I earned my dinner by walking my 10k steps around Melbourne this evening. Fittingly, my bracelet buzzed just as I walked back into my hotel room. I checked the Melbourne map in Google before setting off to measure the scale of the CBD, and decided I could do the full width easily for a walk.
I really need to spend some time on a holiday here, because there are so many places that look ideal for the daytime that I’ll never get to on a business trip. Nice parks, just outside the bounds of the CBD, but too far from work to make for an easy trip in a lunch break. Unless I have a really unconscionably long lunch break that is.
I returned with a nice salami pizza that is now gone, a large bottle of pear cider that’ll last me the rest of the evening, and two donuts to try later. I briefly considered the Key Lime Pie donuts, but now that Android 4.4 has been renamed KitKat, I just didn’t see the point.
I think I got a good 5km walk in and now I deserve a rest, before I have to dive into the paperwork to prepare for tomorrow.
Have you ever heard of Scrumpy? No? … Go to your local liquor store, do yourself a favour, and look for some.
Essentially, it’s apple cider, only better.
You know how a good cider can have just the right amount of sweetness? Not too sickly sweet, but also not too tart or sour? … You know how it just smoothly slides down your throat and makes you feel like one is never enough?
Okay, Scrumpy does away with all that; it is slightly too bitter, it rasps your tongue in a not entirely comfortable way, and it makes your head swim like the bouncer at the local club just decided it wasn’t your day… and yet… you still want a second one. Make that a third!
Scrumpy is a disorienting experience that’s very hard to resist. And it’s also why this post probably will not make as much sense to you as it did to me inside my head as I was writing it.
I have walked regularly for a while now. I think it was the FitBit that kicked me into gear. It may sound silly, but after a while with a FitBit I have started to want to please the dashboard. Every time it sends me a big smiley face when I make my goal for the day, it reinforces my desire to walk the next day. To make that 10,000 steps. To make the very active minute quota.
But I bore easily, so added on top of that I’m trying to walk as many streets as I can. Some I hit more often than others, but I try to add side-streets that I haven’t tried on each subsequent walk.
It is proving a great way to see things I normally don’t see.
To get a perspective I normally lack.
I still remember one of the earlier visits by my mother to Australia. (I’m originally from the Netherlands, so family have to make a 20-hour journey to come see me)
I had just started renting all by myself, and as you might imagine, being all by myself on the other side of the planet, furniture wasn’t accumulating like it does when you have aunts, uncles and grand-parents with things they don’t really need any more (that is: want an excuse to replace… any excuse will do).
After talking about the local home-maker centre I had been to in Prospect, we decided to go have a visit and look at some lounges that I had seen.
We took the train to Blacktown, and had a walk from there.
Anyone that knows the area will already see the problem with this statement. But we asked passing cars about the distance, and they keenly suggested that it surely wasn’t more than a 15-20 minute walk away.
We don’t mind walking. So we walked.
For those less familiar with Australian/Sydney geography; the distance between Blacktown Station and Prospect Home-Maker Centre is about 4.5km; a good 60 minute walk in a hilly suburb.
My point is this.
When your main way of moving about is in a car, you lose your sense of perspective about the world around you. Everything seems closer. Everything seems smaller. Because the point about driving is to minimise the amount of time you spend in your car.
What made me think of that story on my walk today were the signs and toll gates along the M7.
How large would you say they are?
Okay, your car needs to fit through, so larger than a car. Actually, larger than a truck. But how large really?
Who cares! Zoom! Look, I’m through.
Who cares how large it is!?
But as I was walking along the M7 today, the path came level with one of those great big square green signs we all see every day as we drive past an exit. How large would you say one of them is?
Standing right next to it, I was startled to realise it was easily twice as tall as I am. And just about as wide. And yet, even standing next to it, in my memory it was much smaller.
I am starting to notice how many details I miss in the car. Beautiful spots along the way, comfortable benches set away from the traffic, short-cuts carved out between blocks of houses.
The problem with driving is that it is about destinations. There is nothing separating A from B, other than a high-speed blur that distorts the world.
It’s hard to get an appreciation for how large your neighbourhood is until you try to walk through it. Around it.
And in the process you’ll discover that between A and B there are stretches of distances that also contain places.
And you’ll get to enjoy noticing things you otherwise never notice. And you’ll get time to see things you otherwise only glimpse. And you’ll get to smell the world! Which in summer can be a very worthwhile experience in its own right.
