Unicyclist hits Summit on her way across U.S.
FRISCO – Riding her unicycle through the grueling Appalachian Mountains during one of the first legs of her cross-country trek, a frustrated and tired Gracie Sorbello thought for a split second of calling it quits.”It was pretty much a five-second thing and it was over. I was like, ‘Who am I kidding? Like I can do this,’ and I knew I wanted to do it, and all the reasons I have for doing this trip came back,” the toned 22-year-old said while resting in Frisco a few hours after conquering Hoosier Pass on her unicycle.After surpassing her low point, the recent college graduate cycled on, pedaling over the Eastern mountain range, through Tennessee and Arkansas, before joining the TransAmerica Trail in Missouri, the whole time balancing on one wheel. If she completes the trek, which is set to end in Pacific Beach, Wash., Sorbello believes she will become the first woman to ride across the nation on a unicycle and the first to do it barefoot.But the real reason Sorbello will continue to grunt out dozens of miles a day for much of her summer isn’t for the notoriety but rather to raise awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of her uncle, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma four months before she began her adventure in May.”I know for myself and for a lot of people, like doing something just for yourself gets pretty empty,” Sorbello said. “I could do it for myself, but it wouldn’t have the same meaning, and it’s a great opportunity to bring in a cause greater than myself.”
‘Dropped jaws’So far, she’s raised $3,859, or nearly 40 percent of her $10,000 goal.Friends have told her they’ve seen clips of her on CNN, “The Daily Show” and the “Today” show, and she’s done multiple interviews with local press outlets along the way to bring attention to her cause. She also spreads the word with people she meets at various stopping points.And she’s had some help. Sorbello’s mother rode alongside her from Asheville, N.C., to Memphis, her father recently joined her in Colorado and a friend filled in some of the gap in between.Her companion, who rides a bicycle, will usually carry a two-person tent for camping and other supplies, but when Sorbello’s alone she fills her small backpack with a tarp for cover, packs some energy bars for sustenance between meals, and sucks water out of her three-liter Platypus.As Sorbello cycles at about 8 miles per hour on her 36-inch wheel down America’s highways, drivers’ heads tend to swivel around for a second look.”You get a lot of dropped jaws,” she said.
The ride also gives her plenty of time for some “character cleansing.” The biggest surprise so far has been discovering things about herself she doesn’t necessarily like, Sorbello said.While riding through Eastern Colorado, she realized she was making the trip too much about herself, often feeling like a failure if she didn’t meet her goal mileage. “It’s been really good to acknowledge that and change it,” she said.On the other hand, Sorbello was thrilled to ride into the Centennial State after fighting through 50-mile-per-hour winds in the Kansas flatlands, where she was blown off her unicycle once when a semi truck barreled past.On to WyomingBecause she worked in Grand Lake last summer, Sorbello has some familiar faces she is looking forward to reuniting with, and may even make a new acquaintance.
Aspen resident Mike Tierney, an avid unicyclist, heard about Sorbello’s trip through various forums and contacted her to offer his company for her Hoosier Pass leg.Work held Tierney back from joining Sorbello on Wednesday, but he hopes to meet up with her as she heads out of Colorado later this week.”The unicyclist community, as small as it is, we all pull together,” Tierney said. “This is a pretty huge endeavor that she’s doing.”Sorbello’s interest in unicycling began when she was about 13, and she happened across one in a catalogue. She begged her parents for a one-wheeler and got her wish on Christmas. The California native continued riding off and on through the years and brought her unicycle to college, using it as transportation to her classes at Duke University. She’d always wanted to bicycle across the country, so when the right time came, it made sense to attempt her adventure on one wheel instead of two.Sorbello will spent Wednesday night in Summit County, before heading up to Grand Lake, then into Wyoming and beyond.Vail, Colorado