Tag: walks

The Old Fellow on the Bike Path

There is an old fellow I would see on my morning walks along the bike path. He was talk, lanky, with a handlebar mustache. He stooped slightly as a he walked. He always said good morning to me as we passed. He reminded me of the actor Sam Elliott. This old fellow walked slowly, carefully, and I was nearly always by himself as far as I could remember.

And then I didn’t see him any more.

At first, I didn’t think too much about this. I usually listen to a book while I walk, and depending on how absorbed I am in the book, I don’t notice much of my surroundings. Thinking about it, I don’t remember seeing much of him in the winter, and I suppose I thought he avoided the cold weather. Then I didn’t see him in the spring. He looked old to me, but I am a poor judge of age. In any case, I began to fear the worst.

Then this morning, to my great delight, there he was, walking past me in the opposite direction. We passed one another around the same spot that we always did, saying our good mornings. I probably had a bigger smile than I usually did. I felt a tremendous sense of relief, a letting go of tension that I didn’t realize I’d been holding on to. The old fellow was on the bike path again.

Walking every day is good exercise, I am told. I often think of exercise as physical and perhaps mental, but not emotional. And yet, I was delighted and relieved to see the old fellow on the bike path this morning. It probably did me more good than walking the bike has all week. I’m not sure why. As a creature of habit, I tend to follow the same path each morning, around roughly the same time. I see the same faces. I don’t know any names or backgrounds. But there is a familiarity there, a kind of camaraderie that comes from sharing the bike path at the same time each day.

Northern Virginia is not like small town Maine where everyone waves to everyone else, friend and stranger alike. But on the bike paths, things seem different. People smile as they pass. They say good morning. If they have dogs, the dogs stop to chat while they are out walking their owner. There is a sense of the familiar, even though there is no familiarity beyond passing by each morning.

The tension that built up when I didn’t see the old fellow on the bike path was a kind of hidden tension. I didn’t realize it was there until I saw him again and it left. It makes me wonder what other tensions lie hidden within. And what was it about not seeing the old fellow that created that tension in the first place?

Seeing the old guy this morning made me realize how important just seeing other people is to my morning walk. It is at least as important as the exercise I get from the walk. Even when all we do is pass by, smile, and perhaps, say good morning.

My Morning Fix

It has been 54 days since I gave up caffeine. Ever since, I have been relying on my morning walk to take over as my morning fix. I look forward to the walk before I fall asleep at night, in the same way I used to look forward to a Coke in the morning.

My walk takes me through the park next to the house and then I follow the bike paths northeast about a mile and a quarter until I come to our local 7-Eleven. There, I buy myself an orange juice for the walk home. It is another mile and a quarter back, making for a round trip of two and half miles. It takes me about 45 minutes. I usually listen to an audio book while I walk.

I am especially fond of bright, sunny mornings. The sun feels rejuvenating. There are lots of people out, walking, running, biking. I see familiar faces, even though I don’t know the names that go along with them. Overcast mornings aren’t bad, but I like the sunshine better. In 54 days in giving up caffeine, weather hasn’t really prevented my walk.

Going to bed last night it was raining, and the rain was supposed to continue throughout the day today and into Saturday morning. I was a little worried I might not be able to get out for my walk in the morning. It was reminiscent of those days when I went to bed knowing there was no Coca Cola left in the house, and that I’d need to run to the store in the morning if I wanted my caffeine.

And, indeed, I woke up to a steady rain. I paced the house, feeling restless, wondering what I’d do if I didn’t go for my walk. It wasn’t pouring out, but the rain was steady and showed no signs of pausing for 45 minutes for me to squeeze in my walk. Finally, my desire to walk overcame the rain. I got a sturdy umbrella out of the car, and set out.

I made it less than half a mile before the skies opened up and it poured. I tried to keep myself under my umbrella. The sound of the rain was so loud on the umbrella that I couldn’t hear my audio book and had to give it up. But I kept walking. I saw maybe half a dozen other people out braving the weather on the bike paths. Only one of them had an umbrella. The others embraced the rain. I wasn’t rushed. I try not to rush my morning walks. I accepted that my shoes were soaked, but the rest of me stayed relatively dry.

I made it to 7-Eleven, got my orange juice, and headed back. On my way back, I paused on bridge that crosses a stream to watch the normally placid water churn. I often pause on the bridge on the way back. You can see the my 15 seconds of Zen in the video below.

