NY Unicycle Festival!!!
In the realm of unicycling, I've had little to shout about lately. I still have a wonky knee -- tho this time it's the left one -- and I haven't been able to ride much lately. On our recent trip to Martha's Vineyard, I brought my Coker hoping, as in past years, that I could ride several miles a day, as I did last summer, but I only managed one painful trip to the local store before putting the big, rusty beast away. So I am thrilled to have some happy news to report on unicycling.
Today marked Day 2 of the first annual NYC Unicycle Festival, and it was a blast. Day One, involving a 13-mile ride across the Brooklyn Bridge and down to Coney Island, was out of the question for me (see above! I had a whole weekend to think about!), but today was the main event: Governor's Island.
The day was organized by the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, and they did an incredible job for an inaugural affair. Aided by many volunteers (quite a few from my club), the Cirkus folks arranged a day that didn't rush everyone from one activity to the next but instead allowed everyone a leisurely time that was packed with things to do -- not an easy feat.
Emmett, who just turned 11 while on Martha's Vineyard, rode down with my in the little Smart Car. Amazingly we found a parking spot near the ferry terminal (try that in an ordinary car!). A few minutes later, we were the last people to make it onto the 11:30 ferry. Because I wasn't sure whether we'd need different unicycles for different events, I had each of us bring two unis, but Emmett isn't quite solid enough to ride one while pushing or carrying another, so I ended up holding two unicycles and wearing a heavy backpack full of all of our snacks. I was relieved to be sitting on the ferry, where several other unicycle riders were already sitting. It's a 5-minute ride across the Hudson to Governor's Island.
At noon, Emmett and I joined in with a huge parade processional featuring about 200 riders. I participated in a brief interview with some folks from CBS News and then joined in with unicycle hockey at 1:00. It was low-key, and I made sure not to take too long a turn, but I managed to score a few goals for my pick-up team. At 2:00, there was a unicycle basketball demonstration from some of the members of the King Charles Basketball Troupe. It was exciting for me to be so close to some of the people who had inspired me to ride back when I was in single digits. I also spoke with some other riders who had formed an off-shoot group called the Royal Riders, all of whom started riding even before I did (which was in 1980). The King Charles demo also featured some great double-dutch jump roping on unicycles. This was one of my favorite segments of the day.
Another great time was the pick-up basketball game that came next. To my amazement (and to the amazement of my son), I actually made 4 baskets. Anyone who knows me is aware of my terrible basketball skills. I think that the nets were pretty low -- maybe 9' instead of 10' -- but I was definitely in a one-time-only groove. I shot the winning basket behind my head, throwing the ball up past my face and over my head, off the backboard, and into the net behind me. It was the only possible shot, but there's no way I should have been able to make it. All I could think was that it was nice to inhabit the body of a decent shooter, even for just a few minutes.
Following the basketball games, Emmett and I watched some trials riding. There was an awesome trials course built rather quickly by some of the volunteers. Emmett and I worked on some basic obstacles (like the teeter-totter), but there were some heavy hitters trying out very difficult hops and jumps. Next came some fun relay races, and Emmett and I were able to join or put together some winning teams, including one with my brother, John, on his Coker.
Thruout the day, volunteers were helping newbies learn to unicycle, and I did my part, working with a few folks and offering advice.
Finally, after a ride around the island in a vain search for a snack stand that turned out to be just a minute away from where we were, we joined in with a group photo and then headed back to the ferry. I asked one of the Bindlestiff folks to try to tally up how many riders came out. We were guessing about 300. That's pretty amazing for a first time effort. Well done, Bindlestiffs!