If you’ve lived in the same town for a majority of your life, how do you take a fresh look at it? Why not explore it, as my friend Tim Holt did? He explored 385 miles of the city he lives in, having adventures in other people’s backyards!
Tim and I live in the same city. We both have been to Burning Man, and met for the first time because of this connection. He, with his daughter, converted a school bus into a rolling home that she currently uses. When he posted his map, I knew I had to ask him what it was like to walk every street and what fun things did he see?
Another trait we have in common? We both like taking photos and sharing the interesting things we see with others. I have to admit, after listening to him I went exploring some of the places he had been. Maybe you’ll be inspired to explore your town in a new way!
Mapping the City
During the pandemic Tim, who started a new position at HP, found himself sitting at the computer all day. He was never a runner or bicyclist, as many in Corvallis are, so – as “brain breaks”-he started taking walks during lunch. At the beginning, his walks radiated out from his house. Instead of walking the same blocks, he asked himself “why not mix it up?”
Tim started using the Citystrides app to keep track and to plan out his course most efficiently, and decided to not double back on any street. Citystrides is a running app, so he had to pretend he was running, which was funny to him because of the encouraging messages they would send, what he presumes they considered, “to a very slow runner.” To get the mileage, he used the Strava app for the GPS technology and imported it to Citystrides.
Using the apps was about optimization – he didn’t want to miss a street. He sheepishly admitted he did miss one in the south side of town, near a house where lived when he first moved here. He organized his walks by sections of town. At first he used the apps to figure out where to go, but as he progressed he became able to figure out routes on the fly.
His walks started as one hour, and then sometimes two. Eventually he enjoyed the project so much, he’d take 4-5 hour walks on the weekends. From walks around the block he ended up walking 10-13 miles a day, and once even did 17 miles. “It became a mindgame not to duplicate areas.”
On the map it looks like he missed areas. Tim described that some of the dirt roads seemed private, and he was very careful not to trespass. He also noted that many of the manufactured home neighborhoods have their own roads, and while shown on public maps, their roads are posted as private so he skipped those areas. The roads organized in grids were easier to plan than the curvier neighborhoods.
Tim’s Gear Increased Over the 385 Miles
In one of the nicer tract housing developments, Tim discovered cut throughs – designated easements- that enabled him to go from one cul-de-sac to the next. There were only two streets he didn’t walk down due his sense of safety.
One road near the neighboring rural town had loose dogs that were eyeing him. After that walk he started bringing dog treats with him. Another one south of downtown had pot plants – though while probably legal, he didn’t want to take chances of looking suspicious.
Tim listened to podcasts on his walk. At some point he discovered a deep-house radio station out of Cork, Ireland. The base beat helped him keep moving. Over the 385 miles he covered, he wore out his first pair of Hoka Trail Running shoes and feels he’s halfway through his second pair.
Tim started off bringing a bottle of water and a Cliff bar on his walks. “One stinking hot day I had finished my water, and was starting to feel dehydrated. I was out near the Brooklane Cemetery – too far from my car to get home for more water. Fortunately the cemetery has water spigots so people can water the flowers on the graves, which saved me. After that I bought a water backpack to make sure I always had enough H2O.” We laughed and said that backpack will be handy in the hot desert for Burning Man too.
“Secret sidewalks are the coolest thing.”
When asked, Tim couldn’t name one landmark that stood out the most for him. While he enjoyed the fairy gardens in the northwest part of town, the artsy yards on streets behind Les Schwab’s south location, and the murals in the alleyways of downtown – Tim decided he loved the secret paths and sidewalks between roads the best. These “secret sidewalks” aren’t marked on the map. Aside from the intriguing sights normally seen only by residents he enjoyed, these paths helped him stay efficient in his quest to not double back on streets as he could go from one cul-de-sac to the next.
Run for Mayor?
Throughout the time he walked, Tim wondered if anyone would stop him and ask what he was doing there. Finally, while walking his last street, he finally had a conversation with someone in that neighborhood who wanted to know what Tim was doing. Tim enjoyed the conversation, and was happy he had learned to bring dog treats because during the chat Tim helped the resident socialize their rescue dog.
Tim says that since he’s explored the entire city, his friends tease him about becoming Mayor. While he loves Corvallis even more, he has no desires to explore its politics. Tim mentioned he sees through the Citystrides app that there are others walking the street of town. He silently sends them encouragement to finish. Looking back, he feels great satisfaction in completing his adventure in getting to deeply know the place he’s lived all these years, street by street.
Are you inspired to explore your town with fresh eyes? Start with that first step, a walk around the block and maybe end up doing all the walks?