Touchdown in Chinatown: Final

Don't we look similar?


     Just finished a 130 mile hike.

     So as it turns out, I did a lot of things wrong and a lot of things right. First of all, I got to Chinatown. From the very beginning of the trip, I visualized being right there in front of the rabbit statue, and I eventually did it. I wouldn’t say that was THE most important thing, though…if I wanted to, I could have packed my bag and then driven to Chinatown easily enough.

     The most important thing was…that there was no ‘most important’ thing. The experience itself transcended any goals, brought me to what I thought my limits were and beyond. Lydia, one of my saviors, said that it was a rite of passage. Honestly, I don’t really know why I did it except that it was scary and I wanted to see if I could face that fear. In retrospect, it has definitely turned out to be a rite of passage, though to what place I’ve passed through to is a mystery. It’s a better place for sure; I know that much.

     I spent the week before in cold chills with no concrete fear other than the magnitude of the task in front of me. To combat that, I focused on the image of taking that first step on the road, the dust rising around my shoes, committing to the path ahead of me. The image was concrete – I could practically feel the gravel grinding underfoot. The fear, on the other hand, was vague, and if it was a specific fear, I thought of a specific solution. I didn’t realize until now how much that helped. In my mind, concrete visualizations turned into successes even before I’d set foot outside and specific fears became problems that were overcome, a different kind of success. The cold grip of fear was still there, but I could do something about it. I realized that the unnameable fear came down to a lack of faith in myself. I normally think of myself as a confident person, so that came as a shock. It’s not until you test yourself that you know yourself.

     Anyway, I came into this with a few preconceived goals, many of which were realistically impossible. Basically it comes down to making it all the way on foot and making it in two days. Technically, it’s possible, but much easier if you are prepared for it. These two goals caused me trouble from the start. I knew I wasn’t in the proper physical condition to do this; I’d never done anything physical long distance before, and I hadn’t done any special training for it. Furthermore, I have had very few successes with all nighters – I need my sleep. To convince myself it possible, I actually partially convinced myself that being on the move would awaken super powers that lay dormant in humans who never moved across the land like our prehistoric ancestors did. To some extent, I still think this is true. I am operating on very little periods of rest, fragmented across the trip…and I am still going. Well, sort of. The bit about not being physically prepared is still true, so while I’m still going, I am limping. And I doubt our prehistoric ancestors carried 30-40 pounds of gear everywhere they went.

     However, it remains the case that I wasn’t completely convinced, so I packed a lot of 5-hour energy drinks and, most controversially in my mind, incomplete camping gear. I brought everything but the tent, deeming it too heavy to be able to complete a 130 mile trek in two days. I brought a self-inflating mat, a sleeping bag, and a small tarp, figuring that if it rained I would wrap myself up like a burrito. No, that doesn’t work. Yes, I am stupid. The worst part about all of this, though, was that it conflicted with both goals. There was no way I could bring all that gear and complete the trip in two days on foot. If I brought the tent, I might have been able to complete the entire trip on foot, but not in two days. If I ditched all of it, I would have a better shot at completing the trip in two days…if I was physically prepared, which I was not. I remarked on Facebook that leaving just the tent was a bad compromise and it turned out to be a terrible compromise, as I would find out in the middle of the storm from Hell.

     Let’s see, other mistakes…bringing anything electronic besides my cell phone and the GPS. The chargers, the power strip, everything took up a lot of space and hampered organization efforts. Organization makes a big difference when you need to get to something in your pack fast. Not making sure my gear was waterproof. Bringing too many clothes and not enough of the right kinds, like socks. I could have left all of my underwear behind, as I stopped wearing any not even midway into the trip. Bringing my journal, again just conflicted with the time requirements, because when was I going to have the time or energy to journal when I’m constantly on the move? Packing only large quantities of rice for sustenance – initially, it did fine, but it’s incredibly heavy and mostly water weight. Something like matzo would have been better…light and full of carbs. Speaking of heavy things, I ended up throwing out a jar of peanut butter because it was insanely heavy and inconvenient to eat.


