Lots of us love to travel and explore places we have never seen before, but most of us would never dream of doing it on just one wheel.
But that’s exactly what one man is doing who recently passed through Texas County.
Cary Gray (a St. Louis County native who has lived in Baltimore, Md. since 2007) has started a unique journey that he expects will last a year-and-a-half, with the goal of setting a world record for unicycling. The current record is 9,126 miles set by a man who traveled through all 50 states. Gray’s goal is a bit more ambitious, as he plans to travel all the way to South America on his special single-wheel rig, a trek spanning more than 22,000 miles and 23 countries.
The 24-year-old Gray has been riding a unicycle for 14 years and has led a diverse life. He has competed in summer league swimming and diving, plays multiple musical instruments (including drums, viola, piano and ukulele), and sang in an A Cappella group. He was also the only white male in an otherwise African-American female stomp crew called “The Steppers,” and he graduated “cum laude” from the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Why did Gray want to tackle such a journey?
“I started researching my next trip, which was going to be to South America, and checked into the cost of flying,” he said. “Then I decided on touring and I thought about biking. But then I thought about my unicycling and thought ‘why not.’ I decided to go for the world record while I’m at it.”
Gray trained and planned for a year before setting off on his adventure. His training included a 17-day unicycling trip to visit his parents in St. Louis in which he rested on five days, but rode more than 100 miles on seven others.
Gray started his lengthy ride on July 1, leaving Baltimore and heading into Canada. After reaching Ontario, he traveled back to the U.S. and is making his way south to Central America and eventually to South America, where he plans to ride down the west coast of that continent and then back up the east coast, ending his journey in Venezuela.
Businesses and individuals are helping sponsor Gray’s effort. Half the money he raises will go to three different charities, while the other half will cover his expenses.
The top speed of a unicycle is about 12 miles per hour, and unlike bicycles, a rider must constantly pedal and there is no coasting. Gray is traveling without a backup vehicle, so he has to carry all of his gear with him, which amounts to an additional 80 pounds with minimal water.
“I will have to carry more water with me when I get further south,” he said. “Keeping hydrated is one of my biggest challenges.”
Gray has a goal of 350 miles per week, riding five days and resting on two. He puts in 12-hour days, riding seven to 10 hours and resting the remainder, and likes to ride at least 70 miles per day.
Gray planned his trip to include several stops to stay with family or friends.
“These are usually my long stops where I stay a couple of days,” he said. “Other times I camp out where I can. Last night I camped out at Lane Spring outside of Rolla.”
Gray’s food intake is strictly vegetarian.
“I keep emergency food on me, like granola bars and such,” he said. “I also stop at lots of gas stations and Subways. I rely on nuts a lot to give me the proteins I need and most gas stations have them. I do eat eggs, though, and I stop at mom-and-pop type places for breakfast and have eggs and toast.”
Almost everything Gray carries is essential, since space and weight is a real issue. The one luxury item he carries is a Kindle.
“It’s an older model,” Gray said, “but I can read books when I’m resting and listen to music those times when I’m by myself. It helps a lot when I’m alone.”
To follow Cary Gray’s progress or donate to his cause, log onto caryoutthere.com, or unicycling the world on Facebook.