Category: Adventure

Almost Christmas

By , December 19, 2012 10:43 am

Our tree is up, but so far no presents beneath it. Nothing unusual for this house, or many others in Korea. Presents are just not a big deal. Still wrestling with whether to buy a gift for MyeongHee or not.  I bought both her and DongHyun a gift last year, but neither bought anything for me.  Not a big deal as I don’t need anything and, in fact, have been conducting The Great Purge and relieving the household of all things I won’t take with me or have shipped home.  No need to add another item to pack.  And she doesn’t need anything, either.  I might get all Christmassy yet – I have a week – so we’ll see.

Earlier this week, MyeongHee put a deposit down on another apartment. I haven’t seen it yet, but she tells me it’s ok. Not great, but ok.  I’ll only live there for 2 weeks or 3 weeks, so I’m not real concerned. If she’s happy, then it’s fine.  The latest news is that her mother will move in with her. She just turned 76 this week and while she’s relatively healthy, she’s lonely in her little house on the coast and MyeongHee says she would be lonely herself. So, for 90% of the time, they’ll live together and 10% she’ll be tending her small plot of crops in the country.  Seems like a good idea.

In other news, my writings have somehow started getting some attention.  I sold a few copies of Internal Strife this fall. I keep hoping the right reader will pick it up, generate enough buzz and interest in other folks and it will turn into a Hollywood blockbuster. And then I usually wake up and get a cup of coffee, the cost of which is  about the same as the profit I’ve made from the book’s sales – a whopping $5 per month this quarter.   It makes me want to go back and finish my second book but I’m having too much fun writing applications for smart phones, which ultimately will be far more profitable for me if I can get a full time job doing so when I return to the USA.

Last chance, by the way, for anyone interested in a personal tour guide of South Korea. I understand there’s a bit more interest in the place these days with “Gangnam Style” song and video making it into the top of the music charts in American and England and other places.  January will be cold, but I’ll have time to escort you to the more interesting places in the country – both of them. A couple of my part time jobs have completed with the end of the year this week and not sure I’ll replace them.  I may just coast into the trip home with a few hours of teaching per week.

 

 

May 2012

By , May 20, 2012 7:57 pm

I headed out around 8:30 one morning this week south of town for a nice bike ride. It had been raining almost every other day and I decided to take advantage of a little nice weather.  This beach is the same one I went to a couple weeks before on a Sunday, although that day I took the motorcycle. I’ve been down to this place maybe 5 times in the last month in preparation for the Ulsan Inferno – an annual motorcycle rally held in June. I’m helping to plan the route this year and won’t be competing.  Having taken 1st place in 2010 and 2nd place in 2011 I thought this year I’d rest and let others have some glory. It turns out that planning is quite a bit more difficult. The last two years, we allowed bicycles to compete and the point structure should have given them an equal shot at winning. It didn’t so I volunteered to help set the course and points.  That means riding a bike myself to test the route and degree of difficulty. Previous Inferno rallys only considered distance and this year I’m making elevation and altitude a factor that gives bikes more points for having to work harder.   So this bike ride I took was part for fun and part to test the route – I went about 53km (31miles) round trip – only took me about 3 hours to do it and we stopped at several places to see the sights.

The above shot is JinHa beach. It’s going to be our starting point in the rally – we’ll truck bicyles down to start and the real rally is on the way home. Our riders, therefore will do a little more than half what I did, so I felt pretty good about doing round trip in a lot less time than they’ll get to do one way plus some off-the-bike activities.   This beach is also one of the places where the world wind surfing association comes every year for their yearly competitions.  Two weeks ago we watch the pros out on the waves. This has always been something I’ve wanted to try but being a land-lubber from the prairie in the USA that just wasn’t possible.  A few shots here from the competition – I don’t don’t know these people are or where they’re from but watching pros do their sport – they always make it look so easy – made me want to try.  I might have to get back out here on a weekend when I’m not planning a rally and get some lessons.

It was really windy the day I took these pictures – the sand from the beach was blowing everywhere. But the surfers were screaming across the waves.  I simply have to try this.

Last week the in-laws were in town. I haven’t seen most of them for a while – seems like everytime MyeongHee wanted to go I was in the midst of planning something or working something else (still working on two websites, one newspaper, and one major annual event) so she’d go alone to her mother’s house.  This past weekend they all came to our house.  Not much news – whatever English any of them ever learned seemed to have dropped off. ( I practice Korean more than they have a chance to practice English but I still don’t have enough to carry a conversation.)   The youngest member of the clan, GaEun, is almost 3 years old and very cute.  She was the center of attention. The fun part of watching her grow is that her parents aren’t limiting her to traditional gender roles – which is strange given this very sexist society. Anyway, she likes cars and they indulge her. She’s not into dolls and they don’t force her. Some sociologist should have a field day documenting how this turns out.

GaEun and Grandma play with cars on the living room floor

 

playing with cars

And if it wasn’t cars it was smartphones.  Nearly everyone has a smartphone here (except grandma) and little GaEun knows there the games are on everyone’s phones. I keep a few kids games on my mine for the students I teach English to and she loved those. Here she is below playing on MyeongHee’s phone in her peejays.  She loved playing Triominoes, the game I developed earlier this spring.

Smartphones are everywhere in Korea and GaEun know how to find all the games

And of course I have to have dogs in the pictures. Not sure how we got away with not having Sparky in the shot – she gets jealous when anyone does something she does, but I got a picture of my sweet wife and my best dog.

MyeongHee and SaTang

In Case You Missed It…a Video

By , September 5, 2011 11:26 am

I posted a a small blurb earlier last week on facebook, but I know not everyone reads that junk. It’s getting less and less interesting and more full of crap than is sometimes worth it. But anyway, I digress. On to the reason for this posting.

I posted a video on my other website, Ulsanonline.com, that is a how-to video for driving in Korea. Having driven in this land for several years (wow, time flies – years, he says!) I’ve seen it all. I thought driving in Mexico was crazy, but the people in this land are certifiably insane when they get behind the wheel of a car.  Wearing body armor while on the motorcycle is not a terrible idea as it’s just plain dangerous.

I started the video with all the intentions of making it an “angry-man-blusters-at-the-Koreans” sort of theme. But half way through editing, I took another tack and decided that satire would be better. Since that website is very popular with the foreigners, I worked in the satire with the new comers in mind. Every summer and spring we get a new crop of teachers coming over for a year of teaching English and this year we seem to have a bumper crop. Some of my partners have been writing along the theme of “getting acquainted with Korea” and thought I’d structure my outrage in the same way.  However, my humor apparently works for newcomers and old-timers alike. It’s gotten quite a few plays and several people have commented on how much they laughed.

There are a half-dozen or so theories on why Koreans are such shitty drivers, and I could pontificate on a few on them. Probably not worth it, though, unless you’ve been bere, are here or are coming here. The Korean mindset is a curious thing that defies translation and sometimes description and must be experienced first hand to thoroughly enjoy – or despise – your choice, as foreigners tend to fall into either category.  Just check out the video and get a glimpse of the motoring madness that I deal with daily here.

More later. Hope everyone is well.

Monday Afternoon Fun

By , August 17, 2011 10:59 am

Monday, August 15th was a holiday here in Korea celebrating independence day from the Japanese in 1945. I took to the roads with some good friends and we made a motorcycle trip around the area.

Usually, Korea is a sexually repressed society. You won’t see skimpily dressed women – even on the beach they wear a t-shirt over their bikinis (mostly). TV is tame and is either blurred out for the naughty bits or perhaps just some breasts shown on late nights.  But when they have a passion to display things of a sexual nature, they let it out with both barrels of the shotgun.

Two places we went to were sexual in nature. The first was the Penis Cafe, a coffee shop way out in the boondocks where they can’t be seen by the little ones.  I wrote an article for the UlsanOnline restaurant guide. Click on the link to read about this crazy place. I think the owner has an obsession with the penis, or maybe just sex in general.

After that, we drove up to GyeongJu, about 40km away and visited the Love Castle. This place was a real museum with artwork dating back thousands of years all the way up to contemporary art – all of a sexual nature.  I wrote another article for that website and put it in the travel section.  Fun times.

I like writing for that website and being the famous “ulsanonline guy.” when meeting new people in town. New teachers come every fall and spring and they’ve all read the site before they get here (do a search for Ulsan on google and the site comes up pretty high on the list) and I get my 15 minutes of fame.  I do have a number of other people that write on the site and I pay them for their efforts.  And sometimes, I like to leave things anonymous, although looking through it’s not hard to put two and two together and see who wrote it.

