A Christmas walk

With Christmas landing on a Wednesday, we planned reduced hours for our office on Thursday and Friday to give a bit of extra time for Christmas celebrations. That meant that we had time for a nice walk on our city’s greenbelt system yesterday. We walked a couple of miles and got in a bit of exercise, just right for the day after having eaten a big celebration meal. The walk also gave us some time to talk and to do a bit of people watching. The people watching wasn’t very dramatic, because with the cold temperature and a few snowflakes in the air, the parks weren’t very busy yesterday. A few hearty hikers and bicyclers were out, but we had plenty of space to ourselves.

In just a few days we will begin a new decade. In some ways it seems surprising to me that I’m thinking about 2020. That seemed so distant when I was a child growing up. The turn of the century seemed like something that was far off. Then it arrived and Y2K was a bit of a computer programming problem, but not the huge disaster than some predicted. We didn’t experience any disruption in our lives caused by computers programmed over two digit date numbers.

I was thinking about changes and the end of the second decade of the century as we walked yesterday. At the beginning of our walk we met two people who were our riding electric scooters. One was on a two-wheeled “hover board” style device and the other on a more traditionally shaped scooter. We could hear the whine of their electric motors as they passed us. I’m pretty sure we wee walking faster than their scooters were transporting them.

I’ve never understood the appeal of electric scooters. I need the exercise of walking and I find it to be very pleasant to walk. When I want to enter a building or get in my car, there is no worry about how to store or transport a scooter. I can understand the appeal of a traditional scooter, which can enable one to go faster and provides a bit of fun and excitement to the journey, but the electric scooters seem to me to be sort of inefficient and not very useful as transportation devices.

There was a lot of hype nearly a couple of decades ago, in 2001 when Dean Kamen introduced the Segway scooter. The release of the device was shrouded in secrecy and there was a lot of build up. When we found out that the technological wonder was just a scooter, it seemed like quite a let down. Why purchase a vehicle for going places where you can easily walk? I guess there might be some people who have disabilities who could benefit from such a device, but it really doesn’t work for most types of mobility disorders. The inventor, Kamen, has made some truly innovative and wonderful wheelchairs and his contribution to mobility for those who might otherwise be dependent on others is wonderful. But the Segway, though promoted as self-balancing, is a challenge for first-time riders and takes a bit of learning to use. Its speed, 12 mph is just fast enough to be a problem on public walkways. That’s roughly three times a brisk walking pace, and perhaps four times as fast as those out for a leisurely stroll. Too fast for the walkway, the device is definitely too slow for streets where cars operate. The scooter has found a small niche market among meter readers and few other professions, but isn’t practical for letter carriers or package delivery services. At $400 and up, the device is a bit speedy for a toy.

The thing is that I like to walk. I like the way it makes me feel. Walking has a physical benefit and a psychological benefit as well. I remember a few years ago that the American Heart Association chose the figure of 10,000 steps as a good daily amount for heart health. Humans have evolved as creatures that are so well adapted to walking that when we don’t walk, there are definite health consequences. For those who are able daily walking can do a lot to help stem cardiovascular disease. Of course the 10,000 steps is an arbitrary number, but it is easy to remember and seems to have stuck. I have had a number of pedometers designed to count steps, but they suffered a variety of fates. A couple came to their demise when the belt clips broke. One made a trip through the lawn mower and another was spread across the lawn by the snowblower. I stopped wearing them after a number of failed attempts to keep the devices on my belt. However, in recent years my cell phone counts my steps and that has proven to be a useful measurement for me. 10,000 steps seems to be fairly close to my average daily walk. I’m not sure how accurate a device carried in my pocket is at counting steps. Since my wife has a similar phone we sometimes compare steps when we are doing the same thing together all day. When we travel, for example our days are very similar in terms of the amount of walking. Our phones never agree exactly on how far we have walked, however. So it is only a general guideline. From the perspective of that guideline, I’ve done pretty good this week. I recorded 14,200 steps on Monday. Tuesday was Christmas Eve - a long and busy day for me. I recorded 17,446 steps. Christmas day was 10,556 and yesterday was 10,888. Each person has a different pace, but 10,000 steps is about 4 1/2 miles for me. I try to get in about 5 miles of walking each day, which isn’t a problem. The hallways at the church are long and I can affect the number of steps by choosing to park farther from my intended destination and walking a bit. In downtown Rapid City, you can almost always find free parking within in a two-block walk. Our city is laid out just shy of eight block per mile, so you can get a quarter mile and save a dime by parking just off of Main Street.

So, I won’t be shopping for a scooter any time soon. I do give thanks that I am able to walk. It is a great way to get around.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!