International unicycle tourist finds southern hospitality in For - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

International unicycle tourist finds southern hospitality in Fortson


Kenji Hirotaki, 38, is traveling across America on his unicycle. He goes by his nickname Kikenji, and Friday, June 6, marks his 47th day of the journey.

He started his voyage from Los Angeles, Calif. on April 16, 2014, and he is making his way down to Orlando, Fla. to meet his girlfriend.

Kikenji is a farmer in Hokkaido, Japan. He said he gets 90 days off every year, which allows him to spend about three months traveling to different countries on his unicycle.

"U.S.A. is my biggest challenge," Kikenji laughed. "It's a big country. It was really hot in Mojave Desert, I got painful sunburns, and I injured my ankles and knees in Arizona and California."

Kikenji said he had to carry two gallons of water in his backpack while riding across the West. The speedometer on his unicycle says Kikenji has traveled about 3,033 kilometers since he left Los Angeles.

"He's riding a lot," said 64-year-old Phil Penny. "He's traveling about 50 miles per day."

When Penny saw Kikenji traveling on his unicycle, he invited the traveler to stay at his home for the weekend.

"I was driving to a gas station, and I realized he was riding a unicycle," Penny said. "On my way back home, Kikenji was still there. I asked him about his journey, and he said that he wasn't feeling too well. So I told him my wife is half Japanese and my mother-in-law is Japanese, and I asked him to stay with us until he felt better."

Kikenji said riding his unicycle for days can be uncomfortable and scary.

"There are so many cars on the road," Kikenji said.

However, he said he enjoys meeting new people who help him out.

"It is fun meeting new people," Kikenji said. "It's really fun."

Kikenji has 43 days left until his 90 day vacation comes to an end. Once he regains his strength, Kikenji predicts that he will get to Orlando in seven to ten days.

"People cannot travel on interstates while riding their bicycles, and of course unicycles," Penny said. "State highways are acceptable, but Kikenji has been choosing the widest highway to ride his vehicle. He ended up in my neighborhood, because he was zigzagging throughout the country. I'm so glad he did, because my family loves his company."

Penny said he will tune Kikenji's unicycle, and provide other help to wish him safe travels.

"I just want to help the guy out," Penny said. "It's fun, and his story is just so interesting."

Kikenji traveled across Cuba on his unicycle in just one month few years ago. He also traveled across Iceland in two months, and Japan in three months.

"Iceland was my favorite," Kikenji said. "It was an easy and fun ride. Weather was good. I like America too. I loved Oklahoma City. It is half point of my journey, and I made a friend there. It was fun. People are kind here."

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