Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh
chris_walsh

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Oh, that's right: "Walk on" IS a U2 lyric

iWalk. Whoa, I've just named the Apple pedometer app. Is there one already?

Anyway. Walking. I do it. A lot. Even when I had both a car and a bike, I walked a lot. Even now, with a car (and why don't I have a bike yet after 10 years in Portland? Get on that, Chris), walking gets me around.

I'm a little spoiled. Portland is good for walking. Too many places aren't. Racheline Maltese (rm) just mentioned on her Twitter feed "I hate cities that aren't walking cities." We've been talking/commiserating about that.

I've been a walker ever since I was a Southern California kid. Walked to my kindergarten at Westwood Elementary in Rancho Bernardo, a half-mile walk, which is kind of long for a kindergartner; then I walked longer distances in Camarillo, where I lived from part of my first grade through second grade. Actually started covering a decent amount of ground at that age.

Then came the not-so-great-for-walking places. And I still covered decent distances. In Virginia Beach, I'm pretty sure I walked to my third-grade school (Fairfield Elementary, south of our rental on Lord Dunmore Dr.) and I definitely walked to my fourth-grade school (Trantwood Elementary, east of our Little Lake Dr. place), and I covered a lot of ground, especially around the lakes, woods and inlets in our second Virginia Beach neighborhood. But the library was a drive, and so was most everything else. Virginia Beach, due to being built around bays, is really spread out. The city is kind of its own suburb.

Then came the actual suburbs. Vienna, VA and Oakton, VA, outside of D.C. Here's where my need to walk led me far farther...until I had to accept that some places Aren't Built For Walkers. And for the first time, I think, I felt really frustrated about that. As many of you know, many suburbs don't have sidewalks. Sometimes not even on arterial roads. So I learned more defensive walking, which is needed when you're on road shoulders. (And at times not even that's enough, cf. Stephen King's near-fatal road accident back in 1999.)

While in Oakton, this happened that stuck in my craw -- and still does, over 20 years later. Once, maybe to know that I could do it, I walked along Fox Mill Road from my neighborhood to the nearest shopping center. It was about two miles away down Fox Mill Road, a two-lane, un-sidewalk-ed long straight lane. At least the road has good sight lines, for the most part, though I was especially careful as I walked down the one big hill between my neighborhood and the shopping center. A van was driving the other way, on the other side of the road -- the best place for me to walk at that point, relatively speaking, was on the right shoulder, though I knew that it's best to walk against traffic, in that case, on the left -- and the driver, from what I briefly saw a middle-aged guy, flipped me off. Huh? HUH? The point was what? Did this guy do the same thing to people who were walking because they were walking away from a broken-down car? Who does that? Hostile, man. Or at least harsh. And I still wonder Huh? Why?

Obviously, though, it didn't stop me walking. And I haven't run into that hostility since. At least not from people.

But when I was in West Springfield, Massachusetts for Pi-Con in 2008, and couldn't even cross a street from the con hotel to the Riverdale Shops shopping center which was, again, across the street but without a crosswalk or signals for at least half a mile in either direction, let alone right there, I felt stranded. And realized how spoiled I'd become by Portland. I've walked miles at once; I've walked San Francisco's hills; I've walked for a charity fundraiser; I've walked several miles just because I was too cheap to get a cab; I've pondered how I could probably in an emergency walk in a day from Portland to my parents' current home in Dundee, Oregon 30 miles southwest of me; so yeah, I've often Walked With A Purpose and been willing to Walk With A Purpose, but there, that time, a simple street-crossing wasn't going to happen. Feh. But, of course, I value my life.

I've sometimes cracked that I'll probably be killed either while leaning over to pick up a coin or while checking someone out ("Hey, she's cu-"WHAM), but trust me, I do my best to walk defensively. I'd better by now; I've had enough experience at it. And know myself well enough to know I should be in places where I can do so.

I hope you dance, to quote a country song, but I also hope that, when you can, you walk. Or do the equivalent that you can do (hi, blubeagle!).
Tags: peregrinations
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