Friend Dee - on a cock swing

After those two places, we decided a little mountain serenity would be good. Cruising through Korea’s mountainous countryside is really a joy. Once outside the city it’s a beautiful place.  We visited an ancient temple with one of the best (they say) Buddhas in all of east Asia. No pictures allowed, so you’ll have to take my word for it. But the winding roads through the mountains is a real treat on a motorcycle.

Then we went down to the coast at caught the sunset at the twin pagodas.

Monstrous things, it’s hard to imagine how the Koreans put these together without cranes as they are over 1000 years old.

It’s days like that that I really wish some folks from back home would come visit so I could share this place other than through pictures. The daily grind in the city is ok, and fun just because it’s so very different in so many ways from home, but the countryside is truly magnificent.  You should save your bottle caps and make a trip out east to come visit before the days comes that I decide to come home and stay back in the US.  You’ve got a place to stay while you’re hear, so all you need concern yourself with is a plane ticket. Come on over! I’d love to show you more of the place than just a few pictures.

Fun Times, Fun Boats

By , August 1, 2011 1:07 pm

I wrote the following for my other website, UlsanOnline.com this Monday. I haven’t had time to rewrite it to make it sound less like a city-wide article and more like a personal blog.  Sorry – you get newscaster/newsmaker Marty and not son,brother, friend or father Marty.

——

At this past weekend’s Shipbuilding Festival in Bangeojin it was land of the bizarre and strange. The highlight of the event was the boat building contest which was to make the best boat possible out of recycled materials.

Nearly two dozen teams competed in categories such as aesthetics, harmoniousness (whatever that is), strength, creativity, speed and amount of recycled materials. Some teams, whose members included professionals or students majoring in naval architecture, were quite skilled. Others, well, not so much.

UlsanOnline.com formed a team and our boat was made of empty makeoli bottles formed into pontoon covered with polystyrene foam. The Phillipino team created what looked to be a “Flintstone” mobile. A number of boats were plain failures and never made it beyond putting it in the water. Others failed under the pressure of weight, lack of structural soundness and hard racing. In all, though, it was a successful event that brought hundreds of people to Ilsan beach to play and watch.

Both the UlsanOnline team and the Phillipino teams won 500k won prizes. Although neither team built a spectacular boat, our prizes were more consolation and encouragement than because of our skills, most likely because we were the only foreigner teams at the festival. Our boat took water quickly as our makeoli bottle pontoons were far from waterproof. Our paddle quickly disintegrated under the fierce paddling Dave put forth. The Phillipino team only thought of motion after it was built, so although quite stylish was very sluggish in the water. Regardless, we had an excellent time hanging out with friends and building something out of nothing.

Throughout the festival the organizers were very helpful and kind and brought us water several times to stave off the heat and humidity on the beach. They also helped direct our chicken delivery man to our table when lunch time arrived. The other participants were great and had many colorful, fanciful ideas for their boats. I was surprised by the amount of English spoken, particular by the engineering student teams.

After the shipbuilding, we moved over to the “We are 1 in Ulsan” festival and listened to live music from the Phillipino band while we ate galbi and quaffed beer. It was a full day and we had a great time. I would encourage others to participate in next year’s Shipbuilding festival. Having built one (semi-failure) boat and watched several other failures, I believe next year we could manage a true prize winner.

Bonus : Lots of TV cameras were present and our team was interviewed by MBC. We made the 8:00pm news and there were action shots of Ryan, Scott and Dave with a 10-second interview with Dave aired on the local channel. There was also UBC that got in our faces for pictures, but I didn’t see any thing on their news.

A Software Developer Again

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By , July 29, 2011 2:11 pm

It’s been a while since I wrote any significant computer code but I finally have an application finished to show off. Long time friend and business partner Fin Madden talked me into developing an app for his new job in Egypt – he’ll be an athletic director for an international school in Cairo. He had been searching for an mobile technology application that would let him manage his students, classes and grades in his new job and was unable to find anything suitable.  Knowing all the programming I had done on UlsanOnline.com, he asked for my help.

Check our  UlsanOnline, where  I pimped it off to my fellow teachers in Ulsan. You can also go directly to the android site and see it. Buy it if you like – I’ll gladly take your money – but it’s a teacher specific tool.

