Mr. Chen Guan Ming

Chen Guan Ming on his tricycle

Awhile ago, I heard the story about a Chinese farmer named Chen Guan Ming who has been traveling the world since 2001 peddling a one speed, heavy tricycle loaded with his gear and pulling his rickshaw with a rope to get up mountains, visiting 23 countries and over 87,000 miles.  He sleeps outside in his rickshaw with his belongings and by news accounts has been redirected to remove himself from riding on a few public thoroughfares by police for safety. My interest in Mr. Chen grew greater when I heard that he had entered California. I wondered if our paths would cross. But before we get to that, here is some background about Mr. Chen.

The Olympic Rickshaw Rider cycling around the world 
In 2008 at age 53, Chen decided to ride his three-wheel rickshaw 497-miles from his village to the Olympics in Beijing. He rode around 1,700 cities in China to celebrate the Beijing Olympics and was dubbed the “Olympic madman.” Filled with the Olympic spirit, in May 2010, he decided to embark on a truly epic journey. A two-year rickshaw ride from eastern China to London, England, the host of the 2012 Olympics. His long and tortuous route took him through some of the world’s most troubled regions and difficult terrain including flooded Thailand,  the Himalayan foothills, war-torn Afghanistan and Pakistan. But despite the condition, and being turned away from Singapore and Myanmar, he finally made it through 16 countries that also included Vietnam, Turkey, Italy, France, where he took a ferry to England and arrived in London in July 2012.

Because nobody knew he was coming, nobody in London welcomed Chen. And with no English to explain his rickshaw odyssey to the locals, it didn’t look like anyone would recognize Chen’s feat. One man, John Beeston, spotted Chen slumped over the handlebars of his rickshaw. Using his limited knowledge of Mandarin Chinese, Beeston discovered Chen’s amazing story and set out to tell the world. Only a few days later, Chen had spoken to BBC and CNN, been awarded a ticket to the opening ceremony of the London games, and been honored at a dinner held by the Chinese Olympic team. Energized by the that journey to the London Olympics, he set his mind to ride to the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

In June 2013, he flew from London to Nova Scotia, traveled west across Canada, entering the United States in Washington in January 2015, riding through Oregon, and entered California in February.  After KRCR News found him traveling through Red Bluff and ran astorythe 3 Mules began receiving more messages from followers about Mr. Chen traveling through California and we were informed about his Facebook page with posts on his whereabouts.

Little Girl, Who Dee Doo and Lady

The Mules Close encounter with Mr. Chen
While Mr. Chen was in Northern California riding south to Los Angeles, and we (the Mules) turned around in San Diego to head back north, I kept tabs of his progress. I wondered when and where our paths would cross since we were both following Hwy 101 going in opposite directions. On March 21, I found out an hour after the fact that we were both in Santa Barbara riding/walking on the same road. However, the Mules missed seeing him by a mere 30-60 minutes as we had experienced a delay in our morning start. However, I still felt it was really cool that someone who I have been following and cheering virtually from afar was so close by, but we had no way to catch up to him at our 3mph speed.

The Mules in front of Orland City Hall

Out of the Who Dee Doo
Fast forward to July 6, 2015.  Woke up in the morning on the Sacramento River, packed up the Mules, and started walking on Hwy 32 going west towards Orland. We got to Orland around 2:30 and went to the city hall to deliver the Declaration of Emergency. We then walked through Orland to Hwy 99, where we decided to we would go south to Willows. Around 3:00, there was a nice green grassy spot along the side of the road for the mules to stop and eat.  As I was sitting on my water bucket letting the mules graze, a gentleman named Omar approached and introduced himself. He looked us up on and appreciated what we were doing. We said thank you and then we had a conversation that lasted for awhile. He asked us if we liked peaches and said he would bring us back some peaches from his tree. When he came back, we continued our conversation.

Omar and Mr. Chen

During one part of our conversation, he started out by saying “There was a Chinese gentleman that came here with his bicycle…”

I immediately said “Mr. Chen!”

“That’s right!” said Omar.

He then took out his Smartphone and showed us a picture that he took of Mr. Chen near the same exact spot that we were currently sitting.

Thus, we think this is something that comes out of the Who Dee Doo. Because if we hadn’t decided to change course and stop in that same exact place at the time we did and wait awhile, we would never have met Omar, who met Mr. Chen, a person we have great interest following on his inspiring, epic world journey to “promote the Olympic spirit, hope for world peace, and protecting mother earth.”

This is the energy, magic and mystery of this place that we seem to encounter frequently along our journey and where we find ourselves in this point in our lives.

Omar with Lady and Little Girl (Who Dee Doo on other side of Lady)
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3 Mules in Chico for 4th of July

By The Dude,

I was sitting back having a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale(ChicoStyle), celebrating the 4th. I caught a glimpse out of the window of a man and 3 equines. I immediately knew it was him. I had come across the story of his amazing journey while web surfing a couple years ago. A man and his 3 Mules traveling the State of California. My recollection of why was murky, but that didn’t matter. Like “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, it was more about the adventure than the destination.

I yelled out “3 Mules!, 3 Mules!” My wife and guests had no idea what I was talking about. He and the Mules were walking at a very brisk pace, there wasn’t a second to spare. I grabbed my camera and ran out the door. “Hey there, I saw you on the internet a couple years ago”. He was friendly and let me take pictures of the mules and him. With the temperature near 100 degrees I offered him some cold water, but he declined.

“What’s Your Message?”, I asked. “Freedom”, he said. This 4th of July just got real. “To travel freely” he says, as a police car drives by slowly for the third time in two minutes. Turns out, not everyone thinks his journey is so amazing. He has received citations and even been arrested for traveling the state with his Mules. To the credit of Chico Police, I believe he made it out of the city without any citations.

He likes to be called Mule. The 3 Mules names are Who-Dee-Doo (the newest member of the group), Lady (the oldest), and Little Girl (the lead mule). Like Kwai Chang Caine from the classic TV show Kung Fu. A man with a simple appearance, walking the land on a seemingly endless journey, but extraordinarily in tune with the “Natural World” and mystical forces.

His quest is to bring awareness to the ever shrinking free space by the”Mega- tropolis” and to establish a statewide network of paths and trails for Hikers, Cyclists, and Mules. It was getting late in the evening and I told him “I better let you get on your way” and with a nod, off he went.

He was gone as quick as he appeared. Reflecting on the encounter, I regretted not convincing him to have some cold water. I had carrots in the fridge, I had oats. If only I’d given him advice on where to get the Mules a drink, and where to spend the night.

Checking on him the next day on Facebook, he had posted this photo and message.

“Where we slept last night. Where we going now? Who knows? Great way to be.” – in Chico, CA

I realized that he had left the comfort of the world I live in (the “Man-Made” world) far behind, and that he was on another level altogether. A Master of the “Natural World”. One with it, protected by it.

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