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(photo Jacqueline Ramseyer/SVCN/August 20, 2013) Willow Glen resident... ( Jacqueline Ramseyer )
The plot is straight out of Hollywood--17 seniors with an average age of 81 set off on motor scooters for a 13-day, 730-mile journey around the perimeter of their island home of Taiwan, smashing old-age stereotypes and enjoying every minute of it.
The plot may be Hollywood, but the story is true.
The 2007 ride by the group calling itself the Grandriders is portrayed in Go Grandriders, a feel-good documentary released in the United States in August.
Although the story is just starting to garner attention in the U.S., when 10 of the original 17 decided to visit California, they found both a welcome and the offer of a road trip from San Jose down Highway 1 to Los Angeles.
Edward Perry, a former Santa Clara County sheriff married to a Taiwanese native, offered to organize the trip, working with Hondao Senior Citizens' Welfare Foundation in Taiwan, which sponsored the 2007 trip as well as the California one.
Perry recruited fellow members of the BMW Club of Northern California to provide rides for the Grandriders, who now have an average age of 87. The group of nine men and one woman had to ride on the back of the motorcycles as none of them have a California driver license.
Willow Glen resident Dan Carter, 48, was one of the volunteers and his passenger was Sun Xiang-cun, an 85-year-old retired soldier.
Although Carter learned a few Mandarin phrases in advance, Sun spoke no English and it took them awhile to get in sync riding.
"Within a day we had it down and he hopped on and off without assistance," says Carter, who describes their trip as "magic.
"It was awesome to see the excitement and enthusiasm from them — just feeling their energy.
"The oldest rider was 95 and it was cold and it was hot and it was a long ride.
"At every stop, they got off the bikes with smiles. A bus followed so they always had the opportunity to ride on the bus, but that pretty much never happened."
On Aug. 20 they left San Jose City Hall, stopping in Monterey the first night, before heading down Highway 1, which Carter says was "absolutely gorgeous."
They stopped to visit the Northern Elephant Seals at the Piedras Blancas rookery above Cambria; Hearst Castle and Mission San Luis Obispo.
On the third day they turned inland to visit the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum, went on to Santa Barbara and spent the night in Ventura.
On the fourth day, they stopped at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library before heading to a press reception at the UCLA Medical Center.
Along the way they made time to visit two senior centers as well.
Carter left the group on Aug. 24, riding his BMW up Highway 101 to get home in time to celebrate his teenage daughter's birthday.
"Sitting in traffic on 101 in 102 degrees" returning to San Jose was the most unpleasant part of the journey for Carter, but he says, "I would do it again in a heartbeat."
The Grandriders headed back to Taiwan from Los Angeles and Carter says he hopes to visit them there some day.
"The most amazing thing is they kept thanking us," he says. "We felt it was a privilege for us," he says.