Part I: Where I Went
A review of Google Maps a few days ago convinced me that I could turn down one side street, walk a mile or so, connect to a back road I'm familiar with for a few hundred yards, and turn back along another side street to wind up back on the road by my house. It looked like a nice walk.
With that plan in mind, I left the house and walked briskly up the hill.
The side street I chose ended abruptly. Did Google Maps think that street had been completed, or was I on the wrong one? I walked through a serpentine suburban cul de sac, and gave up that part of my plan. Instead, I walked to the top of the hill and turned left, past neighborhoods I know well. So far, it didn't feel like much of a walk; I decided to keep going past the developments with evocative names, past the middle school and the alpaca farm, and down to the flashing light. I'd driven that way too many times to count, and it wasn't far. At the light, I'd turn left and keep going until I ran into a road that led back to the hill I started on.
That's what I did. It was three miles, more or less, and it took me about an hour (what with exploring the wrong cul de sac first). And it taught me a few interesting things about roads and the people who use them.
Part II: What I Learned
What you see from your car is fundamentally different from what you experience walking. What looks like plenty of clearance from your car turns out to be a strip of summer weeds raked by blackberry thickets, on foot. The kind of country roads I walked beside as a girl have become commuting shortcuts that you need courage (and a good reason) to risk on foot today.
Sidewalks are for show.
Sidewalks disappear as soon as you're out of sight of the big subdivisions. The shoulder narrows to five inches of asphalt beyond the white line. I developed a new appreciation for the rare person who mows the ditch, since I had to walk there so often to avoid traffic. Luckily, the local snakes were smarter than I and stayed out of it.
A woman on foot is conspicuous.
We're anonymous in our cars, but on foot women become more publicly accessible. Over my hour's walk, I got one honk, a catcall, and a "Hola, Mami" (the best choice of the three for tossing out a car window, in my opinion). Apparently, a woman on foot, even an otherwise completely unremarkable woman, generates a time warp bubble. This is the only explanation I can come up with for why some drivers were transformed into extras from The Dukes of Hazzard as they passed me.
Part III: My Conclusions
2. Stick to the trails, or the well traveled sidewalks.
3. Wear hiking boots; suburbia's a jungle.