Sunday, February 5, 2017

Walk Thoughts #3: route-mapping redux

My exploration of the Seoul-Busan bike route continues.

On Saturday, I met my buddy Tom for a culinarily interesting lunch at Sushi-O in the Gangnam district of Seoul. After lunch, we walked over to a nearby tourism office that I'd discovered via Naver Map.* My aim was to ask the staffers inside about detailed maps that were specifically of the Four Rivers Project bike route.

When we stepped into the small, free-standing office, I saw there was only one staffer in attendance: a quiet young lady who didn't look quite ready to receive foreign visitors. I put her at ease by speaking to her in Korean, telling her about my desire to walk—not bike—the route, and asking her whether she had any detailed information about it: distance between rest stops, exact facilities at each rest stop, and so on. I saw signs on her desk indicating that tourism advice could be given in English, Japanese, or Chinese; when I playfully asked the staffer which language she could speak, she said "None of those; the people who speak them are out right now." A few minutes later, a second staffer—another young woman—came in, presumably from a lunch break, and began helping the first staffer with my request. In the end, neither staffer could find any on-site literature to hand over to me aside from one vague, undetailed map. Instead, they asked for my phone number so they could contact me later about whatever information they might find. They also suggested that I walk up the street to the huge Kyobo Bookstore to check out their maps/tourism section, and/or that I should check out the local public library for more extensive information on the route.

So Tom and I thanked the ladies and headed out, but before we left, I asked the second staffer what foreign languages she spoke. "Japanese," she said, to which I replied, "Honto daesu-nae!" (sort of like saying "Is that so!" in an amused tone of voice). She gave the obligatory giggle. After half a block of walking, Tom and I took a pit stop at a restroom that Tom knew about, and once I'd found blessed intestinal relief, we continued on uphill to Kyobo. The bookstore was as large and crowded as I remembered it from a decade previous. After consulting a store worker, we found the maps/tourism section, but I didn't have any luck until I asked an employee (the same one?) to help me search specifically for information on the Four Rivers Project bike trail. A computer search by the staffer brought up exactly one result: a Korean-language book on bike tourism in Korea, only one section of which was devoted to Four Rivers. I bought the book all the same. It's going to take a million years to sit down with a dictionary and decode all that Korean, word by word, but I think this might be worth it.

Tom, on a roll, then had the brilliant idea of going to a bike shop to talk with the proprietor. I congratulated Tom on his genius: most bike-shop owners are devoted bikers themselves, so of course they'd be likely know about the trail in question! I kicked myself for not having thought of this avenue of inquiry, but I gave Tom full credit for a great idea. Tom and I parted ways, and I headed back to my apartment, which is in a neighborhood with at least two bike shops. I stopped by my apartment for a bit, then went to the shop closer to my building and spoke for a while with the very friendly owner. Like the ladies at the tourism office, the shop owner had no literature to give me, but he did have a good bit of trail wisdom to impart.

I told him of my concerns about distances between rest stops, and I wondered about what sorts of facilities I'd find at each stop. The owner smiled and said that this wasn't like in America, with long, expansive distances between sites with civilization: you'd never have to walk far before finding something to aid you, and civilization was almost always close at hand. His feeling was that the distances between rest stops on the trail were perfectly manageable for a walker, although I did wonder whether "manageable" meant something different from a biker's perspective. He didn't have anything specific to say about facilities at each rest stop, but he was generally reassuring that I'd always find whatever I needed along the route.

Our conversation eventually turned to fatbikes,** which I documented here. I felt a bit guilty for monopolizing the gentleman's time, but he seemed to enjoy our exchange, and we parted with smiles on our faces.

I trudged several blocks to my office, and while there, I received a series of text messages from the ladies at the tourism office. They sent me URLs for the Four Rivers Project online, and for a Daum cafe/blog with information about the trail. Here are those URLs:

River Guide

Daum cafe/blog

At this point, I have plenty to study, but still no specific answers to my specific questions. I suspect that I'm going to have to buy a detailed map plus one of those pen-shaped rolling distance-measurers, then hand-figure this distance question myself. In fact, with so little specific information about this trail available to the public, I'm beginning to think that I could be providing a public service as I document each segment of the trail, taking stock of specific facilities, distances, and so forth.

Stayed tuned for more Walk Thoughts as I sort through this wealth of information, explore other informational avenues, and think of other things to write about.

*It's Google Maps—plural—but Naver Map—singular.

**In a recent comment, Brian Dean spelled "fatbike" as a single compound word instead in the two-word way I was using, and I'm adopting his spelling, which I've also seen plenty of times online. Seems apropos to use a single word to express a single concept.

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