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2 brothers, 1 wheel, 1 cause: Man rides 100 miles on unicycle

Flowery Branch resident earning money to buy van for injured brother

POSTED: October 24, 2010 12:46 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Bill Mueller, with his fire truck escort from Cape Coral, Fla., makes his way along McEver Road on his ride Saturday from Hall County Fire Station No. 4 to Atlanta.

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William "Bill" Mueller woke up at 5 a.m. Saturday to prepare for his morning ride — on his unicycle.

This wasn't just any ordinary morning exercise. The Flowery Branch resident was gearing up for his charity ride called "One Wheel, One Day, One Hundred Miles."

Mueller, who has been riding unicycles for the last 30 years, thought it would be a unique challenge to ride 100 miles in one day on his 36-inch wheel unicycle to help raise money to purchase a handicap van for his brother, Gary Mueller, who was paralyzed from the chest down after a tragic accident in March of 2009.

Gary Mueller, who spent more than 20 years helping people as a firefighter in Southwest Florida, fell over the railing of a two-story deck and his spinal cord was severed.

The unicyclist began his trek in Hall County and traveled through Gwinnett, DeKalb and Fulton counties, stopping at various Fire Departments along the way. People were welcome to come out and encourage Mueller and even join him on their own bicycle or unicycle.

Firefighters from Southwest Florida drove to Hall County in a classic 30-year-old restored American LaFrance fire truck for the event. They followed Mueller for the entire 100-mile journey in the fire truck.

The only thing Mueller was worried about on Saturday was whether traffic enforcement officers would make them take the fire truck off the road.

"We plan on not allowing a long line of cars to accumulate behind us when we are on two-lane highways by pulling over to let people by along the way," Mueller said. "On four-lane roadways, it should be much smoother. And I also hope that nobody gets distracted while driving by, causing any kind of traffic accident."

A pre-event party was held on Friday at Engine 11 in Atlanta, at which T-shirts were sold for $20 and coolie cups were sold for $5.

"It was great," Mueller said. "One guy alone gave $100, and he didn't even know who we were, and another lady got on the website and donated $50."

People could also sponsor Mueller by the mile.

Mueller rode his unicycle as far as 65 miles to train for the event, but he has not gone farther than that at one time before.

"A couple of positives for this ride are the fact that I don't need to wear a 12-pound pack on my back full of water and tools, and I don't have to go up and down sidewalks or worry about getting hit by passing cars," he said. "Too many of the roads all around our area don't even have a shoulder to the right of the white line."

Mueller said that when his brother was first released from the hospital in July 2009, he had just gotten off of a ventilator, had a tracheostomy tube in his throat and had to be on constant oxygen.

"Since then, he no longer has a trach tube, isn't on oxygen, and his outlook on life is getting better everyday with all of the positive support that this endeavor has generated," Mueller said. "All of his firefighter brothers are incredible people and have been instrumental in bringing Gary ‘back to life.'"

Mueller said being able to ride in honor of his brother makes him gratitude to God that he has full use of his body.

"Gary is a great friend of all of ours, and since his accident we have all stood by him," said Ken Retzer, a firefighter with Cape Coral Professional Firefighters.

"The whole theme here isn't necessarily the van. The van is a good thing, but the whole idea behind the van is to help Gary regain his independence."

Retzer believes that what William Mueller is doing is phenomenal.

"It is a full-time job doing what he already does for Gary, and he took this on," said Retzer, who had full faith that Mueller would complete the full 100 miles.

Gary Mueller had to be hospitalized because to a kidney stone and was unable to come watch his brother ride.

"We are actually changing the route so we can go by and see him at the hospital," said William Mueller, who hopes that the ride will show people that life isn't about "things" and "status."

"It is about connections with people and giving yourself when you don't see anything in it for you," he said.

"When you can't give anymore, give some more and watch good things begin to happen to you because you had no ulterior motives. If we could all just take one day to take the focus off of ourselves and apply the same energy to helping someone else, amazing things could happen."

Mueller said that the first thing he wants to do after he has completed his ride is hug his brother and all of the firefighters that have helped him make his ride a reality.

"I guess I am secure enough in my masculinity to admit that I will probably get all chocked up at the end," he said. "I think Gary is destined to do something great with the rest of his life, and he doesn't have to be able to have his legs to accomplish it."

 



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