No one likes going to work in the rain. First you have to run the wipers during your commute, then you have to carry the umbrella on the walk to the office and hope that some rogue wind doesn’t turn it inside-out. Invariably, upon arrival you realize the lower 3 inches of your pants are soaked.

Kris Wills, a systems specialist at L.L. Bean, never wishes for rain either, but for her there’s no room for a woe-is-me attitude when it comes to commuting. By using her bike as her primary transportation since 2008, the Brunswick resident has now surpassed the 18,500-mile mark on her way to a goal of 25,000, which happens to be the circumference of Earth. She rides in rain, snow, whatever the elements throw at her because cycling is important enough for her to find a way to incorporate it into her daily life.

Wills, 50, recalls the freedom she felt as a youngster growing up in New Gloucester when, upon hearing that her mother would not take her to the family camp on Sabbathday Lake, she and her siblings decided to make the trip on bike. “That feeling stuck with me,” she said, “and I started riding back in the mid-’90s.”

Last week was national Bike to Work Week, which got plenty of Mainers to try pedaling to work. Most will be back in their car Monday. In fact, 2010 U.S. Census figures showed that an average of only 0.4 percent of Americans bike to their jobs. In the nation’s 38 largest bicycle-friendly communities, the number rises only to 1.4 percent.

Wills went an entire year, Jan. 21, 2010, to Jan. 20, 2011, pedaling every time she went to work at the L.L. Bean warehouse (on five occasions she did accept a ride home from a co-worker). After being cut off by a car and breaking her arm when she went over her handlebars in 2002, Wills admits she had a tough time getting back on her 1995 Specialized. But in 2008, she made a deal with herself to take two years and ride as much as she could. She did that and she’s kept going, with only a few rules.

“If it’s going to snow more than four inches I usually don’t like to negotiate that. With freezing rain it depends on when it’s predicted,” she said. And she also prefers a temperature at her house above 10 degrees because it’s usually warmer in Brunswick than in Freeport.

Wills sees several advantages to navigating the 15.2 miles each way: The ride in is an adventure that gets her day started off right, and the return trek allows her time to work out anything that may have happened during the day. Of course she’s saving at the gas pump and being friendly toward the environment.

Wills is well known at L.L. Bean as a bike commuter and co-workers have been incredibly supportive. Some have become caretakers of her kayak for after-work paddles, and there is never a shortage of ride offers when the weather turns nasty for the commute home. Some have even become inspired.

Freeport’s Suzanne Norton, an L.L. Bean packer, started seeing Wills riding while she was taking her daughter to daycare and then continuing on to work in the morning. Nine-year-old Natallie made a point to always wave to her. Soon enough, Norton purchased a tandem bike and during the summer months, she and Natallie take on the 5-mile ride to work/daycare and back again as often as they can.

“She’s a great inspiration,” Norton said of Wills.

There are also connections of sorts that Wills feels she’s made with other morning commuters. There was a little blue car that became her constant companion during the first year of her pedaling, and occasionally she’d pass the car when it was going in the opposite direction. “(The driver) would smile and I’d smile and we’d wave, but I have no idea who she is,” Wills said.

There’s also a truck she sees almost daily that suddenly started driving by with a telephone pole-sized dent in the back. Wills would love to ask the driver what happened. And there’s a guy who gets his motorcycle out as soon as the snow ends who gives her just the slightest of nods as he rolls by.

“There are certain people that I see every morning that I see in the grocery store and I want to say ‘hi’ to them but I don’t know them. And they probably wouldn’t recognize me without my helmet.”

Averaging between 4,000 and 5,000 miles per year, Wills expects to reach her 25,000 milestone late in 2013. When asked how she’ll celebrate she quipped, “I was thinking about making a cake.”

She went on to describe the tandem bike she’s turned into a bee. There’s a bee butt behind the rear seat and wings over the second set of pedals that are connected to a bungee so they go up and down when the rider pedals. She hasn’t had it out for a while and suggested that maybe it could be spotted “buzzing” along her usual route after her goal is achieved.

So if you’re driving Route 1 between Freeport and Brunswick about a year and a half from now and you encounter a biking bee, you’ll know, Wills is now working toward 26,000.

Karen Beaudoin can be contacted at 791-6296 or at:

[email protected]