HAZLETON — Dale Culp’s mornings start fairly typically.
Waking at about 6 a.m., the Hazleton resident spends a few hours at home before heading to his part-time job as a computer technician, blogger and client content writer for NEPA Geeks, in Mountain Top.
The daily routine becomes more demanding when he steps out the door.
That’s when Culp, 33, climbs atop his bicycle to trek about 18 miles from Hazleton to the office — weather permitting, of course. The one-hour-and-40-minute commute on state Route 309 has its challenges without a motorized vehicle.
“Coming out of Hazleton and going back are the worst because it’s like 500 to 600 feet of just climbing, climbing, climbing,” he said. “Going up 309, near Damenti’s, that hill is pretty killer on the way (to Mountain Top).”
Culp, who began commuting by bicycle this year once the winter weather broke, said his new ride has cut his costs at the gas pump from about $30 to $10 a week and made the act of going to work a little more enjoyable.
“When I’m going there, I sometimes take Old Mountain Boulevard out of Hazleton, which runs sort of parallel to 309. I like it more,” he said. “I like to get away from the traffic, and because it’s more of a back road you’ve got more of a chance to see deer and turkeys. That’s cool for me because I’m kind of a nature guy.”
The scenery is a plus, but drivers who might speed along some of the area’s back roads present a very real danger.
“To come up over a crest and all of a sudden there’s a guy on a bike there, there’s going to be a problem,” Culp said.
A high-visibility jacket — his is yellow with reflective stripes, reminiscent of those worn by Pennsylvania Department of Transportation workers — and the white front light and red back light required by law for evening travel help keep him safer than riders without them, he said. Nine out of 10 motorists, said Culp, are mindful of cyclists.
“As long as they see you, you’re fine,” he said.
Culp began cycling in August as a way to lose weight and find an activity he enjoyed. Rollerblading, walking and running didn’t make the final cut.
“Biking was great. It’s like a little adventure.”
The hobby can be expensive, but only if you let it, Culp said. He’s spent about $1,500 total for three bicycles — a hybrid bike with tires fit for trail riding, a mountain bike and a Giant Defy 5 road bike he purchased in February — and his riding gear.
Culp, who blogs about cycling at www.dalerides.blogspot.com, has a simple request for motorists. “As a driver, my thing is please be patient. Wait for me to get out of your way, and then you can pass me,” he said. “It’s simple things like that.”
All in all, cycling has become a form of therapy for him, along with a cost-effective way to travel to work.
“If it’s a really nice day out, it just feels like freedom,” he said. “You get to watch the sun as it goes down or comes up.
“There are different sections of my morning commute where I look up and the sky goes from dark to pink to blue, and you just watch the transition as you go,” he said. “That’s what makes it worth it.”