Sunday, April 23, 2017

Walk Thoughts #44: my angry face

I just wasted nearly two fucking hours trying to figure out how to cross Paldang Bridge. ETA to destination: 5PM. Lesson learned: Naver Map can't help you if you don't zoom in close to look at your route in detail. Fuck!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Walk Thoughts #43: how Day 1, Leg 1 went

Seeing as I'm in an expensive love motel, I'm taking advantage of both WiFi for my phone and the desktop Windows machine that comes with my room. This won't always be the case, so be ready for some messy-looking blog posts whenever I have to blog straight from my phone.

Embarrassingly, I was out of the apartment two minutes after my scheduled blog post appeared. My walk, which my pedometer generously claimed was 23 miles long, became a new personal record of 474 minutes' activity (7.9 hours) and a whopping 45,153 steps. While that's awesome, it's important to remember that my backpack slowed me down, decreased my stride length, and eroded my step rate (down from about 102 steps/minute to 95).

As parsimonious as I think my pedometer is when it comes to measuring distances, I think Naver Map may be even more so. I was supposed to cover only 17.31 miles today; my pedometer reads 23.06 miles, and it felt like that many miles. Did I measure wrong? Day 1 is the only day for which I didn't use the "find route" function on Naver Map: I measured the distance manually, using Naver Map's "ruler" function (it works, for the most part, like the ruler for Google Maps). Did I mis-measure by that much? I seriously doubt I could have erred on the order of nearly six miles. That's ridiculous. It could be that the ruler under-measures distances. It could be that I truly was sloppy with the ruler. I don't know, and I don't care, since this is the only day for which such speculation is relevant. For Days 2-23, I used the "find route" function, so we'll see, henceforth, how accurate that function is. Tomorrow's walk is supposed to be 17 miles as well; I already know that that figure doesn't include the long walk back from downtown to the river's edge, so let's say 20 miles.

It also didn't help that the signs along the way—the ones showing the distance to places like Paldang Bridge—also seemed inaccurate. True: I threw off my own timing by taking several much-needed breaks along the way (my pedometer noted eight hours of activity, but my total time from home to here was almost exactly nine hours), yet the signs still seemed off when I was walking for long periods without stopping. Upshot: I no longer trust anything that claims to measure distance. Instead of arriving at my anticipated "between noon and 1PM," I arrived at the Baro Hotel around 2:20PM.

Those frustrations aside, it was a great walk. The weather was absolutely perfect, starting off cold at 5:17AM, then rapidly warming up. As I walked along the Han River, I was passed by peloton after peloton of bikers. Two American guys passed me, one of whom exclaimed, "That's a big pack!" when he saw me. Dude, you have no idea: you should have seen me in 2008. A few friendly Korean bikers would call out "Hi!" or "Hello!" when they came close enough; two ajeossis gave me a thumbs-up and called, "Fighting!" as I passed them. No one tried to engage me in conversation, which is probably for the better.

The trail changed character often. Saying simply that I'm "walking next to a river" does nothing to express how varied the scenery can get. I was serenaded all day long by birds; Korean magpies (ggachi) were out in force, as were those obnoxiously cooing birds whose name I don't know. But rising above them all today were the squawking cock pheasants, which lined the Han and the Namhan, singing their awkward songs to beg for sex (well, I'm guessing it's mating season, and I may be right), sounding for all the world like the coughing, dying engines of tiny clown cars (or their ah-ooh-gah horns). Meanwhile, the protean trail beneath my feet varied from asphalt to rubber to concrete to dirt-and-pebbles. There were a few hills, but nothing horrible for a walker. As I said before, it's the Saejae portion of my walk where things will get real.

I eventually broke out one of my two Costco trekking poles. It performed well. On a more tragic note, my chest strap broke off yet again, as I knew it would because it's a betraying bastard, and the only part of my otherwise-awesome Gregory backpack whose design I seriously question. I bought my pack in 2008; I wonder whether Gregory has fixed that problem in its subsequent models. My current pack is close to dying, and since I'm brand-loyal to Gregory, I'll be checking out the new backpack models after this trip is done.

While sitting down for a break at one point, I saw a mass of carp gathered in one spot across the water. They seemed to be... how should I put this... frolicking. Do fish like carp have a sense of play? I know octopi do.

Toward the end of my walk, I regretted not having slathered on some sunscreen. I have a very mild sunburn (most of my walk occurred before the sun was too high in the sky) on my face and forearms, but knowing me, I'll burn, then peel, then tan. The sunlight will recharge my freckles (which are the source of my superpowers), and a tan will eventually show up everywhere else. I can thank my non-Korean genes for the freckles, which Koreans generally consider ugly. I can thank my Korean genes for the upcoming tan. Thanks, Mom.

