Outside of their element: MVHS faculty commuting to school

Exploring methods of transportation that MVHS faculty use to get to school and what they listen to while doing so

Leanna Sun and Shivani Gupta

Whether it’s riding a motorcycle, biking, taking the train or coming by car, members of MVHS faculty commute to campus on a daily basis in a variety of ways. Read below to learn more about a few faculty members’ diverse methods of transportation and what they listen to while doing so.

Facilities manager Chris Kenney:
Facilities manager Chris Kenney rented a property with his family for 10 years in Cupertino and saved up money with the intention of buying a house. Almost three years ago, Kenney and his wife purchased a house in Manteca, a small city located about 80 miles away from MVHS, and they have been living there ever since. In order to get to and from school everyday, Kenney’s transportation consists of taking a train, walking and driving a car. While his commute involves three methods of transportation, Kenney has found that it takes less time than it would to take a car the whole way.

Kenney starts his day by taking the first train that leaves the Lathrop Manteca stop, which is at 4:40 a.m. It travels for an hour and 40 minutes and through the Altamont passover, and he gets off at a station that is a six minute walk away from Santa Clara University, where his wife works. Kenney keeps a car permanently parked at Santa Clara University, which he drives to MVHS. At the end of his work day, he takes the car back to the university, parks it there for the night, walks to the train station and takes the train back to Manteca.

Because of his long and complicated commute, Kenney has had to change many parts of his daily routine, including his sleep schedule, how much free time he has once he gets back home and even how often he can see his grandchildren, who live in San Jose. However, he has accommodated most of these changes and appreciates the vibe of living in a small town.

“I’m used to it now because it completely changed my sleep habits,” Kenney said. “On the weekends, I’m up at 5 a.m. because I usually wake up earlier than that, but I actually kind of like it because I’m an early person so I just end up starting [my day] earlier. I enjoy living in a smaller town because getting to a place and waiting in line [takes] much less time. You get things done much quicker on the weekends. Those kinds of things, you’ve kind of got to take one and give one and so me and my wife accepted it and we don’t complain about it. We just accept it and this is the way we gotta do it.”

Since Kenney’s train ride is one hour and 40 minutes one way, in order to pass the time, he partakes in activities such as reading, watching a movie or listening to music on Pandora Radio. He usually listens to his two favorite genres, rock ‘n roll and blues. Some of his preferred artists are The Almann Brothers Band and Lynrd Skynrd.

“I bring my tablet, I read, do emails or watch a movie or something on the train,” Kenney said. “You meet people, a lot of times you see people that you’ve talked to and I don’t mind that at all. [For music,] I put in my earbuds and listen to music on the train and sometimes I fall asleep. [For T.V. shows,] a lot of times, I’ll get to a season on a show that I like and download the whole season and just watch one show as I’m travelling. You’ve got to be careful though, because you could miss your stop. There was only one time I missed it and that was in the morning. I remember I was reading an article, and I knew my stop was coming up, but I kept reading the article and I said ‘Oh, this must be my stop,’ and then [I was like] ‘Where the heck is this?’ [Now] I set an alarm for the stop before so that way I’m alert and ready to go.”

History teacher David Hartford: 

History teacher David Hartford grew up with motorcycling, as his father would take him on rides throughout his childhood. 

“One thing that my dad and I used to do is, there are various roads throughout the United States that are really good motorcycle roads,” Hartford said. “Because it’s just very scenic, [with] lots of twists and turns, [the roads] just generally [are] very positive for motorcycle riders.”

Since then, motorcycling has been a large part of his life, as he occasionally commutes with his motorcycle to and from school. Prior to moving to California, Hartford lived in the Midwest, where traffic was not as congested as it is in the Bay Area. He currently commutes to school everyday from Redwood City, where he lives, and it is about a 20 mile drive one way. 

“When I moved to California, honestly [motorcycling] was practicality,” Hartford said. “I hate traffic. I absolutely despise it, so the ability to lane-split and to be able to bypass a lot of that traffic was another primary motivator.”

While motorcycling greatly appeals to Hartford, often times he is forced to rethink his options, especially on days where he has to travel with many papers, binders or general work materials. Also, because daylight saving time recently ended, Hartford finds it challenging to navigate during the ride home.

“Now it’s starting to get dark before I end up getting home, which I think is one of my least favorite things about the motorcycle,” Hartford said. “It’s hard to see at times and if you’ve got roads that have a lot of twists and turns, you’re always using other people’s headlights to see where things are.”

