I happily rode my bike to Brandon’s apartment looking forward to our morning visit to a nearby Buddhist temple. He warned me that it was about a three mile ride and the hill at the end was so steep we would have to walk our bike up it. I was nervous, but I felt up to the challenge. A small breakfast later, we took off.
As we neared the edge of Chungju, I started to tire out. I was grateful to be with another person so I didn’t have to watch the traffic on my own. We turned up a road going up a mountain. There were fewer cars as we biked past several farms. I asked to stop for a rest about two miles in. Panting and looking around, I noticed that the houses were huge in the area, but there weren’t very many. We were definitely in the country.
We continued to go up a slow grade leaving even the farms behind as we climbed the mountain. Then Brandon stopped. “Oh, no,” I thought. “It’s THE hill.”
A mammoth hill was before me protruding into the sky with a road going up, up, up. The road went straight up to the top. I couldn’t see where the road ends because the grade is so sharp.
“We’re going up there?” I gasped.
“Yep.” Brandon smiled and started walking. Just as he has done every morning for the past six months.
“I can do this,” I said to myself. I grabbed my bike and started climbing. Ten minutes later my legs were burning as sweat dripped into my eyes. “This is the worst bike ride,” I thought. And then we were there.
At the temple of Buddha.
A peaceful oasis of calm, thought and religion. This temple is larger than others I have seen. One of the advantages to being in the country is that they have plenty of room for the community living there. I explored the buildings as Brandon meditated. The bright colors of the buildings stood out sharply against the greenery of the forest and the gray of the sky. The kimchi pots lined up like soldiers on the edge of the temple property. Bridges crisscrossed the river that ended in a koi pond. Old men and women in traditional clothing walked slowly by saying hello and asking if I needed an umbrella to protect my skin from sun burn.
A cup of green tea, a philosophical discussion and an hour rest later, we grabbed our bikes again.
This time to coast all the way down the hill. It was incredible! Coasting down the steep winding hill back to Chungju was a wonderful feeling. Drivers screeched on their brakes to maintain control of their car as I went soaring by. I don’t know that I ever felt so free. The coast finally stopped at a red light. Brandon and I grinned at each other like two kids who just discovered a secret.
We’re just kids on a bike ride.
“This is the best bike ride,” I thought. Then the light turned green.