Bicycle Touring roads of challenge, risk, serendipity and fulfillment.
Round the world: The couple died earlier this week when they were run over by the driver of a pick-up truck while riding their bicycles on a road 70 miles east of Bangkok in Phanom Sarakham, Chachoengsao
They were in their 23rd country when tragedy struck. Mr Root's devastated father Jerry today said he heard of the tragedy on Wednesday and described the pair as a ‘golden couple’ who ‘loved life’.
Thailand is well known for its perilous roads, with more than 13,000 killed and almost 1 million injured each year in accidents.
They had cycled through Europe and a number of danger areas including Iran and Afghanistan. Next to his successful career as a talented artist, Mr Root was also a lecturer in art and media.
This place is enormous, who built the tracks and what horses have ran across them centuries ago, the trails of Genghis Khan and the Nomadic way. I can ride for hours endlessly seeing new horizons ahead of me. On mountain ranges that climb from 1300 meters to 2600 meters, it's a challenge and freedom as one. Every day is the same routine for me, but the environment makes it new, fresh and invigorating. Rain and sun, wind and cold, it all changes around me as I ride Northwest. When the conditions are dry, I can stop and rest on my backpack on the Taiga Steppe grass, other times it raining and wet, cold and windy and I am sweaty, tired and dirty and wouldn't even think of stopping right now - I ride and stay warm. White dots, some in pairs and some in a linear line along the mountains, near streams where tributaries flow back and the surface aquifers provide source of local water. Cycling across, up and over. Grades, altitudes, GPS mapping, peering down at the map while I ride or take my camera out of my chest pocket and snap a picture (above). Occasionally, I encounter a Nomad herding his flock of several dozen obedient sheep and goat tracking in lines together, mulching the grassland with pattering tiny hoofs. I set myself a goal everyday, and try to scribble notes in my journal, pin point the map, and get some good sleep when wind whips and moans around mountains, I have only myself in some areas where it's clear and above the dirt track national highway.
I am writing old and new, thoughts of the Himalayas and present X journal in Mongolia. I turn pages and use my whiteboard marker like a paint brush. My thoughts are clear and punctuate the paper with experiences only a few years ago, I dreamed of. Now, I am living the Challenge and Freedom are one - opportunity to see the world. If one door closed this summer (making it to Alaska), another door opened (booking a flight to Mongolia); so I take any opportunity to the see the world from a mountain bike. I want something challenging and extreme - dropping in, into culture and new languages, into new ways of life (or ancient reflections as I see here), and this requires a great deal of commitment and it is important despite the hardship, to connect in the Element. Land, animals, terrain, weather and climate all seem as vivid as they can get. I am certainly pushing hard, driving two wheels, and have a great deal ahead of me this summer.
Faraway from Asia where I live (and where many readers are reading this in North America), is home. I dream of going home and traveling by mountain bike across Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia before sweeping through the Rockies to Banff, Alberta and crossing the Continental Divide. I remember motorcycle touring through Banff, Alberta in the spring of 1996 and riding up from Billings, Livingston, Bozeman and Butte, Montana on Interstate highway 90, and turning North at I-15 towards Helena, then turned out to Highway 89/200, and continued Northwest towards Freezeout Lake and Choteau, through the Rocky Mountains past Lower Saint Mary Lake and past Flathead National Forest onto Highway 89 to Kalispell, and Highway 93 to Highway 3 in British Columbia to Cranbrook...
Memories of marathon journeys stay with me long after the ride was through. Mongolia by mountain bike (where most people I met suggested "machine" which means use a motorcycle) is definitely more challenging and each passing day, gives me more challenge and more freedom that I had the day before, or the weeks before I came here. So, without regrets I ride for the challenge this summer and support two great foundations IDEAS and ETE and Lynskey Performance, USA for supporting. Hope you enjoy reading the X Journals from Mongolia - More adventures are coming soon!!!
On the trails of Genghis Khan.
Made it ahead of the dust storm, Northwest Mongolia 2012
I find myself deep adrift in another world. East Asia, South Korea. Miles from the outside, clear air drifting over deserts and arid grasslands of Mongolia. My eyes are fixed on that movement, the survival I face, alone and with Nomads, the horses, the sheep, the tough yaks and camels brought along by horsemen and further ahead on the track, I see goats scurrying and munching mountain sides in symmetrical rows and tracing patterns. The land is natural under my feet. There are no paved roads, lines, traffic lights or the fog of drivers and pollution here. It's still out of reach for civilization and much of the land is needed for the animals who roam and feed their Nomadic people. The Russians have left the country, the Chinese are over the borders. Solidarity and democracy and pastoralism where the roaming sheep and goats outnumber people. This is a good feature of Outer Mongolia. Unforgettable.