And then… once you get home… you’ll get to crash on the lounge in front of Breaking Bad and do nothing, smug in the knowledge that you did more today than most other people did.
Wednesdays like any other have more Ken in them in the evening. Unfortunately (for me) he is currently travelling around Asia having what he calls a “Holiday”; I’m not sure I am fully familiar with the word, but I gather it involves not going to work for extended periods of time.
So instead, I decided to walk.
I wasn’t too hungry yet after having improvised lunch at work which consisted of chocolate and chips because I had too many meetings to get away from my desk today. So, I resolved to park along the Stanhope Parkway once again and walk my way to the shops.
2000 steps each way.
I doubt that equates to the 6-inch Subway I had, but it’ll definitely have burned off a small part of it. And it helped me get a little closer to the 10k target for the day. I think I’ll stall around 8000, which is a good enough effort considering my job consists of sitting and moving numbers around.
I had the Italian B.M.T. (toasted of course), with not too much lettuce, and everything else (except jalapenos and carrot). Aside: who ever asks for carrot on their Subway sandwich anyway? Carrot doesn’t go with anything they serve.
It took me less than getting halfway back to my car before the sandwich was gone.
The evening was actually very comfortable for t-shirt and shorts tonight. And the stars were all out.
I was even treated to a loud chorus of frogs and crickets as I walked past the ponds. I briefly considered scaring the ducks, but then I remembered I was neither 2 years old nor particularly cruel.
My original plans for the day fell through, so I was suddenly faced with seas of time. My day always starts with a simple sequence of: shower, weigh, check sleep pattern and log weight on PC, and then on from there. Today I spent another hour or so typing up some notes before doing anything of consequence.
I drove to Rouse Hill first. I had a shirt to return to Jay Jays; apparently in some shirts I’m not even a Medium at the moment. I have no idea when that happened. It took the shop assistant some time to find me a small to exchange. There didn’t seem to be any, but the system said there should be. Turned out there had moved across the store in the intervening week.
Then I walked the block of the shops, and decided to grab a 2-and-5-Juice at Boost to enjoy in the sunshine before heading home.
After recovering at home and eating some cookies (I hadn’t had lunch yet at this point), I decided to go walk up and down Stanhope Parkway. I drove my way there and parked in a side-street.
I had decided I needed to park in a side-street on the side of the Stanhope Gardens shops. Because that was the only way to walk a loop all the way along the parkway without crossing my own path. Because I had to do some shopping, and I decided I’d arrange it so that would be the shortest part of the walk.
I should have just parked at the Stanhope Gardens shops right off the bat and walked the lap from there. I had a shopping list with me, and I hadn’t looked carefully yet. I had decided that the shopping couldn’t be much of an issue anyway.
After walking up and down the Parkway for 90 minutes, carrying 10kg in each hand for another kilometre isn’t actually as trivial as it had seemed in my mind. Additionally, the 10kg back of clay litter didn’t have a handle, so I had to keep swapping hands carrying the bags to give my hands a rest.
It took a while to get back to the car.
But as a reward, as I walked into the shops, my bracelet got all excited telling me I’d passed the 10k steps mark for the day. So there is that at least.
I didn’t do much besides watching Breaking Bad for the rest of the day.
I’ve regularly been taking walks to get to my 10,000-steps-a-day goal. The FitBit has been very demanding of me, and I have been very obliging. Today was the longest walk so far; I’m starting to drive to different places to start from so that I don’t get stuck looking at the same scenery over and over again.
I had decided a week ago that I wanted to walk the length along the railway line between Quakers Hill and Marayong, and either walk back or use the train to return. But scoping out the area at night I wasn’t sure this was a suitable night walk… especially because I like to get lost in my headphones while I walk which leaves me with little sense of my surroundings.
So today, my chores already done, I decided that I may as well go for it in the remaining daylight. All told, I started my walk at about 3:26pm and I made it back to the car by 4:41pm. Inbetween my pedometer went from 5915 steps made earlier in the day to a staggering 14925 by the time I was home again where my PC could tell me what the FitBit had counted for me.
What I enjoy most about the walks whether they are during the daylight or in the night, is really seeing the areas that I otherwise only ever drive through at more than 50km/h. The houses, the flora and the scenery all become a lot more interesting when they do not leave streaking trails through my viewfinder.
One thing that struck me today is the overwhelming oddity of the houses along Railway Road with the looming M7 in the background. The area where this cuts through Quakers Hill is one that I rented in quite a while ago. Back when there was no M7 even being constructed. It really dwarfs the houses when I looked at it from todays perspective.
