Mophe’s Journal Aug 2009

8/13/09 Amarillo, Texas

I got to see the Amarillo Museum of Art and rode around downtown. I met a few people downtown though it was pretty cleared out for 6:30pm CT. I did get some good photos. They even have an old army tank parked next to a building downtown.

8/13/09 Albuqueque, New Mexico

I met a guy from Santa Fe that runs a homeless shelter down there. I also had a interview with channel 4. They were doing a story down by the courthouse when I stopped by to see what was going on. The buildings around Albuquerque are really cool. I can’t wait to load pictures when I get a chance.

8/12/09 Flagstaff, Arizona

I had forgotten that this was mountain area and didn’t expect 65 degrees in Arizona, even this far north. I probably would have been okay in Phoenix with 100+ since I’ve been there before and ran in the heat. I met a guy named Scott at a corner with his mountain unicycle. First unicyclist I’ve seen on the tour, though I’ve seen them in the parades.

8/12/09 Grand Canyon, Arizona

Wow — the Grand Canyon left me in awe! I spent a couple hours there getting pictures and riding around the rim on a paved path plus over by the lodges. I received a ton of questions. One lady told me about her days of being a mime. I would love to go back and just sit for hours plus take a horse ride down the canyon.

8/11/09 Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas at night was incredible. The fountain show outside of the Bellagio is must see, as you will see from the crowd around the water. There were so many people in Vegas I had to walk quite often. I was asked what show I was in and where I worked along the strip so they could come see me.

8/11/09 Hollywood, California

Lisa Marie & Mark sent me over one street to Beechwood Drive to get good picture of the Hollywood sign. Met Tiger along Vine, he loved the fact that I was helping the March of Dimes. A lady parked in a lot on Sunset Blvd was so excited to see me she had to get her son to see me. She asked if I was in a show and said she never got to meet someone like me in person.

8/9/09 San Francisco, California

I got some nice pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge from Pier 14 where a couple of security guards told me that Pier 39 was the place to be. I had so much fun with everyone on the ride down to Pier 39 and back. Jason’s Mom stopped me to take a picture together. Jason is about six or seven years old and sports a 2-3 inch high Mohawk. It was really cool. He gave me one of the hardest high fives!

8/9/09 Sacramento, California

I rode around downtown on this quiet Sunday afternoon. I met a guy riding his bike that was originally from Brooklyn. He said he has a unicycle and tries to ride it every once in a while, though it needs fixed right now. He said, “Now that I’ve seen you, I’m inspired to get it fixed.”

I saw a lady with a boy about ten years old and girl about twelve waiting for me across the street at the light. I yelled across that they could keep walking in the other direction and I would catch up. I rode across the street and as I caught up with them the boys started joking that I was after him. We had a good laugh and then started to chat. They had to wait until 6:00pm to visit their Dad who was in prison in the building just to our left. They had been on their way to the library when they spotted me so they walked my way instead to find out what I was doing. I told them a little about my trip and talked about riding the unicycle. I showed them how I fall off the unicycle on purpose sometimes. They really laughed at that. I asked Mom how Dad was doing. She said the case was going well but it was really hard to live without their father, which caused the boy to cry a few minutes. After he stopped, we talked some more. The kids told me about painting their faces with stars and seeing a magician turn trash into doves at school. My heart still goes out to them! I hope everything turned out well already.

8/8/09 Portland, Oregon

I was surprised how cosmopolitan Portland was. It was just like driving in New York City or Boston. It was great to see so many people downtown on a Saturday night.

There were a lot more homeless people on the streets than I’ve seen in any other city. It seemed much more accepted or at least out in the open. One guy that stopped me to find out what I was doing told me about helping a guy down the street quite often, saying “He is just a little down on his luck.” Later, a couple guys came out of a store and one handed his change to a guy and lady sitting outside the store.