At first I didn’t know diddly about about writing mobile phone apps. I could barely spell Android. But after a little research and some programming I’ve finished with it and placed it on Google’s Android Market for sale. Fin did all the artwork on the app and I did all the programming. He’s paid me a nice fee up front and then we’ll split the profits 60/40 of whatever we sell. At $3.99 per copy, we aren’t likely to get rich but we might make a little beer money and gain a little fortune for ourselves. We’re already famous in Ulsan for the website we do – it’s the most popular English site in the city – but now we hope to get a little more traction with the teaching community.

I”m kind of proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in less than two months. It’s given me the incentive to try and get back into technology when I return home to the USA. In the meantime, I might develop another app or two. Our Ulsan website has a lot of reviews in English of restaurants that otyherwise would be hard to find for those who don’t speak Korean, so I might have a map-based too that shows nearby places to eat with links to the reviews we’ve done. We also have all the bus routes in English on the website and that might becaomse a mobile app as well.

Anyway, enough geekiness. Summer has finally arrived and it’s hot. Nothing like Texas, but hot is still hot.

This weekend I’m going to the Shipbuilding festival on the coast. A small group of friends and I have entered into a contest to build a boat out of recycled material. The prize is $5000 so we’re hoping we can take a little cash back. If not, we’re very likely to have fun trying.

Valley Picnic

By , July 24, 2011 9:53 pm

Summer is 2/3rds over and we haven’t been out much. Of course, it hasn’t been much of a summer so far. We’ve only had the air-conditioning on one weekend this summer. Today wasn’t much different. It was actually cloudy and overcast with occassional very light sprinkles. We decided we’d brace the weather and head out to our favorite river picnic area in the mountains.

This is near Seoknamsa, a temple for nuns way up in the mountains. We’ve had a decent amount of rain this summer so the river was still flowing well.

MyeongHee and I pose on a couple of rocks with ancient Hanja writing. She can read a bit but wasn’t sure what they said

Both the dogs followed me around the stream, mostly on the rocks. SaTang really doesn’t like water so she’d go way around to cross over a 2 foot jump. Sparky is a little more brave, and although she doesn’t like the water much either she was having fun jumping from rock to rock and didn’t care to go around.

The water was actually pretty cold. Not Rocky-mountain snow-melt cold, but cold enough that neither of us wanted to get more than our feet wet. Consequently, when the dogs did get wet, they shivered and shook and MyeongHee wanted to dry them off.

Sparky gets a toweling off while SaTang watches all the other people in the river

All three of my girls pose for a picture

 

While we were there, we spent some time wandering around the hills and letting the dogs run in the forest. With a little steam worked off, we sat down for a Korean picnic: grilled pork with garlic and red bean paste wrapped in lettuce leaves.  Yum.  Washed it down with a few beers and then settled back to relax against the rocks. MyeongHee had heard about “Angry Birds” a mobile phone game that has become very popular and she spent an hour or so wearing out the battery in my phone.

It was a pretty lazy day, actually, which is just what the Dr. ordered.  July has been really busy with 11 hour days for me. I just picked up another class for August, so that will be almost as busy – the first week is vacation at one of my three jobs, so I’ll only have a split day starting at 10 and finishing at 8:30pm with the entire afternoon off.

 

Inferno

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By , June 24, 2011 5:59 pm

No, I’m not on fire. The inferno is the annual motorcycle photo scavenger hunt we do in June.  We had the Inferno last weekend and it was a gas!  Only 22 people this year, smaller than past years, but still just as fun. The idea is to go to as many predetermined points on the map as you can and take a picture of your team there before before time runs out. There are far too many to visit all of them, so planning, navigation and creative pictures count.

Last year, my team won First Place and got a second helmet. This year, I rode with rookies and we took 2nd place and got 75 bucks – way better prize!

Wish I had all the pictures, but the video will have to suffice. My good friend Dee was on the planning committee and she took everyone’s photos and video and turned it into a slick video. Check it out here.

I do have some photos to share. The first is the panorama shot taken at the starting point. Jason has a nice camera and does and automatic, motorized pan so a long line of us can all be in the same shot.

