“How do you ride that thing?” a Tim Hortons’ patron wants to know.
“A lot of practice,” answers the man unicycling to Alaska.
On Oct. 30, Cary Gray, 25, was in 100 Mile House, one of the countless stops on his 15-month, 21,000-plus-kilometre, Guinness World Record-breaking, one-wheel journey through the Americas.
Since the ride is still ongoing, the world record is unofficial, but Gray rode past the previous record mark (15,995 km) in Panama in April.
Beating that world record – “longest unicycle trip” – was a big part of why he started this adventure. Seeing South and Central America was another reason.
Now, Gray is raising money for various charities and he started a program called “Get Out There,” in which he visits elementary schools across the United States and some in Canada, inspiring students to “get out, get active and eat their veggies.”
From 100 Mile House, Gray, who first learned to ride a unicycle when he was 10, is making his way to Prince Rupert where he will hop a ferry to Juneau, Alaska. From there he plans to ride back down through the province to Vancouver and continuing along the coast and through the U.S.
It’s a lot of riding. Most of the looks he gets from people are quizzical ones. While it’s not uncommon to see bicyclists on long-distance rides, having Gray peddle past on his one 36-inch wheel is really a one-of-a-kind sight.
“Most people associate [unicycles] with the circus,” he says. “They think you have a small wheel and it’s short or it’s tall and that’s about it. But there are actually a lot of unicycles these days.
“I think people are wondering why I just don’t follow the rules,” he adds with a laughs.
“The biggest thing I want people to know is anything is possible through practice. There’s no magic involved. I mean, the journey is magical. But it’s been a lot of hard work.”
In May, Gray had his passport stolen in Columbia – along with a debit card, GoPro camera and GPS – and he flew back home to St. Louis, Missouri, for a couple months.
From there, “all I could do was start over,” he writes on his website.
He started again in September, making his way up through the Midwest and into British Columbia, where he had a tough time crossing the border into Canada. No matter where he rides, the weather is rarely ideal, and this leg of the trip is wet and cold. It’s hardly an easy or comfortable journey, Gray explains. But he stays motivated. He says overcoming challenges is part of the fun.
“My goal is to get snowed on. I was sick of the Central American heat. I was having dreams of a winter wonderland.”
Where he’s headed, he’ll probably find one.
Even with the adversity, a big insight of Gray’s is: “Don’t be afraid of the world, it’s not this big scary place.”
Gray is currently writing a book – “The Naked Unicyclist” – which he hopes to publish in the coming months. To help support his journey, visit CaryOutThere on Facebook and learn more.