Columns & Commentary

Modern Mobility

Freshman Ralphy Thomas poses on his unicycle. He rides it around campus to get to class faster.

Although it isn’t a common sight around Ball State’s campus, freshman Ralphy Thomas uses a unicycle to get mobile. He enjoys riding it as he gets a lot of looks from passersby.

Unicycles, skates and stilts are just some of the ways students on campus prove that walking isn’t the only way to get from class to class.


Freshman Ralphy Thomas can ride a bike without handlebars—and without a front wheel. For him, riding his unicycle is both a hobby and a way to get around quicker.

“I use it pretty much any time I’m late to Spanish,” Thomas said. “It’s a lot faster than walking. Bikes you have to lock up, and it takes me a long time to lock up my bike sometimes, so I just bring [my unicycle] inside with me.”

Thomas owns both a two-foot and five-foot unicycle and says he receives a lot of comments from students when he rides it to class.

“I get all the looks,” Thomas said. “Every now and again I get an, ‘Oh unicycle guy, you’re crazy!’ You’ll see people look because they want to look, but then they look down because they don’t want to stare.”

After getting back into skating, Jordan Woodall now gets to class faster than ever.

Eight wheels and two feet are all junior Woodall need to get to class. He likes to zoom past fellow students when he rides around campus.


Junior Jordan Woodall uses a few more wheels than Thomas to get to class. He has been skating since birthday parties in elementary school, when he would use quad skates. His grandparents bought him inline skates shortly after, and he skated awhile until stopping. He started skating again his freshman year.

“People think that because I use skates, I have to lace them and buckle them, and it takes so much time,” Woodall said. “But in all actuality, there are people that get out of the door the same time as me, and I’ll lace them on and wind up passing them in like 15 seconds. It gets me to class a lot faster, and sometimes saves me from being late to class.”


Olivia Schuman jumps from one place to another around the frog baby fountain on her stilts. Schuman is a junior and has been wearing her stilts since she was young.

Wheels aren’t what junior Olivia Schuman uses to get around— she prefers using stilts.

“I mainly use my stilts for a type of exercise or just to have fun on,” Schuman said. “They are not normal stilts, they are jumping stilts where you can run and walk. If you get really good you can do tricks. I have used them on the Cardinal Greenway walking and running.”

Schuman said she has only ever seen one other person use stilts on campus, and when she uses them on the Cardinal Greenway she has been stopped multiple times by people who see her. The stilts aren’t as easy as the look, she said.

“I find myself trying to encourage all of my friends to try them out,” Schuman said. “I like to see how they struggle as I first did when I got them. Some people think they are easy to use and then they get on them and fall right away.”

Woodall said he also gets strange looks from students walking to class when he skates by them.

“Pretty much everyone [stares] because my skates are a larger wheel and the larger wheel the faster they go, so they go pretty fast,” Woodall said. “Sometimes it catches people off-guard, especially if they’re going in the same direction as me and I just randomly pass them.”

Woodall hopes more people will skate on campus, and he has even considered starting a skating club to teach others the basics of skating.

“It would be cool if more people did skate,” Woodall said. “I really do get excited if I see other people skating. There’s kind of a likability towards us because we’ll see each other skating and then we’ll be like hey, you skate too. It’s sort of rare. If more people start skating, that would be something cool to come back to because it is kind of ’80s but the ’80s are coming back.”

For Thomas, his unicycle is just one of his many hobbies that make up his quirky identity.

“Unicycling is just one thing that I do,” Thomas said. “[People] kind of know me as Ralphy, the crazy guy. I also juggle, I do backflips, I run around and just act crazy all the time. So this is just one of many things that just kind of happens in my life.”

This spring, more students start to spend time outside. Students like Thomas, Woodall and Schuman will practice their hobbies by getting from place to place on wheels and stilts rather than by foot.





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