Four riders from the Memphis Unicycle Club joined us for a playdate in Little Rock. We rode the Clinton Park bridge and played near the Clinton Library before heading to the Rivermarket for lunch. From there we went to the Junction Bridge and the Peabody Park for a little trials riding. The good riders had fun jumping on rocks (and over Mandy) and the bad-rider group had fun watching.
We made a trip to the North Little Rock skateboard park, then ate supper at Vino’s before heading west again to ride across the Big Dam Bridge and the Two Rivers Bridge. Woodrow and Pete didn’t head back to Memphis until after ten. Thanks for coming to play, guys! We had tons of fun, and we hope you’ll come back soon.
Click on photo to see it larger.
Mandy’s been working hard on unicycle skills, practicing after school by riding in the street in our neighborhood. She’s had a chance to meet several of our neighbors, who are enjoying watching her progress from those first few lurches across the pavement. But despite our best attempts at support, before today she’s been operating in a sort of vacuum. I think that, before this weekend, she was the best unicyclist she’d ever met.
But I’ve been emailing with Richard (pictured here in the blue shirt, on the right), from the Memphis Unicycle Club. They meet to practice on Thursday nights, which isn’t very helpful, but he agreed to let us know when they were getting together for a weekend event. So this Sunday, we drove to Mud Island Park on the Mississippi River, where the club was participating in a bike event.
The day went beautifully. I had expected Mandy to benefit from meeting other people on one wheel, but I didn’t realize how much she’d soak up. She got to try riding several different sizes and styles of uni including the 36″ shown below, and was able to ask for help learning to idle. She really, really enjoyed the company of other people who could do what she wants to do.
Mandy was exhausted by the time we headed home, but still asked to stop in Little Rock to play on the grounds of the Clinton Library and at Peabody Park. Bryan put together a video of both the visit with her new Memphis friends and our little detour on the way home.
Thanks again to MUC for the invitation, and for being so sweet and encouraging and helpful. We hope to see you again soon!
After hours of carrying rocks and digging holes, I was ready to go home, but Mandy wanted to see if she could ride the unicycle over the Big Dam Bridge. According the the BDB website, the bridge itself is about eight tenths of a mile long and the approaches are at a 5% grade.
It was clear she could do it. She was strong enough to ride up the bridge, and balanced enough to steer around little kids and dogs, and controlled enough to descend without falling. In fact, she was strong enough to do all of it over and over. But she’d get the ‘hard part’ done and something silly would happen, like people who didn’t move out of the way, or sand in her eye, or a violent apple-juice-induced coughing fit, and she’d fall.
And that wasn’t good enough. She was determined that she was going to do it straight, up and across and down, without dropping the uni.
Finally, on the fifth try, she did it. She says her next project will be a triple backflip with a twist. (Surely, she’s kidding.)
While we adults have been fiddling with our bikes lately, Mandy has been happily practicing on her unicycle. (And also getting straight A’s in all her classes. And also applying for and being accepted to 7th grade Advanced Art for next year. And also deciding to be a National Geographic photojournalist when she grows up. So she’s been busy.) But back to the uni: she’s quite good now at controlling her direction and at going up and down hills and at riding on grass. Today she asked if we could go to the River Trail a little early, because she wanted to see if she could ride a whole mile on the uni. Bryan rode alongside her with the GPS so that she could establish the mileage.
When he told her she’d reached a mile, she still felt fine and decided to try for two miles. She was thirsty so I handed her a water bottle as she rode by. She handed the drink back the next time she passed me, and a few minutes later completed the two miles at exactly one o’clock, right in front of the assembled ABC riders, who were waiting for Bryan to begin their group ride. Yessss!
(I’ve been sitting on these photos for a while now, they were actually taken back in late January! -Bryan)
We talk a lot about how we want more practice with our photography gear, but we don’t often get around to actually setting it up. Tonight we ran out of excuses and gave ourselves an evening lesson in portrait lighting. We couldn’t settle on a clear favorite, so we decided to share the ‘top four’ with you.
On Friday, there really wasn’t enough snow to play in, but enough sleet had fallen that the streets in our neighborhood were pretty slippery. So we thought a good idea would be to see if Mandy could ride a unicycle on it. I’m hard pressed to make this sound like a responsible parenting decision.
I think that up to now she has had the impression that she rides the uni in a straight line; this afternoon’s tracks in the snow prove otherwise.
And yeah, in retrospect, we probably should have had her wear a helmet today.
Be sure to note the noise made in this video by the still-falling sleet. It was a good day.
Lynn Brucker rides a unicycle at CRF Hamilton Valley. Also in the photo (l-r) are unknown, Lynn Brucker, Mandy Harris, Matt Goska, Joyce Hoffmaster, and Mike Carter (the one from Arkansas).
Mandy brought our unicycle to Hamilton Valley at New Years to show off her new found unicycling skills and in conversation with the Bruckers, Mandy found out that Lynn used to be able to ride a unicycle.
So on the last morning of the Expedition, Lynn tried out Mandy’s uni on the sidewalk in front of the bunkhouses. I was loading up the car when Aly tapped me on the shoulder and told me to grab my camera so as to document the moment.
I shot the scene with my Pentax K10D shooting away at 3fps, hoping to catch something but not knowing if it would be success or failure. Lynn made two short but successful rides and the image shown above is a composite from this second ride. Remember to click on the image to see it larger.
If anyone can identify the guy on the left, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!
The answer is: one week. It took her one week to learn to ride a unicycle. Bryan still can’t ride more than ten feet. I barely even get up on the seat. And the child orbits us in big, sweeping left-handed circles, smiling, held up by the wind.
All cavers, it seems, have a bat sticker on the rear of their vehicle and this caver is no different.
Here’s a short video taken on Saturday afternoon, in the parking lot of a nearby church. There’s still lots to learn, some priorities being how to get on by herself, and how to turn RIGHT (not left). But my daughter may now be the best unicycle-rider I know.
Sunday morning, after breakfast, we got out the unicycle so that Matt could give it another try. We had juggling balls and clubs out, too. Bryan taught himself to juggle years ago, when he was in high school, and then he’d taught David down the street to juggle and to pass.
And Mandy gave free rides around the neighborhood on the GTT. It’s funny. We had a whole circus in the front yard.
We all took turns on the toys. As it turns out, Matt hasn’t ridden a unicycle in years and could only get halfway to the neighbor’s driveway. Bryan can ride for about twenty scary feet.
When everyone else was done, Mandy got the unicycle and leaned on the car for awhile. Mandy has this odd little personality quirk. Occasionally she’ll decide that she’s going to do something ridiculous, something she’s clearly unqualified to do. It’s as if she just didn’t get the memo stating its impossibility. I’d like to think this is consciously-directed determination, but really I think it’s just a sort of unpredictable, uninformed intensity.
The first time I really noticed it was when she was tiny, and learned to walk several weeks before she could even stand up. She’d just sort of launch herself into the room and move her legs until she fell down. Then she’d crawl back to where she started and try again. Years later, the week before her fifth birthday, she said “I am going to learn to ride a bike next week.” I dutifully bought a bike, and it took her an hour and a half to learn to ride it. Then, nobody really told her that an eight year old couldn’t do a ten hour wetsuit trip in a cave, and so she did.
Watching her sit on the unicycle, next to the car, I had a feeling that she was going to decide that she would learn to ride. So I wasn’t surprised to spend nearly all day outside in the street, providing an arm to lean on as she lurched down the asphalt on one wheel. I wonder how long this project will take?