WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
Before you ask: No, Joseph Boquiren doesn't know the Unipiper.
He gets that question a lot. It makes sense: After all, there are only so many unicyclists on the streets of Portland. But when Boquiren, 54, takes his ride out, he's not huffing on flaming bagpipes, or otherwise performing for the amusement of others. He's training.
An illustrator by trade, Boquiren entered the world of competitive unicycling a few years ago—mostly just to find other people to ride with. It didn't really help in that regard: He says he's the only unicyclist who rides for sport in Oregon. But as he began entering national races, his natural competitive streak kicked in. His finishes gradually improved until last year, when he was crowned the North American Mountain Downhill Champion in the Senior Division.
Boquiren was supposed to attend the World Championships in France this year. But then, well, you can guess what happened.
"It was pretty disappointing," he says of the competition, which was postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic. "I was emotionally ready for it, and to not have that, it was like, what am I going to do with my life now?"
It didn't take long for Boquiren to figure out the answer: keep training. Depending on the day, you can see him hauling ass along North Willamette Boulevard, or practicing on the asphalt of the local elementary school, or riding the mountain bike trails at Sandy Ridge in Brightwood.
But please: Just don't ask him about that other one-wheel enthusiast.
"Unicyclists tend to be like mountain lions," Boquiren says. "We're solitary creatures."
See other Distant Voices interviews here.