The Journey Or The Steps?
What matters most to you, reaching a goal or making the most of the journey to get there? I’m sure many of you bought or are attracted to wrist bands that track your miles, steps, sleep, etc… My parents bought me one for Christmas and it just told me I walked 1000 miles in the first 7 months of this year.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” — Lao Tzu
Did I just walk or did my steps take me anywhere? I live in the Washington DC Metro area. The abundance of parks and trails makes it ideal for running, biking, or walking. Most people have set paths they like to follow, just as they follow set paths in life.
I Like To Wander.
Most of my paths tend to zigzag. Even when I go to work I often get off at random stops and wander streets and neighborhoods. Fortunately my wife likes to wander too and part of the joy of our marriage is exploring new places. 2015 was an especially eventful year. I’d like to share some of the highlights.
1000 Miles — January Through July, 2015
The Burial Ground of Viking King Olaf
My wife Lisa got a deal on a trip to Iceland in January. We met up with friends who traveled there from Wales. The photo on the left was taken from our hotel room which overlooked a huge marina in Reykjavik. The yellow arrow indicates a curious mound we could see that I wanted to visit. We set off to find the mound knowing that the days in January only have about 4 hours of daylight. We got lost a few times walking in and out of the various terminals at the dock. Our Welsh friend Mike joked that the mound was an ancient burial ground for Viking King Olaf. It turned out to be an art installation called Þúfa by Ólöf Nordal. The mound had a narrow spiral path that let to the top where there was a shed with dried fish hanging inside. By the time we got there the sky had turned a hauntingly beautiful blue.
Duomo di Milano Snow
We found a fantastic flight deal to Italy in February. When we landed in Milan, it was snowing heavily. The Duomo di Milano is Italy’s largest cathedral and you are also permitted to walk on top of the cathedral to see all the stone carvings. The next morning the snow had stopped but it was raining lightly and the top of the cathedral was closed. When the rain stopped we got in and were able to climb flights of endless steps to see the view you see pictured left. With the snow melting, the gargoyles were glaring at us while intricately carved water spouts splashed water onto the streets below. We were filled with both a sense of danger and excitiment as the snow and ice were quite slippery in spots. Standing at the top, music started playing from Italy’s famous opera house, La Scala which was next to the cathedral. It was one of those magical moments of time you can capture and carry with you the rest of your life.
Lost in Bellagio
After leaving Milan we traveled north to Lake Como. One day we took a boat from Como to Bellagio. My wife dislikes tourists even more than I do. When the boat docked, she was off in a direction away from all the other people in our boat. If an interesting street or path appears, we generally cannot resist the temptation to see what is at the end of it. We walked across Bellagio to the lake on the other side of the peninsula before realizing we were both hungry and thirsty. There were no restaurants or shops in sight, just private homes. My wife, who may be part sorceress, said she felt a restaurant was at the end of a very narrow footpath that went straight up a hill. Panting at the top of the hill we saw a quaint little Italian restaurnt waiting patiently for us. The food was so good and we were so hungry that we never thought about taking a picture until after we were done.
Snow, Eggs, & Guinness
We returned from Italy to a world much colder than the one we left. It was one of those winters that didn’t want to release its icy grip. When there is a snowstorm, my wife and I run out into the snow with cameras. We’re weird like that. One cold snowless day we went to the farmer’s market in town to get eggs and then we walked some more and ended up in an Irish pub. When we emerged, there was about an inch of snow and neither of us had boots so we slipped and slid up the street until we got home. No eggs were harmed in this walk.
My wife won breakfast and grandstand seats at the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. We got to see all the groups perform for the television cameras near our seats. Even more fun was our walk all the way around the Tidal Basin to enjoy the cherry trees at peak bloom. We got up extra early so that we could be there before all the tourists arrived.
Searching For Bo
Friends of my wife gave us tickets to the White House Spring Garden Tour. My wife has always had a celebrity crush on Bo, President Obama’s Portuguese Water Dog. She’s never seen Bo in person but has always wanted to pet him. As soon as we got through security and into the White House grounds, Lisa rushed up to the nearest guard to ask if she was going to see Bo. The guard, alarmed enough to move his hand slightly down towards his gun, relaxed and said, “Maybe one day you will”. After the tour we went with our friends who had given us the tickets to the W hotel where we had brunch on a rooftop terrace overlooking the White House. It was quite a fancy walk that day.
Art & Architecture Of DCA Airport
When she’s not stalking Bo, my wife can usually be found near an airport. We are fortunate to live just two metro stops from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). Lisa did her Master’s Thesis on airports and her knowledge in this area is much too extensive to list here. She organized and led four different tours of the DCA airport for two different organizations. She showed 30 permanent pieces of art that were commissioned by architect Cesar Pelli who designed terminals B & C. Each tour was a two mile walk through one of the most beautiful airports in the United States. I walked with her a few times as she practiced and worked out the best route. After one of her practice tours, we walked back along the Mount Vernon bike trail which follows the Potomac River. We stopped a restaurant where we could watch sailboats on the river and see the planes taking off and landing at the airport.
