Every morning, John Hutcheson and his wife, Elma Rios, mount their recumbent bicycles — the lowto the ground, laid-back-seating kind —and begin their 45-minute commute to work at Sea Pines Montessori Academy. Their route goes from their rented home in Spanish Wells Plantation over the Cross Island Parkway, down Palmetto Bay and Cordillo roads and to the school at the back gate of Sea Pines. John, 60, and Elma, 51, have shared a classroom there since moving to the school from a similar gig in Seattle three years ago, teaching fourth-, fifth and sixth-graders.
Spending all that time teaching and biking together has taught them a lot about what’s important. And, as Hutcheson, told us, it made them wonder why, on an island with 12 miles of paved leisure paths, more people don’t bike to work.
Q. When did you first get into biking?
A. We got into it in Dallas, but there were so many days over 100 degrees there that it was tough to be a biker. Seattle was much better. In Seattle, work was only three miles away, but it took a good 35 minutes to get there because of all the hills. People would pass us by, going up the hills walking. It’s been nice here. It’s ideal for recumbents.
Q. What’s the best part about biking to work?
A. A 45-minute ride in allows you to focus on what you have to do. It allows you to be a lot sharper physically — definitely more than a 15-minute car ride.
Q. What were your thoughts when you started riding around the island?
A. We thought crossing that bridge was going to be a monster, but then we started doing it. In the warmer months, you need a change of clothes, but it’s never as bad as it looks out there, if you’re wearing the right kind of clothing: dry and well-ventilated. The rain and humidity can be trying, though. In the winter, we wear clothes that wick up sweat, to not be so absorbent.
Q. What about the weekends?
A. On weekends we’ll go shopping and ride from the house all the way across the island. Elma has a picnic basket on front and saddle bags on back, and I have a little wire basket on the back of mine. We tend to buy only what we need. We go out twice a week to do that shopping.
Q. What do the other teachers think?
A. Sometimes they shake their heads, but most people are pretty open-minded here. I think they admire it a little bit. Most people think “I would do that, if I could only…” but I don’t know what the blanks are.
Q. Are you surprised more people aren’t biking to work?
A. Absolutely. It’s amazing how many people are out there commuting when short bicycle rides can take you to every shopping center you need. I guess it’s just a matter of habits. You get used to a car, to the comfort and ease of it. But there’s nothing like a bicycle for unwinding. It’s a great destresser for teachers. You can leave everything behind. We enjoy teaching, but any place you teach can be very demanding. It’s good to be able to have an outlet.
Q. What kind of shape are you in?
A. Good, relatively speaking, for a guy who’s 60. We do it mainly for enjoyment, and we like being environmentally conscious and having a lowimpact life. Plus we avoid the tolls: 75 cents each way really adds up.
Q. Do you own cars?
A.I have an ‘86 Toyota Camry with 240,000 miles on it. I’ve had it since I bought it in late 1985. It’s been with me forever. A lot of weeks, the cars don’t even make it out. I’m a little bit worried about the gas getting old sometimes. It’s that kind of situation.