A few days later, the kids and I, along with my parents, sister, bro-in-law, and nephew walked from my parents' house to one of our favorite breakfast restaurants. After pancakes, eggs, and chocolate milkshakes (don't knock milkshakes for breakfast until you've tried one from Mickey's Dairy Bar) we walked to Trader Joe's and then on to the Farmers Market. We filled up the stroller with green beans, tomatoes, honey, a bouquet of flowers, and a catnip toy for Tux and then walked home. Later that afternoon we walked to the bike shop, passing by our favorite pizza joint and donut shop on the way, to buy a trail-a-bike to help "the girl who's afraid to brake" become a better biker.
A few days after that we walked from my parents' house to the public library, the ice cream shop, and a different neighborhood park. We also walked from my parents' house to the hospital where my mom works, and on the way home stopped at yet another neighborhood park.
The theme here? Regardless of our destination, we traveled there on foot.
I grew up walking or biking almost everywhere. The on-foot commute to our elementary and high schools (a mile, uphill both ways, in the snow), my mom's hospital, swimming lessons at the beach and pool, soccer practices, friends' houses, restaurants, ice cream shops, the public library, a dozen parks, Trader Joe's, and our neighborhood pharmacy took 20 minutes, spanned a mile at most, and could be done without ever setting foot on a busy street thanks to sidewalks and bike paths. If we wanted to stretch our legs, downtown Madison, the State Capitol, and the UW campus (including the Union) could be reached in 30-40 minutes on foot and considerably less time by bike.
When we moved to Michigan, Tom and I looked for a neighborhood that felt similar - at least in terms of access - to my parents' neighborhood in Wisconsin. We found it, and spent the next six years walking and biking, with our kiddos in tow, to church, the kids' daycare/preschool, parks with playgrounds and disc golf courses, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Panera, Barnes & Noble, and downtown Ann Arbor.
|Walking home from daycare.|
|A (rare) peaceful moment|
riding together in the stroller.
A walkable neighborhood placed high on my list when shopping for homes in Texas (it was up there with basement and second story, neither of which I got), but we discovered when we arrived in College Station that what I wanted doesn't exist.
Texas has nothing if not space, so life is more spread out. The heat and humidity between mid-spring and mid-fall make walking miserable. And traveling on foot - a way of life in Madison and Ann Arbor - just doesn't seem "the norm", most likely because the many born and bred Texans have dealt with the two previously-mentioned factors all their lives. Walking is so out of the ordinary, in fact, that since we've lived in Texas, multiple drivers have pulled over to ask us if we needed help when we were out walking in less than perfect weather conditions. (So while Texans may not like to walk, they take excellent care of and look out for those who do.)
Our recent trip to Madison reminded me how much I miss living in a community built for walkers. I want to think of walking as the default, not the exception, and I want my kids to think the same way. I want all of us to reap the health benefits and contribute to the positive environmental impact associated with driving less and walking more. We do our best - as I mentioned above, we often walk when others wouldn't even consider it - by always walking to and from school and taking longer weekend walks to a couple of parks, a swimming pool, and the donut shop, but I want more options, better sidewalks and paths, and…let's face it...cooler weather.
College Station has a lot going for it, but when it comes to walking, Madison takes the cake.
And yes, cake is within walking distance from my parents' house.