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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Midd on wheels: Manoeuvering Middlebury’s campus

<a href=""></a> <span class="photocreditinline">Charlie Diechman-Caswell</span>
Charlie Diechman-Caswell

Middlebury’s campus is deceptively large, and a walk from Lang Hall to Mahaney can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. If you live in Allen or Atwater, a trip to get a Covid-19 test is a major event that requires your best walking shoes. To shorten the commute from place to place on campus, students have gotten creative about how to get around.

For example — albeit rare — roller skaters, with their colorful wheels jutting out from the soles of their feet, can sometimes be spotted on Middlebury’s flatter terrain. The same can be said for the few who choose to sport Heelys, the iconic shoe brand with built in wheels in the heel of each shoe.

Isabeau Trimble ’24.5 bought their pair a month before leaving their home in southern Virginia. “Not without my mother’s disapproval,” Trimble added. “Although it’s very fun, and people on campus love it.” 

However, there aren’t many places on campus that are conducive to Heely activity. Trimble claimed that their Heelys are perfect for sunny weather and on smooth surfaces, but their use can quickly come to an end when conditions get rough. And when rain falls, there is a high chance that their wearers will, too. 

Rain is a common enemy for all who rely on wheeled transport. Wet conditions can cause corrosive rust to form on metal and eliminate the traction of rubber, making steep hills treacherous. 

For bikers, rain is less of a danger but still limits their capabilities. “I would go on trails if the weather was clear,” Sarah Kimmel ’24 said. 

On our campus, some students have also found a way to hop, spin and kickflip their way over the fine line between transportation and art. Abraham Merino ’24 has a reputation as “the scooter guy,” news which has spread from Stewart to Bicentennial Hall. Merino, from Los Angeles, has been scootering since 2014 and said that he’s happy with the attention and the nickname he’s received. 

“I have a mustache, but I can’t show it off because I’m always wearing a mask,” Merino explained. “I’m happy to still be able to express my personality through scootering.” His scooter holds the power to transform any dry surface into a playground and, of course, to get him across campus in the blink of an eye. “I couldn’t make it very long without it,” he said. Always learning new tricks, Merino can be seen outside Battell and throughout campus sliding, jumping and spinning over the day’s obstacles. 

There are often heated debates about which dining hall is the best. Regardless of your own opinion, it’s safe to say that Proctor has the best entertainment. On an average sunny day, skateboarders can be seen attempting the most daring jumps and tricks, flying down staircases and sliding across railings. Noe Horiwaki ’21 and Johan Wichterle ’23 both grew up in New York City and attended the same middle school and high school. Now, they skate together on a makeshift skate park outside Proctor. 

“The hilly campus is perfect for skating,” said Horiwaki. “Skateboarding makes travel around campus really fast. It’s great for going to get Covid tested.” 

However, the transition from New York City skate parks to Proctor has led to some disappointment. As Wichterle put it, “without a practical way to express ourselves, it’s like having basketball practice but never playing a game.” 

Despite the limitations, skating at Middlebury has become more popular than ever. Quarantine boredom and curiosity led to many students picking it up over the summer and some brought their boards to campus with them. “As cliché as it sounds, there’s always something new to learn. We keep falling and getting back up again,” Witchterle said. 

On the college’s wide, hilly campus, many have found ways to ease their daily commutes. Whether on a bike, a scooter, Heelys or roller skates, students make the most of their transportation. A tool used to get places faster can quickly become a form of self-expression. And in an era characterized by isolation, Middlebury is more mobile than ever.

Editor’s Note: This article primarily focuses on the transportation modes of people who do not live with a physical disability. We acknowledge that this does not encompass all members of our community. We hope that the college campus becomes more physically accessible in the coming years and are committed to spotlighting issues related to accessibility.

Charlie Deichman-Caswell

Charlie Deichman-Caswell ’24 (he/him) is a Photo Editor and Contributing Writer.

Charlie is an Environmental Studies major with a concentration in Anthropology, and French minor. He enjoys athletic activities such as climbing and soccer, as well as other hobbies like photography and creative writing. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors with friends, reading, watching movies, and generally chilling out.