By the time Paldang Bridge loomed large, I was ready for the day to end. But I still had to walk downtown toward Hanam City's city hall; that took a while, and I had to bust out Naver Map on my phone to navigate properly. I found the hotels that Naver had marked for me... but they were all love hotels that didn't serve overnight clients until after 10PM. (Love hotels, geared toward sex, often charge couples by the hour.) The nice lady at the Baro Hotel heard me out re: hiking all the way from Seoul and really needing a room, but she told me that, because it was Saturday, an especially busy day, the requested room would be more expensive than it would be during a weekday. I was too tired to say no, so I paid for my current room, selling a piece of my soul in the process.

I have now showered and washed my clothes, which are hang-drying. I've taken my meds, but strangely, I haven't laid myself out on the bed yet. I'll be doing that soon.

Since I can't repair my popped chest strap, I'm going to have to find another solution for shoulder-strap pain, and that's probably going to come in the form of folded-up washcloths tucked under the straps. I'm also a little worried about my hip belt: I may need to punch new holes in it sooner than I expected: during today's walk, I cinched the belt down to the eleventh hole, and I have only two holes left. Once I start losing weight in earnest, this is going to become a major problem. Same goes for the other leather belt that's holding up my pants. But those are problems that I'll deal with as they become urgent.

For now, I'm taking things day-by-day, and doing my best not to over-strain myself. I'm weirdly reassured that, if today really was 23 miles, then I'll have no problem tackling the 23-mile walks at the end, on Days 19 and 21. Assuming Naver Map's "find route" function isn't lying. I'm paranoid about that.

My phone was down to 32% by the time I got my hotel room. That gives me a good idea as to how much power I'll use on an average day of hiking. I'm also realizing that I may not arrive at my destination as soon as planned: I may, in fact, be nearly two hours late, depending on my rest breaks, fatigue, and other factors. This is a markedly different hike from the one I did in 2008, so I'm learning as I go.

Expect another barrage of pics and impressions tomorrow. Day 2 takes me past my first certification station, so I'll be placing my first stamp inside my Moleskine. Stay tuned.

Walk Thoughts #42: today's photographic journey

I walked from Daecheong Tower in Seoul to Hanam City Hall today. Here's a series of pics that I took along the way.

Dawn mist along the Tancheon (T'an Creek, which feeds into the Han River), 5:40AM:

Lotte World Tower off to the east (I'm walking north to the Han River):

The thing that looks like white rags is actually the white plumage of a cock pheasant. Pheasants were all over my path this morning, squawking. Is it mating season? In any event, I know pheasant used to be the food of kings, so all that squawking just made me hungry.

On the right track:

Eastward along the Han. Passing the Lotte Tower took forever.

Huge concrete staging area for... something.

I saw several Corgis this morning—the offspring of a dalliance between a German shepherd and a dachshund. Thanks to some bad experiences, I don't like this breed.

These vines looked suspiciously regular:

What much of my path looked like (and will look like all the way to Busan):

The sun was still low enough that this construction-site wall provided some shade:

Olympic Bridge:

I think this is the Gwangjin Bridge:

BMX bike terrain, from a distance:

7.25 km to Hanam City limit; 15.7 km (three or so hours) to Paldang Bridge:

BMX terrain, up close:

Me and my shadow:

Selfie, before I got sunburned (I do have lotion with me):

Soccer field with chairs for spectators:

Nifty bridge in the distance:

The path changes character frequently:

Only 2 hours left (9.7 km) to get to Paldang Bridge:

And now I feel as if I'm in Europe:

A view across the water:

Bizarre-but-fascinating piles of dead vegetation forming evocative, pachyderm-like shapes, like a parade of reanimated animal carcasses:

Can you see the huge carp playing across the water? That was amazing to watch.

I walked past several baseball fields. Here's one:

Another straightaway. Note the islands in the river:

The same stretch:

At last: Paldang Bridge! I'm not far from Hanam's city hall.

Walking south and turning west (i.e., right) toward City Hall:

Upon seeing "Daecheong," I felt as if I had gone nowhere since I live at Daecheong Tower next to Daecheong Station. By now, I was dead tired and ready to flop into a yeogwan bed.

Walking toward Hanam's modest city center:

After knocking on several love-motel doors, I finally ended up where I am now: the Baro Hotel. It's a spacious room, and expensive: I'm being charged a Saturday rate plus a fee that's normally charged to randy couples who normally pay for such rooms by the hour.

And we end this photo essay with a shot of the luxurious bathroom, which I'll be using in a moment to shower and to launder my clothes.

That's about it for Day 1, Leg 1 of this walk. I'll soon be typing up an entry that gets more at the inner experience of today's périple.