The Story

     The week before I set out was a mess. I knew the various things that I wanted to get together, and I accumulated them in fits and bursts, throwing them in piles on the floor. Thursday, the day before, I began to carbo-load, which consists of a high intensity sprint followed by eating 12g of carbohydrates per 12kg of body mass. After doing the appropriate conversions, it came out to the equivalent of 1.68 pounds of rice…dry weight. So I started cooking rice. Honestly, I have no idea how much carbo-loading actually helped.

     On Friday night, I got everything packed up, started cooking the last batch of rice to take on the road, and had dinner with David, Victor, Fong, Jeff, Ying Ying, and Pei, which was super kind of them. It gave me hope. I should have insisted on doing the dishes, but it was almost time to go. I got back and instantly knew something was wrong when I tried lifting my backpack. It was unreasonably heavy, possibly up to 40 pounds. DK stopped by to wish me luck, and we chatted while I put the finishing touches on the pack – reflective tape.

     I had asked Don to give me a boost to just outside of town, so I left when Don and Wilson stopped by. They took me to the outskirts of town. I got out and started walking and Don and Wilson drove alongside for a while. We had a cinematic moment as Don strummed on his guitar and I sang Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Then I got back in the car and we turned around. I had forgotten bug spray. And I would need it. At about 9:30, we got to the actual dropoff point, which was about 5 miles farther than they had originally dropped me off. Along the way, the bugs were so thick it was as if the cornfields were snowing. They were highlighted by the headlights like a blizzard of blood sucking snow.

     Oh. Exhaustion finally hit me. I’ll finish this in another post when I wake up.


     I never passed out. Too busy replying to stuff and getting this nifty thing set up:

View Chinatown Hike in a larger map

     This pretty much traces my path. Most of the points are chronological, but not all. I went back here and there.

     I’ll actually let you go through the points to see where I went and what I was thinking at the time. For an idea of what time passed, by the time I got to Paxton, it was about 7am and I’d been walking for 10 hours. I got to Loda at 8am, called a coworker who happened to live there (who I’d only just met the day before) and slept again for a bit. I headed out again. Sundown next was during the bus ride between Kankakee and Manteno. Joe Park, Richard Chen, and DK actually called while I was getting my shit together in Kankakee and really motivated me to keep going, but I remember this specifically because I had to cut my discussion with DK short as the sun was going down and I had shit to get in order, as I said.



Jeane Choi, Spence Lome, Annie Choi – for the Camelbak! God, what a lifesaver! I don’t think I would have made it anywhere during daylight hours without that thing.

Matt Sanghwan Lee – for the GPS! I would have made it places, but I would have had no idea where the fuck those places were. I depended on the GPS a LOT.

DK – for the health kit (lolz yes, I said health kit), words of support, and visit just before I left.

Fong Fan, Jeff Zhang, Ying Ying, David Jung, Victor, and Pei – for dinner and support just before I left!

Jen Chen – for the ankle braces and painkillers!

Don Mach, Wilson Thai – for the warmhearted drop off and insect repellent! And texts throughout the trip!

George Wu – for helping talk me through it before, trying to anticipate problems ahead of time.

Joy House – for inspiring me. Seriously. You are bad ass.

Kin Fong, Perry Chu, Spencer Lome, Deen Farooq, Brent Trotter, Winnie Cheng and Nathan Cheng – for the words of advice on my blog. Definitely needed them! And Kin…What?! XD

Officer Berns – for the ride! If I’m ever in Loda again, I’ll ask around for you. My gratitude!

Sunny Choi, Leslie Elizabeth, Jake Chen, Peter Hu, Kyou, Sigmund Ku, Jamie Lang, Nathan Cheng – for the texts during the trip. These kept me going at checkpoints.

My family, Alyson Kung, Khin Way Kung, and Malina Chin – for picking me up and saving my ass and then treating me to dim sum!

Lydia and Alyssa Hernandez – I have no words, no way to convey my debt to you. You were angels in the darkness. Thank you so much for everything you did. Lydia, I hope your husband came back skunk-free!

