Photo top courtesy Kevin Williams. Photo bottom by Steve Shay
For the forth consecutive year, Kevin Williams of Des Moines rode his customized unicycle from Seattle to Portland on the STP ride. He is pictured top left & right in the 2010 STP. Pictured below, he demonstrates his technique in the Des Moines Marina parking lot.
Des Moines man unicycles from Seattle to Portland in two day STP ride
Most of the 10,000 riders who huffed and puffed their way from a UW parking lot by Husky Stadium 202 miles to Portland, Oregon the July 14 to 15 weekend did so on bicycle. But that would be considered a luxury for Des Moines resident, Kevin Williams. He completed the Cascade Bicycle Club's Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic on his unicycle, his forth year to accomplish this. He raised $950 for Seattle Children's Hospital's Crush Kid's Cancer.
Williams, 50, a long-time employee of SafeWorks, most involved in its wind energy division, grew up in the Texas Panhandle, including the town of Wheeler, an apt name for Williams, who said he got serious about unicycling when delivering newspapers for the Seattle Times in 1974. He saved up for a quality Schwinn unicycle, then continued his route on one wheel.
"I know of five guys who have successfully completed the STP on a unicycle," said Williams. "Bruce Dawson was the person who first inspired me. I read his story in 2005. Also, Joe Meyers. Both of those guys gave me pointers and advice, inspiration, all that. In 2005 I was treated with radiation for a lump on my left knee.
"Healing, and riding again, was incremental," he said. "It took a long time.
I was really abbreviated in so many ways. It felt like my life was just slipping away and all those things you take for granted that you are going to do some day then someone just jerks the rug out from under you, then it really comes into question if it is even going to be feasible."
Williams is a welder and fabricator whose skills came in handy customizing his 'Coker Big One Cycle' with its 36-inch wheel.
"I needed to change up the geometry to make the ride doable," he explained. "I get down in a tuck. When you are on a unicycle and my height, I'm a big sail catching a lot of wind when I sit straight up. I bought the unicycle from Serious Juggling in Portland in 2009. The basic unicycle was about $400. I've added da Vinci cranks, a Shimano hand break, and Rivendell pedals with three (interchangeable) holes. That's my leverage. It's kind of like gears but you have to stop to change it."
He affixed elbow rests and that handle bar design that puts him in the crouch position.
"This year I left at 3:45 a.m. and got to Centrallia at 5:00 p.m. But I took a 40 minute nap at the Tenino stop. The second day I left at 3:00 a.m. sharp, and rolled across the finish line at 7:15 p.m., but I had four flat tires. The first 10 miles out of Centralia were really rough. I had at least 10 UPD's, or unplanned dismounts. They rerouted and put fresh blacktop down on a stretch of broken road. At three in the morning it's very dark, no depth perception, and the road was undulating. I started with four inner tubes and six CO2's to recharge the tire. I also carry a Road Morf G pump. It's pretty good but it takes a lot of work and time, and time becomes very precious on the second day of the ride."
He carried more tools, a firs aid kit, and water. Other items were sent on ahead.
Each year he journaled, and his writing revealed a cocktail of pain, pleasure, and, ultimately, triumph.
His one-wheeled wonder does turn a lot of heads on the STP ride.
He recalled, "It's kind of fun. Every day thousands of people pass by and gush these positive life affirming statements toward you, like, 'Dude, you're tearing it up,' or, 'You're the boss, and 'You're the hass.' Some I've never heard. The bus ride is always fun, too, always a big ego-fluffing affair.
"But none of it ever goes to my head," he self-deprecated. "Trust me. I'm fully cognizant of the fact that I'm just a big doofus riding around on a giant unicycle. I never escape the reality of that situation."