the pandemic pivot
After nearly a dozen years working for the state of CA, I quit state service in September of 2019. My plan was to return to school and finish my bachelor’s degree. I had filed for readmission and was accepted back into school at UC Davis for winter quarter, but upon talking to an academic advisor decided that it would be best to delay my start until spring quarter. My initial academic plan was to finish with the degree I had started with, which was Computer Science Engineering, but the advisor looked through my transcript and saw that I would be able to finish in a single quarter instead of an entire year if I switched to Computer Science in the Letters and Science department. And looking through the course schedule, the best chance of me finishing in one quarter would be spring quarter, since all the classes I needed to graduate were available.
Since spring quarter is four or five months away I decided to pick up a contract position. So from the beginning of November I had been working for Gap. It’s work that I rather enjoy doing, similar to work that I’ve been doing for the state, but more focused on SQL and PowerBI. It had seemed like it would be a good place for me to work until school finished — there’s some flexibility in hours and ability to work remotely, but they abruptly ended the contract in January. Part of the funding for my position was predicated on the fact that they wanted to spin off Old Navy into a separate company, but the company decided not to go ahead with those plans.
I had thought about picking up another contract position, but since school is only a couple of months away I decided to just be a bum for a while. School starts in March so I had decided to travel through Asia for all of February. My plan was to meet my friends who were traveling in Chongqing, China. But there’s a virus outbreak in Wuhan, China which is in the neighboring province. My original itinerary had me for two weeks in China before flying to Korea, but all flights into China have been canceled by the airline, so I changed my plans to spend the entirety of February in Korea. There are actually a couple of cases of this virus in Korea as well, but as of now there are no travel restrictions to Korea.
I had a Hyatt free night certificate so I ended up staying at the Grand Hyatt just below Seoul Tower. My hotel room had a really nice view of some of the cooler areas of Seoul including Itaewon and Gangnam. It’s amazing how dense this city is, it’s probably not the best place to be if the virus going around in Wuhan starts spreading rapidly over here.
Since I have a month in Korea, and since it seems like it’s a good idea to stay away from dense areas, I decided to cross a major item off my bucket list and ride a bicycle across Korea. So I’ve spent the last couple of days preparing for the trip. I picked up a bike at the Trek shop in Seoul. It was actually pretty reasonably priced at about $500. It’s not a true touring bike, but it has rear rack dropouts and disc brakes. The rack cost me an extra $30 and since I spent a good deal of time waiting around for my bicycle to be assembled they threw in a kick stand for free.
I thought the idea of riding a bicycle across Korea was kinda crazy, but it’s actually a ‘thing.’ The route is actually well defined and there’s a little passport that you can buy that’s actually a little stamp book, and you can collect stamps as you ride across the country. I’m a sucker for these sorts of things so I bought the stamp book. It came with a paper map, though for the most part I will probably be using the Naver maps app on my phone.
And to be honest, it’s nowhere near as crazy as my bicycle trip from Seattle & Portland to Davis. That was almost one thousand miles including the STP (organized ride from Seattle to Portland). This trip will be less than half that. There’s about half as much gear as well. On that trip I had four panniers and two trunks using both a front and rear rack. On this trip I just have two panniers and a trunk on a rear rack. That trip however was nearly a decade ago. I’m not the spring chicken I used to be and I don’t ride nearly as much as I used to. And Korea is an incredibly mountainous country. And so although the trip isn’t as crazy as some of the things that I’ve done in the past I am starting to get a bit worried…