On the days where Hartford drives, he listens to news podcasts to stay updated on recent events. On a typical school day, he usually does not have time to pull aside and check the news. 

“NPR is the number one radio station that I listen to, and podcasts for that matter, NPR Politics,” Hartford said. “My time is pretty valuable, and I notice when I’m riding my motorcycle and I’m not listening to those news, I feel kind of disconnected with what’s going on in the outside because I don’t have a ton of time outside of grading and teaching … When I’m bringing the car, it’s really nice because everyday I know a little bit about what’s going on … It’s more just to keep in contact with what’s going on outside of the Bay Area.”

English teacher Scott Perry: 

Though English teacher Scott Perry lives 11 miles away from campus, he splits his commute between driving with his wife and bicycling. 

“Usually the method is carpooling with my spouse because her company bus stop is at the corner of Stevens Creek and 85,” Perry said. “We’ve been a one car family for eight years which has been really interesting navigating … We just wanted to experiment how that would work.”

While driving, Perry and his wife often listen to comedy stations and specific comedians such as Gary Goldman and Jim Gaffigan. However, on days when Perry is driving alone, he also enjoys listening to The Great Courses, an online platform that offers college-level lectures on various topics.

“I’ll listen to these courses and learn at the same time,” Perry said. “The sky’s the limit for what kind of courses [are available]. I’m listening to one [about] building a better vocabulary … I like to listen and I take a lot in that way.”

However, Perry finds the days where he bikes just as enjoyable as when he drives, explaining that aspects such as fresh air and nature capture his attention while riding. 

“I’m just really happy on a bicycle,” Perry said. “Just being able to move and see things. You really see the world and open air, rather than with cars, [because] a lot of times you don’t really get to see everything.”

Perry’s love for biking started at five years old, when his dad bought him an orange bike from Target. Ever since then, biking has played a significant role in Perry’s life as he frequently goes on numerous biking journeys with his dad and friends, and was even a bicycle patrol officer after graduating high school. 

“In southern Minnesota, I’d love exploring the town,” Perry said. “I got paid $12 an hour at the time, which was a lot of money for just circling around and patrolling. That was my dream job.”

Nowadays, because the bike ride ranges from 45 to 55 minutes to and from school, Perry finds that listening to music passes the time while simultaneously creating an entertaining environment. 

Perry’s go-to music platform is Pandora, where he creates his own stations surrounding some of his favorite artists such as Cloud Cult, an indie band from Minnesota.

“When I’m biking or driving, the music is really up front and center,” Perry said. “When riding, the songs are so important. You get into the rhythm of the songs.”

English teacher Kate Evard:
English teacher Kate Evard lived in Los Altos for 25 years before she moved to the city of Aptos, located almost 40 miles away from MVHS. Her primary method of transport is travelling by car across Highway 17, which she enjoys driving on.

“Some people are really afraid of Highway 17 and I’m just not, I find it very soothing, it’s just a beautiful drive,” Evard said. “I don’t find it to be stressful. I don’t come in here in the morning totally harried, you know? I was late one time last week actually, by about 20 minutes, and there’s nothing I could do about it. … Generally it’s well worth the commute and the time it takes out of my day to live where I live.”

Evard decided to move houses since she is going through a divorce, and while she had other options available, she believed that Aptos was her best option.

“I needed to have my own place, and I couldn’t really afford to live here,” Evard said. “I could when I was with my husband but I can’t now afford to live on this side of the hill in something that is acceptable to me. I could have lived in someplace way out in San Jose, that was very, in my opinion, undesirable. Or I could make the commute over the hill and I felt for a quality of life issue for myself, and affordability, that was my best option.”

As she drives, Evard passes her time doing a variety of things, including listening to music, an audiobook or just enjoying the quiet.

“I have SiriusXM Satellite so I just have all my favorite stations punched in and I have Spotify,” Evard said. “In terms of books, usually it’s something I’m teaching at school, or some other [that’s] non-school related. [For music,] I’m a girl of the ‘70s and early ‘80s, so [I like] classic rock [and] some pop. Anything related to the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac are two of my favorites. The music from my time, it’s still classic, people still listen to the music from the ‘70s and the ‘60s. [I’m] not sure if that will happen with the music today, but we’ll see.”