Jun 21, 2010

Grounded Contest Winner

Last week I asked you all to send in your best ground travel stories in honor of Seth Stevenson’s Grounded. The clear winner, thanks to originality in transportation mode (who rides bicycles any more?), the quality of language barrier (seriously, they named a town “Uijeoungbu”?) , and the inclusion of rice paddies (who doesn’t love rice paddies?), was Lorraine.

Here’s her story:

When I moved to South Korea in 2006, I didn’t realize how lonely of a place it could be for Americans. My roommate and I didn’t know the language, didn’t understand the culture, and didn’t really make a lot of friends. However, one thing we did know how to do well was ride our bikes. We quickly became avid cyclists and soon outgrew the little path along the river that lead to E-mart in the next town over. We had been following this routine for weeks before we realized we were actually riding between 15 and 20 miles everyday. We loved our little bike rides, but somehow we longed for a greater challenge; some epic adventure leading us to a whole new world.
That’s when we decided to ride to Uijeoungbu. Uijeoungbu was known for its hospital, its shopping, and its notoriously difficult to pronounce name. Most importantly it was about 20 miles away, thus providing an adequate challenge for us thrill seekers. We started our journey one fateful Saturday morning; first riding the normal path until the end and then getting on the main highway that supposedly led to Uijeoungbu. The idea was to ride along the shoulder of the road until we arrived. The only problem was, a few miles down this road the shoulder disappeared. As car after car whizzed by (with an occasional horn honking or Korean man shouting out the window) I watched my life flash before my eyes several times before I finally called out to my roommate “I don’t think we can go any further!” We stopped in the parking lot of a plant nursery to discuss our new plan. Accepting defeat was not an option. So, we decided to back track, find the nearest non-death-defying road and ride it in the general direction we were heading. Surely all roads lead to Uijeoungbu, we hoped. I’m not certain what happened, but it became apparent a few hours later that the plan had failed. We wandered along random winding paths, turning every which direction until suddenly we realized – we were utterly and hopelessly lost. Not only did we have no idea where Uijeoungbu was, we had no idea where home was, where our town was, or even where that big scary road was. We wandered through rice paddy after rice paddy, occasionally running into mountains and turning around or almost getting ran over by rice-harvesting-machines. We stopped several times and laughed at the situation, but the Korean rice farmers never seemed to understand the humor. Along the way we asked several natives “Dongducheon?” in hopes that they’d point us towards our hometown. Many walked away, some rambled off in Korean, and most starred at us perplexed, as if they don’t see two white girls on bikes riding through their rice fields every day.
In the end, we had to admit defeat and call our one Korean bike riding friend to come save the day. We handed the phone to one somewhat friendly shopkeeper (she didn’t kick us out immediately) and let her speak to our friend Jongmoon. I still have no idea what words were exchanged, but I expect he said something along the lines of “I’m so sorry my crazy white friends got lost in your rice paddy.” Regardless, he showed up on his bike a little while later, and laughed at us the whole way home.
Thanks Lorraineo! Send me your mailing address and I’ll send you your very own slightly-used copy of Grounded, one or more used ten-ride-tickets-as-bookmarks, and some Monday-morning appreciation and affection.
By the way, Lorraine is back in South Korea for a while and is tweeting her adventures. You should follow her.
For all of you equal opportunity equinox enjoyers out there, I know today is just another day, but for everyone else, happy first day of summer!


  • Dear Jesse,

    It’s time to write something again. πŸ™‚


  • Oh, alright. πŸ™‚

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