Click photo to enlarge
Steve Meagher of Orinda, makes his way up Mt. Diablo on his unicycle on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010. He made the ride to celebrate his 47 birthday.(Jim Stevens/Staff)

MT. DIABLO STATE PARK -- Most people don't celebrate their 47th birthday -- or any birthday, for that matter -- riding to the top of Mount Diablo on a unicycle.

But, as friends and even his wife admit, Steve Meagher is not like most people.

"Steve's always been a little on the nut side," said Ralph Gowen, one of about two dozen friends and family waiting for Meagher at the summit Sunday. "This is very typical."

Meagher's ride, from the Athenian School in Danville to the observation deck at the mountain's peak, took him just over two hours.

Twelve miles, 3,500 vertical feet -- and one wheel.

"It's a long way," Meagher said at the top. "I was just nervous that I wasn't going to make it."

The Orinda resident and native bought his unicycle three years ago, when his wife, April, left him alone with the credit card and told him to buy himself a toy for his birthday.

"It was just so different," Steve Meagher said. "It was just so goofy that I had to do it." He took one lesson shortly afterward from Danville resident Chris Hopkins, who had recently rode up Mount Diablo for charity.

But it wasn't until last December when Meagher started talking about making the trip himself. For the past few months, he's been practicing, first in the backyard, then the driveway, then the local park and eventually at Mount Diablo.

"Steve is one of those people who if he sets his mind to do something he's going to do it," April Meagher said. "He certainly makes life fun."

And that was the entire purpose of Steve's Sunday ride, which he called a "fun-raiser, no 'd.' "

"The best thing is when people are coming up or down and they see you and they just (get) a big smile, it's like, 'How the hell did you do that?'" he said. "That's really fun. That part's really cool."

Other than leaning forward for balance, Steve Meagher said, riding a unicycle up a hill is not much different from riding on flat ground. The challenge, he said, is that unlike a bicycle, you must keep pedaling to keep moving and avoid falling off.

Meagher, a physical therapist, is no stranger to athletic challenges. He's run about 20 marathons, completed four triathlons and participated in 15 Alcatraz swims. He's a member of the Danville-based running group Forward Motion, and many of the group's members ran or biked up the mountain Sunday to lend their support and encouragement.

Sunday's trip was also a family effort. April drove their two daughters, Bridget, 5, and Bailey, 3, to Mount Diablo when Steve practiced so they can have a picnic lunch together. And when Steve first began riding, Bridget would use chalk to mark how far he went on each try.

"Come on, Dad, you can do it!" Bridget called out to her father as he climbed the last few feet Sunday. Once at the top, Steve lifted Bailey high in the air in celebration.

"Our daughters have watched him go from start to finish with this process," April Meagher said. "They watched him (go from) not knowing how to do this at all to being able to do it, and I think that's a huge life lesson for a child to see."

Sitting in their Orinda backyard last week before the ride, April said her husband has always been a little quirky.

"I think I need attention," Steve replied. "It's fun to do things that most people don't do and just try something different. Because you kind of get in a rut so if you try something different, it's kind of fun. And it's nothing that anybody else can't do, it's just I'm doing it."

Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048.