This report covers the third day of the Unicycling Society of America’s
1998 National Unicycle Convention, in Monrovia, California.
****************** First, I need to correct some errors and omissions in my previous day's report. In my defence, I can only claim that I'm typing these reports between midnight and 0200, and I really need to get more sleep. I stated that there were representatives from 13 states at the NUC. It is possible that one-site registrations have increased that number. I don't know if I'll get a definitive answer to this question, though. I said, "about 40 people from Michigan alone". Oops! That should be Minnesota, not Michigan! Both the Twin Cities Unicycle Club and the Unicycle Team of Minneasota have sent sizeable contingents. I said I'd finished my 1998 CA MUni photo albums. Actually, I finished by 1997 CA MUni photo albums. However, I did purchase roundtrip airfare between LAX and Sacramento for the 1998 California MUni Weekend yesterday, taking advantage of the Southwest Airlines sale that's scheduled to end a few days from now. I misspelled a couple of names: "Michael Owens" (not "Ownes") and "Theresa and Sem" (not "Therese and Sem"). My apologies to these individuals. Last, but not least, I called the TUCC Club Production "Hunchback". I have been reliably informed that I'm a cretin when it comes to certain aspects of modern culture; specifically, I've never seen Michael Jackson's music video (?) "Thriller". Apparently it is roughly similar in nature to the movie the Night of the Living Dead, which I think I've seen, but don't remember. TUCC was protraying zombies, or ghouls, or something like that, not the Hunchback of Notre Dame. ****************** There were also some egregious omissions in yesterday's report. Most importantly, I should have told you about Drew Tretick, the amazing unicycling violin player. He plays a "Zeta" digital violin, and is an (the?) official Zeta demonstrator (normally, without riding a unicycle at the same time, I imagine). He played for the NUC 1998 opening ceremony while riding, sort of zooming around the gym while zooming up and down some scales. The digital violin includes both MIDI controller and synthesizer functions, and the combined sound was quite rich. For more information about Drew's violin career, see:
I also should have mentioned the Coker Classic Cycles big wheel unicycle and ordinary bicycle that were available for riding. One of each type are being raffled off, I think, and someone (hmmm, I need more details here) had units available for test rudes. The amazing (to me) thing about the Coker "The Big One" unicycle was the 36" pneumatic tire. That's right, a real tire! Unfortunately, the guy with the demo units left before I gave them a ride. :-( For more information about these products, see:
****************** Whew! All my griping in the last report must have paid off! There was a thick coastal marine layer on Sunday morning, and the National Weather Service reports that the high temperature was 93 F in Monrovia. That's 10 F cooler than it was yesterday! Actually, the cloud layer broke up by mid-afternoon, so by the time that I performed my Artistic Freestyle thingie (more on that later), the gym had gotten a little hot. Maybe it was just the stress, though ... ****************** Today's focus was on the Individual and Pairs Freestyle competitions. Roughly speaking, the order of events was:
Individual Freestyle by age groups lunch Jr. Expert and Expert Individual
Freestyle remaining Individual Freestyle age groups Pairs Freestyle by age
groups Parade Dinner remaining Pairs Freestyle age groups
The youngest Individual Freestyle competitors were:
Male: Spencer Johnson, Unicycle Team of Minnesota, age 5 His performance
included backwards, 1 foot, figure 8s, and a final wheel walk!
Female: Bridgette Bibler, Wood One Wheelers, age 4 Bridgette was dressed in a
Baby Bop outfit. Her performance involved a few cones and a lot of assistance,
but it was very, very cute.
