Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Man From Seoul

Yesterday I went out for a 50 mile cruise up to Nyack and just when I crossed over the George Washington Bridge I ran into this fellow. It was clear that he was going somewhere or some place and not just out on a normal everyday ride. Meet Pang-joo, (I'm spelling that phonetically), a young man from Seoul, Korea.

Pang-joo was carrying his gear down the stairs at the exit of the bridge piece by piece. That bike of his was a bit too heavy fully-loaded to carry down all at once. As I approached him he gave a look of eagerness as well as curiosity and I'm sure I was exuding the same things. I said to him "where you headed." He looked at me for a second, huge grin on his face, thick black Ray-ban glasses cocked a bit, sweat on his brow, and began to mutter something, then suddenly came out with "San Francisco!" Turns out the dude is on his way across the country and yesterday was day two of his trek. How envious I am.

Looking at Pang-joo's gear made me feel like a bit of a princess. Not that being a princess is a bad thing. They're usually babes but you know the connotation associated. This guy was roughing it. Two leather luggage bags were hanging off a rack on the back - one black, one brown. Strapped to the top of the rack was a sleeping bag and a tent. An empty duffel bag was strapped atop his lodging in an attempt to waterproof. Hanging from his handle bars were two plastic bags. One bag held some sort of food - a brown powdery looking substance. The other his flips. He wore a back-pack with two white flags dangling out of the top promoting fair trade.

"Well, sir, where you headed tonight," I asked. Once again he looked at me a bit perplexed. We had a serious language barrier to cross here. My Korean just isn't that great. I think a dog probably knows more english. But after a second he said, "I don't know." "So you're just going for it," I responded. And the grin on his face stretched ear to ear and he nodded. He offered me a Twix bar straight from Korea. Awesomeness!

We started chatting a bit about his ride and whatnot and he explained this trip is a dream of his and now he's finally getting the opportunity to do it. "So you have maps or what?" I asked. He pulled out a broken iPhone and said "I have this but it doesn't work." "Well dude, let's get you a map," I said as he packed his bike up and off we went. The guy wobbled to and fro as he climbed a small hill. At a stop light I said "How long you gonna be out there?" "90 days" he replied. I thought, man, at this pace he'll be out there for 6 months.

He told me he was looking to get to Penn St. University in the next couple of days, so at a local deli we were checking out a map. Honestly, I had no idea where Penn St. was - color me stupid, but I didn't know. So I asked about 5 people in the store, no one knew, and then finally one women told me that it's in Philadelphia. Well, that isn't right and PJ knew it. He knew it was west and in the middle of Pennsylvania. So, I bought him a New Jersey map (they didn't have any PA maps) and pointed him in the right direction.

We stood in the parking lot, snapped some photos, exchanged emails, and parted ways. Just before I took off north and he west, the little guy gave me a huge hug. That whole interaction was awesome and I'm glad I could help him out. If his snails pace continues perhaps I'll see him out there in a couple months. Who knows. Alls I knows, is that I hope someone will extend that sort of kindness my way when I need it. So if you see this guy out there, give him a shout and a smile, even some real food beyond the brown powdery substance. Good luck PJ.

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