Those who watch William Mueller of Flowery Branch ride his unicycle can understand why he embraces the nickname “Rhino.”
No matter the terrain, doubts from others or financial obstacles, Mueller said he pushes on, finding his balance with God and one wheel.
“It’s about charging ahead and having 2-inch thick skin,” he said. “Basically the opposite of a rhino is the poacher to me. The poachers are the only enemy of the rhino in the natural world. And in my world, that’s negative people. I’ve got to shut them down with positivity or walk away.”
In July 2019, Mueller, who runs a handyman business, set off on a cross-country trip from Seattle to the Florida Keys. He said the inspiration for the adventure came to him at church.
“I had an epiphany, and I felt like this was something I needed to do,” Mueller said.
Seven weeks and 1,000 miles later, Mueller decided to call off the excursion in San Francisco and postpone it for another time. For most of the journey, he wore a 60-plus-pound backpack, and spent his nights couch surfing, camping or staying in cheap motels.
Mueller said carrying the large load slowed down his trip, and the effort took a financial toll on him as well.
Now, nearly two years later, Mueller is hopping back on the wheel. He shared that the recent death of his significant other, Elizabeth Love, empowered him to face the challenge again. Love was a nurse practitioner with the Northeast Georgia Medical Center who kept up her full-time job while undergoing chemotherapy.
“She fought cancer for eight years,” Mueller said. “When she died, that was a catalyst to say, ‘It’s time to go.’”
From June 1 to Sept. 11, Mueller plans to ride his unicycle from Las Vegas to Key West, Florida, covering over 3,000 miles. He aims to reach 50 miles a day, five days a week.
Instead of carrying the bulk of his supplies like before, he intends to have someone drive ahead to his daily destinations while transporting his food, camping equipment and other necessities. His golden retriever, Schnarf, who was previously owned by Love, will accompany him for the entire journey. Mueller said the dog will run with him for short spurts a few times a day, and the rest of the time, he will remain with the driver.
Like his previous journey, Mueller plans to raise awareness for several charities including Disabled American Veterans, the International Association of Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund and Concerns of Police Survivors.
Mueller’s connection with firefighters stems from his late brother, Gary Mueller, who was a 20-year firefighter in Florida before suffering a severe injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Mueller said Gary fell from a second-story deck, breaking his back and severing his spinal cord.
In 2010, Mueller helped start up a charity ride called “One Wheel, One Day, One Hundred Miles,” which raised money to buy a handicap-equipped van for his brother. For the event, Mueller rode 100 miles in one day on his unicycle.
Mueller is a firm believer that anyone can pick up the basics of unicycling after 3-10 hours of combined practice. At 12 years old, his brother Dennis taught him the art of the wheel. Out of all his hobbies like mountain biking, windsurfing and skateboarding, he said unicycling is the only activity he never grows bored with.
“When you’re riding, you get this floating feeling,” he said. “It always feels like you’re falling, and you don’t fall. It’s pretty awesome. I plan on doing this until I die, until I can’t.”
While out on the road, taking long trips on his unicycle, Mueller said his mind drifts to God. He credits his joy and overflowing energy to the Holy Spirit.
“When I’m riding and I feel like I’m one with the universe, that’s where I feel closest to God,” he said.
Gearing up for his cross-country unicycle trek, Mueller said he can’t help but think of the moments that make his unicycling aspirations worth it. Most of these moments have involved strangers helping him in times of need.
On several occasions, people gave him money without him asking, just as he was running low on funds, Mueller said. The unicyclist came across restaurant workers who would offer him free food and hotel owners who would let him stay in their facility at no cost.
“I would say the biggest unexpected pleasure for me was just how cool everybody was,” he said. “Even homeless people were trying to give me stuff. One guy was selling Red Bulls and was like, ‘Here.’”
For his upcoming journey, Mueller said he intends to sleep in a tent, discounted motels, fire stations and people’s homes.
Although Mueller is sponsored by Circle K, he still needs help funding his journey. People can donate to his trip by visiting his GoFundMe account, which has a goal of raising $5,000.
Once he finishes the 3,000-mile trip, Mueller said his sights will probably turn toward a new horizon.
“The more that I do, then more I want a new challenge,” he said. “I would ultimately love to work for a worthwhile charity and use unicycling to raise the awareness for that charity.”
For updates on his 3,000-mile trip, follow Mueller on Instagram at rhinoventures.