TBT: Walkin’

The big “hit” piece (that is, the successful, well-liked post, not a piece attacking some famous personality) this week seems to have been my post about driving to and from Athens, Georgia.  In the spirit of forward motion and scenic trips, I thought I’d dust off this chestnut from 5 August 2020, right before the previous academic year began.

I’d just gotten into walking right before school resumed, and was hoping to get in a couple of miles every day.  That goal sure fell part quickly, and I realized I did not walk nearly as much as I thought I would at work.  It turns out that 10,000 steps a day is actually a lot of steps.

That said, I did manage to get in over 30,000 steps in a single day once in the past year:  when I spent an eighteen-hour day at Universal Studios.  Needless to say, I slept until nearly noon the next day.

But that outlier aside, I did not come close to achieving that dream.  When I dog-sat my girlfriend’s German Shepherd, we took some lengthy, sweaty walks.  I was hoping that Murphy and I would do the same, but the old girl doesn’t go much beyond the yard before she is ready to turn back for another round of water, snacks, and naps, so my dreams of long, energetic dog walks have been smashed on the arthritic knees of my ancient dog.

Or I’m just making a bunch of excuses for myself.  With that, here is 5 August 2020’s “Walkin’“:

Yesterday morning, longtime Nebraska Energy Observer contributor Audre Myers shared a charming post, “Walking …“—a reflection of the late 1960s and Woodstock.  Regular commenter Scoop posted an achingly nostalgic response that sums up the significance of Woodstock to that cohort of early Boomers—it was the last incandescent burst of rock ‘n’ roll’s triumph before petering out in the 1970s (which, I would argue, is when hard rock got good).

The tug of nostalgia is a strong one.  I’m only thirty-five, and I already feel it from time to time.  Indeed, I’ve always been a sucker for nostalgia, which a psychologist might argue is one of the reasons I studied history.  Perhaps.  I also just enjoy learning trivia.

Regardless, Audre’s post caught my attention because I have been contemplating the literal, physical act of walking lately (although I often take metaphorical strolls down memory lane, too).  I’ve put on a bit of weight in The Age of The Virus, so I’ve taken up walking as a way to complement a regimen of calorie counting (which is more of a loose, back-of-the-envelope calorie guesstimate each day).

I’m trying to get in around two miles of focused walking a day, mostly around Lamar.  Although work commitments don’t always make that possible, I do find that simply going about my work results in around two miles of walking in aggregate.  I’m curious to see what my step totals will be once the school year resumes, and I’m dashing about between classes, pacing the rows of students, and striding across the boards as I teach.

I’m not a runner, by any means.  My older brother loves to run, and has the physique to show for it.  More power to him, but I know myself well enough to know it’s not something I want to do.  Runners swear oaths to running’s efficacy and delights, but gasping for breath in 100-degree weather with maximum humidity doesn’t appeal to me.  Walking at a brisk clip in that weather, though, is at least bearable—once I’ve embraced the stickiness and the sweat, I can go for a couple of miles easily, and sometimes three or four.

What I find appealing about walking is that, even at a decent clip (I’m averaging just north of sixteen minutes per mile, so my pace is just below three miles per hour; it seems fast to me), I’m able to slow down and enjoy the scenery.  Walking gives a perspective on a town that is impossible when driving—I can begin to see some of the details of my town.

The local elementary school, for example, is a node about 0.7 or 0.8 miles into one of the routes I’ve worked out.  There are stone pillars with “Class of 1935” spelled out in rocks and shells—something I’d never noticed driving by the school.  Imagine the children graduating from elementary school in 1935 picking up the pebbles to make that sign.  Less profoundly, there is a winged Batman sticker placed perfectly in the center of a circular “Do Not Enter” sign in the driveway.  What merry prankster planted that sticker?  What were the conditions under which he thought to plop down the Bat Signal in that place and time?

I also cut through the backside of our impressive local library, which shares a border with the local United Methodist church.  There is a fountain embedded into the side of the library, which provides some pleasant babbling (in that regard, it has much in common with this meandering blog post) as I hit the hot exposure of Main Street, with nary a shady spot in sight.  From there, it’s a long, sunny stretch past Piggly Wiggly and some convenience stores (another detail—I now know which gas station doesn’t charge extra for using a credit card) before I hit US 401-N (with sidewalks, no worries) and the final leg home.

These short jaunts around town are fun, but I’m increasingly interested in longer distances, even if I don’t have the shoes or the stamina yet to pull them off.  I’ve been rereading a book I picked up in Ireland in 2006, Michael Fewer‘s Walking Across Ireland: From Dublin Bay to Galway Bay.  It’s revived an absurd interest I’ve had for some time in attempting a walk across the State of South Carolina—absurd because of the dangers and difficulties in walking in the country in the United States.

