A couple of weeks ago, I flew from Cancun, Mexico to an island in the Caribbean. I had with me my trusty 29" unicycle which is easy to carry on a plane yet fast enough to actually use for transportation (125mm cranks). On the first day, I was alone and walked around the capital marveling at the amazing architecture and lively people but wondering how unicycling would be in the chaotic traffic. That night Andy arrived and we spent the whole second day unicycling around. It was fantastic! We went all over and had no problems with traffic. The most exciting riding was along the ocean font, what we called “The Gauntlet”. This was a very wide sidewalk about 5km long with HUGE waves crashing over it every so often. In places the waves blasted up more than 50 feet in the air above the sidewalk. We almost made it to the end, only partially wet, but finally misjudged a wave and got soaked. Andy looked ahead and saw me brought down by a wall of white. I had turned to avoid a deep hole but found the ground so slippery that I ended up still going forward with my wheel sideways. Next thing I knew I was under a wave, sliding along the sidewalk, on my back. We were so wet it was comical.
We were three for the second day of riding. Rob had arrived and we went all over downtown, a Museum, talking with so many people, Chinatown, Rob going crazy with all the incredible photo-ops. We also figured out how to escape the big city, so the next day, took a taxi(!) 400km to a seaside town of about 50,000. A lady we met on the street had a contact there who got us a couple of really nice rooms in a private home which is a common and great way to stay overnight and enjoy home cooked meals and local info. And it’s cheaper than a hotel. As soon as we were settled, we headed into town. There is an old and a new town and the main difference for us was that the old town was paved with ancient and very rough cobblestones. Muni-skills were really needed as some streets were very steep, and all were super bumpy. We ended up way above town and spent an hour underground exploring an interesting limestone cave that used to have a disco in it. After that, we gave locals unicycle lessons until sunset, then blasted “home” for the most incredible lobster dinner of my life.
A beautiful Caribbean beach was only 12km away, so the next day we headed out on unicycle. The distance passed quickly and soon we were enjoying the perfect water with white sand - a tropical paradise. In the afternoon, we toured the town some more and gave more unicycling lessons with a couple of repeat students who were improving fast.
We took a day off unicycling and visited the local mountains by taxi. We hiked an hour or so to a big waterfall and swimming hole. On the hike back I started to feel a little sick and had to miss out teaching unicycling in the square that evening as well as visiting the “Casa de Musica” that goes late into the night.
I was feeling better in the morning but not perfect. Our host had a friend driving back to the capital who was happy to get three bus fares for a drive he was doing anyway. And this way we had a driver who was happier to stop for photo ops than a taxi or a bus driver. Back in the big city, we landed another private home to stay in for the last two nights. It was a gorgeous stately home, old and classic with 14’ ceilings and incredible furniture. I was feeling ok but now Rob was sick so he stayed in while Andy and I hit the town, eating interesting foods and listening to great music until almost midnight.
For our last full day, we rode our unicycles all over and I think Rob took something like five rolls of 36 shots. The weather was much calmer so “The Gauntlet” was now a popular area with tons of people hanging out enjoying the sun. We continued having great encounters with people and exploring around. At one point we ended up in a parade of people on high stilts (plus a juggler). This is where you want a smaller unicycle (or longer cranks). They want to see your best tricks! I don’t know how many miles we rode in those days, but it was quite a few and they were all fun and interesting. We had another lobster dinner at “home” for our last night, then packed up. Rob left at 5am the next morning and Andy and I a few hours later. We met up in Cancun and Rob and I flew home together. Made it safely with unicycles intact before midnight - Rob was up for 24 hours straight.
Every time I’ve gone to the extra trouble to bring a unicycle on a foreign trip I’ve been rewarded. Especially in poorer countries, when I’m a “rich” tourist, most interactions will be with someone somehow angling to get something from me. On the other hand, with a unicycle, I’m automatically giving something to everyone who sees me and I end up having much more interesting encounters. When I compare that first day spent alone, being an “on foot” tourist to all the other days of the trip, I don’t think I’ll ever leave my unicycle at home again!
Andy and I ended up with about 550 photos we kept. Here’s a photo album that has 86 of the better ones. In addition Rob shot 15 rolls of 36 slides - ask him for a slideshow next time you visit!