Madfest

I went to Madfest last weekend in Madison WI. The Great Hall of the Memorial
Union on the campus of Wisconsin University was the scene of much madness in
the form of dozens of jugglers and unicyclists engaged in a good-natured
territorial war for floorspace. Balls, clubs, rings, beanbags, hacky sacks
and unicycles flew through the air with the greatest of ease.

Just as I arrived Friday night after an after-work road trip from Cedar
Rapids IA, I saw Bill Karbo, USA Member and Level 8 rider, come tearing
across the Great Hall on his unicycle. He came to a stop beside the 5 broad
marble steps leading up from the Hall floor to the corridor, hop twice and
then ascend the stairs like some cartoon character, one bounce per step and
ride off down the hall. (I gotta learn this!)

I had the pleasure of meeting Karl Frankowski, Andy and Connie Cotter, Bill
Karbo and a bunch of other friendly unicycle folks. I benefitted greatly
from advice and helpful pointers from everyone. I came away from the weekend
having done five (count'em five) new skills for the first time:
  1. side-hopped up one stair

  2. hopped on pedals, seat held in front

  3. one-footed idle, leg extended (well, off the frame anyway)

  4. kick-up mount

  5. jump mount

    I had been working on the kick-up mount for some time but had gotten stuck
    just short of actually accomplishing it. Andy Cotter gave me a tip about
    pedal position & body position. Five minutes later I did it (!!!).

    Several people asked me why I hadn’t learned the jump mount yet, and my
    answer was “Fear of pain!”. It was explained to me that this is actually one
    of the simplest and easiest mounts to learn once the fear factor has been
    overcome. I applied my self-learning techique of breaking things down into
    smaller pieces by holding my unicycle in front of me on the floor while
    standing on the first step of a staircase and jumping over onto the seat.
    That was so doggone easy that I got bold and tried the real thing from floor
    level. I succeeded on the first three tries in a row. This IS easy!

    At noon on Saturday, we were given a room of our own and with equipment
    supplied by the Twin City Unicycle Club, played unicycle floor hockey for
    almost two hours. As a complete novice to hockey of any kind, let alone
    unicycle hockey, I felt I was doing very good just to get a stick on the
    ball once in a while before falling off. My main contribution to play was in
    trying to stay OUT of the way of my team members and getting IN the way of
    the other team. It was all for fun, no one keeping score, with several young
    children playing right along with us so-called adults. And what a workout!
    The next morning I woke up with a bunch of stiff muscles in my inner thighs,
    buttocks and lower back. Not quite painful but answering roll call loud and
    clear. But a couple of hours of activity got me loosened up and stretched
    out again.

    I was pretty burned out the rest of Saturday after playing and welcomed the
    chance to sit still for 3 hours and watch the Public Show. The ticket cost
    $4 and had to be the best entertainment bargain I have ever found.

    On Sunday, Connie Cotter gave examinations. Karl Frankowski qualified Level
    7, five year old Dylan qualified Level 1, and lil’ ol’ me, almost to the top
    of the hill at age 38, qualified Level 3.

    I thought I was ready for Level 4 but to my surprise one skill kept me from
    attempting it: the 360 degree turns within a one meter circle. I had a lot
    of trouble doing the 180 degree turns for Level 3. I have done 180s and 360s
    many times before out goofing around, but I did them when I was ready, not
    trying to aim for an arbitrary circle on the ground. When I was testing, it
    seemed like my pedals were never in the right position when I got to the
    designated circle. Connie also pointed out that some of the difficulty was
    due to riding a 24" unicycle. So I will have to work on this to be ready in
    time for the National Meet in Bowling Green OH this coming July.

Dennis Kathrens