After riding around downtown Portland for a while, I decided to head back to the car. A lady came out of the Heathman Hotel pushing a stroller with two toddlers. The dad, I think, was already outside and asked if he could get my picture. I of course said, “Sure!” The woman described me in French to the children while he was taking my picture from the other side for better lighting. When the guy finished, I turned to the woman and said, “Merci.”  Further along, I met Nicole and her four friends that asked a ton of questions about me and my trip. She said I was evasive about how I came up with my name, Mophe. It is actually a childhood nickname I made up with one of my friends. I asked her what name she would go by if she could choose. First she said, “Nicole of course. That is my name.” and then “Nicoli”, because that is what my mom calls me.” I did a few spins on the unicycle for them and took off toward the car again. I stopped an officer and asked if I was heading in the right direction to Everett Street. He said, “You’re going the right way. They are in alphabetical order, so you’ll know how close you are now.”

On the drive out of town I found out that I missed the “Taste of Oregon” and the Japanese American Historical Plaza. Oh well, maybe some other time!

8/8/09 Spokane, Washinton

I started my ride across the street from the Spokane City Hall. I got a few pictures of River Park and then rode through downtown. I ran into two guys with accents. I couldn’t quite figure out where they were from until they told me they had flown in from Ireland for the weekend for their friend’s wedding. “Our friend moved here from Ireland and just had to fall in love with a girl from Spokane.” One told me about a lady they met the night before that had been afraid of clowns since she was a little girl and that she was going to “hypno-theraphy” to get rid of the fear. I told them about my trip and that I had driven 3,000 miles from Ohio so far on this stage. They said, “Wow, our flight was 4,000 miles from Ireland!” In the end, one shook my hand and went “zzzzztt” like I buzzed him. The other one shook my hand, cowered, and said “Oh no! Now I have to go to hypno-therapy!” We all had a great laugh!

I rode around downtown for a while and then headed for the Convention Center that I saw on the drive in. I got a couple pictures and then cut through to get a picture of a statute of an astronaut. I ended up on the bike path along the Spokane river. The river was just beautiful here. I met a couple young ladies stopped by the statute. One said her Mom works at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH. It is such a small world!

I rode along the bike path toward River Park. There’s a huge red wagon, at least twice as tall as me, in the park that people were walking around and getting pictures. I rode through River Park and discovered the Spokane Fall Skyride. I didn’t know they had falls until this point. I followed the ride wires and discovered the bridge was just a couple blocks from my car! I rode over to the bridge and got some cool picture of the falls and the Skyriders who were getting a closer view. I’ll have to take the ride next time I visit!

8/7/09 Butte, Montana

It was storming as I drove toward Butte. Earlier I was wondering if I should go to Bozeman instead, but decided to save the driving miles since Bozeman was further east. It rained all the way into Butte.

I stopped at Exxon to get gas. I went in to use the bathroom and decided to buy a Diet Dr. Pepper. The guy at register said, “You just had to pick me.” I said, “I could go to the other guy” thinking he was just concerned about me playing a joke on him. He said, “No, you can come through my line, but I’m afraid of clowns. I had a bad experience with a clown when I was a kid.” I think it helped that I left one glove in the car so he could see I was really a person. I gave him a Mophe pic and he said his son was going to love to see it. He put out his hand and shook my non-gloved hand. He said he felt better about clowns now, so I think this experience was a bit cathartic for him and I felt glad I made a dent in his fear!

I got lucky and the rain stopped as I drove into downtown. I stepped out of the car into 51 degrees damp weather, but it was actually quite refreshing. The steep hills of this mountainous town were very difficult to ride though. I rode past the Mother Lode Theatre and further down the road found a large area blocked off for what I discovered later was the Irish Festival. From an outsider’s perspective, I couldn’t initially tell what the event was since the signs just told how much to pay to get in for the day or the weekend. I rode completely around the blocked off area.

On the other side, a guy walked out of a  building and headed the other way down the sidewalk without noticing me at all. Another guy was headed our way and asked the first guy, “You aren’t afraid of clowns are you?” First guy replied, “No, why do you ask?” Second guy, “Because there’s one riding a unicycle right behind you!” The first guy turned and jumped. They crossed the street as I stayed at the corner to determine my next direction. I crossed in time to hear the first guy tell the other on the corner, “He really freaked me out when I turned around. Sure didn’t expect to see that!”

