Six years ago, a group of 17 people set out to tour Taiwan by motorcycle and scooter. Their average age was 81.
The trip was carefully coordinated by the Hondao Senior Citizens Welfare Foundation. A van followed the group so that riders could take breaks when tired and receive medical attention if necessary. The group became known as the Grandriders, senior citizens united by an adventurous dream, and their journey has just reached the United States with the release of the documentary, Go Grandriders, directed by Hua Tien-hau.
Over the years that have passed since the original trek across Taiwan, several of the Grandriders have died. Others were left unable to travel to the United States to promote the film. Still, ten of the remaining riders were able to appear at the AMC theater at the Santa Anita Mall in Arcadia for a screening of Go Grandriders and a Q/A session.
Before the screening, a man came up to me and introduced himself as Mac. In the documentary, he's called Grandpa Macun. He begins chatting with me through an interpreter. He tells me that he's 87, the average age of the Grandriders now. The oldest person in their group is 94, he adds. He rode down here from San Francisco. Mac is excited. His enthusiasm is contagious.
The Grandriders arrived in Arcadia on hulking motorcycles. They had traveled down here from the San Francisco Bay Area by bike. This time, though, the Grandriders didn't drive. Instead, they rode as passengers, the bikes helmed by members of the BMW Club of Northern California. They spent four days and three nights traversing California. Along the way, they stopped to visit nursing homes. The experience was profound.
“The intrinsic reward that we have all received from this experience cannot be put into words,” says Edward Perry, the BMW Club's captain of the ride, during the press conference portion of the event. “I think that we haven't even had the chance yet to synthesize, to digest, everything that we have gone through emotionally.”
The documentary itself is touching. The original Grandriders tour it depicts was not without its problems. The captain of the group experienced health issues related to an ulcer throughout the trip. As the documentary progresses, we get a glimpse of many other struggles that come with age, primarily physical limitations. We also get a look at the power of determination, what motivates people to reach a goal even when those around them doubt the sensibility of that goal.
After the Q&A, I met with the only woman to be part of the Grandriders. She explains that, in Chinese, her name is Chang Chen Ying-Mei, but she goes by Carol Chang in English. We were soon joined by her husband, who introduces himself as Daniel Chang, although he is referenced as Chang Hong-Dow in Go Grandriders press material.
Carol and Daniel are amongst the younger members of the group. They're in the their late 70s, and have been married for 51 years now. They have three children and 10 grandchildren. Daniel is a pastor. He'll ride a scooter to go to church and on his visits to help “those who are in need.” Carol rides her scooter to go to church or to head out to the grocery store.
The original Grandriders trip was Carol and Daniel's second honeymoon. It was a new experience for them. Carol actually took the test to get her license shortly before the beginning of the trip. The adventure made a lasting impression. “You can see the whole scenery, not like in the car,” says Carol of traveling cross-country by bike. More importantly, there was a real sense of accomplishment that was part of the experience. “In my age, I can still go around Taiwan and this idea is very exciting.”
Go Grandriders is currently playing at the AMC Atlantic Times Square in Monterey Park.
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