Indulge yourself for a minute and imagine making a journey across the vast land of the United States of America. How would you travel across the continental 48 states? By car, train or plane? Either of those answers would be considered doable, although plane would be the most expensive and least fun of all. But what if you had to do the trip by scooter? At a top speed of 40mph, the Honda Ruckus may not seem like a candidate for a proper road trip vehicle, but don't tell that to Wan Lee of Seoul, South Korea who last year made a round trip across the country from his starting base of Fayetteville, North Carolina. With the gas tank in his Ruckus topped off, Wan enlisted the help of the perfect strangers on the TotalRuckus.com message board who aided in everything from the language barrier, technical problems with the scooter and providing the weary traveler a couch to crash on. We asked Wan a few questions about his journey and could see every exciting moment flash back in his eyes.
Super street: tell us how you got started on this trip.
Wan Lee: I worked at a Canadian restaurant in Korea for a year to save up some money. I always dreamed of going to another country to do some traveling, camping, seeing the beautiful nature and meeting the local people. My aunt lives in North Carolina, so I went there in July 2007. I wanted to buy a big dual-purpose motorcycle, like a 500cc Yamaha XT. I went to the DMV, but found out I had to pay for both an automobile and a motorcycle license with insurance on top of that. I gave up on buying a big motorcycle and considered taking a Greyhound bus or an Amtrak train. Also, I didn't have any friends here who would travel with me or help me on my journey; I was by myself. I had problems getting information from the DMV because on the phone they would speak too fast and tell me to call back with someone who was a native English speaker or just go to the DMV website. Then I started to think about a smaller motorcycle. In Korea, you don't need a license or registration for 49cc bikes and I was familiar with the Ruckus, so I began to think of that. I found the TotalRuckus.com forum and they were very friendly and kind. They helped me understand what was needed for traveling with the Ruckus.
Did you have a plan of where to go and people you would meet?
No plan about meeting people. When I started driving with the Ruckus, it was October 22, 2007. It was getting cold, so I couldn't go north. I looked on the map and just picked something I recognized, which happened to be Miami, Florida. Before I started, I posted on the forum to say thanks and update them on where I was going. When I first posted about my wanting to drive across the country on a Ruckus, they thought I was kidding. But a lot of people cheered me on, saying things like, "If you do this, you're my hero!" or "Wan 4 President!" (laughs out loud). I didn't have a laptop; so a few days after I left, I went to a library and found that people (on the forum) were wondering how I was doing. Whenever I was having a hard time on the trip, I would try to look at the forum where people were very nice. It was so refreshing that the people were nice. In Korea, people are not like that.
Did you run into any trouble on your journey?I lost my camera when I tried to take a picture on a bridge passing through Savannah. There was a sign that said, "Welcome to Georgia" and I set my tripod on the bridge, put the camera on self-timer, then went to stand by my Ruckus. A big truck came zooming by and with my small tripod about this size [uses hands to show about seven inches in height], it fell over the bridge and fell into the Savannah River. I went down to the water and swam in to find the camera, but it was so dirty I couldn't even see my own hands. The first person I met from the forum was in Savannah and I told him that I lost my camera. He posted on the forum about my camera and the people there donated money to get me a new camera, which I still have today. After that happened, I tried to take better pictures and to update more to show my appreciation. Somehow, I met a lot of really good people everyday. I had a flat tire at least 10 times and people would help me, give me food and be so nice. So I took all the pictures I could of everyone I met and of every meal I ate so I could update more. After I got to Texas, people on the forum were starting to invite me to stay with them.
Where did you go from there?I went to California, about three months after I first left for the trip. My visa was over around that time and so I sent a letter to Immigration to extend my stay. I wanted to go North and then head to the Rockies, Chicago and New York. I had a little more money than I expected and remembered I had relatives in Seattle, so I kept going and going. I would meet people and ride together, have lots of drinks together and kept going.
You drove the Ruckus through the Rocky Mountains??Yes! In high elevation, the Ruckus runs bad. Maybe 10-15mph. I was scared of the cars on the road so I drove on the shoulder. I went in late May and there was still snow. I would camp out at night and wake up seven times a night because it was so cold. Even when I was wearing everything I had, it was too cold! It was hard then, but the memories now are beautiful!
Where did you sleep most of the time? Were you staying in hostels or motels?I'm very limited in budget and motels are very expensive here, more so than Korea. In Korea, for $30 I can stay in a pretty good motel. But here, a bad one is over $50! And I didn't want to pay $10 for a campground, so I usually setup camp behind bushes along the road or behind a gas station.
How much food did you have to pack?Well, there's a Wal-Mart almost everywhere, so in the winter I was able to buy a lot of food and carry it with me. I was eating a lot of Spam, ramen and rice. In Korea, Spam is like ham or sausage, so people like it. But here, everyone hates Spam! People were telling me it was gross! I ate a lot of Spam, so on the forum they began to call me Mr. Spam. So after that, I switched to tuna! Along the way, I also met some Korean people and they gave me some Korean food, like kimchi.
How many miles did you log?I rode 18,000 miles, spending about $640 on gas! The Ruckus gets 100 miles per gallon!
What are you plans for the future?Traveling around the world is my dream. But before I can do that, I need to improve my English. I really want to go to Africa, although I'm not sure what mode of transportation I would take.