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Cycling for a cause

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Going Cross Country:
Sorbello is making the trip to raise money for Leukemia, Lymphoma Society

Going Cross Country: Gracie Sorbello pedaled her way through Sharp and Fulton County on her unicycle June 8. Sorbello is going across the country to collect funds and raise awareness for the Leukemia and Lyphoma Society. Photo/Price

Residents in Sharp and Fulton County might have noticed an interesting sight June 8, a young woman riding barefoot on a unicycle along the side of the highway.

Gracie Sorbello, 22, of Davis, Calif., followed Highway 63 from Jonesboro to Hardy up through Mammoth Spring into Missouri on her unicycle, a Coker "Big One" which has wheels of 36-inch circumference.

Sorbello is the ninth person to ride across the country on a unicycle, the previous eight were all men. She said she had always wanted to ride across the country. Her awareness campaign provided another motivation.

"I'm going to Washington state," Sorbello said. "I'm raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (www.leukemia-lymphoma.org)." She has raised more than $2,000 in donations so far in her trip across the country for the organization.

Sorbello's uncle, Richard Pleau, has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a potent plasma cell cancer. "Through this personal experience, I have become aware of the LLS and its efforts to save the lives of so many cancer patients," she said.

Sorbello, who received her bachelor's degree in music from Duke University in Durham, N.C., last month, said she taught herself to ride the the unicycle nine years ago. She is also a former field hockey player for Duke.

"I started in Wilmington, N.C., on May 6 and rode to Durham on my unicycle for graduation," she said. She said she expects to finish the journey in late July.

Sorbello averages 60 to 70 miles a day on the unicycle. She has made stops in Asheville, N.C., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Memphis, Tenn. She stayed in Marked Tree and Black Rock during the Arkansas leg of her trip.

Sorbello said she has been staying in a mixture of peoples houses, hotels and campgrounds. She said people she meets will offer to let her stay at their homes overnight.

She said the Ozarks have not been rough to ride on. "They're not too bad. I've been through the Appalachians. They're steeper with 15-mile long inclines in some places."

"The weather has been pretty good," she said. "I've been through a couple of thunderstorms. During the worst part of them, I find shelter. When it calms down, I ride through the rain."

She said the most frequent hazard she encounters is dogs. She said she usually scares them off. "You have to act big and scary and yell at the top of your lungs," Sorbello said.

Sorbello has not been alone through her trip. From North Carolina to Memphis her mother accompanied her. Her friend, Marritt Cafarchin, also a Californian and graduate of Duke, flew into Memphis from California to join her on a bicycle until they reach Colorado.

Sorbello maintains a Web site which she updates on the road. Her Web site is www.onewheelforlife.com.

Sorbello said she doesn't know what her plans are after she gets home to Davis. She said when she reaches Washington, she's going to ride home in a car.

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