Tired of traffic? Try one of these unusual commutes instead

12:00 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 Lifestyle
American-Statesman Staff
Cindy Present paddles her standup paddle board to work at Lake Austin Spa before sunrise. Erich Schlegel for American-Statesman

Why sit in traffic when you can catch a workout on your commute to work?

We checked in with a quartet of Austin residents who park the car at home now and then or skip the bus and travel to work under the power of their own muscles.

We’re pretty sure they arrive at the office in a better frame of mind than those who sit in gridlock traffic on Interstate 35 or MoPac Boulevard. Plus, they don’t have to make an extra trip to the gym, because they’ve already burned a bunch of calories.

Once, a fish jumped over the nose of Cindy Present’s standup paddleboard as she glided up the Colorado River on her way to Lake Austin Spa Resort, where she oversees lake and water activities.

Another time, she arrived a few minutes late to a morning meeting and walked right into the room carrying her paddle. “My boss said, ‘Did you hit traffic?’”

Present began commuting by paddleboard about two years ago. She lives on the river, about a mile downstream of the spa. The trip takes about 20 minutes, and she does it year-round.

“It really helps me relax and get mindful about the day,” she says. “It lets me push pause when it’s so easy to jump in a car and go, go, go. I can slow down, be more intentional — it’s just a perfect start to my day.”

She packs her laptop and phone into a dry bag, slips off her shoes (“I have discovered it’s very odd to paddle in shoes,” she says) and launches from her backyard. Along the way, she sees hawks and ospreys, water skiers and neighbors hanging out on their docks.

So far, she’s never fallen into the river on her way to work.

“I don’t even think about it as a commute,” she says. “It’s become my meditation time.”

When someone gave Kirtis Ward a pair of inline skates a few months ago, he put them to work as part of his commute.

Ward works as an electrician apprentice at the new Google building going up downtown. He used to walk most of the way, but now when he gets to Auditorium Shores he straps on the skates and rolls across the river and on to Second Street. When he arrives at work, he changes into regular shoes and puts the skates on his work cart.

American-Statesman Staff
Kirtis Ward wears inline skates to get to his job as an apprentice electrician in downtown Austin. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

It took some courage to do it the first time, he says, but passing motorists and pedestrians seem to enjoy seeing him. Besides, it’s faster than walking. Ward even passes cars stuck in traffic. It makes him feel joyful, and he likes looking down at the river as he crosses the First Street bridge.

“Some people give me the thumbs up or say they need to get some of those for themselves. Some people at work give me a hard time,” he says.

So far, he hasn’t taken a fall, although once he came close.

“The first day I took them out, I wasn’t good at stopping, so I grabbed a pole and swung around,” he says.

Now that temperatures have dropped a few notches from their fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk summer peak, Lorena Devlyn is ramping up her marathon training.

One easy way to squeeze in a few extra miles? Running to work.

A few times a week, Devlyn packs her day’s change of clothing into a small pack, laces up her shoes and sets out on the 3.1-mile trip to the Travis County Criminal Justice Center, where she works as an interpreter. The short runs serve as good recovery-day workouts for her. Sometimes, though, she drops off her pack and adds more miles by looping down Congress Avenue or up Shoal Creek Boulevard.

Stephen Spillman/for American-Statesman

“Sometimes I bike to work, too, but it takes just as long to run as it does to bike by the time I park it,” she says.

Devlyn has logged more than 80 marathons and ultra races, including the San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run and the 56-mile Comrades Marathon in South Africa. Now, with a PR of 3 hours and 13 minutes, set at Grandma’s Marathon in Deluth, Minnesota, she’s gearing up for her fifth Boston Marathon in 2018.

Josh de Boisblanc clatters over rocks, dips into creeks and crosses paths with everything from turkeys to foxes during his commute, which takes him through McKinney Falls State Park and the Barton Creek Greenbelt.

He’s made the ride from his home in southeast Austin to his office at Experian, near Barton Skyway and MoPac Boulevard, about once a week for the last five years. He covers about 15 miles each way, with only three traffic lights along the way, covering the distance in about an hour, depending on conditions.

American-Statesman Staff
Joshua de Boisblanc demonstrates how he gets to work most days through McKinney Falls State Park Oct. 12. His commutes on a mountain bike allow him to avoid the dangers of road traffic while getting in daily exercise. Stephen Spillman for American-Statesman

“The time it takes depends how hard I want to murder myself,” he says. “I started because I used to race mountain bikes a lot, and it was a good way to stay in shape and avoid traffic and get home and feel great because I’ve already worked out. It’s about the economy of saving time and getting the most bang for the buck, workoutwise.”

Plus, he notes, it saves wear and tear on his truck, conserves gas and helps protect the environment.

“The best part is right when I leave work and go from in an office environment straight into the Greenbelt. I’m out in nature and it feels like I’m away from everything.”

Occasionally, when the creek’s flowing, he’ll stop for a dip. Once, he saw someone photographing a group of women wearing very revealing “Mortal Kombat” costumes. Twice he’s run into unofficial cycling races at Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park.

“I have had my laptop bounce out of my commuter bag before, so I stopped using that,” he says.

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