We’ve all heard of a slow boat to China. Well, this is the story of a long ride to Brazil.
Chen Guanming, a 58-year-old from Jiangsu Province in eastern China, was seen bicycling Oct. 8 on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. He stopped briefly to look at the footwear at Comfort One and Mephisto Shoes and show his press clips. His ultimate goal? The Rio de Janeiro Olympic Summer Games in 2016.
The farmer—who had never traveled beyond his village—become so inspired by his nation’s 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing that he began pedaling his tricycle rickshaw, at first around China, and then he decided to ride across Asia and Europe to London in May 2010.
With just his tented rickshaw and his belongings stored behind his seat, Chen biked through Vietnam, Laos, Tibet, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France and to England in time for the 2012 London Olympics. By that time, his journey for the Olympic spirit had gotten noticed. Well-wishers chipped in and bought him a ticket for the opening ceremony of the London Summer Games.
The smiling, energetic Chen has no sponsors to speak of and accepts the kindness of strangers all around the world. He gives rides on his bike and does little jobs to keep his trip going. He speaks Mandarin only and knows a few English words like “email” (he thinks that includes “press clips” in his folder), “toilet” (good to know), “thanks” and “good luck” (which surprised and delighted people say to him).
After taking time out to care for his father back home, Chen returned to his global quest, leaving Liverpool in June 2013 for Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his bike in a cargo ship (another simple gift from some he met). In Canada, he biked to Vancouver, then entered the U.S., going from Washington to California, and then he turned east for New York City and then turned again south for Washington, D.C. Soon enough, he will be traveling through Mexico and Central America for his destination in South America: Brazil. Chen’s way of mapping his trek is not along a straight line. Shunning GPS, he uses traditional road guides and maps.
Chen was last seen biking north up Wisconsin Avenue. Hmm, Rio is south, the other way. Not to worry: after thousands upon thousands of miles, Chen will no doubt attend the Aug. 5 opening of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. The slogan for the 2016 Summer Games are—appropriately enough—”Live your passion.”