Today, I feel a vast emptiness bigger than deserts and I am home now in South Korea, while the North cajoles the idea of a nuclear war, I fall out of order losing touch with the westernized, commercialized South while we look out from stone wall apartment blocks and sliding glass windows at similar structures in rows of apartment columns, this could be the U.S.S.R. And in the back of my mind's eye, I can still see a golden sun and washboard roads, the rocky track and dust blowing behind a UAZ-452 people mover revving up over the mountain peak past the Ovoo, the spiritual cairn with horizons coming and going all the way from Lake Baikal in the North across the border in Siberia to the clutches of sand desert Gobi in the south. Here again, it's South Korea and the air is dry carried over the Taebaek and Cheongoksan mountains nearby. Here we are "Yellow Dusted" all springtime with a hazy cloud of pollutants that recently choked airports to close in Beijing and cause serious respiratory hazards in the elderly and those prone to allergies, my children were sick for weeks from this foul air. Far away and unclear, East of China, East of Mongolia, East of the Gobi Desert - the Far East is where we live. All spring is "outdoor activity on hold, or exercise with caution" since air masses are mixed with sandy dust and toxins from Industrial two-face, China.
I've been in physiotherapy for 4 weeks, best time spent in my life of recovery. A doctor who cares and knows my injuries, he can feel them with his hands and works the muscles and tendon like kneading a loaf of bread before throwing it through the fires of the oven. Everyday I leave the clinic I can walk straighter, feel less pain, do more than I did since I spent the summer hunched over while scaffolding 40,000 meters across 2,500 kilometers of the Northern Steppe in Central Asia.
I hurt, I feel pain now like I never did before. Today, I don't ride bikes, I don't speak to sponsors and I drift further away from finding them with my own personal life rolling through turbulent storms, electric clouds, dark shadows and light casting nets over my happiness and drowning it in a wild river. While trapped within nature's grip, I feel peace slipping through my hands when the next CNN report sensationalizes and draws more world attention to their news, their advertisers. While over here, we are struggling to keep watch over our families, homes, jobs and security - this is life in a divided Korea, today a risk environment for future warfare. Now, I must report to work and get the classes done, professional, work and family life, money and debts paid - the fine art of balance on a thin red line.
I now live again behind concrete walls, the internet, the social scene is displayed on a computer monitor, thousands flock to see, hear and click "Like" and add a new page to follow. I do the same as the sheep following the social road through a digital whiteout, a blizzard of connectivity and temporal connections. I miss living from my tent in the deserts, the grasslands, the yelp of dogs and bleeping of sheep coming round from their pastures in the middle of the night when stars twinkle bright and you feel alright.
I miss the creative space of nature in wide open pastoral lands, where I could camp somewhere each night between 1,564,115 square kilometers of a single country, mostly open Steppe, arid grassland undeveloped, as were the tracks serving as national highways connecting life routes of trade and traveler. Small-bore 150cc Chinese motorcycles and the occasional 350cc single cylinder Russian motorcycle - a IZH Planeta 5s moving slowly, bobbing through holes and around overturned stones with a newborn baby wrapped in blankets between mother and husband, headscarf and sunglasses, jackets and heavy Mongolian overcoats, saving them from the cold nights, the harsh sunlight, and biting flies as they roll along.
It's tough living far from your cultural roots for so very long, the distances grow bigger each year and you always plan to go back, but you can't. And inside the Southern half of the Korean peninsula, the geographical space begins to shrink into one culture, one moment in time. You drift here, they don't see you, you work and serve the needs for hundreds, time ticks by, you drift by, nobody says goodbye. The wave of endless life, replaceable and timed out in the moments eventually lost in the sea of drifting memories. Mongolia was exceptional, I want to return. What is the next expedition?
-- Brian Perich
Adventure Cyclist, Explorer, Father, University Lecturer
Brian Perich is now an English a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher, father, and adventure cyclist based in South Korea.
Between 1994-1998 - Brian completed his own adventures with motorcycles. His motorcycling marathons took him across the United States and central/western Canada, while traveling solo over an astounding 24,000km in 60 days! He endured 900 mile/1300km days in the motorcycle saddle and apparently loved every minute of those adventures.
Today, he has given up motorcycle adventures altogether, but finds an outlet for his enthusiasm in outdoor recreation while bicycle touring and micro-blogging about those experiences.
While employed as an English teacher in South Korea, Brian has became an advocate for bicycle touring on his mountain bikes. The Korean-World blog originated from those small adventures in Korea, now expanding to covering his recent HimalayasXexpedition across western China, the Taklamakan Desert, the northern Himalayas of Xinjiang/Uyghur Autonomous Region, the corrugated back roads and mountains of Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces. Brian successfully completed his expedition with 3200km/1988 miles of pavement, on/off road MTB adventure cycling. Brian has just completed his second major epic, MongoliaX expedition - Crossing Mongolia 2012, a solo mountain bike MTB expedition across 2500km of Outer Mongolia from Ulanbaatar to Altai Taven-Bogd National Park bordering China, Russia and Mongolia.
Brian is now supporting several non-profit foundations through expeditions: IDEAS Foundation of Canada IDEAS is the acronym for Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society which supports the IBD community, those suffering from IBD-inflammatory bowel disease, also known as Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis.
The second non-profit foundation is ETE.ORG - Education Through Expeditions, UKwhich supports educational outreach programs inside schools around the world. ETE connects explorers with students in the classroom, through an interactive online program in development (Beta).