Although to be fair, they have done an excellent job at isolating the noise, because even when I was walking right underneath it didn’t sound like there was a major highway overhead.
I also came across a couple of entries and exits that lead to the cycle path along the M7. The sign declared that I could reach Castle Hill and Mount Druitt by taking the ramp; I’m not entirely sure whether I am prepared to believe either is a simple trip on the bike.
It didn’t feel like Marayong was as far away as I had expected, but just as I was climbing the incline towards the station my wrist band buzzed merrily suggestion that I had in fact already covered 4000-odd steps. In my mind this meant I was about halfway, but in reality that wasn’t quite true.
Still, at that point the sun decided to return when it had been threatening to rain. I was entirely prepared to return home soaking if need be; I don’t mind the prospect of rain when I am on my way home… I only detest it when I am on my way somewhere else.
As I turned onto Quakers Road it dawned on me how close I’d be coming to Illabo Street where I once rented. I considered walking up that way until I realised it’d be up-hill and closer to Railway Road where I had just passed than where I was walking now.
Still, it made me fondly remember the wooden floors, and slightly less fondly the musty smelling air-conditioning unit in the wall, and the one time where the real estate agents were showing potential buyers through and decided to lock the door behind them with a lock that I didn’t have the key for.
And I came right past Quakers Court where I used to go for groceries and chips (not necessarily at the same time).
The suburb seems to have barely changed.
Except for that M7 again… this time I got to go over the top. It looks even roomier and sprawling on foot than it does as you zoom along it at 100km/h. It’s one of the few pieces of road infrastructure in Sydney that has been designed to accommodate whatever the future might demand of it. If the need arises they can easily fit another 2 lanes in each direction for additional traffic.
The last stretch of my walk went through Douglas Road, where the nominal shops of the centre Quakers Hill are. It looks like a bit of a sad bunch, but there are some delicious smelling Indian stores and take-aways along the way. The smells reminded me that I hadn’t officially had lunch, and it was getting close to dinner time.
As I turned the corner and started walking back towards the station, I saw a bench with some kids in the distance. I wasn’t paying too much attention until one of them started madly waving at me and tried to tell me something over the noise in my ears.
*unplug one ear*
Me: “What was that?”
Kid: “Mister, can you loan us some money?”
Me: *glances at little store they are sitting across from*
Kid: “You look rich!”
Me: “Sorry kids…”, *keeps walking*
I admire the guts, and I even admire the hopeful attempt at terrible flattery (I guess it is possible that to a kid his age my sunglasses and bluetooth headset might have exuded wealth beyond belief), but I’m not sure I should be encouraging them to beg for money from strangers on the street by giving in.
And now my legs have that wonderful weary feeling to them. I think it’ll be a few more weeks before the walking is sufficiently routine for my legs to catch up completely.
Today was very full. I woke up at 6:50am from the knock on the door. Breakfast. Early. Nghmf.
On the upside it meant I was well in time for my 8am meeting in the office. On the downside, it was a long long day. By about 4:30pm my brain was trying to tell me the day was supposed to be over.
I managed to squeeze a quick lunch in with my coworkers between 11:30am and noon. Tomorrow we have a slot set aside for the Sherlock Holmes (yes, Peter, I’ll be taking pictures this time!)
Tonight we had dinner somewhere near the big shopping plaza, in some nondescript alley that looked inviting. Very pleasant wait-staff and delicious food. When I got back to the hotel my bracelet told me I hadn’t made 10k steps yet, so I went out for another walk along the river where I took most of my pictures tonight.
Unfortunately it is quite cold out there, so I didn’t get very far before I felt like getting back to my room, to the warmth, to a cup of green tea.
Most days I don’t get to my 10000 daily steps. My FitBit is very happy to point out how far I fall short. Tonight, 3500 steps just didn’t seem like an acceptable total.
So I went outside and had a walk in the dark.
I didn’t quite make 10000, but I think I got close enough for my comfort.
Add on top of that a nice solid 36 minutes of being “very active” apparently, and I almost feel like the FitBit dashboard is complimenting me. Below are some shots I captured along the way with my mobile, so excuse the poor low-light quality.
I may make night-walks a more regular part of my routine. Or at least walks in general. It’s very satisfying when the FitBit does its happy little buzz when I meet a goal and I don’t feel that nearly often enough!