On the way back to the car, I rode past the Mother Lode Theatre again, this time as it was letting out. I asked an older guy if it was a good show. He looked at me quizzically and after a slight pause said, “It was a really good show!”

From across the street I heard a guy say something about a bet very loudly and thought he was talking to one of the guys near him. I rode to the car and hopped off the unicycle. The guy yelled across the street that I lost the bet. I walked across the street to meet Chad and his two friends outside of the Vu Villa bar. I guess Chad had bet me $20 that I couldn’t make it past the pole, which was just beyond my car. We talked at length about the bet, my trip, and a bit about them. One of the other guys was actually from Boise and travels a lot for work. They told me the big event wih blocked off streets was the Irish Festival. They asked why I wasn’t there and I asked them the same. Chad said, “Yea, I’m even Irish!” I think the answer for all of us was that it cost a lot, like $20 to get in. They asked if I wanted to join them in a beer, but I had to hit the road for Spokane!

8/7/09 Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone wasn’t part of my original plan but I couldn’t pass it up when I noticed Yellowstone Lake on the GPS. I called the park and found out the Old Faithful was only 30 miles from the west park entrance so I decided to make the detour. The few extra hours haunted me the rest of the trip out West but it was well worth it.

The drive into the park along the meandering river that sometime turned into rapids was exhilarating. Since I didn’t know when Old Faithful was going to blow, I drove straight there. Luckily I only had to wait 30 minutes. I met 18-month old Zoe and her dad who were traveling around the states as well. A lady asked me to turn and wave toward the web cam to her son in Florida! I was stopped by a tour group that wanted to get my picture, including the guide who said, “I’ve never seen a clown on a unicycle in Yellowstone during the two years I’ve worked here.” There were signs about no riding on the boardwalk around Old Faithful so many people were disappointed when I said I couldn’t ride there.

A guy in a beret that didn’t speak English, Japanese I believe, asked with hand gestures if he could get my picture. He took several pictures while moving around me in the sunlight. Many times he was within inches of my face. Luckily I don’t have a problem with that. Coming from the mid-west where most people stand at arms length during conversations, you’d think I’d react to situations like that. However, I learned long ago to accept and adapt to different cultures and norms. Like when a person from New York is talking right in my face, I don’t back away like most mid-western folks.

Well, there were a lot of people lined up 8-9 deep to watch Old Faithful blow. It was really awesome, though I would have like to have watched more and not focused on videoing and taking pictures. I had a blast with everyone in the parking lot during the ride back to my car.

I stopped on the drive out of Yellowstone to get some pictures of what I thought was a moose. It didn’t have antlers, but after some research I think it was a young elk.

8/7/09 Idaho Falls, Idaho

It was a cool morning at 58 degrees, my coolest ride since March in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Memphis, TN. I rode by an official building that contained the Chamber of Commerce, Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.

The falls in downtown were cool — smaller than Niagara and Sioux falls but still very nice. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Temple silhouetted behind the river and trees is awesome too, especially with their gold bugler on top!

On the other side of the bridge a few folks were setting up for a health or charity race in the park for later that day. I got a few looks but most people were sticking to their duties. I wished I could stay, but my West schedule was very tight with 6,300 driving miles in less than 2 weeks, so I rolled on.

I met Sister and Brother Guthrie, an older couple, outside of the temple. They asked me to join the service that was to start in 10 minutes. I told them about my journey around the US to teach people to donate gift cards to charities and that I needed to continue my ride in Idaho Falls. I told them about several of the other places I’ve stopped at across America and how great all the people have been along the way. Sister said, “Yes, and all we hear is bad news all the time.” I told Brother that I knew a fair bit about the great missionary works they do throughout the world. He said that I was on a mission and he was surprised that I was alone. The Mormons always send missionaries “two-by-two”. They asked me to join them again and I graciously declined. Brother told me to look up the missionary group in Columbus when I return. I haven’t yet, but believe I will.