Walk Thoughts #41: arrived

Just a quick note to say that my first day of walking is over, and it was a record-breaker—the longest I've ever walked in one shot since I got my Samsung Galaxy S4 and pedometer. I'll also quickly note that, weather-wise, today was a fantastic day for a hike. I wish the entire walk could be like this, but it's inevitable that the weather's going to suck sometimes.

I'm in Hanam City, right next to City Hall. Humorously, there's a ring of love hotels around the mayor's office, and I'm in one of them: the Baro. I'll write more later; right now, I have to shower, wash my clothes, and do a little self-maintenance. When I return to the blog, I'll be dumping a slew of photos.

My apologies if it seems I'm overusing the title "Walk Thoughts" for these entries, but I've given several people links to my blog updates, which are all tied together by the "Walk Thoughts" title. So yeah, you may see single pictures, with no commentary, titled "Walk Thoughts #Whatever." Again, sorry.

Shout-out to John McCrarey for his LOTR reference. I had been thinking along those same lines, although more Frodo-to-Mordor than Bilbo-to-Erebor.

More soon.

Walk Thoughts #40: here goes nothing

[NB: this is a scheduled post.]

This post ought to be appearing at 5:15AM. In theory, I'm out the door. My walk, today, is a bit over 17 miles, and at 2.8 miles per hour, that ought to take me between six and seven hours. I should be arriving at the Paldang Bridge in Hanam City around noon or 1PM. I'll hit a yeogwan (there are many surrounding the local city hall), settle in, and blog again when I'm nice and comfortable, after which it'll be a matter of doing absolutely nothing for around sixteen hours.

After today, I'll be aiming to wake up at 5AM, not 4AM, which seems more reasonable. I simply wanted to get an early start on the first day of this big project.

More soon!

Friday, April 21, 2017

a commentary on France

I'll be on the road when the first round of the French presidential election happens, but in the meantime, I'll offer you a link to this very measured and comprehensive article that describes the disintegrating state of France today from a perspective that is somewhat unusual. It's a long article whose point could probably be summarized in a paragraph for the TL;DR crowd, but I recommend that you read it through to the end. It does a good job of respecting the complexity of the French sociocultural situation without coming to any facile conclusions.

I do wonder what philosopher Jean-François Revel (more on him here) would have to say about French current events.

Walk Thoughts #39: final day before the walk begins

I had a discomfiting dream—a nightmare, then, I suppose—in which I started the first day of my walk and realized, after I was halfway through the day's distance, that I had completely forgotten to strap on my water bladder. I had no water. I don't remember how the dream ended; what I take away from the experience is the horror I felt when I realized what I'd done. That's usually how it works for me: I almost never remember my dreams, but when I wake up, the dreams' emotions are still resonating within my head.

Here's hoping the dream isn't an omen. For the past few days, I've been running through a mental checklist, and tonight, when I'm home from work, one of the last things I'll do before going to bed early is to take everything out of my backpack it and re-pack it all au juste, so that I know where everything is. I want to be up at 4AM and out the door by 5AM, walking from about sunrise to lunchtime on Saturday, getting to an inn in plenty of time to kick back all day and let my feet re-inflate. Realistically, what's going to happen is that I won't get to sleep until well past midnight. I'll sleep fitfully for an hour or two; 4AM will roll around, and I'll stumble out of bed, completely unready for the day. I'll somehow make it out the door a bit late—say, 5:15 or 5:30—but once I start walking in earnest, everything will fall into place as the immensity of my chosen task sinks in, and I realize that I really am walking from Seoul to Busan. I'll be pleasantly tired, and a bit achy, by the time I arrive at Paldang Bridge, my first stop... and I'll sleep well that night. The second day, I'll switch to waking up at 5AM and being out the door my 6AM—the schedule I hope to maintain for the rest of the long walk. The second day ought to be better than the first.

My Moleskine journal is now filled with walk-related jottings: I've transferred all the information from my itinerary spreadsheet to the physical book. This will serve as a navigation aid and as a failsafe should my cell phone conk out. The Moleskine will be wrapped in a Ziploc bag and stored in a pant-leg pocket; my other pant-leg pocket will house my cell phone, which will also be wrapped in its own Ziploc bag to protect it from sweat and inclement weather. Sometime last year, I noticed with delight that, even when inside a Ziploc bag, my cell phone's touch screen is still perfectly functional. That's useful knowledge, although I wonder how well the haptic interface will work when it's raining. Probably not too well, if experience is any guide. I've debated whether to tuck paper printouts of the mapped routes into my Moleskine, but at this point, screen-capturing the map images and printing them out seems like a chore. I'm going to assume that my old Samsung Galaxy S4 is still tough enough to survive the trip; it's got the Naver Maps app, and I've already downloaded screen-capped map images—one for every leg—that show where my lodging is in reference to that day's certification center.

