Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Biking Riding Days 2-6 The Hits just Keep Coming

I'm not really sure what I expected when I first thought to bike ride with the dog. I'm sure that I ended up getting a lot more than I bargained for. After the first day I was pretty confident that I could do this again. I started to take stock of my bike. I have a fairly nice bike, I think. It's silver, has a basket, a mirror, and a bell. It also has seven speeds you can change in-between which I had mostly figured out on day one. Having managed to ride and not fall off a bike I was pretty happy with myself, and I admit, the first day riding all I really paid any attention to was just riding and staying on the bike with the dog, I failed to really take in much of anything else that was going on.

As I prepared for a new day of riding I decided I would pay more attention to what was going on so I could write about it in more depth. Now having ridden several times allow me to share some observations.

Day 2

Axiom: Koreans have absolutely no idea what is going on in the world.

Granted, this may not just be a Korean thing, this could apply to any park wandering pedestrian but I tell you, it just seems like when you are riding a bike with a 60lb dog it would be pretty obvious that it might not be a great idea to come between bike, dog, and leash. However no matter how many times I rang the bell at th hajuma walking my way there was a failure to understand that being hit by either dog or leash would be bad.

Indeed some hajumas were so oblivious to the world that even after several rings, even when I was literally headed straight for them, they not only didn't move but seemed to completely fail to register us at all. I was trying really hard to keep from hitting anyone or thing with the dog, and I have to say the dog was also trying to avoid hitting things as well which works, but in the end it was just hard. We clipped at list one ajoshi with the bike. Also at one point after several rings an hajuma finally looked up to see us coming when we were seconds away, jumped, screamed and started running left to right to left in front of us. It freaked me out, disturbed the dog, and almost knocked me off the bike until finally at the last minute she ran screaming off the bike trail and into the grass.

We managed to get home in one piece but I was not thrilled with Korea that day.

Day 3

Axiom: If you don't know what to say about a dog, say it looks delicious.

I'm not really sure what was going on this day but at least five different people let me know they thought my dog looked tasty. Since I know that eating dog is not actually all that common in Korea anymore I have no idea what it was all about. So we just rode on by. There was one very old guy who started drooling a little and I'm pretty sure he would have snacked on rack de Gracie, but that was not happening.

Day 4

Axiom: Drive people!

We were riding down the city streets to try to get down to the bike trail and I found myself more than a little ducking around some drivers who just seemed as bad as walkers along the river. The worst was some guy who insisted on driving parallel to us so he could roll down his window and try to call my dog over while I was riding on the bike. Who does that? One, don't ask my dog to come talk to you, I'm the owner and I might not approve. Two, I'm on a freaking bike and your DRIVING.

Day 5:

Axiom: When in doubt, play chicken.

I don't really know why but it seems like whenever the bike riders on the trail see me coming, if we are both on the same side it is easier for them not to move. See I try to ride so as to keep my dog from being in the way or hitting anyone. They are not riding with a dog. It seems obvious that if you are coming my way and you see me with a dog that is running out of the way of walkers that, of course, you should cross to the other side of the trail. This is not true. Apparently it is better to play chicken to see which of us will swerve out of the way first. This is very stressful as I'd really prefer not to get the dog tangled in your bike when we clothesline you. I am the only one who thinks this because the riders keep playing chicken.

Day 6:

Axiom: Tying up your pet on a busy bike trail so they are jumping and barking to try to get to you is a good idea.

There are a lot of people who actually do walk their dogs through the park here so I'm not alone, but I swear the couple that just made me want to kill was a pair that had a small dachshund. They were sitting on a bench and the dachshund was tied to the fence across from the bench. Sadly between the bench and the fence was the bike trail, which meant the dog was trying desperately to get to his owners by thrashing and jumping into the bike trail. I didn't see this until to late, Gracie went to try to jump over the dog and pulled the handles, I pulled the other way and ended up in the lawn but not falling off the bike. I was really pissed at the two idiots though. Don't torture your animals. Idiots.

This covers much of what I have seen since I started riding with the dogs. Korea, my adventure continues.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 1: Biking in Korea

Well, as has been mentioned a new dog was acquired. I admit it, I got talked into it by a friend of mine that volunteers at the shelter. She talked up a big beautiful black borzoi dog. Granted I did not want big black borzoi dog but I knew my roommate would be happy to meet and gain such a dog especially after losing the other dog last summer.

So a new dog was gained, named Gracie, who is about a hundred times larger than Tino and roughly a year old as far as we know. She is most definitely my roommates dog. She wants nothing to do with me at all. And lucky for me the roommate has gone to the States for two weeks and I'm watching the dogs. Granted with Tino this is easy. But the big dog needs an insane amount of walking to feel tired in the least. So I went and bought a bike. This seemed like the best possible way to handle the situation. I don't live too far from the Sincheon river and it has a nice bike trail, making it the easiest way to walk the dog.

Granted there was one problem with this little plan. I hadn't ridden a bike since I was twelve. I actually liked bike riding. I used to do it all the time when I was a kid. I remember when I lived in the desert I'd ride for miles and miles in the hot dry heat. I rode past a rattle snake once and sped away as it snapped at me. I'd ride on back roads and scare jackrabbits out of the brush. It was hot and I loved it. After moving to the mountains my bike riding got cut down a lot. There were two primary problems, the asthma and the fact that I was allergic to everything that grows. A big change from the desert where my asthma did not happen.

