For a variety of reasons, I need to get myself back into walking shape. I've been on the exercycle for a few months now, but that's not the same as walking. I don't have a pedometer handy, nor are there a lot of places that I know the distance to. But I do know the distance to the gas station at the Jewel Food Store, because I reset the car's trip meter when I buy gas. It's 1.4 miles away, so a round trip would be 2.8 miles roughly. I recall that filkerdave ran a 5K in about half an hour; a little conversion convinces me that I should be able to walk at about three miles an hour. So it's a plan.
The suburbs have a sidewalk problem, mostly in that they tend to be missing. But we have a sidewalk coming out of our tiny subdivision, and there's a sidewalk on Dempster that goes to the grade school and then on to Mount Prospect Road. So far, so good. I recall that there's a sidewalk on the south side of Dempster thereafter, but I don't see it when I cross the street. (There's no hope of a sidewalk on the north side of the street, where fences separate the back yards of houses from the utility easement as they face away from the main drag.) So I walk on the grass of the late sixties / early seventies vintage homes that have enormous front yards. They don't make yards like that any more in our area.
After a while, I see the sidewalk on my left and hop over to it. There's nobody on the sidewalk, nor much of anyone around, save for the dozens of cars that pass by on Dempster. There don't seem to be too many people who are six foot tall who use this sidewalk either, judging from the overhanging branches that occasionally try to grab my hat.
My lower back is not happy and my shoelace has come untied. I determine that I am damned well going to retie it without having to sit down and succeed in doing so, despite the spare tire that I'm carrying around with me. I've covered maybe a third of the total distance that I'm planning.
The good news is that there are little things to distract me. Here are some bushes that look vaguely like hibiscus, with large, familiarly shaped purple flowers and a big yellow stamen. I hadn't thought that a hibiscus could survive a Chicago winter outdoors. I'll have to check on that later. There are a couple of guys standing by a car in a driveway chatting. And there are some big old trees, which are always a good thing.
The Jewel is a massive brick building that provides shade for its length and width. I walk to the gas station, pick up the paper, turn around, and start back along the way I came. There's no point to even crossing the street, because there's no sidewalk and a lot of badly trimmed grass on that side.
I see more things on the way home, including one house with a bush that's overgrown the sidewalk, a lawn badly in need of mowing, and a maple seedling growing in one gutter. There's a sign in the window that says "Family Center", with finer print below. I'm curious, but not curious enough to go up and take a better look. It makes me think of my parents' house in Belleville and what it must have looked like as it started to run down with no one living in it. (A long story, and one that's no longer my problem.)
I encountered an older woman walking in the opposite direction; then later another older woman walking her big yellow lab. I suppose if I had a dog I'd walk more often, but it's hard to fit a dog into our lifestyle. The two guys were still standing by the car talking as I passed on the way back.
I found out where the sidewalk had gone to when I was looking for it on the way out. The street curves away from the homes, but the sidewalk continues straight on, terminating in a patch of grass at Mount Prospect Road, which apparently has no sidewalks south of Dempster. I hop back across Dempster and walk past the recently rebuilt fire station that's a block and a half from our house.
It's a bit warm as I'm walking into the sun now, so I'm a little sweaty. But my back has stopped hurting, which is good. The balls of my feet have started hurting, which is not so good. But I'm in the homestretch as I turn back into our subdivision.
As I walk up the street, I see the third and final person that I'll encounter -- one of the high school students who lives in a neighboring house comes out the door and runs down the street. I wasn't much of a runner when I was his age -- I think I'll stick to walking.
I step through the front door and look at my watch. Fifty eight minutes, just about what I'd expected.
I think I'll have a Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi now. :)