If you look closely, I’m in the photo on both ends. Jason started taking the photo on the left of the line (I’m wearing white shorts) and after he panned his camera past me I ran to the right side and got in for that part, too, on the far right. Who says you can’t be in two places at once? Click the photo to see the details.

This photo is my bike and Andy’s bike. Andy is my teammate and had never driven a car, bike, scooter or motorcycle anywhere in the world and decided to learn in Korea. Our scooters must’ve been separated at birth as the plates are one number transposed. What are the odds.  Ryan’s girlfriend, Rocy, shows a nice smile for the camera.

two bikes, almost one license

Anyway, it was a great day. Looking forward to more rides before the summer rainy season hits.

 

Love to all,

Marty

Let’s Go to the Beach

By , June 12, 2011 10:51 am

By bicycle.

Too hot for climbing and too nice to stay indoors, I decided to make a long ride on the bike out to the beach.

But first, I have to cross those bad boys in the distance

That’s Muryongsan in the distance with the radio tower on top. That’s a 400m (~1200ft) mountain – that doesn’t make it very big, but for a bike that’s no mole hill.

Up close, it doesn’t look so daunting, but then I’ve gained some altitude getting to this fork in the road. Cars and trucks go right, while bikes or sightseers go left. The old road is twisty and curvy and a relatively easy grade, although it goes higher than the road through the tunnel.

 

The new steep road goes straight up into the mountain and through a tunnel. I went left.

For most of the way up, I saw no other riders going my way, but many coming back down. At nearly the halfway point, I spotted a ride approaching from the rear and my competitive instincts kicked in. I had been riding rather leisurely and I stepped it up and left him in the dust. I saw him in my rearview mirror attached to my helmet trying to keep up. This old man was too fast for him.

Half way up there is a small spring where a guy can refill his water bottle.

And near the top of the pass is a stairway to Nowhere

The new road, goes through the tunnel which is on the far right of this picture. Although that road is not as high in altitude the grade is much steeper. There are remnants from the construction days still on the far left. Two sets of overgrown stairs go to what looks like nowhere.  Click on the picture for a full view of these Stairways to Nowhere, now covered in ghostly brush.

And just past this is the view to the far side of the tunnel and the mountains beyond.

At the top the altimeter on my smartphone says I was at 225m or about 700ft.

A swift ride down the east side of this ridge and I’m approaching the sea.

newly planted rice paddies fill the flat lands approaching the sea in the distance

The village at the edge of the sea

I made it!

On the east side of the mountain I was going too fast too look at much of the scenery. But on the way back up I was going much slower and had time to look around. This boat was perched on the side of the mountain on a set of logs.

Fish out of water

It advertises a bean curd restaurant just down the hill on a side path. There’s something about Koreans that have a propensity to place boats – even ships – on dry land.  This boat was half way up the east side of the mountain, at least 6km from any water. But if it were the only boat out of water it would simply be an oddity. Instead, it’s another of a virtual flotilla of boats in various places – except water – here in Ulsan. I did a pictorial for Ulsanonline last year on these fish out of water.

Overall, I rode close to 50km. Certainly no record or even personal best, but an interesting way to spend a Saturday afternoon. And it helps keep the fat off. All the pants I bought in America this spring are baggy on me now.

I run an application called “endomondo” on my phone. It tracks my path, times, speed, altitude, calories, blah, blah.  And then after I’m finished I get a nice chart of my ride including a graph of speeds and altitudes.

endomondo output

Over the Cliff

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By , June 8, 2011 7:44 pm

Yes, I went literally over the cliff.

Monday, June 6th was Memorial Day here in Korea. So I and a few friends went on a rock-scissors-paper motorcycle tour. Every so often, we would stop at an intersection and play rock-scissors-paper and the winning hand took the direction. It was a great way to see the countryside and we did indeed see some beautiful sights.

a badly stiched panorama of far northern Ulsan, Korea

We took turn after turn, sometimes ending up in small communities, sometimes farm roads and at least once, a gravel road up the side of a mountain. We emerged onto the mountain top overlooking a valley in far northern Ulsan. But before getting there, we hit that gravel road.

And that’s where I went over the cliff

I was going slow, but I hit a soft patch of gravel and my scooter spun to the right. The road was only a single lane and I still had too much momentum to stop before it went right off the edge of the road and down the mountain.