So the asthma got worse, I got bigger, and eventually stopped riding. However when getting the bike I reminded myself that I regularly ride at the gym between 45 and 50 minutes a day when I'm up to it. I figured riding a bike on the street would probably not be that much more difficult than what I was doing at the gym.

Now I have a bike, I have a big black dog, and I'm pushing the bike out of door to my apartment. I'm getting ready to get on the bike when I realize, again, that I really have no idea how this is going to work out. Before this point it had been a thought exercise, ride dog with bike-wear dog out. I was actually going to try this. Obviously I am in insane.

I managed to get on the bike without falling off. The thing I remember best about bike riding is that falling off is really easy to do. As I started to peddle the big black dog started to get a little speedy and I realized that I was now trying to ride a bike, something I hadn't done in years, with a dog, something I'd never done.

We weaved through the city streets towards the river and I was scared out of my mind. My heart was racing and it wasn't from the peddling. I was convinced I was going to fall off, or she was going to pull me off. She kept jerking me, I kept being steered in towards cars. I was never so happy to dismount and get to the river.

At the river I had to get the bike down stairs. Fortunately they have a ramp set in the middle of the stairs for people to roll bikes down which is what I did. Landing at the bottom I was ready for the actual riding part. I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing. I went to get on the bike and immediately bruised both shins with the peddle. Fantastic.

I reset the peddles, feeling all of eight as I did it, and jumped on and started to go. We were finally able to pick up speed. Apparently big black dog was happy because she started to pounce. I noticed this about her when she was adopted that she liked to jump. Jump high. Given room to do it she can jump straight up off the ground to shoulder height. Imagine her doing that when you're riding a bike thirty miles an hour. Needless to say it scared the crap out of me.

This continued for a great deal of the ride. She also managed to pull me to a full stop every ten minutes. When we finally turned around to go home all I could think was that I was happy we were finally finished. Getting back I realized we had been gone for almost three hours. And the worst part was I did not feel worked out at all. The bike riding is supposed to replace my regular workout for the next two weeks until roomie returns to take dog so I can start going to back to the gym. But it was getting off to a poor start all around. And trust me, it gets more interesting.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Non-Tourism: Tequila Land

After having head a successful non-tourist minimalist shopping day on the Tiakong Road I decided to make Sunday simple. I wanted a burrito. That was my goal, indeed that was pretty much my only goal I figured out where to get Mexican via my little book hoped into a cab, and was off.

When I excited the cab I recognized the area as one I had been in the day before somewhere in the French Concession area of Shanghai. This area is rather large and mostly known for the tree lined streets and quiet you can find in the city of 17 million. A happiness to be sure. The cab dropped me off near the restaurant and it took me only a few minutes to figure out exactly where it was after that. I walked into a quiet looking patio lined with trees and was immediately impressed by the number of foreigners. I felt more out of place around foreigner in Shanghai then I had expected. I think perhaps it is becuase there are so many of them. And so many of them are not from anywhere near the US. They are so very different from the special brand of foreigners we get in Korea.

I realized in the middle of the patio and the people eating all over that the restaurant I was looking for was not there. Or at least that I was not in the right place. I had accidentally stumbled upon someplace that did brunch. Sadly I'm allergic to brunch. No really, I'm allergic to milk and eggs and I can't eat anything white (insulin intolerant). So brunch is mostly out. I was about to give up in despair without the Mexican I so desperately wanted. I stood surrounded by all the people and sighed when a very nice gentlemen to my right who was helping his kid into a high chair asked me what I was looking for. I explained and prepared to go when his wife joined us and suggested a place I could go for Mexican.

She grabbed me and pulled me into the restaurant, gave me an ex-pat magazine, circled a place and said to give it to a cab driver. I thanked her and walked out preparing myself for a nice burrito.

I hit a cab, got to the restaurant, and stepped into a place calling itself Cantina Agave. The name immediately made me perk up. It was a little quiet which was fine by me, I pulled up a seat at the end of the bar and looked over the brunch menu while the waiter gave me directions on how to order. It was then that I noticed the massive selection of alcohol. But not just any alcohol. Tequila. Miles and miles of tequila. Granted it was only about one on a Sunday afternoon but what else did I have to accomplish? So I was getting ready to order when the waiter mentioned the Sunday brunch happy hour special. All the margaritas you could drink for 98RMB (about 18 bucks).


He set me up with my first glass and I ordered a mountain of vegetarian Mexican food. I happily settled into my mountain of food knowing full well that more than half of it would go home with me, which was also fine by me. I finished the first margarita in a short time and tried to get attention of the bar tender. He seemed a bit busy, but the nice foreigner at the end of the bar who had been paying a mild amount of attention to me picked up the pitcher and started to refill my glass. I thanked him and chatted him up, and guessed correctly that he was in the owner.

We chatted for a while and I learned that I had stumbled into a bar that had the largest tequila selection this side of the Pacific. Not only that the food seriously rocked. He was so impressed with my tequila knowledge and love of Mexican food that he asked the kitchen to make me a custom burrito free of charge. I commented on my undying love for a man who flies to Hong Kong to get cheese and cilantro!

Eventually he had to get back to work, and being that it was only one in the afternoon, I had to get back to the drinking I had signed myself up for. For better or for worse I stayed till three and when I left I was warm, fuzzy, and pretty close to falling over from my margarita consumption. Before leaving I promised to return again prior to exiting Shanghai. And this was a promise I kept. When I showed up again three nights later the lovely owner poured me not one, not two, but close to six shots of tequila, each a different brand, two from his special stock, and at least one that was over twenty dollars a shot. A great find and happiness during my working trip.