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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Truely Gruling Day; A Truely Splended Eve

Arrive at 6 on the dot to Honorable Elder Brother on the phone in the workshop talking about tractors and Honorable Elder Sister cooking dinner and ushering me in to a hot bath. Oh yes. There are two large bowls (I'm talking 1-foot diameter) of figs, just picked off the tree in the front yard. They are waiting for me to be clean.

Dinner is on the table when I get out of the bath. A hefty serving of rice along with sweet potato noodles (seasoned with sesame oil topped with seaweed) and some old, sour, rinsed, fantastic kimchi on the side. Also, bowls of Sesame Leaf Kimchi and another watery kimchi made of onions and some other leafy green. Also, a humble offering of candied peanuts, which I bought from the organic shop, de-shelled, and then made myself. Two bowls of Farmer's rice wine, which tastes all the better after 7.5 hours on a bicycle. We have a nice chat over dinner about this and that - their gardens, the seeds I gave them, the chicken coop I helped H.E.B. work on, my garden, Basil. H.E.S. says "Wow, it's been such a long time since we ate with Mike, I kind of want to get drunk." For dessert, fresh figs galore. For immediately post-dessert dessert, some sweet roasted sweet potatoes.

Then H.E.S., who is a nurse during the day, prepares some boiling hot water, soaks some towels, rubs some mint jelly stuff on my legs, and gives me a thigh massage. She tells me that 141km is probably too far to ride my bicycle in a day and that maybe tomorrow I should consider just lazing around the house all day. I may just take her up on that. She shows me how to control the electric blanket on the bed and turns it up to 5 out of 7. She sends me to bed. I tell her to wake me up in the morning, that I feel like I should at least say goodbye after receiving such excellent hospitality. She tells me not to be ridiculous, that I can say goodbye next time I come.

Events leading up to the above:

7:00 Wake up, pack, eat a monster breakfast consisting of all the leftovers in my fridge. Potatoes, "deo-deok" roots, hot peppers, dipping paste, lotus roots.
8:35 Depart.
9:35 First 20k done. Good pace.
10:35 2nd 20k done. Good pace.

(Somewhere in between 9:35 and 10:35 I notice that there are persimmon trees all around and that some of the branches are hanging over the road. It occurs to me that I could nab one without even stopping. I grab one off a tree, separate it from the branch and leaves that came with it, and start to much, all while zipping along. Unfortunately, it's rather astringent [a trendy nickname for Persimmons these days is "astringency"] and I wonder whether it's just not quite ripe or whether it's got pesticide all over it. I get all worked up and have to stop, not sure whether or not I'll vomit. Punishment 1. Later, I'm looking at the Persimmon, thinking about the Golden Rule, and wondering if, if I had a farm, I'd be upset if a biker grabbed one of my fruits for sustenance on his trip. I fail to notice a speedbump and almost wipe out. Punishment 2. Then, When I'm done, I chuck the inedible part off to the side of the road. The motion dislodges but doesn't quite knock off my left pannier bag; had it fallen off, I might have gone down with it. Punishment 3.)

10:44 First rest stop at a little bus stand. It's got a large plastic persimmon on top. Snack on some tangerines and almonds.
11:45 60 Km down. Pace is still god - looks like it'll be a short trip. Entering the next province. Have a lie-down on the side of the road under some flags and chestnut trees. Snack a little more, then move on.
12:00 All of a sudden, town with some restaurants. Settle on spicy tofu soup. Rice, soup, 6 side dishes, water bottle refill: less than 5 bucks. Also, 20 minute nap on the grass in the restaurant's front yard.
1:00 Recommence.
3:00 100 kilos. Speed is a little lower. The whole trip is supposed to be 107 or 114, but according to the signs I'm still 30-odd kilos out. A little nervous. But only a little.
Until 6:00 3 hours to finish the last 40 kilos. I stop about 10 times to ask directions, and stop several more to push my bike up hills. Rule of thumb: Walking speed is 5.5 km/h. If the terrain is steep enough that you can't ride at twice that speed, it's not worth it. Consider giving up and asking the farmer to come pick me up somewhere, but I eventually find some flat ground and my 2nd (or 10th) wind. I can see their house from across the river...just gotta find the bridge. Hark!