Lions, chipmunks and deer, oh my! | PostIndependent.com
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Lions, chipmunks and deer, oh my!

John StroudPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – William Carlson never really knew how much wildlife lived between his house in Glenwood Park and his new school in West Glenwood until this school year.”It’s been fun watching all the wild animals,” said Carlson, a sixth-grader at Glenwood Springs Middle School.It’s one of those things you don’t really notice in a car or on the school bus, he said.But Carlson has been riding his mountain bike to and from the middle school, 20 to 30 minutes each way, every school day since the end of last August. The only exception was the one week of school he missed to go to a family funeral in Florida.His mom, Lori Carlson, added it all up recently, and figured William has put in about 1,500 miles of biking this school year.That’s a lot of opportunity for wildlife viewing and other observations.”One time about a week ago this herd of deer started chasing me down the bike path,” he said. “I think it was because they smelled my lunch.”Last fall, when a mountain lion had been spotted near the Cardiff Bridge, which he crosses every morning and late afternoon, his mom, Lori Carlson, got him a bike horn, some flashing lights and a whistle as precautions.”Mountain lions don’t like a lot of lights and noise,” said the contemplative 13-year-old. “I was teasing my mom one day when I got home, ‘Haven’t seen any big kitty cats yet!'”He did come across a family of domesticated kittens one day. He stopped and played with them for a few minutes, then was on his way again.It’s all in a day’s journey for this young pedal-powered commuter, who decided when he moved up from elementary to middle school this year that he’d rather not ride the bus or bother his mom for a ride to school every day.

It all started when he finished in last place in a Two Rivers Cycling Club race last summer.”I was really bummed, and really wanted to beat one of my friends who was in the race,” Carlson said. “So I decided I’d ride my mountain bike every day to school so I could get stronger.”He had recently received a lightly used 27-speed Motobecane bicycle as a gift from a family friend.So, before school started, he scouted the best route from his house, located right across the street from his old school, Sopris Elementary, out to the middle school in West Glenwood – a roughly 5 1/2-mile commute one way.Glenwood Springs being a rather bike-friendly town, he found the best route would be to take the Cardiff Bridge across the Roaring Fork River to South Grand Avenue and down to the rivertrail at 23rd Street. From there, it’s all bike path to Two Rivers Park. Then he hops onto Devereux Road out to West Glenwood, under Interstate 70 to Highway 6 and back one block to Soccer Field road, where the middle school is located.From then on Carlson was a familiar sight every day, pedaling his bike and pulling a Burley trailer with all his school books, his trumpet and the occasional science or art project.”It took me about 15 or 20 minutes on a good day, sometimes 30 minutes in bad weather,” he said. “I was only late to school twice when there was a lot of snow.”The idea to bike to school was all William’s, according to his mom Lori Carlson, who said she and the boy’s father, Rex Carlson, were fully supportive of the idea.

Outfitting both their son and the bike for the winter months was one of the biggest challenges.They got a head start when Lori’s sister was moving from Wisconsin to Florida last summer and donated a studded mountain bike tire, which she would no longer need.After school started, William entered the Aspen/Pitkin County Commuter Connect Back to School contest, which challenges students to find alternative modes of transportation to school. He won a $100 gift certificate to Sunlight Mountain Ski & Bike Shop, which he used to buy a second snow tire for the back of his bike.”On the really cold days we’d make sure he wore a ski jacket, gloves, Sorels, a ski helmet for extra warmth and goggles,” Lori Carlson said. “One morning it was almost 20 below zero, and he said he was warm by the time he got to Two Rivers Park.”And on one of the really snowy days he called me from the park and said I’d better call the school and tell them he’d be late because they hadn’t plowed the snow yet,” she said.William also learned a lot about bicycle maintenance. Especially during the winter months he’d have to lubricate the chain and gears every two weeks and make sure to clean off all the road grime to keep the bike from rusting.The only time he deviated from his usual route was after school from November to February when he’d stop by the Glenwood Springs Community Center ice rink for hockey practice, he said.”I’ve got a new nickname, too,” he said. “William Flyer.”Another bonus of all that biking is that he’s really in shape. The fitness is not only in his legs, but his lungs. He can hold a note on his trumpet longer than anyone else in the middle school band, including his teacher, he said.jstroud@postindependent.com


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