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May 29, 2017

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US 'Grandriders' considering another trip to Taiwan

TAIPEI--A group of 10 American motorcyclists concluded a weeklong "dream ride" to scenic spots around Taiwan on Monday, saying that they are already looking forward to planning another trip for next year.

Headed by well-known documentary filmmaker Peter Starr, the group set off from Taichung Oct. 16, heading south to Chiayi County and the Alishan mountain resort before turning east to Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County and then to Hualien and Yilan counties in Eastern Taiwan.

The 10 riders, five of whom are over 65 years old and have an average age of 72, arrived in Taipei Monday morning, concluding their journey of over 500 kilometers.

"We have seen so much of the beauty of Taiwan, and even more important, we have met so many wonderful Taiwanese that have helped us every step of the way," said Gerald Larson, who commemorated his 80th birthday during the trip.

"It's just been a great experience for us," he said, adding that he will continue to be inspired by all he has seen when he goes back to the U.S. and will share his feelings with others.

The riders said they would like to spread the spirit of compassion and teach Americans to be more considerate to the elderly and do more for them, just as the Hondao Senior Citizen's Welfare Foundation, the tour's organizer, does here in Taiwan.

In order to help spread the message, Starr said he is considering setting up an English version of a fan page on Facebook, allowing more people to pay attention to the issue and encouraging more elderly people to realize their dreams.

Starr, 70, who was on his third visit to Taiwan, said he learns a little more about Taiwanese culture every time he comes here and is deeply impressed by the people of Taiwan.

Asked if he and the other riders ever felt tired during the trip, Star said the energy that was created around them carried them through.

"It's like we absorb it by osmosis. We were very much energized," he added.

"We came here to honor the original 'Grandriders.' We're the ones that came to give the love, the honor and respect, but what happened is we got it," Starr said of the warm reception from both the people and the press.

An editor at Motorcyclist Magazine, Starr visited Taiwan last year to interview the Taiwanese "Grandriders," a group of 17 elderly motorbike enthusiasts who inspired people both at home and abroad to pursue their dreams after a video of their trip around Taiwan was posted on YouTube.

Five years ago, the riders, who had an average age of 81, embarked on a 1,178-km journey around Taiwan by motorcycle to fulfill their dream of seeing every part of the country.

This year, their adventure was made into a 90-minute documentary film called "Go Grandriders." Since it was released Oct. 12, the film has raked in NT$11.6 million (US$396,557) at the box office, according to the film company behind the smash.

The American riders will watch the film later in the day ahead of their Tuesday departure for the U.S.

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