OAKLAND — Bob Mueller had plenty of time to ponder his future as he pedaled his unicycle 3,600 miles cross country for 12 weeks this spring and summer.
Seated atop his 36-inch wheel, the 20-year-old Oakland man also texted, read the first book in the Twilight series, ate countless Clif bars and talked with his sister, Laura Mueller, who bicycled alongside on the highways and byways from Maine to Washington state.
Mueller, who raised about $4,500 for the American Red Cross’ National Disaster Relief Fund during his trek called Bob Across America, didn’t pinpoint what his next adventure would be, but it’s likely he ruled out one option: tourism director in Iowa.
After three days in Iowa battling triple-digit temperatures, gusty winds, roads with no shoulders and speeding tractor-trailer trucks, the Muellers pedaled 80 miles out of their way just to escape the Hawkeye State.
“It was immediately better (in Minnesota),” said Bob Mueller, citing its beautiful ponds and lakes.
Laura Mueller, 18, said she appreciated that the North Star State had far fewer pig farms.
The brother and sister spied numerous animals, both wild and domesticated, along the trek that started May 17 in Cape Elizabeth and ended Aug. 8, when they dipped their wheels, or wheel in Bob Mueller’s case, in the Pacific Ocean at Cohasset Beach in Westport, Wash.
“It was surreal,” said Bob Mueller. “It didn’t really register.”
After the final ride of 50 miles, the siblings waded in the surf and spent a few hours at the beach letting their accomplishment soak in.
The Muellers then celebrated with a sushi dinner on the West Coast before hopping into the 15-passenger van that their sister Annah had driven as a support vehicle and they took turns at the wheel driving East.
Four days later, after dropping off Annah, 23, in Ohio, Bob and Laura Mueller arrived back in Maine.
Completing the trek reinforced Bob Mueller’s belief that people can achieve what they are determined to accomplish.
“It’s mental perseverance over physical pain,” he said.
“I have a lot more strength than I thought I did,” said Laura Mueller, adding that she has gained confidence to run road races.
Bob Mueller found Idaho, with its streams, trails and historic towns, to be the most beautiful state they rode through.
For Laura Mueller, the Snoqualmie Pass through the Cascade Range in Washington was stunning.
She said she had dreaded that portion of the trek as she had heard it was “50 miles straight uphill.”
“It was definitely challenging,” she said. “But going back down you could see mountains that still had snow and the dark green of the forests.”
There were plenty of other challenges along the route.
For Bob Mueller, one was food at about 6,000 to 7,000 calories a day.
“My jaw would get tired,” he said. “Often I would fall asleep before I had eaten enough.”
Bob Mueller said he took a couple of spills and at other times jumped off the unicycle to avoid falling.
“There were two falls that I count because on those I scraped things other than the bottom of my feet,” he said.
One happened after he bent over to swat a mosquito on his leg and the lean threw him askew.
He jumped off the seat a few times after sneezing, too.
Laura Mueller said she also wiped out a couple of times, usually when her shoe clips got stuck in the pedals.
In South Dakota, she dodged another threat.
She said she was close to the edge of the pavement, heard a noise and when she looked down a rattlesnake was lunging at her leg.
Mosquitos and horseflies, while far less dangerous, were frequent uninvited companions.
And all along the way, the siblings had to replace tires and tubes.
After completing daily rides that ranged from about 40 miles to more than 100 miles, the biking duo ate dinner, cleaned and maintained equipment and slept for six or so hours a night, most of the time in the family van.
About once a week, Laura Mueller said, they’d get a hotel room to shower, wash laundry and sleep in a comfortable bed.
The siblings also treated themselves to occasional stops at Goodwill stores, where Bob Mueller said he picked up the Twilight book for 38 cents, as well as an electric drum set for $4 and a half-size electric guitar for $8.
The routine was fairly flexible, especially once the cyclists built up their daily rides to 70 to 90 miles a day during the latter portion of the trek.
The siblings sometimes took days off to visit with friends; other times they rode in cool darkness.
Bob Mueller said late one night in Illinois, along a deserted back road, they saw a stunning sight — millions of fireflies illuminating fields and trees.
Laura Mueller is ready for her next adventure, which includes traveling with a friend to New Zealand to take part for a few months in World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an organization that connects volunteers with organic farmers. Laura Mueller said she’ll work on a farm and, in return, will be provided with food, accommodations and the opportunity to learn about organic lifestyles.
Bob Mueller said, “Somebody told me that (Bob Across America) was my trip of a lifetime. I hope to prove them wrong shortly.”
For more information, to read Annah Mueller’s blogs, or to donate, visit at www.bobacrossamerica.com.
Beth Staples — 861-9252