I should have run battery-life tests over the past couple months, but based on my long walks with my new cell-phone batteries, I'm fine as long as I don't accidentally leave my GPS function activated: GPS consumes a good bit of battery power. Without GPS, I can walk for six hours with the phone on and not lose more than 30% charge. On those days when I have to walk nine hours and then camp, I ought to be ready for that contingency: I have a spare battery plus my portable charger, which is good for three full charges. The advantage of leaving my phone on during the walk is that I can use my pedometer to continue to measure steps, elapsed time, and distance (although, as you know, I don't trust my pedometer's distance-measuring abilities).

Humorously, my buddy JW's son sent me a link to a Kakao app that can monetize my walk: the app hooks up to my pedometer—or uses its own pedometer plus GPS—and lets me earn redeemable cash points as I accumulate a huge step total. The points can be used like cash at various outlets such as Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, and so on. I texted back to the boy that I'll lose weight during the walk, then use the cash points to get fat again. Thanks! In reality, I doubt I'll use the app. If it taps into my GPS, that's going to drain my battery. Not good.

I thought about setting up scheduled posts, Hari Seldon-style ("By now, it's Day 10, and I should have reached Point X..."), but I won't do that except for tomorrow morning, when I'll be too groggy to blog anything. It'll appear right as I'm leaving my building, i.e., around 5AM or 5:30AM, sort of a "Here goes nothing!" message.

Lastly for now: if you're on LinkedIn, you may have seen that I did a pre-walk writeup there, just to get my (utterly unresponsive) LinkedIn community up to speed as to what I'm doing. Here's the link. I'm not sure whether the link will work if you're not a LinkedIn member; you may end up being rerouted or being shown a "page not found" message.

And that's all I can think to write at the moment. I may add some thoughts tonight before I hit the sack, or I may just hit the sack and start walk-blogging the following day.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Walk Thoughts #37: about those pensions

Pensions, pensions, pensions. There doesn't seem to be a single standard way for Korean pensions to do business. After calling and/or texting all seven of the pensions and "guest houses" on my list, I got varied answers to my several questions. Do I need to make a reservation? Some places say yes; others say, "Just walk in." How much are accommodations for one night? The answer varies anywhere from W30,000 (cheap) to W120,000 (steep). How do I make a reservation? I can either reserve over the phone, there and then, or I can send a yeyak-geum (basically, a reservation fee) to the specified bank-account number. Do these places take single travelers or only groups? At least four places said single travelers were fine; one place gave a definite no, and I'm waiting for answers from the remaining two (which I'd texted because their lines were busy when I called).

This changes my plans somewhat, but not by much. I may end up camping more days than I'd thought, but that's fine. What I'm counting on is that there'll be campgrounds near the certification centers, which will obviate the need for hotels, inns, pensions, and so on.

UPDATE: I have four pensions where I'll definitely be staying, and I've updated my travel chart to reflect this. To sum up:

Day 3: guest house = no change to the schedule (reservation made)
Day 4: pension = no change to the schedule (walk in)
Day 5: pension = no change to the schedule (walk in)
Day 8: CANCELED (pension has no room for single travelers) = camping
Day 9: pension = no change to the schedule (reservation made)
Day 10: guest house = no change to the schedule (reservation made)
Day 12: CANCELED (pension too expensive at W120,000) = camping

So really, the only updates are for what's happening on Days 8 and 12.

UPDATE 2: it occurs to me that the yeyak-geum may literally be only a reservation fee: in other words, if I'm paying W30,000 or W50,000 up-front, I may still have to pay more upon arrival. There was some confusion, during my several conversations, as to how much I'd be paying for what. I started off asking, in each case, what the sukbak-bi (accommodation fee) would be, i.e., the entire price for a single night's stay. In some cases, I was given a figure for the yeyak-geum, i.e., the fee to reserve a room. Having committed myself to staying in at least four of these places, I'll report back to you as to their actual costs once I leave each place and find time to blog. It's good that I thought of this problem, otherwise I might feel wallet-raped upon arrival at each of these places.

rise and fall: the story of "Moldylocks"

I'm definitely not in favor of punching women. That said, this sad, sordid story about a young woman's mutation into a feminist ogre makes it obvious that karma, that cruel cosmic principle, doesn't give a shit what I think. Read the story, be sure to click ALL the links, and feel your brain melt a little. I'm sincerely sorry that Moldylocks—as she's been humorously labeled by folks on the right—got fed a knuckle sandwich, but there is a certain cosmic inevitability about the consequences of her choices.

