Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Walk Home...or Two Miles of Sheer Pleasure...

I think this post may be a bit boring for all of the ladies (and men) who usually visit for J. Crew or fashion related stuff, but I love my walk home. It is like a beautiful study in contrasts. On one hand you have the real gritty feel of a walk in a city, and then halfway through, you enter into a world of suburbia and trees. This is why I walk home (besides the fact that it is about a MILLION times better than driving--I grew up in NOVA and driving here STRESSES me out). I love being able to see an area that coexists side by side that is so different, like night and day (I know I just used a very tired simile). This is my two-mile walk home (which I sometimes reverse to walk to school). I do this walk upwards of three times a week.

This is the beginning of my walk. I exit the school building and there are the school buses (by the way, why is it spelled buses and not busses?). This view I love because it means I am going home and I get to see my kids!

This is the medical building across from where I teach. You can see this building from 395. It is an interesting mid-century building and has a very austere sort of presence. I like that this building exists and hasn't been torn down. It seems a lot of folks don't like this particular architectural style, but it is important (especially if the building is sound) to leave a few examples of this type of building up in the world. If you tear down every building from this period, there will be no more physical proof of them in the world, and frankly, that would be sad.

On a personal note, this is where Rex and CW have their doctor, the awesome Dr. Brendan Sullivan. Their office is moving to a location even closer to our house, but for now they are still here. I will mention, for full disclosure, that even though I think this building is really cool-looking, it has horrible parking and the elevators are atrocious. So it really is no wonder that our doctors are leaving.

There is a personal reason I took this photo. There used to be a restaurant called Steak and Ale here, and my dad, brother, grandpa, and I used to go here all the time. It closed in 1990 or something like that, but here it still stands, unoccupied in 2009. Wow. I wonder what the inside looks like. The only use this building has is its parking lot, used by the doctors of the building in the picture before this one.

Okay, this I put this picture up because I sometimes think I am the only one who follows this rule. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people (children from my school, too) ignore this sign and cross over the road that leads to the highway. IDIOTS. IDIOTS! People in their cars drive like maniacs and here are our precious darlings crossing in front of them to save what, two minutes at most? Give me a break. It's not like the pedestrian overpass is much safer(you'll see in the photo after the next one), but more safe than what most people do. Seriously, people, if the sign is there, it is there for a reason. Ugh.

Okay, here is one of my favorite views during my walk. Seen from the pedestrian walkway, the Southern Towers of western Alexandria rise from the flat earth like some sort of brick amazons. I also like the way these buildings line up just is fairly obvious that the architect had that in mind when placing the buildings in this arrangement. These are more buildings done in the mid-century style (most of this area was built up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s). Now I don't know when it was built exactly, but from the brief research I just did, sometime between '60 and '65 seems right.
I wouldn't necessarily say to people, "oh, go live there," but I do love the way it looks and how you can see it from many places in Alexandria. I bet the views from the top floors are spectacular, too!

Okay, here is the most unsafe part of my walk (thank God it is brief). Crossing over 395, pedestrians are forced to walk on this thin bit of concrete next to traffic that is OBLIVIOUS to the walkers. I swear I have seen cars whizzing by at upwards of 50 mph. I am not even kidding. I always give mean, dirty looks, but they probably don't give a cr**. This bus was even going pretty fast (at around 40 mph). Good thing I have good balance. I would hate to accidentally fall and have a car run me over at a fast clip. Really what the city of Alexandria needs to do is install a guardrail on the other side of the sidewalk (not just the part that protects you from falling onto 395). That could help this walk a bit.
In the distance you can see the Mark Center Hilton. Yet another high-rise on my walk home.

Here is the view of late-afternoon (Wednesday in early February 2009) traffic on 395 Southbound. You will notice that the middle HOV lanes are empty. I guess very few people have the requisite 3 people or Clean-fuel car to use the lanes. We always get to use the the 2 kids plus 2 adults equals four, one more than is needed. That said, the traffic in the regular lanes wasn't too bad the day of this walk. I have seen it WAY WORSE. I always like to think that every once in a while, someone will look up from their car and feel a slight jab of jealousy that I get to walk home. I know I used to feel that way when I worked in the District and had a heinous commute!

So now on this photographic journey we are officially in my neighborhood. This is when the skyline loses the large buildings (well, barring this set of homes which gets to see the Mark Center Hilton). Now the homes are low to the ground and modest. There are trees everywhere and if you sit in one place, cars don't whiz by constantly (even though some people use the 'hood as a cut-through). It is so second you feel like you are in a mini-city, and then the next second, you feel like you are in the most suburban neighborhood on the planet.

Our neighborhood was pretty much built at the same time as all the buildings featured in the pics above, mid-50s to mid-60s. There are some later homes, but they are at the fringes of the neighborhood. We are a mid-century neighborhood. This is a perfect example of a mid-century home. It has the split-level entrance and lots of windows, brick and siding, and a mix of different types of windows (some sliding, some small, some large).

Here is another set of perfectly placed mid-century modern homes.
For more on these types of homes and neighborhoods, visit mid-century Mike over at his blog:

So here I am, mid-walk, no make-up, listening to my IPOD (ancient...from 2004), with my Vera Bradley Medallion backpack. I am not vain enough not to show you how much I love this walk, even if it means you people get to see me with no makeup. By the way, this was that day that was SO PRETTY...something like 70 degrees. IN FEBRUARY! Gotta love the DC Area weather...

