Did you know that May 18 is Bike to Work Day? And in honor of today, we’re featuring a longtime Freeport, Maine, L.L.Bean employee who commutes on two wheels every single day – rain, snow or shine. We caught up with Kris to talk about her passion for cycling and her goal to bike the length of the Earth’s circumference: roughly 25,000 miles!
Kris’s drive and motivation certainly inspires us to hit the trails more often. In fact, you can see her tackling the road herself in this short clip.
Kris’s goal was inspired by a coworker who recently pointed out that Kris had already ridden 18,700 miles.
Q: What is your favorite piece of cycling gear? Why is it most important?
A: My Topeak bike rack with an interlocking bike bag. Once I got that bag, the daily struggle of moving all my work clothes from bike to building turned into a quick release – and off I go!
Q: Why is an outdoor lifestyle important, and what is your history with the outdoors?
A: I have always been outdoors. My childhood was spent in a small town near Freeport with my sisters and our best friends next door. Our mothers were always telling us to go out and play. It was not unusual for us to walk more than a mile to our favorite hill to go sliding. I still love to go sliding, and 45 years later it is the same friend that accompanies me on those adventures.
We have a camp on a nearby lake, and we would swim or canoe all summer. I still think my summer is not complete if I haven’t swum across the lake at least once. There is an old railroad bed behind my parents’ house, and it passes behind my elementary school – we would ride to school that way until my mother let us ride the road. I took my grandson on that trail a couple weeks ago so he could try out his new mountain bike.
Q: If you could sum up your cycling experiences in one word, what would that word be?
A: Every day when I set out I don’t know what I’ll see or find. Today it was a lacrosse ball, and I also startled a mallard. Seeing a deer on the way to work is nice but hearing their hooves click as they cross the pavement is much better.
Q: What is next on your bucket list?
A: I keep thinking I should go bike touring. I know I pedal about 5,000 miles a year but they tend to be the same 5,000 miles. I also tried a stand-up paddleboard last summer, and I keep thinking I should get one of those.
Q: How do you feel when you’re biking?
A: I find it very freeing. I’ll be pedaling along and my mind wanders, and having that unstructured time each day just to think is great. I also like the camaraderie of the commute. There are people I see running or walking, especially in the morning. After meeting them regularly you might nod or say “hi,” and they become part of your day. I saw a woman last week who I hadn’t seen all winter, and she sort of did a double take and said, “Long time no see.” Then there is the guy who got a motorcycle about the same time I started biking (I think of him as the well-dressed man), and when he sees me he greets me with a slight nod, and I smile. Other people who live on my commute might wave if they are outside in their yards. I don’t know them, but I bet they notice me, and I am part of their day – so you feel a connection.
Q: Having spent so much time on two-wheels, do you have an all-time favorite trip/memory/experience?
A: I think the best trips are when it is snowing. If there is about 2 inches of dry snow on the ground everything gets so quiet. The traffic is light anyway but on those snow days it is usually lighter. The bike makes no noise and all around is a blanket of white snow, and it’s so beautiful.
Kris was recently featured on WPFO Fox 23’s My Fox Maine. Watch her interview. And if you forgot to ride to work today, don’t worry, because May is National Bike Month – which means it’s the perfect time to choose pedaling as your daily exercise.
October 2013 Update: 25,000 miles: Kris Wills Bikes the World.
Less than a year and a half ago we caught up with L.L.Bean employee Kris Wills and learned of her goal to bike the circumference of the earth. Now – 25,000 miles and five years later – we are happy to report that Kris has finally reached her goal! The 25-mile commute is no easy feat, and Kris has met her fair share of Nor’easter challenges.
What do you think of Kris’s story? We love when she says, “It’s an adventure every day that taking the car isn’t.” What biking adventures have you gone on?