Ladies: don't attack a man unless you're a trained fighter like Gina Carano. Even better: don't put yourself in a position where you have to attack anybody. I'm not blaming the victim, here: the guy's an asshole for belting a visibly weaker woman. But look at the situation: everyone's blood is up, and if you—as a woman of slight build—rush and grab at a guy in the midst of a mêlée, don't be surprised if he responds in kind, or even disproportionately. That's karma.

UPDATE: more on the Moldylocks story here. Excerpt:

Does anyone see the irony in the social-justice warriors complaining that a guy hit a girl? A girl who wants equality with men showed up at a Trump rally wearing weighted gloves, tried to punch a guy in the throat, and got laid out with one punch. For as long as I can remember, the feminists have told us they're exactly the same [as], if not better than, men. So why are we supposed to be outraged that one of them got hit in the face by a man? Isn't that exactly what she wanted when she jumped into the fray and started swinging?

video lynx

Confirming what I'd written years ago about Les Stroud, this video from Looper goes into what makes "Survivorman" the real deal in survival-related reality TV, as well as the cooler survival show vis-à-vis Bear Grylls's "Man Versus Wild."

Quite possibly my favorite Louis CK bit.

Pepsi sells itself short

Currently in convenience stores in Seoul, a 500-ml bottle of Coca Cola goes for W2,000. Meanwhile, a 600-ml bottle of Pepsi sells for W1,800. Go figure.

And remember: Pepsi is poison.

make your own campaign poster!

This website, sponsored by the Moon Jae In presidential campaign, lets you generate your own campaign poster. You'll need to know some Korean to use the site. Here's my poster:

(Credit goes here.)

Walk Thoughts #36: comically swollen hand

Tonight's walk was close to six hours long and totaled 39,166 steps. My pedometer's saying I walked just over 20 miles, which must be why I'm so fucking achy and tired. It's after 4AM, and I have to go to work in the morning, but during the upcoming long walk, I'll have the luxury of stopping in an inn, getting a room, quickly washing my clothes, taking some aspirin, gulping down a frugal meal, then resting my feet and back for 15 hours straight. That ought to be enough of a "reset" to allow me to start fresh, day after day.

So I apparently survived 20-plus miles with mild-but-endurable discomfort. Achy feet, achy back, but otherwise okay. A few aspirin, and I'll be right as rain.

In other news: I took my boss's suggestion and spoke with one of the guards who works in our building's lobby, asking him if he could take care of bill-paying for me while I'm away. I handed him a white envelope with W300,000 in it to more-than-cover my "rent" (really, it's an admin fee) and my gas bill, which doesn't come monthly anymore. He said he'd carry my cash over to the admin office and get all this taken care of, after which he'd give me back any change and even prep a receipt for me. I told him he could keep the remaining cash for himself, but he smiled and shook his head. He's a decent man, this gent. Most of my building's guards are friendly; one or two are a bit on the surly-Frenchman side.

Little else to do now but run down the clock. To be honest, I'm not doing much at work these days, so I really am just running down the clock.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

quid est veritas?

I love this headline (seen here):

Pomona College Students Say There’s No Such Thing as Truth, 'Truth' Is a Tool of White Supremacy

We will note, first, that to claim that there is no such thing as truth, it must be true that there is no such thing as truth. The proposition undermines itself. We will note, second, that the proposition "'Truth' is a tool of white supremacy" is a truth-claim coming hard on the heels of an attempt to say truth doesn't exist. And we will, third, do our best politely to ignore the egregious comma splice in the headline.

"Sad!" as Donald Trump might tweet regarding the faux-death of truth. Postmodernist morons have long had trouble understanding that objective facts exist and are not merely "constructions" (ask any engineer). I've heard versions of this sort of PoMo nonsense before: "Rationality facilitates Western colonialism and oppression," for example. The idiocy is infinitely stacked like cosmic turtles in an unending pillar of stupid.

What really chaps my ass is the way in which PoMo thinkers have co-opted a rich and wonderful concept like narrative, which they've folded into their pseudo-Darwinian paradigm of how people interact with each other and the world. For those of us who view narrative as a powerful, symbol-rich wellspring pointing to deeper truths that cannot be verbalized straightforwardly, the PoMo retooling of narrative as some sort of hegemonic, subjugating weapon is deeply, grievously offensive. Sure, granted: narratives can serve the purpose of social cohesion, which can imply a measure of domination and control. But narratives are also our faulty way of reckoning with the unspeakable, the ineffable—and in them can be found much that is beautiful...and much that is true.

Don't give up on truth, Pomona. If you do, you are lost.

ADDENDUM: another take on truthiness here.