In Walking Across Ireland, Fewer points out that Great Britain has long-established traditions pertaining to walking, and that established trails must be maintained not just by the UK government, but by the farmers and landowners through who’s land the trails run.  Legally, there are right-of-way customs and laws that make it possible for long-distance perambulators to walk through sections of private property.  Ireland, apparently, has similar customs, though not as well-established legally as Britain.

The United States, on the other hand, does not have nearly such established protocols.  We love our quasi-allodial land rights here, as evidenced by the ubiquity of dollar-store “No Trespassing” signs.  So walking long distances becomes very difficult outside of hiking trails in State parks.  But long-distance walking is not hiking—there is a subtle difference.  It’s hard to put into words, but the goal isn’t necessarily to scale a mountain or to walk entirely in the country.  Long-distance walking is strenuous, but a bit more accessible to novices than long-distance hiking or running.

There was a brief moment in the 1960s and 1970s, however, when long-distance walking was as popular as Major League Baseball.  President John F. Kennedy’s emphasis on physical fitness inspired some long-distance walking clubs to pop up in the United States, and groups like the Boy Scouts would undertake long walks.

Sadly, that fad seems to have died out, though it’s still thriving in Europe.  Climatically speaking, Europe seems far more comfortable for walking than traipsing from Aiken to Myrtle Beach.  It’s a continent, too, that’s basically the size of a shopping mall, so walking from Spain to the Ukraine doesn’t seem quite so daunting.

Regardless, I’m excited to do more walking, albeit short-distance.  Brace yourselves for more self-indulgent reflections on this hobby in the weeks to come.


24 thoughts on “TBT: Walkin’

  1. Long post today because I’d like to get a few things in. Apologies for the length.

    Walking tends only to be fun depending on where you’re walking or where you’re walking to. Yes, the UK has some decent walks and a soft jaunt around our villages can be relaxing though many villages, ours included, is quite cut off – essentially, you can walk in or around the village but as soon as the main and thoroughfare roads jut out from the village, pedestrians can kiss any thought of walking further goodbye. If you can get to a larger village, then you have the views as well as the pubs – park up at a good drinking hole, take in the views through a walk and end up right back where you started, chugging ale and putting all that lost weight back on. Depending on the length of the walk, of course.

    Tina and I were planning on going to see our mum last year (cancelled because of the Kung Flu) and where we planned to stay, Diggle (Saddleworth), you can get a really good walk/pub crawl, taking in as many as a dozen pubs over a 6/7 miles round trip. One of TCW posters lives in nearby Uppermill, the village where I grew up, so we’d have pulled him out of the house on the way and taken up in one of the many pubs near him; villages are great for pubs. From Diggle through Uppermill up to Grasscroft, depending on the route, the walk can be worthwhile though it’d be much too easy to get stuck in a pub! 🙂

    On another note, off topic, I’ve been re-reading Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent in which he journeys around small town, and off the beaten tracks, America. In one of the early chapters, he makes a remark about Midwesterners and I wondered, for any Midwesterners here, whether his stereotype is true:

    ‘Directions are very important for them. They have an innate need to be oriented, even in their anecdotes. Any story related by a Midwesterner will wander off at some point into a thicket of interior monologues along the lines of ‘we were staying at a hotel that was 8 blocks North East of the state capitol building. Come to think of it, it was North West. And I think it was probably more like 9 blocks. And this woman without any clothes on, naked as the day she was born except for a coonskin cap, came running at us from the South West…or was it the South East?’ If there were 2 Midwesterners present and they both witnessed the incident, you can just about write off the anecdote because they will spend the rest of the afternoon arguing points of the compass and never get back to the original story. You can always tell a MIdwestern couple in Europe because they’ll be standing on a traffic island in the middle of a busy intersection looking at a windblown map and arguing over which way is West. European cities, with their wandering streets and undisciplined allies, drive Midwesterners practically insane.’

    I read this description and mused on how different people travel. For me, certainly since the age of 18, it’s always been easy. You can map out practically anywhere on earth by visiting its drinking holes and joining the dots in between. When I first visited Bangor (North Wales) and Norwich, on my university open days, I mapped out both areas by visiting their pubs and bars and moving everywhere else in between. If you go to a place where there are no pubs, you can bet your last pound that nothing else will be there so maps or logic won’t come into it. It’s an odd way of looking at it but it works for me. 🙂

    Lastly, I drove to Tesco this morning to put some petrol in the car. It was dark when I set off and the sun was rising as I returned. I’d have loved to have stopped halfway back but I didn’t take my camera with me. However, I did manage to snap one or two pictures when I returned. Since I can’t post them, I’ll send them over.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pontiac, I am looking forward to reading this gargantuan comment right after my first class this morning. I’ve got to run over there now, but I wanted you to know that I have seen this comment, and am eager to read it.

