During the past 30 years, Winchester resident Lowell Roark has logged 350,000 miles, traveling all across the United States and Canada on motorcycle.
Earlier this month, however, his travels took him a bit farther afield.
Roark read about a motorcycle group in Taiwan known as the Grandriders and started doing more research. He was eventually selected as one of 10 Americans to visit Taiwan and ride with the group.
“I enjoyed it immensely. I never dreamed I would be able to do something like that,” Roark said.
The Grandriders are a group of motorcycle enthusiasts, all at least 60 years old, who annually organize a motorcycle trip around the perimeter of the island of Taiwan. The trip is supported by the Handao Senior Citizens Welfare Foundation, which is dedicated to helping the elderly achieve their dreams.
Director Peter Starr learned about the annual trip and decided to accompany them in 2011, so he could produce a documentary about the group and the event. In 2012, Starr and the Handao Foundation arranged for the 10 Americans, also at least 60 years old, to participate.
“We were like ambassadors from the U.S. to them, and they treated us royally,” Roark said.
The riders were all provided with new SYM scooters for the 8-day trip, courtesy of the Handao Foundation and the JT Tobacco International Taiwan Corporation.
After first reading about the trip in American Motorcyclist Magazine, Roark knew he wanted to be part of it, so he decided to contact Starr.
“We communicated back and forth. ... Out of those that contacted him, I don’t know how many, I got to go,” Roark said.
Riders were selected from across the country, with Roark as the only representative from Kentucky. He received an all-expenses-paid trip courtesy of the Handao Foundation.
Prior to his travels, Roark said he didn’t understand the scope of the trip. The Grandriders have become celebrities in Taiwan, and anyone accompanying them becomes a celebrity, as well. Roark said he was routinely asked to autograph photos and T-shirts, and the riders received extensive media coverage.
“This was a major, major production,” Roark said.
Highlights from the trip included watching the sun come up over Jade Mountain and seeing the Sun Moon Lake.
Because the Handao Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of the elderly, the trip included a visit to a Taiwanese nursing home. Roark said he was impressed with the “friendly, respectful” people of Taiwan, particularly their regard for the elderly.
“They revere the elderly people in the Asian countries,” Roark said.
Locally, Roark is involved with the Bluegrass Beemers Motorcycle Club and the Man ’O War Harley Owners Group. He owns three motorcycles, which he enjoys maintaining.
“I’ve always been very mechanical,” Roark said. “I started out on bicycles when I was real little. Two wheels gets in your blood. There’s nothing you can do but to satisfy it.”
Plans are already underway for the 2013 Grandriders tour, and Roark said he will have the opportunity to return if he chooses. He said he would like to spend more time at each of the landmarks he visited during his first trip.
“I’m not ready to go back tomorrow, but I¿might be next year,”¿Roark said.