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The Canadian province of Nova Scotia harvests a lot of lobsters and, from the air, is said to look like one.  At one time, the province was a major player in the economy and politics of this country, but those days faded long ago. For some years now, the principal product of the province has been tourism.

The scenery is picture perfect, the people are hospitable and the land resonates with historical significance for Americans. Many of the Loyalists (the losers in the American Revolution) ended up here. This was the end of the underground railroad during the days of slavery. The survivors of the Titanic were brought to Halifax. This is where the Cajuns came from.  Historically, Americans have always been the most numerous visitors.  The weak Canadian dollar almost ensured their arrival every summer.

But when the currency of your primary market drops like a calved iceberg, notions of niche marketing kick in. The next best thing to having a product that people actually crave, like sex, fabulous food, great wine or a Blackberry, is inventing a unique desire– like racing on one wheel for 800 kms across the province.

To convince people from all over the world that they actually want to do this would seem to suggest the sure hand of a marketing genius.  Actually, it was Edward Wedler, a Nova Scotian book store owner who has yet to make it more than five meters on his own unicycle. For some reason he thought it would work. If you dream it they will come. And they did.

Over one hundred fifty unicyclists from 17 countries qualified for the relay race. Australia, sad to say, is represented by a single rider– Geoffrey Huntley. He was born in Sydney but spent his formative years in Hong Kong. He’s been riding for a little under a year. Mind you, in that year he rode from North to South Vietnam.

The cyclists to beat are from New Zealand, those upstarts to the east, who managed to cobble together enough strong riders to actually form a team. Not to be outdone, South Korea sent two. Among the racers will be world record-holder Sam Wakeling, an Englishman who rode his unicycle 453 kilometres in 24 hours.

Despite the fact that most of the highways have no shoulders and much of the asphalt (bitumen) looks like it has been assaulted by a hyperactive teenager with a jackhammer, Nova Scotia is not a bad place to ride. It has been settled so long there are hundreds of little roads that are unused by anyone except farmers.

But it is not flat. And the weather this time of year can be absolutely miserable. Late in the afternoon, after I caught up with the racers in Middleton and snapped some pictures, I felt the first drops. Cold, hard rain. Nothing like Nova Scotia weather to dampen the spirit. But if you are crazy enough to do that distance on one big wheel and one small seat, a few hills and a little rain may just whet the appetite.

More on this event next post. Catch the action on-line at http://www.ridethelobster.com/race/

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