Patrick Temple is a firm believer that any talent can be turned into a way to serve God — even one as unusual as unicycling.
“Any skill you have, you can use to serve,” he said.
On Thursday morning Patrick and his son Harrison, 17, put that idea to the test by unicycling their way from Pendleton to Hermiston to raise money for Hermiston Church of the Nazarene’s parking lot repaving project. At one point they had to stop because the chase vehicle warning drivers of their presence on the interstate broke down, and Harrison had to hitch a ride in the truck outside of Stanfield after a crucial washer on his unicycle came loose. But at about 11:30 a.m. — and 91 degrees — Patrick rolled into the parking lot, drenched in sweat.
“I was starting to cramp up,” he said, panting, as he hopped off the unicycle and turned off the bluetooth speaker attached to the handlebar blaring his favorite tunes.
The ambitious ride came about because Hermiston Church of the Nazarene has been needing a new roof and its parking lot was badly in need of repaving. The total between the two projects is about $45,000 — a steep ask for a congregation of about 180 members.
Pastor Eric Fritz said members have been sacrificing and scraping money together for their meetinghouse since January, and at about $3,000 short they were “pretty much tapped out.” That’s when Patrick came up with the unicycle idea, and Harrison volunteered to join in on the 30-mile ride from the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton to Hermiston Church of the Nazarene, putting in plugs on Facebook Live for people to donate to a GoFundMe account.
“Patrick has a very creative mind,” Fritz said.
Harrison said his dad has been excited about the project.
“He bought a selfie stick just for this trip,” he said.
Before the trip Harrison said the furthest he had ever unicycled was about 20 miles, so the fundraising journey would be a test of his endurance. But Patrick said he wasn’t worried about his son keeping up.
“The student is now the master,” he said. “He can do stairs and all sorts of things I can’t do.”
Harrison isn’t the only person Patrick has taught to unicycle. As an elementary school teacher in Hermiston, Patrick said students have asked him to teach them over the years and he has found it to be a good way to connect and teach life lessons about things like patience.
He first started learned to ride a unicycle as teenager.
“I was a senior in high school and I had a dream about unicycling and it was so fun I went up to the Tri-Cities and bought one — and it was nothing like my dream,” he said.
He remained undaunted by the difficulty of learning to ride, however, and spend much of his college years zipping around campus on a unicycle. His interest in the hobby dropped off a bit as an adult, but resurged in recent years as he found it to be a good form of exercise that is less hard on his knees and hips than jogging. He frequently goes on 10-mile rides.
On Thursday the Temples set out from the airport in Pendleton at 6 a.m. It was 66 degrees out and “cool and pleasant,” Patrick said. The ride along Barnhart Road was a breeze, but getting on Interstate 84 was a little scary.
“When the first truck passes you, it’s a little different ride,” he said, noting he quickly stowed the selfie stick. “It was hands on and paying attention.”
Harrison said he was disappointed not to be able to finish the ride due to technical difficulties, but it gave him a new appreciation for just how far it was between Pendleton and Hermiston.
“It’s something you don’t grasp until you’re in a car,” he said.
Fritz, who drove the chase vehicle, said he was grateful for the Temples for their help in raising money for the church, and for the other “awesome” members of the congregation who had given generously to the campaign over the past few months. It can be a challenge for churches to raise money for capital improvement projects without taking away from the tithing money used for the ministry, and Fritz said the church did not want to go into debt for the parking lot or new roof.
As of the time they finished the ride, the GoFundMe account had risen to $1,785.
“That was a lot of fun,” Patrick said.
Contact Jade McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.