8/5/09 Salt Lake City, Utah

I broke my record and rode 11 miles through Salt Lake City in the evening. I met two guys in suits and one was kind enough to take my picture with the Salt Lake Temple in the background. I explained what I was doing. The guy that took my picture  said, “I don’t have a gift card on me, but maybe in the car.” I told him I couldn’t take his gift card anyway and asked him to go to to donate his gift card once he finds it.

Next, I rode up a very long, steep hill to see the Capitol Building. There were several people that waved and yelled out to me from cars on the way up and back down the hill. I don’t think they had any idea how difficult that part of the ride was for me.

I saw my first sidewalk cleaner. It was a mini-version of the street cleaners I’ve seen in action in Columbus. The guy driving the cleaner stopped in front of me for a group of ladies blocking the sidewalk, including one on a scooter. They moved to the side and let the cleaner through but asked me to stop for a picture, which I happily complied.

Five teenage girls came toward me pretty quick but stopped a good 20-foot away on the sidewalk. I was fine with the safety zone and did not approach. They asked if they could get a picture and I posed from a distance. They thanked me and moved on. Though I’ve had crowds completely surround me and cameras within inches of my face, I will always respect other people’s space!

Seven or eight young ladies flagged me down like a cab from a block away — clown, clown, we want a picture! One came toward me wearing devils horns and handcuffs. This was a new one for me! I asked if she was in trouble. The rest caught up and said it was “her last night of freedom since she was getting married.” They all got around me and one took a picture.

Further down the sidewalk, a little girl was learning to ride her bike with her dad. Her mom and baby brother were watching from the side. The little girl just lit up when she saw me. I get such a great feeling from making others happy, even if for just a short time!

The next day I visited Antelope Island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake on my “day off” as Mophe (sometimes I need a break from the makeup). It was quite the experience: smelling the brine as I drove across the causeway with the windows down, seeing salt beds where marshes would normally be, getting pictures of buffalo, and watching people wade into the lake.

My trip to Salt Lake City had an interesting spiritual impact on me. As I rode through the city and thought about the missionary work Mormons do around the world, I realized that I was on a mission around the United States as well. A mission to teach people that there are $8 billion in gift cards sitting around that could be used to support our struggling charities. Please join me in this mission to help charities during these tough times and donate your gift cards today.

8/5/09 Laramie, Wyoming

Laramie was just beautiful, located in a valley surrounded three-fourths by mountains. I was almost out of gas so I stopped at the Shell station just as I got off the highway. I asked a guy and lady riding motorcycles if they were going to the rallyin Sturgis, SD since I barely got into the Cheyenne motel due to all the bikers on their way to Sturgis! The guy was taken aback by my question and said, “Does it look like we’re riding Harleys?” I had no idea there were different types of bikers and that they didn’t associate with each other. Of course, the guy knew what I was talking about so he was aware of activities of the other group. Anyway, they told me they were headed in the other direction to Oregon.

I drove into downtown Laramie and parked. It was 75 degrees and sunny so good weather for a unicycle ride. I rode around downtown and many people waved from their cars. Laramie is a contrast between old country (boot and country stores) and modernity (Maurices).

I decided to drop in on the folks at the Laramie Daily Boomerang. I walked in and looked around until a lady in circulation asked if she could help me. I said, “I’m wondering if you want to do a story on a clown unicycling around the US for charities?” She laughed and said her daughter just called and said she just saw a clown on a unicycle riding around town. Serendipity I think! The lady said, “Come this way,” walked me into another part of the building, and introduced me to Deb. I told Deb what I was doing and she said, “Justin” o the guy across the room. Justin interviewed me for quite a while, long enough that Deb popped her head in to say Aaron the photographer was ready. Justin had a lot of great questions. Aaron took me outside to get a few pictures of me riding the unicycle. A couple boys riding bikes yelled, “Hey clown!” as I walked out into the parking lot. It was my first interview and it got published that night, maybe that is why the picture didn’t make the story (at least he online version). Unless I didn’t look presentable after hiking/climbing in Vedauwoo and riding a bit in Laramie!