Walk Thoughts #35: counting down

My route is about as mapped-out as it can be. I've gotten all the supplies I'll be carrying. In my Moleskine, I've been writing up my route in detail as a fail-safe in case my cell phone dies. I've trained to the point where a decent five- or six-hour walk produces nothing but minor aches. My feet have already developed some calluses from all the recent walking. The staircase training will stand me in good stead when it comes time to tackle the Saejae portion of the trail. I haven't reached my goal weight of 115 kg (from about 126), but in mere a few days, like it or not, I'm going to reach that weight and rapidly sink under it.

Tonight, I'll be doing one last mega-walk along the creek: out to Gwacheon City and back. After that, I plan to rest my feet until Saturday morning, when I'll be up around 4AM and out the door by 5AM. That first walk ought to get me to the Paldang Bridge by about noon, and there are yeogwans on the south side of the river where I can stay for the night. The Friday before the walk is to be a fasting day, and so is the first day of the walk. In rereading my old blog entries from my other blog, I saw that I had gone without eating for several days before—and more than once. I don't recall it affecting me much; I'm like a camel that can survive for long periods on its fatty hump, and I don't suddenly lose energy just because I've skipped a single meal, the way some of my thinner friends do.

I may hit the building's staircase once or twice before Saturday, but then again, I may not. Rest could be more important than exercise. I feel as if I'm about to take a final exam, and I can hear Dr. Kim-Renaud, my old Korean-language prof, tautologically warning us not to bother with any last-minute cramming before the test: if you don't know it by now, you don't know it. By the same token, if I'm not ready for this walk, then I'm not ready.

Speaking of unreadiness, perhaps this is the time to confess certain fears.

My biggest fear, this time around, is getting hit by a car or truck. This is especially likely along the Saejae portion of the trail, where the bike path merges into the road more often than anywhere else. I also fear getting sick from drinking river water or from being in inclement weather, and I'm worried about getting infected with some bacterial nastiness that comes from a yeogwan pillow (something like this happened in 2008, when I stayed at a huge communal home in Portland, Oregon). I'm not too worried about falling-related injuries; I learned a huge lesson in 2008, when I fell and twisted a knee. That said, I'm cautious about fatigue levels, and once again, it's the Saejae portion of the trail that worries me the most: my path goes perpendicularly over a lot of contour lines during that part of the trail. The worst place to be, when hiking, is tired and yet still wanting to push ahead to stay on schedule. Fatigue and pride are a toxic mix. I don't fear going hungry, being far from civilization, or running out of water. I do worry about something disastrous happening to my eye contacts, and I also fear losing my cell phone or having it die on me. In theory, I can continue my walk without the phone, but my navigational ability will be crippled, and I may end up wasting time taking the wrong fork in the trail, belatedly realizing my mistake, and then backtracking. I worry about hip and back pain creeping up on me—mild at first, but unbearable by the end.

There are other worries, anxieties, and fears, less well defined. On a long trip like this, anything can happen. I hope that that "anything" will be mostly good. I hope I'll have the chance to meet some interesting people. I hope the scenery that I've seen in all those biking videos will be as amazing in real life as it has been on the screen. I hope I do shed a few pounds and come back without too much loose skin. I hope this walk offers me some new perspective on life.

Only a few days to go, and there isn't much more to say regarding this preparatory phase. I'll still be logging Walk Thoughts along the trail, but as the Zen Dude Fitness guys say, I'll be doing the thing and no longer just planning the thing.

Monday, April 17, 2017

shorn for travel

Walk Thoughts #34: a quick supplement to the previous post

Several of the places that I've chosen to stay at—mainly because there's nothing else in the area, including campgrounds—bill themselves as "pensions." As an experienced Europe traveler, I think of a pension in a European way: it's a small, modest accommodation in a building that is run basically like a hotel or B&B. European pensions are no-frill places to flop down and get some rest. But what I'm now seeing, as I click the Naver Map links to look more closely at these Korean lodgings, is that the Korean notion of a pension is grandiose. These places look absolutely gorgeous, which means they've got to be expensive as hell. I'm currently scheduled to stay in five pensions; if each one runs $200 a night or more, I'll be hemorrhaging over $1000 during this walk. I'd much rather camp if it's going to be like that.

I'm going to call these various pensions and see what's up with their nightly rates, and whether they'll even accept a single traveler: most of the pensions I've looked at have vaulted, spacious interiors, and they seem prepped to accommodate entire families—in some cases, up to eight in a room. Do these places even have single rooms? I'm going to find out.

If it turns out that pensions are a no-go for whatever reason, then I'll just play it by ear and camp where I find a decent patch of earth.

