Sacred Heart Prep grad Marissa Muller started her professional career as a journalist at CNN before taking a hard right turn and working for companies focused on sustainability. As she embarks from Southern California on Thursday atop a solar-charged electric bike on a cross-country trip — which she will be chronicling along the way — you could conclude she’s combined the two pursuits.
“The motto for the trip is ‘get well and do well,'” she said. “Before I took my sabbatical, I’d been traveling on business three weeks out of the month. I hit a ‘soft low’ one night in eastern Idaho where I was terribly sick. As I tossed and turned and wrestled with the sheets, my mind wandered to the idea of doing a cross country trip.
“I gave myself a one-week deadline to put the logistics together or I’d abandon the idea.”
Using mainly LinkedIn as a way to connect with people separated by two or more degrees, she quickly lined up an engineer at the bike company Specialized and then enlisted the help of another engineer at Sun Power. The result: the pairing of an electric bicycle and a solar panel.
A Specialized Turbo S electric bike has been re-engineered to rely on solar energy to charge the battery, which powers the electric assist motor, giving the bicycle the extra boost of power and speed. As she rides, the battery will be charged by a lightweight SunPower solar panel, designed with the same high efficiency solar technology used to generate clean power for homes, businesses and utilities around the world.
Marissa, who is doing the trip solo, plans to average about 60 miles a day, stopping at schools, businesses and municipalities along the way to talk about her journey before ending up in Washington, DC, where she will present what she learned along the way.
She foresees three types of challenges: the elements themselves, particularly with the tornado season dragging on, sitting on a bike saddle daily for three months — “every day is a training day,” she says — and general safety.
You can follow her journey across the country and get involved with some charitable aspects by visiting her website (which will go live May 21).
Summing up the trip, she said: “It’s the ultimate demonstration of freedom — a clean, electric vehicle, powered by decentralized energy, and an open road of opportunity.”