2/28/16

Gateway Arch




St. Louis, Missouri

Missouri State Capital

Jefferson City, Missouri

Fountain of the Centaurs

Jefferson City, Missouri

Side Trip

Lexington, MO 

Battle of the Hemp Bales: Anderson House

Lexington, Missouri 

2/23/16

Stoner Drug

A .75 cent cherry phosphate soda served by a soft spoken small town girl on a a marble counter from 1927 at a drug store open since 1896 in a small town in Iowa.
Hamburg, Iowa

Indian Cave State Park

Like all good places, it had not revealed itself right away. The entrance was narrower than I'd imagined. 

The air grew colder and dryer. Soon the lightly packed dirt under my hands was frozen, with small shards of ice rising from it. 

Inches above my head two bats clung to the roof of the cave hibernating. Beyond a few crickets and swarms of small flies.  
Shubert, Nebraska 

2/13/16

133



Bridges of Madison County

 Roseman Covered Bridge, built in 1883
Second Cedar Covered Bridge, built in 2004
Holliwell Covered Bridge, built in 1880
Imes Covered Bridge, built in 1870

Madison County, Iowa

2/11/16

Mount Kumgang Tourist Region: North Korea

After a bit of a bus ride from Seoul, North Korea was a mere 4 kilometers away (2.5 miles). This was the second time I'd been this close. Today however was different. For the first time, I was going to cross over that stretch for no mans land and into the most isolated country in the world.

Visiting North Korea was the reason I moved to South Korea. While it is not the same today (2016). Back in 2008 there were two tours anyone could easily take from Seoul into the North. A trip like this was the reason I lived overseas; the chance to see something others never would.

A quick customs check by the South and then the North. I was now going to be in North Korea for a full 24 hours. After dropping off my bags in the hotel room we all met outside for the first hike of the trip.
Mt. Kumgang holds deep meaning for Korean's on both sides of the DMZ. The entire area is beautiful and North Korea has done an amazing job of preserving that beauty.

Through the thick fog I made my pilgrimage with around 100 South Koreans to the summit. All the while our North Korea guides kept a careful eye over us. Telling us where we could take pictures and what things we could and could not touch or get near.
At the summit there is a monument with a Korean poem inscribed on it. One interesting thing about North Korea is that poems are usually either placed on monuments or carved into the rock in places of natural beauty.

After climbing back down we were taken back into the tourist hotel area of Mt. Kumgang. Like all tours of North Korea, you are cut off from the local population. Whether its just across the street or the river, the locals are never out of sight, merely out of reach.

Having traveled alone, I went to dinner at one of the many restaurants by myself. While looking over the menu I notice the shop was selling mushroom wine. Knowing it would make a good intro to making dinner friends, I ordered an entire bottle.

Before long I was sharing the bottle with new friends; to this day I am still great friends with one. The rest of the evening my new found friends and I consumed every type of beer, soju, wine and bottled poison North Korea had to offer.
I awoke the following morning to a clear sky and a stiff hangover. After a large breakfast and lots of water it was time for the hike up to Kuryong Waterfall. 

It was a unique time to be in the area. The next day the North and South were going to have a friendship meeting. So all along the path there were North Koreans setting up bleachers for the ceremony. It was here for the first and last time in my life I saw true animosity in another mans eyes.

He must have only been in his late 30's, but his face bore the wrinkles of a 60-year old man. Like most people in the North he was wearing a drab communist shirt and pants with a North Korean pin in his shirt. As I walked past him we met eyes. It was the first time I looked into the eyes of another person who truly wanted me dead. It was like the dead eyes of a shark I was to look into years later deep in the ocean alone in Kosrae programmed with a lifetime of propaganda. It was beautiful, haunting, and the reason I travel. 

My hungover body had finally drug itself to Kuryong Waterfall. Say what you will about the North, but its lack of infrastructure leaves the water cleaner than anywhere else I have seen in the world. 
My time in the North was coming to a close. With the bus leaving in three hours, so I walked around the area.
It was forbidden to take pictures there, but on one of the bridges you could look into the area where the workers lived. The silent gray concrete buildings and I stared back at one another. It was a feeling that neither words nor pictures can convey.

Like all trips, this one came to a close. While things are different now. Then as I left three flags blew in the wind; all of a unified Korea. 
North Korea

2/2/16

125cc Taiwan: 5/26/2006

The small typhoon had brought heavy rains for the past two days. There was flooding. The school I was teaching at had closed for the day. It was the perfect day for a motorcycle ride.

When its raining this much in a tropical country, you don't dress to stay dry. You dress to get wet and remain comfortable. For me, this means a good full-face helmet, a light synthetic shirt and pants, and yes, flipflops. Yes, wearing flipflops on a motorcycle is a horrible idea. Over the years I have paid the price; the toe nails have since grown back.

Taking my favorite road deep into the magical mountains outside of Hsinchu I went in search of adventure. The mountains above had waterfalls where I had never seen them. There were little to no cars. Deeper into the mountains, deeper into the mountains I rode.
Well that was until I met this mess. While this may not still be the case, in 2008 a sight like this was rather common in the Taiwanese mountains. So common that it once caused a good buddy and I to end up on one of the most epic, cold and looong motorcycle rides of my life.

After walking out into this mess and assessing that my little 125 SYM Wolf would sink in never return, I turned around.

The ride however was not over. There had to be a way around this mess.

I rode down to the rather swollen river and took a road next to it in an attempted to ride around the blocked road. The road soon became covered in 6 inches of water; I continued on.

The water was indeed getting deeper, but I could see the top of the grass growing next to the trail, so it could not be that deep. Ohh it was getting deeper. 10 inches. 12 inches and yep now the entire motorcycle was underwater and dead.

I got off and no lie the little bike floated up to the surface and floated; making it much easier to drag back to semi dry conditions. Being stupid I of course tried to start it. This of course did not work.

Being without a mobile phone, I was now faced with pushing the bike out of the mountains and back home. Did I mention I was in Taiwan and did not speak Chinese. Luckily I was up in the mountains, so a fair bit of coasting got me a ways towards home.

Life was starting to be a bit too cold and wet, so I wandered into a local community center. It was filled with kids on computers and one old man. Of course the kids go a huge kick out of the soaking wet white guy randomly wandering into their community center during the typhoon. Luckily someone had taught a few of the kids enough English for me to explain I needed a telephone.

Happy to find a phone, I pulled the nearly destroyed business card of my always amazing Taiwanese motorcycle mechanic Adidas (yes that was the western name he used) out of my pocket and called him.

A warm glass of tea later Adidas arrived with his truck and I was back home and the bike was in the shop. What happened to the bike? Adidas fixed it and I rode it around the entire island of Taiwan, but that is a story for another time.

Hsinchu, Taiwan