Montana unicyclist riding Great Divide to stop human trafficking | SteamboatToday.com

Montana unicyclist riding Great Divide to stop human trafficking

Austin Colbert

— Rounding a corner along Routt County Road 62 just northwest of Clark Saturday afternoon, Adam Gianforte and his unicycle were enough of a spectacle to warrant second and third glances.

Gianforte, a native of Bozeman, Montana, is riding his unicycle the length of The Great Divide Trail, a 2,808-mile trek from Banff, Canada, to the border of Mexico, as a way to raise awareness for human trafficking and slavery.

"There are still about 30 million slaves in the world, and about 2 million of those are kids in sex slavery," Gianforte said. "Because the unicycle is different and catches people's eye and is interesting, it allows me to get attention and kind of divert it to human trafficking."

He is specifically raising awareness about an organization called International Justice Mission, which combats these specific issues. Last spring, Gianforte graduated from Cornell University in New York with a degree in linguistics and decided he needed an "adventure" after college, the Great Divide offering him that outlet.

"This is kind of different than anything I've done," Gianforte said. "My parents are pretty adventurous themselves and tend to be big thinkers … it wasn't too hard for me to just go for it."

Gianforte began his adventure July 17 after he met someone through Craigslist who agreed to give him a lift to Calgary. From the start in Banff, he has ridden his unicycle through western Montana and Wyoming, and he arrived in Steamboat Springs early Saturday evening. He spent the night in Hayden with Brian Hoza, the father of one of his college friends, who was willing to provide him the rare bed and shower during his journey.

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Gianforte said he averages between 40 and 50 miles per day, depending on terrain, and expects to arrive in Antelope Wells, New Mexico, the route’s finish, in late September. Having grown up backpacking Montana, he approaches The Great Divide the same way, bringing a light tent, a sleeping bag and enough food for two to three days at a time.

"It's physically intense, but mentally, it's almost a society detox, to be away from screens. It's all been quite nice in terms of mentally," Gianforte said. "While I'm on the ride, I'll occasionally listen to music or listen to an audio book — I've read a couple books so far. But a lot of times, I won't listen to anything. The rides just kind of engross me. Right now, I'm writing a piece of slam poetry in my head as I'm riding."

Gianforte spends most nights camping out in nature, unless someone is kind enough to offer him a place to stay. He said the offers have also differed with location — the Canadians preferred to offer food and housing, the Montanans, beer, and the Coloradoans have been all too willing to offer him a lift.

Midway through his journey, it's been the people that have stood out to Gianforte the most.

"I've been amazed by how much hospitality I've experienced on this route. It's amazing," he said. "I feel like the unicycle in many ways breaks down barriers with people, because people want to know more, and it just opens up that initial social barrier when meeting a stranger."

Gianforte has the majority of his days planned out as far as a destination is concerned, but for the most part, he is making everything up as he goes. As for when he reaches Antelope Wells, he doesn't have any plans in place for a ride home, saying he might just bum his way back to Montana.

"I could see myself doing something like it again. Not right away," said Gianforte, who plans to move to Chicago after his trip to pursue an acting career. "I think I'll need time to recover."

Gianforte's progress can be tracked at tinyurl.com/nfg2k3z. He is also accepting monetary donations at crowdrise.com/unicycle, with all funds raised going toward stopping human trafficking.

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert