw a beam of light. It took me a second to realize it was a projector of a drive-in movie theater we had just passed behind. We both stopped and it only took a glance between us to decide we had to check it out. After turning off our bike lights, we walked them into the parking area. We found a small hill on the side of the parking lot and set up our mat. It was around 2:00am by this point, so we settled in and I immediately started to nod off. Romeo stayed up to make sure everything was okay. We watched the movie playing for a few minutes; it appeared to be a Korean thriller movie. I lost interest quickly and started to go to sleep.
The movie finished fairly quickly, maybe 15 minutes later. After the cars left, Romeo kept an eye on the projectionist as he came down and started to pick up trash in the lot. I was getting a little nervous, between a dark grassy lot in the middle of no where at 2am, an unknown Korean person walking around, and having just watched a movie in which I gathered everyone dies after someone breaks into their house. I'm not sure of the plot, but there was definitely doors being broken down and bloody knives. So, needless to say, I was a bit on edge. Romeo assured me he would talk to the guy if he came over.
Sure enough, we had company a few minutes later. I don't understand much Korean, but I could tell in the tone of his voice that he wasn't having it. He told us we had to leave. Romeo tried to explain that there was no room in any of the motels, but the guy was adamant and didn't seem to pay any heed to Romeo's words. We packed up quickly and beat it out of there.
Having been teased by the almost-nap, I was pretty exhausted as we peddled further on. A few miles further, we saw some more motels and asked prices, and if they would rent by the hour as we now had barely 2.5 hours til we were due to get up anyway. When they would not cut us a deal for only a few hours, I made the call that we should keep going and just look for a place to sleep. Romeo remembered a potential place from his previous ride, so we headed there.
We arrived around 245am, and we laid out the mat on what would later be considered my luxury wooden bed. It was an elevated plank vantage point on the river. I laid out and tried to get a little sleep. After about an hour, I was freezing (the temperature had dropped probably 20 degrees since maybe 7pm), and Romeo nudged me and suggested we bite the bullet, go for the motel and not worry about getting up for the dawn. We were both cold, uncomfortable, and exhausted.
So, we rode the mile back to the nearest motel, paid the nightly rate, and passed out. The next morning I woke up feeling amazing, having slept until almost 11am. It was the first time I've had curtains to block out the sun in a year. Incredible.
We decided to make the most of the day and location we were already at, and headed out on the path we had intended to take before dawn that day. It was a nice ride, but it was extremely hot by the time we set out at 1pm. We had a lunch of convenience store ramen and cider (Sprite). We loaded up on water and biked around 15 miles to Romeo's favorite area. (Along the way, I stopped and got a photo of the luxury wooden bed from the night before to take a photo.)
It was a nice ride, but there were a lot of other people on the road. I think including the miles from the night before, which I don't think were tracked on our ride, we definitely surpassed 20 miles, my furthest distance (over the longest period of time... but oh well).
Finally we made it to the subway station we had set as a goal and loaded up on the train along with another 20 bikers, and headed back to Seoul. It was an exhausting trip, but it's the journey not the destination, right? We definitely had an interesting journey!!