Saturday, May 3, 2008

Walking - It's a beautiful world right here at home

I've always been a walker. During my teenage years in Indiana, I went on daily walks that the rest of my family called "death walks" because they were so excruciatingly long. While other were exhausted after an hour, I was just getting started. And though I've owned a few cars in my day, I've never felt that love of driving. If the opportunity was there, I'd rather walk somewhere than drive, but for most of my life, I've not lived in places where that was the easiest thing to do.

In 2001, I moved to Atlanta. Atlanta, in one word, is awesome!  It's a walkers paradise!  I lived just north of Downtown, just south of Buckhead (for those of you who are familiar with the Atlanta area) and my little one-bedroom apartment had a bus stop right across the street. I think I took it once.  There were two train stations within a mile from my apartment and it was such an easy walk. I could walk to the grocery, I could walk to the mall, I could walk to the pharmacy, to the train to get to work. Everything, it seemed, was within walking distance.  Even after I ripped my knee up running (should have stuck to the walking, I know), you couldn't keep me off my feet.  I still snuck in a walk every chance I could both before and after surgery (no worries, the doc said I couldn't make it worse than it was just by walking).  

When I moved back to Bryan-College Station, TX in 2003, I decided I wanted the same atmosphere that I enjoyed in Atlanta. Now, that's not easy. This is urban sprawl at it's finest, even for a small-ish city.  But I did my homework, and with the help of my brother who lived here at the time, found a small apartment within walking distance of 90% of anywhere I would need to go, including work.  It was perfect. When I later moved to an even smaller apartment, I did the same thing. Now that I'm married and living in a home with my husband, we are a little bit further out of being in the middle of things, but I never gave up the lifestyle. Though I still drive on occasion (once a week when I meet the delivery driver from the dairy on Fridays), I typically walk, bike, or bus around town. It takes a lot of planning, but it's completely doable. 

It's an easy walk to the grocery, a few close restaurants, and the post office. For most other things, I either bike or catch the nearest bus and walk once I get there.  Depending on which bus I take (city or university), I'm anywhere from 10 minutes (city) to 30 minutes (university) from home to a bus stop. Once at work on campus, I'm 15 minutes away from either city or university bus stop. With these little bursts of walking each and every day (in addition to biking short distances mostly on the weekends), I can honestly say I haven't set foot in a gym for years. As long as I eat right (and I do a light weight lifting routine twice a week), I have managed to stay in decent shape. The major plus in all this however, is what I see along the way.

One day in the center of campus, a man stood in a kilt playing celtic music on not one, but two recorders simultaneously (I only  knew it was a recorder because our music teacher in elementary school insisted we learn - I never could quite get it).  It was beautiful music and absolutely  amazing to watch him play two instruments at once giving himself a harmony. And I would have missed it had I driven to work instead of walked. 

And lately, with it being springtime here in Texas, my walk home is just covered in flowers! The photo at the top was taken this week and is on my way home if I take the university bus (I have to cross the highway overpass). And the photo here (also taken this week) is on my way home from the city bus stop where I pass an old historic cemetery. Gorgeous, isn't it?

If I pass a stream, I stop to see if I can find life lurking anywhere (the turtles are my favorite to watch). If someone else is walking or out and about, I wave or stop to talk. All the UPS, Schwans, and FedEx drivers, as well as many of the local police and fire department know who I am, since we always wave a "hello" when we pass. It makes me feel safe and makes me feel connected to my community.  I've been stopped in local stores, outside the post office, and in other random locations by people who have all sorts of questions - How far do I walk each day? How far away do I live? Why do I walk so much? Where do I find the energy? Etc. It's a wonderful opportunity to meet people and to spread the good news about walking - Anyone can do it and it's good for our bodies, it's good for our minds, and it's good for our communities.  

Every once in awhile my father finds a great deal on a car and calls to see if I'm interested. I never am. Sure, it's convenient sometimes, but for the things I see, the people I meet, the experiences I have when I'm walking....I wouldn't miss it for the world.


Beany said...

Killing time by reading some of your archives...realized that I never did.

I love Buckhead! It's my favorite part too. My husband's family is in the Atlanta area (meaning suburbs by Mall of Georgia "joja"). We spent a day wandering around Buckhead several years ago. It was a charming place to go for a stroll

Heather @ SGF said...

Beany - It was a great place to live too. I couldn't afford to buy some of the things in Buckhead, but the walks were awesome and they did fourth of July fireworks at one of the malls in Buckhead so we'd just walk up, enjoy the festivities, and walk home. I loved it - the only place I've ever lived that I miss.