Editor’s Note: The following commentary was submitted by South Tempe resident Robert Hall.
Like so many others, I’ve become addicted to my Fitbit. Since wrapping it around my wrist last February, I’ve logged more than 3,000 miles—miles in the Grand Canyon, miles in the Canadian Rockies, but most interestingly of all, miles in my hometown of Tempe.
Tired of walking the same circuitous route around my neighborhood, I set out last June to walk every street from
end to end in the square mile between Rural Road, Elliot Road, McClintock Drive and Warner Road.
I’ve lived within this square mile for nearly 30 years, but was amazed at how little of it I had actually seen. Henry David Thoreau was indeed correct when he wrote, “It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves.”
Breaking free from the beaten track, I discovered a world of beauty that included interesting architecture, unique landscaping, animal life I thought existed only in more rural areas, and people like me living in their own little worlds.
I was hooked and a plan took shape. A Google map of each of Tempe’s 40 square miles was printed and posted on a bulletin board in my garage.
A second copy, along with a highlighter, was used to guide me, and off I’ve walked each morning, just me and my thoughts.
Tempe, like all cities, has its share of what some might call “sketchy neighborhoods,” but none I would consider dangerous. And overall, having walked every street south of
the Rio Salado, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Green belts and parks, public art, and friendly people walking, biking, skating or zooming around on scooters are just part of the charm. The city offers a world-class canal system, gorgeous man-made lakes, and even neighborhood lending libraries.
Moreover, moving from south to north in the city is like moving back in time. Like the strata one sees in the Grand Canyon, the architectural design of homes reflects epochs in Tempe’s development.
Personally, while I more than appreciate the conservationism we have embraced in Tempe, I must admit the older neighborhoods with their tree-lined streets offer a much-needed break from the desert landscaping so common here in the Valley.
On the other hand, I’ve also noticed that many of the older neighborhoods lack an association to enforce a sense of what I would consider common decency.
Homeowners associations can in fact be too intrusive if left unchecked but so can the homeowner who decides to park the RV in front of the house, allows weekends to have free reign of the front yard, or opts to neglect upkeep of the property altogether.
Ultimately, however, this right to choose which type of neighborhood in which to live is purely American, so I embrace I, just as I embrace most of the personal touches people give to their homes.
Not a single morning in the past six months have I dreaded getting up and venturing forth. There is always something interesting to see, and (unencumbered with electronics of any kind) always something on which to expend my mental energy.
I won’t go so far as to say that his daily ritual has changed my life, but it has helped provide me with a much more relaxed view of the world and my place in it…a fresh perspective, if you will.
In a society that prides itself in being connected, it is wonderful to be out of touch for a few hours each day. So, for those who love to travel as I do, bon voyage on your next journey to Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, or South and Central America. But don’t neglect North America, the United States, Arizona or your own town.
The latter offers some treasures just waiting to be discovered.