Walk Thoughts #33: route in a nutshell, updated and charted

Instead of rewriting my first "route in a nutshell" post, I've written up a spreadsheet on Google Docs that I'm sharing with you here. Click on the link and feel free to peruse the spreadsheet. If you see any mistakes on it, please let me know. If you can't read Korean but can read a map, you can copy-and-paste the place names listed on my spreadsheet in Naver Map, and you'll see what the location is. Zoom in and out to get your bearings, if necessary; as when reading any map, anchor yourself by noting prominent geographical features.

The column headings on my walk-route spreadsheet ought to be fairly straightforward, but here's an explanation just in case:

DATE: this refers to the date on which I'll be doing a given leg from Point A to Point B.

DAY: this is an ordinal number referring to the "how-manyeth" day of the walk this is.

LEG: this refers to the "how-manyeth" leg of the walk this is. "Day" and "leg" will diverge when I stay anywhere for more than a single night.

START: this refers to the name of the starting point of a given leg.

FINISH: this refers to the name of the endpoint of a given leg.

DISTANCE (mi.): this refers to the approximate distance, in miles, of a given leg.

DISTANCE (km): this refers to the approximate distance, in kilometers, of a given leg.

LODGING: this gives you an idea of what my accommodations will be at the end of a given day's walking. Note the tiny yellow flags in the upper-right corners of the cells in this column. If you hover your cursor over a flagged cell, you'll see a comment giving detailed information about where I'll be staying. In cases where there is a plethora of hotels/inns, I haven't listed specific accommodations, but for those areas where accommodations are sparse, I've listed specific info about where I'll be staying. Specific digs are listed for Days 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, and 16. I'll be calling ahead to these places to make sure I have a bed to sleep in. Note, too, my camping days went down from nine to only four: a closer look at Naver Maps showed more inns, guest houses, and pensions than I had thought were there.

PASSING ___ ALONG THE WAY: on some legs, I'll be passing by certification centers on my way to the daily endpoint. I'll be stopping by those centers, mid-walk, and getting my Moleskine stamped (I'm not going to shell out W5,000 for a silly bike-path passport when I've already got a perfectly usable book with blank pages in it).

H2O RATING: this refers to the availability of water along the trail, as explained before.

PATH NAME: the trail sections that I'll be walking are the Han River, the Namhan River, the Saejae, and the Nakdong River. When I made this spreadsheet, I was glad to see that I'd be on the Saejae portion for only four days out of twenty-three. If I'm going to get hit by a car, it's most likely going to happen on the Saejae. I'd like to minimize my time there.

MEAL: per my previous post, I've transferred my meal information to the chart. Because I ended up redoing a leg or two, however, the meal schedule shown on the spreadsheet is slightly different from what you saw in my post.

Bizarrely, the mileage changed slightly when I re-checked the leg-length numbers today, so any figures that you see are approximate at best. Assume an error margin of ±2-3 km.

If people are going to be meeting me in Busan when I'm done with my walk, it's likely that I'll be getting a ride back up to Seoul with someone instead of lounging in a hotel. I have mixed feelings about that. I'd actually like to have some time alone, in a more or less comfy space that isn't my own apartment, just to breathe the sea air and savor my victory (assuming, of course, that I do manage to finish this walk!). But I know it'd be churlish for me to tell everyone simply to go home after they had made the effort to drive all the way to the other end of South Korea to see me. I'll have to think about what I plan to do. Maybe I'll just tell people not to bother coming down to meet me...? We'll see.


An MRE emits smoke while sitting on my grimy windowsill.

Watch the video here.

a belated Happy Easter

Sunday, April 16, 2017

one of the better scenes from "Captain Fantastic"

(My review of "Captain Fantastic" is here.)

Score one for home-schooling:

The movie is generally sympathetic to a leftist view of the world, but this scene seems to be making the not-so-leftist point that publicly funded education is crap.

Ave, Brian!

Brian Dean offers us a photographic essay of a recent bike ride along a part of the Four Rivers bike path that I won't be walking.

[NB: I had mistakenly written "Bean Dean" when I first published this post. I don't know how that typo even occurred, and I sincerely apologize.]

Walk Thoughts #32: Easter comes early

I messed up. I had assumed JW and his boy would be coming over on Easter Sunday after church, but JW called today, around 1:15PM, to say that he and the boy would be over around 1:30PM. I had misread JW's text message, in which he had suggested both a different date and a different time for our hike-plus-equipment-testing event. My brain apparently registered the change in time—thinking that the change was purely because of Easter and church—but it had failed to register the change in date. I reread the relevant text-message exchange and saw that JW had indeed specified meeting on the 15th instead of the 16th. So today, when JW called to say he was only a few minutes out, I shrugged and told him I'd be ready. I wasn't ready, but I forced myself to prep quickly.