Read what Justin wrote here:Unicycling clown tries to raise charity awareness

8/5/09 Vedauwoo, Wyoming

A Laramie tourism lady told me to stop at Vedauwoo for great landscape pictures. It was incredible. I met these three guys from Laramie at the entrance to the park. They were there to do some serious rock climbing. I followed them into the park and one of the guys videoed me on a large rock in Box Canyon, and then they took off with their dog to go scale a face of the mountain.

I decided to do some hiking to get some better pictures. I followed a path in the brush and came to a gate. I wasn’t sure if they were keeping things in or out! Anyway, it made me wonder what kind of animals might be in these mountains. I went on ahead thinking about the joke about the cannibals that let the clown go “because clowns taste funny.” I’ve heard that joke a couple times on my journey.

I ran for about a half mile, stopping periodically to get pictures. I found a section that looked manageable and decided to climb for a better view of the rocks. This was completely recreational climbing – high- tepping a few boulders and no need to hang on by my finger tips. I did take my gloves off just in case though! I climbed about 30-40 feet up and came to a spot where I could see over the other side. It was a great view. I still say that two-dimensional pictures just don’t capture the real experience though!

8/4/09 Denver, Colorado

Denver was incredible. I’ve never been there before. I parked by Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies baseball team and rode around downtown. I was concerned about riding in the Mile High City, so I called ahead and asked about possible symptoms. The lady said a headache is the main thing to be aware of when exercising at that altitude. I didn’t have any issues. Whew!

I ended up riding right through the 16th street mall so I got to see a lot of people. Two guys distributing newspapers stopped me and we had a great time. The one that talked the most asked if he could ride the unicycle. Unfortunately, I can’t let anyone so they don’t get hurt. He told me he’d only been working that job for a couple months. A mom was trying to get my attention to take my picture with her two children, a boy and a girl so I had to break away from the newspaper guys.

Next, a couple with their two toddlers asked me what I was doing. The girl was in a stroller and the boy on the Dad’s shoulders. I explained the US tour to teach people to donate gift cards to charities. They thought it was great what I was doing. The lady told the guy to give me some money. I said, “No, please donate gift cards to your favorite charity and tell that Mophe sent you.” They said they would!

I rode to the Colorado capitol building. Two guys on skateboards caught up to me. I heard them coming. They turned to look at me from the front as they went by and one said, “Hey.” I stopped and talked to a couple hanging out by the capitol building. They were really interested in what I was doing. The guy said he would consider donating a gift card the next chance he gets.

I met the ultimate fundraiser guy downtown. He says it is like a second job. He has so many people asking him to fund raise that he’s cut back to just a couple organization meetings to get them going and then showing up at the charity event. A very nice man!

8/4/09 Topeka, Kansas

Topeka was great. I parked downtown in an angle spot. It was pretty early so I think I really woke up a few people that saw me. I rode by the capitol building. There was some street construction that blocked the sidewalk so I went around the capitol. I just love having fun with the construction workers! I went past Topeka High School. I thought it was a church at first due to the tower.

I rode around downtown more and then ventured out further east. Four boys chased me down to find out what I was doing. They asked me to do some tricks. I did a few spins on the unicycle and they wanted to ride it. Unfortunately I can’t let anyone ride since they may get hurt.

On the way back into downtown I met a guy dancing to some music on a CD player. He asked me to dance with him. I asked what he was listening to and he said, “Chris Rock”. I did a few cheerleader hand claps with him and he really enjoyed that.

On the way back to the car, four young folks from Schlotzsky’s Deli were taking a break out on the sidewalk. The young lady asked if I could create balloon animals and they all laughed. I said, “No, but I’m riding 1,000 miles around the US to teach people to donate gift cards to charities.” She really liked that answer and decided she needed to give the clown a hug. I hope she didn’t think I was too standoffish. I try not to let anyone get too close to my face so they don’t get paint all over themselves!