KINGSPORT — “When all of our kids were younger, one of the things we prayed for was that they would have a sense of adventure and that they would care about missions—not just themselves,” said David Limiero. “This is the scary answer to that prayer.”
David is the father of 20-year-old Anthony Limiero who is currently traveling by unicycle from his home in Kingsport to the campus of Georgia Technological University in Atlanta where he is a student. The journey is a little over 300 miles, and Anthony hopes to accomplish it in 10 days or less. This is all in an effort to raise money for an organization called Enhance, which provides resources to community leaders in Southern Asia to help them provide social services and plant churches within their particular area.
Surrounded by family and friends to see him off, Anthony Limiero left on his unicycle from the driveway of his home on the sunny afternoon of Thursday, August 1. From there, he headed down the Kingsport Greenbelt.
Though taking a long-distance trek atop a single wheel is not for everyone, this spirit of adventure is common around the Limiero household. In fact, Anthony Limiero just recently returned from a five-month stay in Santiago, Chile where he volunteered with an organization called Globalscope to develop a religious community geared towards college-aged Chileans. His sister, Carissa Albritton also traveled to China at age 14 to work as a missionary.
Anthony Limiero is originally from Bakersfield, California, and just moved to Kingsport alongside his family a year and a half ago. He is now studying Aerospace Engineering in college.
“When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronaut,” he said. “I never really lost that dream, but I figured that a good way to get into that industry without completing years and years of school and pilot training is to be an aerospace engineer. At a minimum, I’ll send people into space. Maybe one day I’ll be the one to go into space.”
His goal is to work on a mission to Mars.
“At this point in human history, we’ve been to the moon, but we’ve never been to any other planets,” he said. “During my lifetime, we have plans to go to Mars, and that’s going to be an amazing step in human history. I have the opportunity, the passion, and happen to have been born at the right time in order to work on that, so I want to be a part of it in any way that I can.”
“He’s going to be the first unicyclist on Mars,” said Anthony’s mother, Jan Limiero added with a laugh.
Anthony Limiero has been unicycling for a little over six years. He explained that, since he knows how to unicycle, he wanted to use his skills for a purpose.
“It was kind of an impulse buy a long time ago,” he said. “I never thought it would become as big of a thing as it did, but it is a big part of my life now. It’s a big part of my identity on campus and within my friends. I’m ‘that unicycle guy’.”
Anthony’s unicycle is just as unique as its owner.
“A normal unicycle doesn’t have any space to hold bags, and, when you’re doing long rides on a unicycle, you really don’t want to be wearing a backpack,” he said. “This would be bad for your back, its hot and sweaty, and it would be bad for balance.”
Naturally, for a 300-mile journey, Anthony needed many supplies, but he had nowhere to store them on his unicycle. So, he and his grandfather, Merton Dibble, got creative.
“We built a frame on the unicycle that can hold bags for me so I don’t have to wear anything on my back,” he said. “I went down to Georgia Tech and used some of the machines in the machine shop there to make some parts for it. The rest, my grandpa and I did just in his garage with different pieces of scrap metal he had lying around.”
Tent poles, the back of a helicopter seat, and a fanny pack all had a part in constructing his unicycle.
“This was the tent that we used growing up,” Jan Limiero said. “We called it the Taj Mahal. It’s really fun to see it repurposed into something new.”
Because he and his grandfather provided all of the labor and almost all of the material, the custom equipment on his unicycle only costs him $3.
“The only thing we bought for this setup is two little fanny packs from Goodwill so that we could clip the buckles off of them and sew them onto my bags,” Anthony Limiero said.
Most long-distance unicyclists use a thin wheel that is 36 inches in diameter. This allows the rider to pedal fewer times and have less resistance against the road, as a larger wheel can cover a larger distance during each rotation. Anthony Limiero’s, however, is only 26 inches in diameter and is technically built for rugged terrain rather than paved roads.
“If you asked anybody in the unicycle community if this was a good idea, they would say no,” Anthony said. “Even for unicyclists, it’s kind of crazy to do something with a wheel that’s this small.”
Large unicycle wheels, however, are very expensive, and the 26-inch wheel is the largest one that he owns. Raising money for mission organizations is more of a concern for him than purchasing a larger wheel.
Enhance is one of many organizations that partner with a church planting organization called Stadia, where David Limiero works. According to Stadia’s website, their goal is to “plant churches that intentionally care for children.”
Enhance is just one of the many organizations who partner with Stadia. Stadia provides the startup costs necessary for planting a new church. They also help to train community leaders in Southern Asia to help them be prepared to serve their own communities through social services and planting other churches.
“This is a very needy area,” Anthony said. “There’s 26 million homeless or parentless children in this region of South Asia. Without organizations like Enhance, these children are just living on the streets, and that can be very, very dangerous. This is offering all sorts of different social services to kids like this or mentally disabled people. In this culture, if there is a mentally disabled kid born into a family, they just get rid of it. They think it is a curse on their family or bad luck. There’s a lot of development and education that needs to come to this area.”
His goal is to raise $6,500 dollars by the end of his cycle tour. According to his website, this amount will help to resource one leader to provide social services and share their faith in their particular community in Southern Asia for three years.
100 percent of the funds he raises will go towards this organization.
300 miles of open road
“I’m really excited to get on the road and ride,” Anthony Limiero said just before he left from the driveway of his home. “I haven’t done a ride this long — ever.”
In fact, a 15-mile trip was the longest he had ever ridden before. That particular trip only occurred on July 31 — the day before he left on his 300-mile journey.
“I’m really excited to experience cycle touring, camping, and just to gain a whole new experience,” he said.
“There’s only a few people in the world who do long-distance unicycling,” Jan Limiero said. “So, Anthony doesn’t have many mentors.”
Each night, he will stay in a different location. Some nights, he will camp in the great outdoors, and some he will spend staying with hosts he plans to meet on an app called Warm Showers.
According to their website, “The Warm Showers Community is a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink.”
“I am nervous about how well I will do with exhaustion and the heat,” he said. “But, I am planning to take it pretty slow, and I have been doing some training with progressively longer rides on the unicycle down the Kingsport Greenbelt. I also added more and more weight on the unicycle and rode up and down hills.”
Because a unicycle doesn’t coast like a bicycle does, Anthony must pedal constantly in order for the unicycle to move forward.
“Every mile that I’m going is under my own power,” he explained.
Though they admit that they are a little nervous for their son, they explained that are comforted by trusting that God will keep their children safe.
“We always prayed that God would not only keep them safe but also make them dangerous,” said Jan Limiero.
“Ultimately, their safety is up to Him,” David added. “Our job was to prepare our kids to be adults, go out and be dangerous.”
This is also not the first time that a member of the family has done something David called “slightly crazy.”
Anthony’s sister, Carissa Albritton, decided at age 14 that she wanted to go to China for several months to serve as a missionary.
“She literally flew to China from California on an airplane by herself,” said David. “This included spending about eight hours in a very large airport in China all by herself. She ended up working in a coffee shop where people learned English, and she got opportunities to talk about Jesus.”
He went on to explain that, for Anthony, this 300-mile trip will serve as, “just one more adventure on his bucket list of adventures.”
If you would like to sponsor Anthony on his journey, you can visit his website at https://anthonysunicycletour.com/#givenow.