Downtown workers embark on Peace Ride

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April 12, 2004 // UPDATED 1:15 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Two Tibetan immigrants left behind jobs at Downtown's Marshall Field's Marketplace earlier this month to take part in a 600-mile bike trek to Canada to promote Tibetan independence.

The cyclists, Rinpo Tenzin and Rabka Rabka, left Minneapolis on April 7 with a group of Tibetan bikers, including a nephew of the Dalai Lama, headed for the Chinese embassies in Washington, D.C. and Toronto.

The trek will last four weeks, which forced Tenzin and Rabka to choose between their jobs and participating in the Peace Ride, they said. Both men said they felt the cause was important enough to quit their jobs so they could participate in the lengthy trek.

"We want people to know about our situation," Tenzin said, who escaped Tibet in 1997, fleeing Chinese authorities who wanted to jail him for promoting Tibetan freedom.

Tenzin has pedaled in two other peace rides for Tibet, including a six-week solo trek from St. Paul to Washington, D.C., in 2000, and a ride to Chicago in 2002.

Rabka accompanied Tenzin on the Chicago trip.

The bicyclists plan to arrive in Toronto by April 24 -- one day before the Dalai Lama will lead a Tibetan Buddhist teaching, the Kalachakra, in the Ontario capital.

Kalachakra means "wheel of time."

April 25 -- the date of the teaching -- coincides with the birthday of the Tibetan religious leader Panchen Lama, who was detained by Chinese authorities in 1995 at the age of 6. He has not been seen since, and the Chinese have installed their own Panchen Lama.

Jigme Norbu, son of Thubten J. Norbu, the Dalai Lama's oldest brother, will serve as Tenzin's co-leader on the bike trek.

The cyclists will pedal through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York en route to Canada.

Tenzin said he was bracing for the rigors of the bike ride when he talked about the trip at his Stevens Square apartment a few days before the group left Minneapolis.

"It's going to be really tough," he said.