 

me, down the mountain about 5 meters, with my scooter

Luckily, the scooter caught on a stump or might have tumbled a long way down into the trees. Had that happened, I likely would have simply left the bike there to rot. But instead, the five of us scrambled down the very loose gravel and hefted the bike back on the road. Lots of sweat, dirt, gasoline and oil stains later and we’re back on the road where 100 meters later we found the panoramic view.  Should anyone be worried for my health, I was fine. Only a couple of minor scratches. Same for the bike.

 

Friends (from left) Rocy, Dee, Fin and Ryan

From there, we continued down the road to a historical marker of a long dead Korean hero. Been there, done that. But just up the road from that was a temple run by a German national. Most temples are all the same. But this one was so unique, and the monk and his wife so inviting we stayed and chatted for a long while. If you’re interested, I wrote a longish piece about the temple on my other site, Ulsanonline.com.

We ended up travelling on for another 150km (110miles) into the mountains, coastline, valleys and then back into the city to meet another friend who was buying his first motorcycle. We finally had lunch/dinner around 5pm on the coast followed by coffee on the beach.

Overall, the ride was totally pointless and without aim. But damn, it was fun.  Even the part about going over the cliff.

 

Fast Times

By , June 6, 2011 10:44 am

This weekend was both a holiday weekend and birthday weekend. Two friends, Andy and Ryan had birthdays on Saturday so a large group of us decided to take a short trip to GyeongJu and play in the go-karts.

GyeongJu is only about 40km north of here, but not everyone has personal transportation. We decided to take the train, which was outrageously cheap at only $2.50 per person. And being on the southern coast, when it’s time to go back home the roads are always clogged with traffic doing the same. The train was a nice change of pace.

Once in GyeongJu we started walking from the train station to the go-kart track. Bad advice, as it was several kilometers away. We walked maybe a mile or so without seeing any taxis or buses that could take us. Luckily two friends who decided to ride their motorcycles to GyeongJu met us along the way and ferried us, two-by-two, to the track.

Once at the track, I had to put the hard sell on MyeongHee to actually ride the karts. She was receptive when we talked at home, but at the track she wanted to just watch. No problem – I sold her on the idea and she rode.

As you’re reading you may be thinking that go-karts are fun, but come on – how passe’. How old fashioned. Even the times we’d gone to Malibu Grand Prix in Dallas to play they are fun, but pretty tame. I assure you, however, that this was not the case in Korea. These things were fast. Moreover, the track employees, used to dealing with the timid Koreans, were not sure how to handle us foreigners. That whole notion of not wanting someone to “lose face” played right into our hands, er steering wheels. Koreans don’t like to fuss at someone unless it’s a personal affront, so merely breaking rules it is a rarity to  have them call someone out and publicly embarrass them for blatant rule breaking. It was the Wild West, baby. Bumping, slamming, pushing were all, if not legal, tolerated. We had a blast!

I took several pictures of our friends – there were 15 of us total – but quite a few of my honey.  You can see the whole lot of them on my facebook photo album. My good friend Fin Madden took several more and are on his album. His photos show several mash-ups and crashes into the tire walls that MyeongHee didn’t capture.  Just a few of the shots are below. Click the pic for a closeup.

 

MyeongHee gets ready to race
Full-throttle, MyeongHee leans into the turns
My turn. One day, she will have to get serious about zooming the camera lense
On the way home, the countryside is filled with newly planted rice paddies that reflect the surrounding mountains. Well worth a click for a larger view.

 

Facebook scrunches pictures down too much and this one is a classic mashup. Click the pic for detailed view. I passed Dee Madden on a tight turn and she could not negotiate the turn in the space I left her. She slammed into the tire wall on the far left. I am on the far right speeding away and laughing

After we came back to Ulsan, we had dinner at a restaurant with a large open-air patio. The weather was perfect: warm but on the shady east side of the building with a slight breeze.  Sometimes I’m still amazed at how cheap things can be here: a full meal of grilled pork, soup, rice, numerous side dishes and several bottles of beer cost only about $11 per person. The equivalent meal in Dallas would be 3-4x that amount.

Sometimes frustrating, sometimes exciting, sometimes I’m homesick and sometimes I’m surrounded by good friends. But Korea is rarely dull.

 

Dodging Bullets

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By , February 20, 2011 10:49 am

We pulled a Matrix stunt this weekend while on a bus trip to the resort. Bullets, in the form of bus wheels, flew off. Near misses. No bodily harm caused but lots of fear.