     Everyone – for your support and for giving me Hope! Truth is, I Love you. But next time I try to kill myself, one of you act like you care and try to stop me, alright? Haha, just kidding.

     Probably couldn’t stop me anyway.

Weird Random Thoughts

  • I think rice vaporizes when it hits the stomach, because I didn’t take a sizeable crap the whole time.
  • I lost 5 pounds on this trip
  • My stomach shrunk…I filled up fast at dim sum
  • People who stop to ask if I need a ride are nice
  • People who scream as I pass are assholes
  • People warn me against hitchhiking and against people giving rides
  • I think more people are nice than are mean. And besides, the nice actions have more meaningful effects anyway.
  • Part of the reason I did this is to face my fear, like I said. But another part is because I wanted you to know that it’s possible, and to reach beyond what you think you can do.
  • Days I can eat just rice and furikake rice seasoning without hating it: 2
  • Times I wanna see large containers of rice in the near future: 0
  • Times people stopped to ask if I needed a ride: 7
  • Times people drove by screaming: 4-5
  • Times I screamed back: 1
  • Times I saw a glowing, ethereal memorial at the side of the road during the storm from Hell for someone who had died and thought the area was haunted: 1
  • Number of Clif Bars eaten: 2.5
  • Number of 5-Hour Energy shots downed: 4
  • Number of times I brushed my teeth, dry: 1
  • Number of times I showered (rain): 2
  • Number of times I showered (sweat): 2
  • Number of times I showered (soap): 0
  • Number of times I uttered “Truth, Love, Hope” with every step: Uncounted. Many, many times. It helped me keep moving.
  • Number of miles traveled (foot): ~55
  • Number of miles traveled (train): ~30
  • Number of miles traveled (bus): ~10
  • Number of miles traveled (squad car): ~30
  • Number of miles traveled (Wilson’s grocery getter): ~5
  • Number of brilliant ideas I had after waking up: 3
  • Number of brilliant ideas I had after waking up that turned out to be stupid and make me look like a fool or a lunatic: 1
  • Number of hours it took: ~36
  • Pei

    Like we would have let you wash the dishes! 😛

  • ironically, the day after u began ur journey, a camping kit was on woot.

    You should've used a legit map and compass with a GPS as backup.
    But yea, there are a lot more thing you could have learned from watching the survival shows on Discovery a bit more. (Man vs Wild, Survivorman, etc.)

    Good job though. I want to go walk somewhere while camping.

  • Vicky N

    Hey Kung!

    I just read the entire story after seeing you pop up so many times in my news feed haha. This is amazing!!! But seriously, about the preparation as an xc runner and normal human being i could have told you SO MUCH about FOOD (because i love it). I know it doesn't help now but for future survival situations:

    There's a reason trail mix has the word “trail”! Nuts and seeds are one of the most compact forms of energy. And rice, especially white rice, is pretty awful as a source of long term energy. Not only is it not dense, but also it is mainly carbs (simple sugar), without fat or protein, so it digests quickly.

    Clifbars and electrolytes (gatorade, or pretzels, anything salty) are awesome!

    The reason you didn't crap was probably dehydration lol. That and I don't think rice has much fiber.

    I hope you had a hat! like a sahara journey one or at least an asian wide brimmed one or rice harvesting one.

    Anyways I'm glad you made it back safe and again, AMAZING.

    • I'll be sure to consult you for nutrition before doing stupid shit again XD

  • Ladieh

    “Number of brilliant ideas I had after waking up that turned out to be stupid and make me look like a fool or a lunatic: 1”

    -I am guessing mylar-hottie-hot hat 🙂
    at least 2/3 wakeup ideas being good is still the majority

  • I still think it was kind of stupid, and a lot crazy, but… it's also insanely inspiring. I want to do something like this now. The idea of throwing yourself out there… well, look at what happened to McCandless. But we're capable of a lot more than that, as you proved yourself. and with a little better planning, a little better gear management… who knows?

    • McCandless was not a warning against throwing yourself out there. He was a warning against not doing so. He died doing what he loved to do, testing himself beyond the boundaries of most mortals.

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