Age? 25 (26 on Dec 5, actually–second birthday on this trip)   Where are you from? Born and raised in St. Louis, MO.  Left to major in sculpture at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Graduated in 2011 with a 4-year BFA and stayed until I left for this trip on July 9, 2013.   What is your cycling background? Actually, I was never a cyclist.  I enjoyed it as a kid, and then in 2009, during my first summer away from home and before my second year of college, I biked from Baltimore up to New Hampshire, and down to Long Island.  About 640 miles in all.  I didn’t have a tent then, so I just slept between two sheets of painter’s plastic. I unicycled to class in High School and College, but I never really got into cycling before my trip.  I’ve done over 20 centuries on my unicycle, but I’ve only ever gone 86 miles in a day on a bike.  I was always more interested in rock climbing, which I did very seriously all through and after college. 923404_727205243971561_700814350_n When did you know you wanted to cycle around North and South America? Believe it or not, all this came from simply wanting to visit South America.  But after arguing with myself about how to get there, whether by hiking or biking, I decided on unicycling.  Great idea, I know.  So I planned to cross the country, and ride the Pan-American down to Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina, the southen tip of the continent.  It then turned into breaking the world record for distance, and visiting all 23 countries in the two continents.  Now it has grown into an even bigger idea.  But originally, I just wanted to use a more basic form of travel, learn the culture and the language, and accomplish something.   When did you start this journey, and why did you choose to do it on a unicycle? I started planning in January 2012, I did a tester ride from Baltimore, MD to St. Louis, MO in December 2012, about 1080 miles.  I left for this trip on July 9, 2013. The unicycle was a choice that made itself, more or less.  I had been riding unicycles for 13 years at that point, and it was almost a joke I made to myself, “What about on a unicycle?”  But I’m really stubborn, so I couldn’t shake that idea, and the joke quickly turned into a reality. 10710698_985951061430310_9138054018950500450_n What were your initial route plans? Initially, I just wanted to cross the US and ride down to the tip of South America.  It quickly turned into going north to Canada first, hitting every country in Central America and getting my passport and valuables stolen in Colombia.  Since then I’ve ridden from St. Louis, MO up to Juneau, AK and am riding down the west coast and recrossing the US through the remaining states, and returning to Colombia to finish South America.  Beyond that I can’t say.   Tell us about Panama and Columbia? Well.  Central America is really dirty, there’s trash everywhere and it’s really sad.  But then I went through Costa Rica, and though it’s more expensive, it’s also more modern and cleaner.  Unfortunately, the same pricey modernism in Panama does not have the same effect.  Panamanians also have a fairly polluted country, and they don’t share the rest of the region’s jovial attitude.  I thought they were pretty mean, actually.  I rode across the country with an englishman and a swede, and when we reached Panama City, I was alone again.  I tried working, I tried looking for a boat to Colombia (though connected by a thin isthmus, these countries do not connect by road.). Eventually, after having crossed the country from Atlantic to Pacific and back again, I met another english guy, and we planned to kayak the 160 miles along the coast to Colombia.  We were searched 7 times by Panamanian police in 21 days, and actually held-up by them for 4 days for lack of a “maritime license.”  For paddling, we asked? But we reached Colombia, and spirits were back up, because Colombians love cyclists and having a good time.  I rode from the coast up into the mountains, getting over 7 flats in those 7 days, and I reached Medellin.  After 1 night there, a bag with my passport, GoPro, GPS, all my data on zipdrives and other items were stolen at night.  That ended that leg of the trip.  It was a big blow.  I flew home 3 days later. 10300892_998615580163858_8640326808758887743_n How long were you home and when did you start back up again? I was home for a little more than 2 months, which is the longest time allowed by Guinness World Reords to be in one general area while breaking the record.  I got back on the road on September 5, after helping my folks move into a new house.   Where are you now, and how long do you plan on continuing this journey? Right now I’m in Juneau, Alaska.  I plan on recrossing the US and reaching Florida in Spring 2015.  I hope to fly back to Colombia in June, and begin riding the coast down to the tip.  I may do the full loop of all 13 countries, if it comes to it.  This will take around a year, probably more.  I plan to publish my book, The Naked Unicyclist, in the next couple months.  So if (and when!) that does well, I may continue on to Europe and North Africa.  Who knows?   Tell us about your most interesting experience on route? There are lots of obvious moments that occur to me, but one of the subtler ones happened in the desert in New Mexico.  I was camped at a near-empty state park, next to a lake.  Only one road cut across that part of the state, but I thought maybe there was a truck off-roading on a far-off hill.  The sky was dark–the sun had gone down hours before–so this little ball of light couldn’t be the sun.  It was New Mexico after all, could it be aliens? It wasn’t a tent lit from inside, because it was growing and rising.  It was the moon!  It was the first time I had seen the moon rise! I had never been in the ideal landscape (barren) at the ideal time (moonrise time?) and been awake (ideally) before to witness.   It blew my mind.  It also made my day, because that state was no picnic to cross.  10703537_961065073918909_6153292211637803200_n Any major low moments? If you believe it, one of the lowest days for me was the day I broke the World Record for Longest Unicycle Journey–April 22.  It was such a false climax.  I thought, “That’s it? That’s what I’ve been working towards? Another number?” I was just cynical because I felt stuck.  