Wednesday, January 2, 2013
1 unicycle, 5 buses, and a new year
What better way to ring in a new year than to take an epic trip on a unicycle?
For 40-ish years, Pittsburgh cyclists have ridden a group ride called the Icycle Bicycle Ride. No matter how rotten the weather, they ride. The 2013 version offered a very cold morning, a little bit of overnight snow, but a lot of refrozen slop from the several snowfalls last week. No trails were clear, so the ride itself stuck to city streets, for the most part.
I actually showed up to ride on my unicycle, but a flat tire prevented me from starting with the group of over 100 riders. Earlier, I had been able to ride the three miles into West View, but air was leaking out so fast I couldn't even make it two blocks across downtown. Fortunately, someone at the ride had a patch kit and tools, so I was able to patch the tire in about five minutes, without even taking the wheel off. In that brief time, though, the riders took off. No matter; on a 24" uni, I was not going to be able to keep up with them anyway.
Undaunted, I took off down East Carson Street for about 15 blocks, riding alone. When it became clear I was not going to see anyone else, I opted to go off course and explore the city, as best I could. I had already ridden two buses to get to the ride -- one from West View, one from town to the ride -- and now took a third to get back into town.
I wanted to participate in the various photography games on the Bike-Pgh message board, since I so rarely have the wheel with me. Since one of them involved getting a bowl of soup, I wanted somehow to get a bowl of soup and the wheel in the same shot. A second game, Wheelset of Fortune, required I find a "parking chair", a Pittsburgh oddity whereby someone holds a parking space by placing an old chair in it. While I found neither of those in the central city, before the day was out, I was able to get both.
What made the day was being able to combine using the wheel with riding buses. As with the bicycle, which has to ride on the front of the bus, I used my personal transportation to augment the transit system. Or is it the other way around? Whichever, I bring the wheel on with me, storing it right alongside me in the seat. On a quiet day like New Year's, there are usually not that many riders, so it was fairly easy to wedge it into a forward facing seat with me. On busier buses, in the past, I would store it under a side-facing seat, and hope a wheelchair rider did not get on. I've taken it on fully loaded buses with standees, for which I stood astride it (not on it), trying and usually succeeding in not clobbering anyone's shins with the pedals, and taking up no more room than I would without the wheel.
Five buses: West View to town, town to Second & Hot Metal Bridge, ECarson & 13th to town, Federal & North to California & Charles, and finally, from Bellevue to West View. In between, I rode the wheel. The longest piece was from Calif/Charles to Bellevue, almost six miles. But all the pieces together totaled almost 16 miles, not bad for not having been on the thing in the better part of a year.