So this is into the neighborhood a bit, and I took a pic of this intersection because it bothers me so much! The car that you see has a stop sign, while the cars that would pass his path do not. It irks me to no end that these cars with the stop sign will not even bother pausing after they stop because they just ASSUME that the other cars have a stop sign. We have nearly gotten into multiple accidents because of this. I say either install stop signs for all of us, or make it blatantly clear to the people with the stop sign that the other traffic has no stop sign. I think this intersection is a problem because this is a jurisdictional no-mans land...this is RIGHT at the border between Alexandria City and the Alexandria part of Fairfax County (aka the "forgotten part of Fairfax County). Sigh.

This car is right at the end of our street. I always know I am really close to my house when I see this incomprehensible bumper sticker. I figure the person who drives it is an uber-feminist, but the sticker is real tough to understand. My husband and I love discovering really obscure bumper stickers and lucky for us, one is on our block! Hurrah! Any thoughts on what this sticker means exactly?

Almost home...yippee! I hope you have enjoyed the walk. If you read this whole post, you are either: 1) Roxie; 2) someone related to me; 3) REALLY bored at work; 4) fascinated by mid-century stuff like me; or 5) into mundane things and how people can talk about their lives without end. :)
By the way, part of my 30-plus pound weight loss has been from my walks to and from school. I think I will keep it up!


anna said...

o-m-g... i am #4 and #5, by the way, and i enjoyed that post SO much! like every single bit of it! you are SO much like me, i dont know where to start. i live in a VERY mid-century modern building by mies van der rohe in chicago (i was born in this building too! grew up in st louis, but when i came back to chicago i bought in the very same bldg my parents lived in!)...
it might sound wierd, but what doesnt to a stranger on a blog: we would probably be friends in real life. the way you post, the way you say things, what you choose to say - we are so alike! i have always wanted to blog my drive to work, and what each 'monument' means to me, etc... but havent had the time or courage.
you are awesome, keep it up. lovely.
ps, im thinking of starting a blog about my weight loss journey for my wedding... it might intimidate me into keeping it up and staying in line! your honesty and coolness makes me think i could do it too!
have a GREAT day. like the BEST day!
:) happies!!!!


Anonymous said...

I walk my daughter to and from school everyday. It is about 12 minutes one way. The road is narrow and big double decker buses go whizzing by very fast in places. (We live in the UK--we are expats.) I will miss the walking when we move back to the US. I am so used to it now. I walk the doctor, to the shops, etc. No need for a car.

Joyce said...

Your post made me homesick. I grew up off of Telegraph Road and always thought I'd live off of those high rises. My father took me for my "first date" to that Steak and Ale! We used eat at Generous George's too.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I forgot to add I already documented our walks throughout our English town and put them in a scrapbook......

HeidiG said...

I really enjoyed your post about your walk! Ummm, so I guess I'm #5??

What I miss most about living in Bethesda (back in the newlywed, pre-kid days) was walking everywhere - especially out to dinner and back.

dinagideon said...

Anna: That is so funny that we have so much in common. I am constantly blown away by the fact that my friends that I see on a regular basis have way less in common with me than my internet friends.

You get to live in the same building you were born in? Wow. That is really cool. And it is a mies van der rohe? Even cooler.

I definitely would be one of your first followers if you were to start a blog...hint hint!

If you make it out to DC, we definitely have to do some "hanging." :) Maybe visit some cool mid-century homes!

Snea said...

WOW! Way to point me out like that! XD Yes, I read the whole thing b/c it was fascinating. X) I always wondered what paths you take when you walk home. Anywho's, Jess says hi, even though she's currently screaming at the "stupid idots" in the horror/suspense movie I can't sit still for. :D

see you thursday!

dinagideon said...

Anon at 11:38: I lived in your great country for six months and loved it. Although we were out in the boonies (near Grantham)...we still walked everywhere. My mother is European-born (to a German mother and American father) and although I was only raised by her briefly, her love for walking was instilled in me and now I walk a lot more than most Americans I know. Around here, in the DC area, it is more common to walk than maybe in Houston, but I still get strange looks when I walk into school all red-cheeked from my exercise.

Where are your pics of your walk posted? They sound lovely!

dinagideon said...

Anon: Oops, I just put your pics in a scrapbook. Maybe you can make it into an internet scrapbook? Just a thought!

dinagideon said...

Joyce: We live in the tiniest world imaginable. I love that you grew up here. I actually go to Lee District constantly (near your old stomping grounds of Telegraph). I also love that you know of the exact Steak and Ale I speak of...hilarious. :) I always thought we were so swank whenever we went. I guess kids are easily impressed. I think there may be one in Richmond that still operates (near the intersection of Broad and 64). That said, I have such fondness for these restaurants...sad to see the shell of its former self. Isn't Generous George's great? Yum! We even have a favorite waiter, that is how much we go there.

dinagideon said...

HeidiG: Thanks for reading the whole thing! #5 is not a bad thing to be...I would say that is true of 99% of the things I read on the internet!

We have been known to venture out as a family from our house. There is a path right near us that leads to the Mark Center shops (including Starbucks, yum). Bethesda has it MADE when it comes to walking, though. We actually make it to Bethesda once a month, usually to eat at the new Louisiana Express (renamed Louisiana Kitchen). I was reading a recent copy of SELF or HEALTH and I think it had Bethesda ranked as the best place to live based on health factors! Good for you, Bethesda!

dinagideon said...

Roxie: As my first and best fan of this blog, I had a feeling you would be drawn into reading the WHOLE entire post! SO you are #1, haha. :)

Anonymous said...


Hi again, we have lived in the UK for two years. I know I will try and walk as much as I can (and won't care what other think like you) when we get back to the US:) Great way not to gain weight too! Cheers:)