Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Crossing South Korea by Rental Car

View from my first kilometer of solo driving in South Korea.
"It's going to be OK ... there, there!"

Words to live by -- and drive across South Korea by -- as spoken by the Avis car rental attendant, Jay, to this Olympic blogger as I burst into tears of anxiety around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. 

Why the fuss? 

My first driving in Asia experience: A 3.5 hour whopper that ended with glee!

Though I had pondered an Olympic car rental for PyeongChang a few weeks ago while stateside, actually signing the contract and accepting the keys turned into a whole other story. 

By last night I was so anxious about the driving option (a DIY alternative to surrendering control to the Olympic transportation network and taxis/Uber), this writer logged almost no zzzz's Tuesday night in the Seoul hotel. 

Confidence was intact until the flight from Atlanta on Sunday, during which a fellow traveler who resides here said, "absolutely do not drive in Korea ... the drivers are crazier than New York or Rome!"

Then yesterday, on the Seoul Metro, a trio of Chicago-based business men echoed the anti-driving sentiment with comments like, "There are 50 million reasons not to drive in South Korea ... the other drivers!"

In the pre-dawn hours today, I psyched myself up reciting "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, it's up to you, just drive to PyeongChang ... da, da-da-da!" 

It worked, sort of. 

After crying with the rental car attendant, who (thankfully) programmed the on board GPS with accuracy, I also cried with the gas station attendant, the first toll booth lady and in the direction of the eastbound driver in a Bentley next to me in the lone Seoul traffic jam we traversed around 7:30 a.m.

By 8 a.m., however, confidence reigned and my appetite returned, eventually stopping for coffee and croissants at a Highway 50 rest area about half-way across the Korean Peninsula. 

Sidebar: A fun culinary discovery came in the form of a cream-puff by Olympic sponsor Beard Papa's, offering a "cheer UP!" five-ringed pastry in time for the Games. 

By 10:30 I was parking at the Holiday Inn Alpensia -- home of the Main Press Center (MPC) -- and checking in at the Team USA office for the first time. 

Further up the mountain I also checked into the PyeongChang Grass Fragrance Pension, a super-rural private home turned hostel for ski bums and Olympic bloggers, not to mention a security manager for Worldwide Olympic sponsor Bridgestone (we both discovered the pension via The pension has its own YouTube Channel!

An enormous cat greeted me in the parking lot, and I was so very happy to land in my heated pension mattress and enjoy the proprietor's cappuccino in my room.

The owner/barista also served up a hot baked potato from her garden, roasted in her cedar-fueled pot-bellied stove!

There will be more driving and more stress, for sure. 

But today was a win. Tomorrow I'll post more about the MPC. 

Must catch up on zzz's.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver

View from the PyeongChang Grass Fragrance Pension balcony.

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