June 25, 2010

The Journey Begins with a Single Step

When I write about different issues on my green blog, I feel the need to personally up the ante, so to speak, in my own life. One area that I consistently fail is the driving one. I do combine errands, but I rarely walk anywhere.

I live in a typical suburban town that is designed for cars, not bikes or walkers. While I only am a mile and a half from the nearest shopping center (with grocery, hardware, movie rental,  closeout, ATM and gift store). I never have felt safe navigating the terrain to the store by foot or bike. There are no sidewalks, there are ditches, curves, and vehicles traveling at unsafe speeds. There is not a crosswalk, so instead crossing the road feels like a game of Frogger.  And yet, it's only a mile and a half away. Each time I turned the key to run to the store, I felt guilty.

We make excuses why we don't walk anywhere. We pay money to join gyms or buy exercise equipment, but we hop in the car the minute we run out of something. We bemoan our lack of time, but we spend time driving to and from an exercise class.

I decided to stop making excuses and start walking. My children got free movie rentals from the local video store for  every A on their final report card. I told them we could redeem the movies if we walked to the store. They balked. These are the same offspring that I drive 5 miles each way to cross country practice. (I only drive one way, I've found folks to carpool with). The irony that I drive 10 miles total for them to run 2-3 is not lost on me. Nonetheless, if they can run for sport, they can walk for practical reasons.

The first day, we put the dog's leash on, and started walking. After about a half mile, we realized we didn't have a bag if he went to the bathroom. Yikes. Naturally he did, in the middle of some residential lawn. I walked up and down the road looking for litter that would be an appropriate container for his mess and found a fast food hamburger box. I am sure there wasn't too much difference between the original contents and the final ones.

We were more prepared the second day. We had figured out the safest path, with the lowest weeds in the ditches. I also noticed an inordinate amount of aluminum cans, so with the second bag, I picked them up. Tomorrow I plan to pick up the rest of the litter. I keep my eyes peeled for juice bags and water bottle lids, because I have special causes where they can be recycled.

There is a mindfulness that happens on these 1.5 mile walks there and back. A sense of nature and communing with it. There is a chance to notice how fast the rest of the world seems to move. The way everyone seems to hurry. I wonder what they are racing to. I wonder why they are so short of time. And my thighs ache. I sweat. I trudge on. Like a frog trying to avoid being roadkill, I dodge traffic and insanity.

I like walking to our errands. I want to propose a "car free day" to the world. What if... what if we all gave up a singular day without our cars? What if instead of boycotting one oil company or another, driving 5 miles an hour slower, or combining errands, what if, we gave up our cars for a day? Could you? Would you? How would it affect your life and what would you do to adjust?


  1. a couple of years ago I stopped driving to places that are a mile or less away for the reasons you shared. After adjusting for the additional time and streamlining purchases so that I could actually carry them... It became a happy habit. Calories burned are one thing... But the real bonus is the conversations I have with my kids along the way. Or if solo, a chance to just think.

    Ironically, I'm reading and commenting while standing in the DMV line. :)

  2. Yes, yes. The need to ante up is crucial.

    "I am sure there wasn't too much difference between the original contents (of the hamburger box) and the final ones." - love this.

    I walk and bike a lot of places, but now that my mom's with me I notice how wasteful the whole process of caring for an elderly person is - the paper briefs - the piles of kleenex, because her nose runs constantly from having oxygen tubes in 24/7 - the short trips to the store because I can't leave her long ----

    Sometimes you just have to do what's needed for awhile. I try not to think about it.

  3. @ anon., I do remember a conversation we once had about why I didn't feel safe walking to places more often. Yes, it's frustrating the lack of sidewalks and the speeding cars, but I also realize that I just need to be aware of my surroundings and stop making excuses.

    @ Kass, see, your story today is why people who have the opportunity/ability to up the ante, need to. We're in this planet together. There is absolutely a price of convenience and it's necessary in your situation. I'll walk an extra errand for you, deal?

  4. I like your comparison of fast food and dog poop!!
    Thanks so much for your kind comments on my blog Kim.

  5. I appreciate the extra errand walk.

    One good thing about having Mom here is I'm cooking more meals from scratch. No more junk food and junky containers.

  6. Kim, thanks for commenting on my blog! And good for you for taking that walk you've been meaning to! I know what you mean. I'm not far from anything I need. But it's a hazard to get there - a huge tangle of roads and cars. I laughed at your irony of driving 10 miles so your kids can run for 2.

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  8. What an inspiration you are! I'll bet in addition to the health benefits, there are emotional ones as well. You're probably having some great conversations with your kids during these walks as well. Way to walk the talk! ;o)


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