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 astory, the 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.
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.
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 3Mules.com 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.
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.