Wednesday, October 28, 2015

cars, cars and more cars

Culture shock. That’s what’s going on in this woman right now. I had heard it was going to be different, but then again, difference is what makes exploring interesting. 

We have just finished our move from downtown Richmond VA to Tysons Corner VA, this past weekend. Richmond is a beautiful city with a historic downtown area, sporting an ancient State Capitol complex that graces downtown with gardens, statuary and a fountain. There are cobblestone streets nearby with tiny, unique restaurants, welcoming coffee shops, friendly bookstores, the James Center YMCA and my beautiful, restless James River.  All this was two blocks from our apartment. My awesome job was a mere 5 blocks uptown. Walk score: 82

I really haven't spent much time behind the wheel of a car since we sold our suburban house in 2009, and I didn't drive much then either. The grocery store was 2 blocks, my job was a 30-minute walk and the kids were able to walk to elementary, middle and high schools. Church was a 20-minute walk and Grandma’s house was not much further. I’m not a big fan of cars. I like walking. I really, really like walking.

Now we live at the intersection of two big roads. One of them is legendary: Interstate 495, the Capital Beltway. I can see it from my 12th floor window, a constant stream of moving lights. It’s entrance and exit ramps are part of the foundational infrastructure of this place. All lesser roads mere specks in it’s eye. The other road is an old town connector, State Route 7, Leesburg Pike, constructed in 1933, from cowpaths. Today it is 6 lanes of stop and go traffic with feeder lanes running parallel to it to allow access to all the gas stations and quickie marts that line it through Tysons Corner. Walk score: 49

Did I mention the malls? There are two here in this quadrant of the Corner. One grander than the other, with all the dead-end loading docks and circular routes around parking garages that mark commerce as we know it today. The outer ring of roadway below my window, between my apartment and the mall, is 7 lanes wide.

There are sidewalks. Lots and lots of decorative pavement connecting areas together, but only where it looks good. There are huge gaps in the functionality of that pedestrian thread. I looked at the 45-minute trek to the regional library today on the satellite view online and couldn't quite figure out how to navigate the journey across highway ramps on foot. 

I am not going to let this daunt me. I will walk this place. If it means climbing down embankments and going the long way around to get to the safe sidewalks, I will know this land from the ground up. I will explore it’s parking lots and trails. I will go North, East, South and West as far as my legs will carry me. 

This bus goes to "Layover".