      Also, I got your English sunrise pics. I will try to throw those up as a post later today, with your blessing. I’ll have to look into how to allow commenters to post photographs.

      Liked by 2 people

      • ‘Many villages ARE’, that should have said, in my first comment.

        It’s so easy to get your spelling and grammar wrong when you’re typing at light speed first thing in the morning! It probably wouldn’t have bothered anyone else but as an English graduate, seeing errors in my own writing is a constant headache. 😦

        Liked by 2 people

    • The excerpt from Bryson about Midwesterners rings true. I’m a Southerner, but there’s a good bit of overlap between Southerners and Midwesterners (and a lot of differences, too, but we have a certain solidarity as inhabitants of “flyover country”), but I know I am bad about getting off-topic trying to explain _exactly_ where I was. Southerners tend to get lost in ANY details, though, as we laconically relate in ten minutes what could have been communicated in ten seconds. Well, at least I’m that way.

      Thanks for sending the sunrise pics; I will get them up soon. I should be using my lone planning period today to, you know, plan, but I’m enjoying catching up on blog comments, and may even do a spell of writing in a bit.

      For what it’s worth, I very much want to visit anyplace called “Diggle.” What a wonderful country.

      Liked by 2 people

      • From what I remember, Diggle is/was quite nice. Not as remote as neighbouring Denshaw, which has, from recollection, two pubs, a church, a shop and a few houses, but still quiet. Uppermill, where I was raised from 12-22, was lovely but has become gentrified and though Grasscroft underwent the same horrific process, it still has The Farras Arms, which remains a gorgeous pub.

        We keep meaning to go back up there but it’s all timing. It’ll probably be taken out of our hands soon with another lockdown – when media and government officials say publicly that there won’t be another lockdown, we fully expect that there will be. I think we’re looking now to next Spring or Summer and my chance to give the car a proper run. Tina hasn’t been up there so it’ll give me the opportunity to take her through some of my old cycling grounds, in the Peak District and the Snakes Pass (where the sheep are so hard, they’ll headbutt cars and stick two fingers up at the drivers) and up through Holmfirth. It’ll be a fun drive, for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well I’ll be Diggled—Denshaw is even more remote! I love these names. I wouldn’t mind spending a cozy afternoon in an English pub—and I don’t drink!

        I know what you mean—it’s so difficult to find the time for these little trips. I was hoping to get up to the mountains with my girl in October, but there are so many other things going on—family obligations, school stuff, etc.—we just don’t think we’re going to be able to make it. Plus, there’s the matter of cost. I’ve been blown away by the inflation here in the States lately, especially when eating out. I’ve largely put myself on a moratorium from eating out unless I’m with my girlfriend for that very reason.

        Watch out for those thuggish sheep at Snakes Pass. They sound like some really wolves in sheep’s clothing!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Concur, You Southrons are a good bit like us midwesterners, and in fact, always have been. But you do tend to run in compared to our laconic ways. But I fear we are both a bit obsolescent to those in charge.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Yup, Ponty, we’re like that. Ever since the Confederation government passed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, laying out the western territories in a square grid pattern of square miles, we’ve been doing this, usually westering. You’ll find that, barring terrain problems (sometimes) our roads run straight North-Sout and East-West, although the interstates break this rule. Everything is so far west (or whatever), be it miles, towns, blocks, stoplights, or (shared with Canucks) hours, or in the old days cigarettes, or even days.

      I once was directed to turn north at the old school, problem was that it was torn down 50 years ago and I was new in town., and then east at the second dead cow in the pasture (at some point in time) 🙂

      And by the way, towns exist (or existed) every ten miles from the Appalachians to the Rockies. Why? because you can take a farm wagon 5 miles for supplies and make it home for supper. We’re pragmatic folks.

      That’s also why there is standard time. Our railroads invented it for themselves, they needed it to make timetables work, They didn’t give a damn if anybody else used it, but if you wanted to catch a train, you’d best.

      This country was planned and developed by surveyors (starting with one Geo. Washington) and engineers. None of these wandering bridle paths for us. A straight line is always shorter.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I detest walking, I can’t think of anything more tedious than going for a ‘nice walk’. Swap the water for tea and I’ll struggle along with the naps and snacks.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s