International student’s USA bike adventure

Hyunsoo KimBy Douglas Esser
An international student studying marketing at University of Washington Bothell faced a choice between a summer internship or biking across the country. Hyunsoo Kim chose adventure.

About half way through his cross-country adventure on two wheels he’s encountered a bear, shadeless 100-degree heat, thunderstorms with “really, really” hard rain and lots of friendly people.

“I thought it would be just pedaling and getting those miles. It’s a lot more than that. I’m meeting lot of good people, getting a lot of help, making great relationships,” said Kim who was taking a day off Wednesday, Aug. 3, to catch up with communications using the Wi-Fi at a McDonalds in North Branch, Minnesota.

Hyunsoo Kim“I’ve been surprised that random people who don’t know you offer so many things,” he said. “I’ve had people buy me breakfast, lunch, give me free water. It’s been awesome.”

When he went into a motel in Montana to ask directions, he met a man from Ohio who was pedaling to Seattle on a tandem bicycle with his son. The man paid for his motel room – about $80.

Kim gave him some tips about travel to the west. He gave Kim some tips about travel to the east. Bike tourists share information when they run into one another, he says.

Kim started from the Space Needle in Seattle June 29. He aims to arrive at his destination of Portland, Maine, by the first weekend in September. North Branch, Minnesota, is about 1,800 miles from Seattle by bike and about 1,500 miles to Portland, Maine, according to the USA Geo website.

Hyunsoo KimKim encountered the bear near Usk, which is north of Spokane approaching the Idaho border. He was riding on a quiet local road when “all of a sudden this black bear jumped out of the bushes probably 100 feet away.”

They made eye contact for a wild moment, then the bear went back into the bushes. It appeared to be a juvenile, although bigger than a cub, and Kim was afraid mama bear might be nearby. People in a car behind him also saw the bear and offered to escort him through the area.

From the perspective of his bicycle seat, Kim concluded there is no shade in Montana or North Dakota. Sometimes he’d take a break under a bridge just to get out of the sun.

The 28-year-old from Korea went to high school in California and served a two-year military obligation in his homeland. He also studied Japanese for a year before returning to the United States and attending Everett Community College for two years.

Hyunsoo KimKim says transferring to UW Bothell has been “awesome,” with small classes and close interactions with professors and classmates. To graduate, he needs two more quarters, which he expects to complete this fall and winter.

Kim’s family has returned to Korea. He’s visiting in September for his brother’s wedding and plans to take the opportunity to bike across Korea from west to east. He estimates it will take no more than three days. Korea is about half the size of the state of Washington.

After graduating Kim plans to obtain a visa that would allow him to work in the United States. With the end of college in sight and a career ahead, he thought about working at an internship this summer. But, he knew he wouldn’t have time for adventure after he graduates. “I decided this adventure would be a lot more valuable.”

“I’ve been happy with my decision,” Kim said. “I don’t think I’ll forget running into a bear or meeting these nice people. I think this will be the foundation that will help me get through challenges in my life that I’ll face in the future.”

You can contact or follow Kim on Facebook or other social media:

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