"It's a nice little shot of exercise. It's good for the environment and it's good for me."
It’s a typical Monday morning. Like many professors, Blaine Snow drinks a cup of coffee, grabs his bag stuffed with homework, books and lunch, and leaves a few minutes early for his ESL class at Saint Martin’s. But instead of grabbing the car keys, Snow grabs his helmet and pedals to Saint Martin’s on a bright orange 2013 Redline Metro.
Snow, who teaches ESL courses, is one of a handful of Saint Martin’s professors who enjoy the exercise, inspiration and community that biking to school offers. His Redline Metro rides “like a Lexus,” with a steel frame that creates a smooth ride. “I bike to maintain health and fitness,” he explains. His commute stretches 9 miles; he usually makes it in 40-45 minutes.
Biking to school provides a chance to slow down and take in the crisp air, evergreen trees and pine needles of the Pacific Northwest. As summer turns to fall, the cyclists ride in the wind, rain and fog. Snow has done plenty of rides in “rain, drizzle and downpours.” One time, Snow had a bald eagle flying 50 feet over his head with a duck it had just snatched from someone’s yard; he startled the eagle, which dropped the duck in the roadside ditch. Another time, Snow had a pair of pileated woodpeckers fly right over his head.
David Price, professor of anthropology, finds inspiration in his twenty-minute commute to school. “It clears my head,” he says. He rides a light road bike and carries a pump and spare tube, just in case. “The first twenty minutes, I space out and think about what I was writing. It’s kind of like meditating.”
Price used to ride a bike that weighed a cumbersome sixty pounds. Nowadays he builds his own bikes, buying the parts on e-bay and putting them together in his spare time. “It’s middle-aged fun,” he explains with a laugh. Plus, it helps him ride fast, which he notes is good cardio. He can make it from his house to Saint Martin’s in twenty to thirty minutes.
Carol Overdeep, professor of Mathematics, calls biking “a nice little shot of exercise.” She pedals to Saint Martin’s on a Raleigh M50 Mountain Bike that is twelve years old and has duct-tape on the seat. “It’s good for the environment and it’s good for me,” she says. Plus, she gets a prime parking spot near the basement of Old Main, which she jokes is a “better parking spot than Dr. Heynderickx.”
Biking brings Saint Martin’s students, faculty and staff together. Each May, a group of Saint Martin’s cyclists form Team Rat Fink and compete in the Thurston County Bicycle Commuter Contest, logging their miles biked that month. Price, the team captain, enjoys the camaraderie of the group, which in addition to committed cyclists always includes a few members who prefer to provide moral support.
“It’s a nice way to collectively show some campus support for bike commuting,” Price reflects. The event shows that biking is not just an individual pursuit—it can be a community endeavor. Biking to school offers a shot of exercise, a dose of inspiration and a breath of fresh air.