We three guys hiked along my shorter creekside route, i.e., the one that takes me only about 2.5 hours instead of the one that goes on for 5 hours and takes me southwest into Gwacheon City. JW and I did all fourteen staircases, but his son lost courage, complained about the heat, and gave up the stair-climbing after seven staircases. I had to remind myself that he was just a kid; it would have been unfair to ask him to be a good soldier and do the entire route as I usually do it. The boy also became a bit obsessed with my CamelBak-ripoff water bladder, taking frequent drinks and even "showering" himself once or twice before I told him, good-naturedly, to knock it off.

Having hit Staircase 14 and turned around, we walked a bit and settled under a bridge to have an early dinner. I had brought three MREs, but because I had also already eaten an MRE for lunch (it wasn't bad!), I took a pass and let JW and his son choose which meals they wanted. They elected to share a single meal, and I nibbled at the fringes, eating and/or drinking whatever they weren't consuming. We also tried my Grayl filtration device on some creek water. JW refused to drink the filtered water (he later said he had pretended to drink it, just to placate us), but JW's son and I gulped a few swallows. As of this writing, I'm just fine.

When we got back to my apartment, I bought a Coke Zero to do the Coke test on the Grayl; sadly, that ended up failing, but I do wonder whether I had performed the test correctly. (Without a doubt, I had radically cut down the filter's life by pouring Coke into the cup, so it's a good thing I have two spare filters!) We went out to the park beside my building to do the Coke test and to set up my bivy sack, sleeping bag, and foam roll.

The bivy sack initially proved to be a puzzle. It had a single ridge pole, and it wasn't immediately obvious what to do with it. JW eventually figured out the elegant solution, but the bivy, once deployed, still didn't look anything like how it looks in all those outdoor-store catalog pictures: instead, it looked wrinkled and limp, and the ridge pole, despite being correctly inserted, didn't stand up straight. It could be that I'm still doing something wrong; I'll practice a few more times this coming week before I set out on the trail.

Everything else worked fine: the foam roll was pretty straightforward, and the sleeping bag, despite gibes from JW and his boy about how I wasn't going to fit inside it, accommodated me well enough. My brother David joked, over Skype, that I should use my MREs as a pillow, which actually isn't a bad idea.

Speaking of MREs: I know I already talked, above, about eating them, but yes: my MRE boxes did arrive on Friday, and I picked them up from Abel Magwitch this morning. Those boxes proved to be surprisingly heavy, but in retrospect, after everything I had written in my first Walk Thoughts post about how much MREs weigh (about 750 grams per pack—about 20% heavier than the 625-gram average I had listed in that post!), I suppose the MREs' heft shouldn't have been surprising at all.

The MRE that JW and his son ate was called a "beef patty," and it was truly disgusting-looking. It came with a packet of cheese, plus packets of ketchup and mustard, and when the boy squeezed all those gooey elements onto the patty (the chemical-heating packet worked perfectly; the patty came out of its plastic sleeve piping hot), the resulting vision was horrifying. I joked that it was modern art, which got JW laughing.

Back to equipment-testing. I let JW's son get inside the bivy sack and test out the sleeping bag, then it was my turn. I offered Survival Tabs to JW and his son; the boy refused the offered horse tablet, but JW ate one out of curiosity. I don't think he liked it, and that's primarily because Survival Tabs taste shitty. As I said before, they're only meant to keep you alive.

There were a few things we didn't test. We didn't test out my solid-fuel camp stove; I'm curious to see how efficient it is, and how smoky it gets (the box says it's nearly smokeless, whatever that means). I suppose I'll test it out this coming week. I also didn't get to feed the guys any Soylent or, for that matter, any Mountain House meals.

All in all, though, today was educational. I'm especially thankful to JW for solving the riddle of the bivy sack's ridge pole; now, I just need to see whether anything can be done to make the bivy sack look less like a collapsed lung once it's been deployed. If nothing else, I've learned that repacking my equipment is going to take more time than anticipated unless/until I practice with it more. Right now, my bivy sack barely fits into its bag, and there isn't enough room for the ridge pole, which I'm storing elsewhere in the backpack. Same goes for my ground sheet, which came with tent stakes that are currently being stored elsewhere in the backpack. The only thing I repacked properly is my new sleeping bag—mainly because I remembered the roll-and-fold technique I had used with the sleeping bag I had in 2008.

I suppose that, if I can wake up at 5AM and be walking by 6AM, I'll be all right. It's going to take some practice, though, to make sure I can strike camp within an hour of waking up. Meanwhile, here are some pictures of MREs, today's creekside hike, and our equipment-testing session. The MRE pics were taken by me; the hiking pics were taken by JW. The final pic of JW's son in my bivy was taken by yours truly.