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Riding the high way home for the holidaysby Julie Druker
Photo: Unicylcist Philip Schleihauf on Road 38 just north of Verona on Good Friday
The highways and byways were busy this past weekend with many folks traveling long distances to be with family and friends. Few, though, were pedaling atop the single 36-inch diameter wheel of a unicycle.
I came across Philip Schleihauf, a computer engineering student at Queens University in Kingston, on a very windy Good Friday on Road 38 just north of Verona's Rivendell Golf Course, and that's what he was doing. He dismounted when I stopped the car and flagged him down.
He had departed from Kingston in the morning and was headed to Maberly, to his aunt's and uncle's home to meet up with family for the long weekend, a trip he estimated would take him about six hours. Normally he can travel at 20-25 km /hour on his one wheel but the wind on Friday had slowed him down to about 17 clicks, which did not seem to bother him.
Why a unicycle, I asked. “Why not? It's fun,” he replied.
Fun perhaps if you happen to be a long distance unicyclist, which Philip is. On March 10, 2012 he made an attempt to break the Guinness Book's world record for riding the fastest 100 kilometers on a unicycle. The event was also undertaken to help raise awareness for Fair Trade practices in Kingston. Philip made the attempt at the outdoor track of the Kingston Memorial Centre. However, he recalled, “Unfortunately that day weather conditions were not great for record breaking.”
With a -8 degree Celsius wind chill, Schleihauf did not succeed that day but he plans to make a second attempt in August this year.
He has ridden his unicycle across Canada in two separate summer rides, one in 2009 from Victoria, BC to Ottawa and the second in 2010 from Ottawa to St. John's. Both rides were to raise awareness for Invisible Children, the organization began in 2003 to end the use of child soldiers in Africa, specifically those involved in Joseph Kony's rebel war there.
Schleihauf is also a musician and he later told me it was difficult choosing between music, stage lighting and computer engineering.
Perhaps not so difficult is choosing his preferred mode of transportation. As a unicyclist at Queen's he is not alone; there are seven of eight others who share his passion for the one-wheeled way.
However, last Friday, with no records to break and a rare four-day weekend ahead, plus a musical family awaiting his arrival, Philip opted for four wheels instead of one. When he asked for a ride I obliged and he threw his bike into the back seat. I dropped him off in Maberly close to four hours ahead of his ETA.