I made it home with wet shoes, but otherwise very happy that I got out for my walk this morning. I feel like I got in my morning fix and I can now proceed with the rest of my day.

15 seconds of Zen on a rainy morning

Morning Walks in Spring

Spring is the best time of year for morning walks. Winters are cold. Summers are hot. Fall has a chill in the air and you know it is getting colder. Spring mornings sometimes have a chill in the air, too, but you know the days are warming up and that makes all the difference.

Of all the springs mornings to walk on, I especially like those mornings that are clear and sunny. This morning I woke up, took a look out the window, and could see blue sky. The sun hadn’t come up yet, but there were hints of it in the east. My thoughts immediately turned to talking my morning walk. Even on colder mornings (It’s in the 40s as I write this) there is something about walking with my face pointed toward the sun that is rejuvenating. It makes me feel warm even though the air is cold.

A snapshot of this morning's walk.
A snapshot of this morning’s walk

There are a lot of people out in my area early in the morning. Some of them are walking. Some of them are running. There are bikers and dog-walkers. Sometimes I see someone doing yoga or mediating out on the big field of the park that I pass through. Some people raise a hand in hello. Others nod, or say a muffled, “Good morning,” through their mask. (The walkers, I note, tend to wear masks; the runners and bikers often do not.) I’m a smiler, but it is hard to convey a smile with a mask on. So I’ll nod or say good morning.

The park, just after sunrise.
The park, just after sunrise.

The hellos and good mornings are much more subdued in this area than they are when I take my mornings walks in Florida or in Maine. People there speak clearly, and are easily heard. “Good morning!” as opposed to a begrudging “‘Morning” in this area. In Maine everyone waves to one another. Even the people in the cars that pass by on the street. Walkers in Maine in Florida seems generally more cheerful and neighborly than those around here. I wonder if it is because many of the people in Maine and Florida are either on vacation or retired?

I encounter plenty of wild life on my morning walks, and look forward to it. In the spring, especially, I feel a little sad on those mornings when I don’t see ducks in the stream. Sometimes I’ll catch a few deer at their breakfast. Other times, I’ll run into our neighborhood fox. There are all kinds of birds. Often I can hear the rat-tat-tat of a woodpecker or two. Occasionally, I even spot one.

One of my ducks, bathing in the stream.
One of my ducks, bathing in the stream this morning

Halfway through my walk is a 7-Eleven where I buy an orange juice. It is my turnaround point. I return to the bike path from the 7-Eleven, shaking my juice, and then open it up once I am back on the trail. I take my time drinking it. Before the next break in the trail, where a street passes through, there is a recycling bin. I try to time finishing my juice just as I pass the bin so I can toss the empty bottle in.

I always listen to an audio book on my walk. Lately, I’ve been listening to books on the history of computing, and because I have a strange memory, I always remember where I was when I read a book. So thinking of my morning walks these days reminds me of these books. And since I enjoy the books, it adds to the delight of these morning walk.

These morning walks help wake me up. On my way back, I usually begin to think about the work I have ahead of my, planning it out in the back of my mind. I try to resist this, but it inevitably creeps in. I’m okay with that. I means when I get home, I know what I need to do and can started without any preliminaries.

Instead, I sit down and the keyboard, and as I begin to work, I also begin to daydream about tomorrow morning’s walk.

Spring walks and spring showers

I took the first of my spring walks this evening. It was great. I got good weather on my birthday. It was just about as warm as it was in Orlando, Florida this past weekend. The temperature when I headed out the door was a balmy 81 degrees.

Sometimes, I read when I walk. I grabbed my paperback copy of I. Asimov and read while I walked at a leisurely pace and it was great. The air smells like spring, and the traffic is light enough in my neighborhood that I need only glance up to look for traffic when I cross the street. I love spring walks and reading when I walk is delightful, although it may look odd to those around me.

Halfway through my walk, the skies opened up.

Shoved my paperback into the back of my jeans and flipped my shirt over it so that it wouldn’t get wet. (I’m very protective of my books.) And I made for home. That is: I ran. For the first time, I really felt that all the cardio had paid off. I ran at a good clip all the way home. I was already nearly halfway through my walk, so I’d say I ran somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 mile. This wasn’t a jog, but a good run. And when I got to my door, I was only barely winded (although soaked). Within a few minutes, my heart rate returned to normal and it was as though I never ran. I really surprised myself.

The rain stopped about the time I got to my door, a true spring shower. Oh, and my book is fine. Not a drop of water made contact with its surfaces.