At that point I was relying almost 100% on donations, and I felt I was unworthy because I was just waiting to catch a boat to keep riding in some other place.  I felt helpless because I got to a point where I couldn’t just unicycle off.  I couldn’t work if I tried.  The wage was too low for my gear and caloric needs.   We can only assume your are meeting some amazing people while traveling the Americas. Who is the most memorable thus far? This man wasn’t so significant as what he said.  And the scene has found its way into my book.   Outside of an Arizona gas station, I sat on the concrete, sweating.  A man walked up to me and asked the usual questions.  He asked what the final destination was, and I told him South America.  Then he said, without meaning to have the profound effect on me, “What’s your destiny today?” He probably meant “destination” again, and I answered accordingly, but the question shook my foundations.  It reminded me that although I’m basically in control of my fate, a day can transport a person anywhere.  Whether by my intention, or by the flow of the universe, my “destiny” that day would be… Who the hell could ever know? 10415660_998615473497202_8593751559734123960_n You hold the Guinness World Record for Longest Unicycle Trip, how important is that to you? Unofficially, yes.  And actually, the stay in St. Louis may be a point of contention.  But, when I talked to my good friend Colin, who joined me on his bike from Albuquerque to Phoenix, about it he said something.  I had jokingly had the same thought, so when he said it, we laughed: “In case Guinness doesn’t give you the record, just break again.” So it’s pretty important.  Since that depressing day in Panama City, I have realized that it means so much more.  After reading and listening to people, who are inspired and spurred on by my story, I have realized that it is a testament to human will and that anything is possible.  So, in the end, a plaque from GWR with my name on it would be nice, but nothing can trump the feelings of pride and positivity in myself and my supporters, and all those who have witnessed or helped me on the way   Tell us about your unicycle (tires, frame, saddle, racks, etc)? My unicycle is a Kris Holm 36-inch, with a 3-inch Coker tire.  That means it stands up to my chest, and I ride with my head at over 7 feet tall.  Like most unicycles, there is no chain and no gears, which means constant pedaling at a nearly constant speed.  My crank arms have two holes for the pedals to attach, though (4 and 5.5 inches), so I can adjust to hilly or flat landscapes.  I have a hydraulic disc brake which takes the load off my knees (because usually stopping is done by slowing the legs down).  That brake handle is accessed below my aero bars (like a time trial bike), which I added in Texas and never looked back!  I’ve worn through 4 tires, 20 tubes, 3 discs, 5 sets of pads for two different brake assemblies, 2 sets of pedals, two wheelsets (including rim/spokes/hub),  four aero bar handles, 2 saddle handles (a unicycle part), and three brake handles.  My seat has half the refular amount of foam padding, on top of which is a folded 16″ tube inside a fleece dogbone cover, and covered by the dilapidated original leather, which is then protected by a seat cover.  I welded my fender from steel so as to be solid.  It holds up panniers in front between my legs and behind.  The bags are equally supported from above by a cross bar (like a bike, but removable), which then supports smaller bags on top.  The crossbar curvers up in front to support the aero bars.  All the bags were designed by and sewn by myself, with the help of my expert seamstress mother.  They are completely custom, removable, and mostly waterproof (with rainfly).  I wear two pairs of Pearl Izumi shorts, one on top of the other, and even with that and the saddle–it’s only barely comfortable!  11617_998616310163785_1117990061695978459_n How are you carrying everything? How does a unicycle feel loaded down? The unicycle weighed in at 70 lbs in the beginning.  The dry weight (no food, water, or circumstantial gear) is now 85 lbs, which means that fully loaded can be up to 95 lbs!  Riding with all that is like riding the truck version of a unicycle.  I never liked riding a fully loaded bicycle, because the turning is slow and heavy.  My rig has no moving parts (except the ball bearings in the hub and pedals), so it’s a smooth ride.  That being said, mounting is a beast (I actually attached small bags to the underside of each pedal to counterweight them so that they don’t spin while I’m wildly jumping on.) Hills and crosswinds can be tricky.  I’ve ridden with crosswinds gusting at 35 mph, and done a segment of 4,400 feet of vertical climbing ascending the Bighorn Mtns in Wyoming though, so anything is possible.   touringunidescriptionHow are you paying for your travels (sponsors)? I saved up prior to the trip, and I worked in St. Louis, as well as picking up a few odd jobs on the trip.  I did a few fundraisers also, in which a portion of the money went to my charities and the rest went to food/gear costs.  And of course, there have been countless generous individuals who either gave me donations or bought my food at cafés.   How can we support your endeavors? Anyone can donate! On my website, www.CaryOutThere.com, there is a PayPal donate button beneath the trip description. But equally important are people out there who live in cities through which I will be passing.  I would never turn down a home-cooked meal or warm bed, or even just a beer every so often! If nothing else, let this trip inspire you to get out there! It doesn’t have to a huge trip–maybe you have kids and you want to take them on a little weekend adventure!  Maybe it’s striking up a conversation with a stranger and inviting them to dinner! I want my story to be a positive example for the unlikely, the unique, and the unwavering!

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Unicycling the World | de velo

  2. kenny ray Sundog

    Cary!
    it is Leap Day in the Leap Year…
    How far are u from Gold Beach…?

    Stay in touch Bro…U are doing the LOU proud with your Journey !!

    k dog

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