Cary Gray

Unicyclist Cary Gray will attempt to break the Guiness World Record for longest unicycle trip. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun / July 5, 2013)

He tucks his 36-inch wheel into a corner at a tavern in Fells Point, where he has come to say farewell to some friends and co-workers.

Cary Gray, 25, arrives early for a goodbye party to wish him well as he prepares to begin a yearlong attempt at shattering the Guinness World Record of 9,126 miles for the longest unicycle trip ever.

He plans to cover 22,000-plus miles, from Baltimore through Central America to South America. The campaign he calls "One Wheel, Two Continents," which will begin Tuesday, will support charities and is sponsored in part by Dick's Last Resort, where he's worked the past three years as a waiter at the Inner Harbor location.

"I'm doing it just to kind of get my head on straight," he says before fidgeting to correct himself. "Not that it's not on straight."

He's been called crazy.

"Most of the time I pride myself on that," he says.

At the tavern, there's an elderly group congregating beside the bar. There's a guy working the pinball machine. There's Gray, wearing a clunky pair of Five Tens that are shredded at the soles, a black shirt that is unbuttoned over a tank top. The dreadlocks are reason for a double take; the brownish tendrils are bundled so that they flare in the back.

In between his goodbyes, Gray has spent his final week in Baltimore meeting a frenzy of media requests, and he's never felt too compelled to elaborate on the ways in which he lives.

As he puts it, he just is. He just does.

"You should always be who you are," he says, shrugging, "but I do that vigorously."

The dreadlocks? Those were done last year in Thailand, one of the five countries where he's been to rock climb and where he also went to party, where he also got tattoos done by a needle on a bamboo stick.

His next great adventure?

"No one was shocked when he said he was gonna do this," says Crystal Nowack, a manager for two years at Dick's Last Resort. "We all figured, ' ... that's Cary.'"

Two years ago, wanting to visit Argentina, Gray searched for flight prices.

"And then I thought, 'Well, that's kind of stupid,'" he says.

So he thought to bike. He went 650 miles from Baltimore to Rhode Island to New Hampshire on one in 2008. (He slept between two sheets of plastic.)

And then a new idea overcame him.

"I was like, 'Well, I can unicycle,'" he says. "Why don't I do it that way? Then it'd be real crazy."

'He paves his own road'

Growing up near St. Louis, he was given the name "Crazy Cary" in high school. Years before, he scavenged to be cool.