The weekend ski trip is a pretty cheap deal here in Korea. For less than $90 you get a 4 hour bus ride there and back, lift tickets and ski or board rentals. Our trip started at 4am and I rode my scooter at 3:45 am to join my friends. Once on the bus, we chatted briefly and then we all leaned back in our seats for a snooze while we drove to the ski mountain. I had a hard time sleeping as I was sitting near the rear of the bus and kept hearing a strange harmonic “whop whop whop” sound and a slight shimmy.  I’m not bus driver so I didn’t worry too much about it. I figured the bus driver knows his bus better than I.

Less than 2 hours into a 4 hour drive I heard a bump and the driver pulled off the highway. I though we were stopping at a rest stop but the driver got out and started talking rapidly on his cell phone. Not a good sign. I got out to see what the matter was.

Where is our second wheel

It was still before sunrise and a little hard to see. But clearly, we were missing something here. Our bus was listing hard to the left and the rear tire was dangerously compressed. It wasn’t immediately clear what really occurred. A quick look at the right side showed us what it ought to look like:

There should be two wheels on the rear of the bus. This is the right rear side and the wheels and tires extend to the edge of the bus body. Then looking again at the left side it was clear what the shimmy and whop-whop noise was: We had a flat and the driver ignored it. He ignored the noise and shimmy for so long, in fact, that we lost the entire wheel. It must have worked itself right off the studs.

We went back on the bus to wait for a repair job. Then we learned that it would be a two hour wait for a new bus to pick us up and continue the journey. A new bus? Why?

It was after dawn before we realized the truth of what really happened.   Once the sun had come up enough to give us some light, this is what we saw.

both wheels are off the studs with one wheel completely missing

We had nearly lost both wheels. We clearly dodged a bullet. I think the final bump we heard before pulling off the road was the remaining wheel slipping off the studs and resting on the hub.  Metal shavings littered the hub, wheel and ground and left a trail for many meters back along the highway. Nowhere behind us was our missing wheel, which means it must have fallen off quite a while back.  Our bus had come very close to pulling a Fred Flintstone and simply rolling over on it’s side. Had that happened at highway speeds of 100km/hour (70mph) things would have gone very badly. Instead, the driver pulled over just before things got really frisky and our biggest headache was a two hour wait for a replacement bus.

Once we were on our way, we got to the ski mountain late, but just in time for lunch and skiing. Our package was for 9am to 4pm but the tour group adjusted the lift times for us (quite complicated here in Korea compared to the simple full-day or half-day prices back in the USA) and we skied from 12:30 until 6pm. We arrived back in Ulsan around 11pm.

On the top, the obligatory photo

We went to “High One” a resort in GangwanDo province. Not a very big ski resort by most standards, but adequate. Only 18 runs are placed around a mountain, the top of which is only about 1200 meters. There are just a few beginner courses, completely overrun with people and more of a roller-derby game than skiing. An equal number of intermediate and advanced and a couple of professional runs and snowboard technical courses dot the higher slopes.

I spent the early afternoon getting my ski legs adjusted. It had been a year since I skied and didn’t want to go too far, too fast, too soon. I’m an old man, after all.  Once I felt comfortable skiing and had my carving skills honed by dodging the thousands of beginners on the easy green slopes I took to the blues and reds.

Experts Only. But I did several of these

No hill for a stepper like me. I plunged down the “expert only” red slopes (in Korea, red is what American’s would view as a blue or perhaps double blue diamond run) and found them to be only steep and fast with almost no moguls (bumps). Of course, I felt a little studly going down the expert runs, but no serious skier would consider these expert only. If you’ve ever been to Taos ski mountain, these would be a difficult blue there. But at least I had the runs mostly to myself and I could ski with abandon. The easier slopes were too crowded with people.

Mountainous Gangwan province, complete with brown haze

Since we arrived late and our lift times were adjusted onward to 6pm, the slopes started to clear off after 4:30. Quite a few other one-day bus trips left at that point and the only remaining skiers were those spending the night in pricey hotels or, like us, leaving later. The higher slopes were shut down, but the lower, green slopes, although easier, were cleared of most of the people. Overall, despite the bullet dodging, not a bad day.

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