Walking Woes

1976-Frank has been out doing errands on this Sunday morning. As he comes back into the house he suggests, “Everyone get in the car and come with me. There’s a house for sale on Crest Road that I think we should all look at.”


We all pile into the car, and it doesn’t take long to understand why Frank is so excited: Crest Road is a beautiful, quiet street with large, overhanging Eucalyptus, Torrey pine, and Monterey cypress trees. Old houses, each one different and somewhat reminiscent of the East Coast, are set well back from the street. Some of the houses likely even have ocean views!


We drive slowly, north to south, along Crest. The road is relatively flat for Del Mar, with just a few gentle curves, and I can see how perfect it would be for our two young children, Josh and Jessa, who are just learning to ride their two-wheeled bikes. Perfect for walking our golden retriever, Torrey, too. The house is lovely; best of all, it has a welcoming Dutch door. The south-facing back yard is huge, and I can see and taste the vegetables that we might grow there. Six weeks later, the house is ours.


Fast forward 48 years. The children have grown and gone. We are now 82 years old. We are healthy for our ages and want to stay that way. The route to healthy aging is clear: Stay physically active, walk. 48 years ago, that was easy to do in this location. Today a walk along Crest Road seems treacherous on many days. Stop signs, speed bumps, chicanes have blossomed on the street in the passing years, all a futile attempt to reduce speeding traffic. They seem to be only offering ‘suggestions’ of proper behavior, and they don’t work to slow vehicles.


What is the problem? Well, many folks seem to need to hold a cup of coffee or water while driving. That leaves only one hand on the steering wheel. Everyone now has a cell phone mounted (hopefully!) on the dashboard. That’s a major distraction: Don’t want to miss a call! Everyone is hurrying through life. The old houses are no longer considered desirable and need to be ‘scraped.’ Many big trucks traverse the narrow street, parking on one or both sides of the street where there is ongoing construction.


Children no longer ‘pedal’ their bikes. They now race along on electric bikes, without ever having learned the rules of the road. “Wheeee!!” Those speed bumps and chicanes are a game. “Watch me fly! Yay!!”


Then there’s GPS. The freeway has been widened at least three times over the past 48 years; it has not been able to keep ahead of the increase in traffic volume. Glance at your phone, while stuck in evening traffic in I-5, and GPS helpfully suggests, “I’ve found a better route. Exit at Del Mar Heights Road, travel west to Crest, take a right turn”….and drive all of those pedestrians crazy as you clog their street with bumper to bumper traffic.


I stand at the end of our driveway, on the west side of Crest Road, so I can cross the street and ramble slowly through the Crest Rim Park oasis of beauty, peace and quiet. I have a cane in one hand, a leashed dog in the other hand, and white hair….a beacon that reminds most people that I’m no Spring chicken! 1,2,3,4…..15,16 cars pass, some audaciously waving at me, before one of them (with a Vermont license plate!) stops and motions for me to cross safely in front of it.  Yikes! Can I no longer walk on my once peaceful street? Must I go to the gym and walk on a treadmill to be safe? There must be a solution. I’m all ears!!