Seven Days, 79.9 Miles, Walkin’

Ben Montgomery:

The sun beat hot and the humidity hung like plastic wrap. The blisters on my heels and toes had grown so fat it felt like I was stepping on cherries. I’d been on the road, on foot, for 11 hours, walking from Tampa to St. Petersburg and back, to … to what? I had no idea.

The project I had pitched to my editor seemed simple enough: For one week I’d shun my car and walk everywhere — to work, to the grocery store, to the park with the kids. I’d set off on a quest for answers.

Is it possible to live a normal life on foot in a car-centric place where so few walk? Can the walker survive — thrive even — in the second most dangerous place for pedestrians in the nation? Are there experiences in the city that can only be had on foot?

Even more elemental: Why don’t we walk anymore? And what have we lost?

4 thoughts on “Seven Days, 79.9 Miles, Walkin’

  1. Bill Bryson talked about this in Lost Continent. He drove to cities — and small — then tried to walk, and found it’s generally impossible without seeming crazy or in an emergency. Sad but true, especially in Florida, where even my sweet parents’ house gets a walkability score of 11 (out of 100) and we’ve got sidewalks!

  2. Nice piece, Ben. Very thought-provoking. You’ve obviously researched the hell out of walking history, which will be great for the book. Another footnote for your research: Check out A. Scott Berg’s biography of Lindbergh, who was, among many other things, a devoted walker. He talks a lot about “the life of the body and the life of the mind,” or words to that effect.

    I walked to work in Brooklyn. The contemplative effects were great for writing your lede in your head, plotting angles etc., but I also spotted stories that way. One day, for example, the metal grate hadn’t been raised on the coffee shop owned by a cantankerous local character, and I knew something was wrong. You can guess how that went.

    As we kept getting priced farther and farther out into the borough, my walk went from two miles round trip to four to eventually seven. It became necessary to stop for a beer (usually just on the way home). I never did walk 45 miles to a meeting. You might be overdoing it. As your friend, after reading your account, not to mention all the recent face-eating news out of Florida, I hope you will consider hitchhiking, y’know, for safety’s sake.

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