The oldest competitor was Dr. Reynolds. He almost didn't get an opportunity to perform, possibly because my own performance was so short, and another competitor in my age category withdrew from the Individual Freestyle, so Doc's turn came up sooner than he anticipated. The problem was resolved, however, and the audience enthusiasticly received Doc's routine when it finally appeared, partway into the Pairs competition. He took a hard fall, too, while riding backwards through his disks (cone substitutes), but fortunately seems to be OK. Yesterday I reported his age as 76. I want to verify that final digit; I'll get back to you on it. ****************** Dana Schneider gave a spectacular Individual performance. I didn't take notes, so I can't tell you exactly what she did, but it was quite impressive. I hope she retains (or improves!) this level of performance at Unicon in Bottrop! In the Expert Individual Freestyle Male category, there were several impressive performances; unfortunately, many were marred by unintentional dismounts. Offhand, I'd say that either Andy Cotter or Dustin Kelm will take first place when the awards are announced, Tuesday evening, but I wouldn't be surprised if one of the other contestants won it, either: style and the relative difficulty of advanced techniques are difficult subjective judgements, I think. More than once today, Dustin was observed dusting the gym floor with a large dust mop. Ha ha, very funny, but very useful. Thanks, Dustin! What else caught my eye? I confess that I wasn't paying full attention this year, particularly in the younger age categories, but I particularly recall the toilet plunger juggling, and the, ah, female impersonator "prop". ****************** The parade competition was a short affair, about three blocks long in the Old Monrovia downtown. The audience was gathering for a (regularly scheduled?) afternoon concert in the park, as well as us. The pavement was OK, except for the mock-cobblestone crosswalks. I rode one of John Foss' giraffe unicycles for fun. There were several big wheels in the parade, but there was one very big wheel; so big, it uses chains like a giraffe. It's not shaped like a giraffe, though, and I'm uncertain what to call it: an elephant unicycle, perhaps? It has a reducing gear ratio. Sem Abrams (spelling?) rode it during the parade. Unfortunately (I'm using that word a lot, aren't I? How unfortunate!) it collapsed after the parade, when someone was trying to mount it and the rim failed under excessive forces parallel to the axle. This is a known problem with this particular unit, and a lively discussion followed about what factors in the design (rim thichmess and material, hub separation, etc.) should be changed. There were several other novelty unicycles in the parade, including a couple that were (partly) built out of standard bikes, in their original frame configurations, or something similar! ****************** Finally, I'd like to include a brief profile of the Panther Pride Demo Team from North Bend, Washington, which is somewhere in the Snoqualmie area for you ski buffs. The group is led by (and here I didn't write down the name, so I'll get back with more tomorrow) Mr. Teppert, a PE teacher in one of the area's K-5 (elementary) schools. He has been teaching unicycling since 1982, and his club frequently performs a local half-time shows, trade shows, etc. Currently, he has 76 (there's that number again!) riders from several schools in his school district. The youngest rider is 5 years old. He found out about the USA and the NUC only 3 1/2 months ago via the Internet. He held a parents' meeting, and parents with free time (and their kids) were selected to go to the NUC. The club held fundraisers to cover airfare and hotel costs, while the club members rapidly familiarized themselves with the USA rules, and prepared for the competition. Mr Teppert (sp?) starts the first 2 weeks of PE class with unicycle safety, equipment room procedures, etc. There's a 30 minute open practice session each day before classes start. Students who progress to a satisfactory degree are invited to join, with parental permission, the 90 minute after school team practice sessions. The club has acquired a number of unicycles over the years, which gives the kids access to unicycles without a large up-front investment by their parents. There are 50 unicycles with 20" tires, 16 with 16" tires, some Schwinn 24" ones, and 24 5' giraffes, I was told. For training small children, Mr. Teppert uses "pedalos" (spelling?), which he described as 6 or 3 small wheels and attached pedals that allow the student to learn the up-and-down pedal motion without having to learn the other balance skills of a unicycle at the same time. I'm afraid that my sedonc-hand description isn't very good. Hopefully, we can get some pictures on the Web soon. There's no Web site yet, but email to <email@example.com> should get through. ****************** Well, I finally competed in the NUC Freestyle Individual event. Although the unicycling that I did as a kid, in the Wonderwheels Unicycle Drill Team, from 1964 through 1972, roughly, was what would now be called Artistic Freestyle (pair, group/club, and parade), I haven't competed in this category since I started going to the USA Nationals in 1992. I overcame my internal resistance this year (I have a motto: "I am not a perfectionist -- not exactly"), and gave a, ah, comedy routine. You could also call it a "surreal" routine. The details included a live harmonica performance of "A Bicycle Built for Two" (Daisy, Daisy), a large plush penguin strapped to my back, and vigorous swimming motions. Ah, comedy, sure, that's what it must have been, yup. It would have worked, too, if the strap had held the Penguin upright, instad of letting it tip over to the side (it was a *large* plush penguin). :-o ****************** Brett Bymaster did some more MUni stuff today, including a gliding workshop. ****************** That's it for Sunday's report. Monday is the start of the racing events; I hope I'll be awake enough to compete! Craig Milo Rogers