Attacked By The Past
70 years after World War II ended in Europe, dozens of war planes flew over the National Mall in Washington D.C. Searching for the best vantage point, I ended up just west of the World War II Memorial by the reflecting pool. There I could hear the loud speakers near the Memorial announce each plane and have a bit more space to take photos. There were many more people than I expected. Many were veterans who had tears in their eyes as the sounds of those old war planes brought back the memories. The planes flew down the Potomac River and then veered south along the National Mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol. Afterward I walked across the Potomac River on the Memorial Bridge toward Arlington Cemetery.
Sunrise On The Potomac River
My wife Lisa and I started dating by going to different places and getting up early to watch the sunrise. Somewhere along the way, we stopping doing that. When we saw engagement photos of friends taken along the Potomac River, we decided to venture out at sunrise and walk along the river. It was well worth the effort as the morning skies were spectacular.
The World Matched My Mood Today
On May 27th, my mother had to have an exploratory procedure done to her heart. Lisa and I met my mother and father at Washington Adventist Hospital in Tacoma Park, Maryland and stayed with her until the procedure was done. Thankfully they found no problems and no further surgery was needed. Lisa had to leave so I stayed with my parents until they released my mother. We had a great family visit. I was feeling so good afterward that I decided to wander and ended up finding the Tacoma Park Historic District. It was like traveling back to hometown America. The skies were blue, the lighting was perfect and I was greatly relieved that the day had gone so well.
Lafayette’s Spirit Sails Back To America
We live in Alexandria, Virginia, a colonial seaport town just up the river from George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. The Revolutionary War was raging 235 years ago when the Marquis de Lafayette sailed over to announce that France was going to help, a great turning point in the war. In June a full scale replica of L’Hermione, the ship that sailed Lafayette to America, docked in Alexandria. It took the crew about a month to sail across the Atlantic from France. I was able to talk Lisa into walking out at midnight to watch as the 12 lane Woodrow Wilson Bridge opened to let the ship pass underneath. It is a huge ship; on its original voyage in 1780, there were 330 people aboard. We followed it to the dock in Alexandria where they tied up. Two days later we got up before sunset to take pictures and to stand in line for tickets to walk aboard. It was difficult to get my wife and I off the ship once we felt the deck under our feet; that was the spell L’Hermione had cast on us.
New York State Of Mind
In mid June I had a design/development conference in New York City. Lisa came with me for the first part of it. We had a day to spend together before the conference started and Lisa wanted to see Belevedere Castle in Central Park. It was warm and people were everywhere walking and lying on the grass enjoying the day. We got ice cream and started towards the castle. You can know where you are and where you’re going and still get lost in Central Park because the paths are so meandering. We finally found it and it was well worth the effort as you can see in the photo. We got hungry and on the way back we saw a restaurant within the park. We were going to stop until we found it was Tavern on the Green, an expensive New York restaurant that probably would have cost us over $200. However, they had a Beer Garden so we were able to sit outside and enjoy two Bratwurst for $14. We also ordered some German beer to wash them down. Wunderbar!
High Marks For The High Line
I have many walks and memories from New York City. I tend to overdo it when I am there because there is so much to see. One of my favorite places is the High Line, and old elevated train track from the early 1900's that has been transformed into a lush green space and walkway for pedestrians. I walked here after my conference was over. One of the speakers, Stefan Sagmeister, pointed out that since the High Line opened as a pedestrian space, there have been no major crimes comitted there and it has helped revitalize the surrounding area.
FDR Opened This Airport
I won a contest and got lunch and a tour of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Lisa was upset that she didn’t get to go. Unlike the tour Lisa gave of the new terminals B & C, I got to have lunch in the original terminal A that opened in 1941 as National Airport. It is still in use and is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1941 the United States was still at peace but war was raging in Europe and the Pacific. Franklin Roosevelt, who had selected the site for the airport, was just entering his third term as president. The President attended and spoke at the opening ceremony. The world was about to change in ways that nobody could imagine at the time.
After lunch, our group walked through the operations area and boarded a shuttle that took us onto the airport and runways. We got out near the runway to take photos of planes taking off and landing. It was a very hot day and you can see the heat shimmering off the planes in the photo at left. Then we got a tour of one of two boat houses necessary in case a plane should crash in the river. We also got a tour of the airport fire department which was one of the first on the scene during the September 11th attack at the Pentagon.
Another favorite place to walk is in Harmony Maryland where my parents live. What it lacks in big city excitement is more than made up in the beautiful rivers, creeks, streams, and countryside. My parents live on the Choptank River which is part of the Chesapeake Bay. At left is a bloom from a Mimosa tree and at right you can see my mother and myself.
Childhood Reborn In Primary Colors
I work in Arlington, Virginia and occasionally my walks will take me past the Arlington Arts Center. Each year they feature creative artists outside. One morning as I walked past there was a giant blue disc on the roof. I looked closer and realized it was a giant Frisbee. The next day I made a point to walk by again and sunk into the ground was a giant red lawn dart. I was a kid again. They also placed the title and the artist’s name, Kite, Frisbee, Lawn Dart — Cory Obendorfer. The next day I was eagerly looking for the kite when I saw a guy carrying what appeared to be a folded up yellow kite across the lawn. I asked if it was the kite and if he was the artist and he said yes. It made him smile to see how much I enjoyed it. The funny part is the following day when I walked by looking for the kite, I didn’t see it right away. I was past the tree before I saw it right over my head, right where a kite should be. We need more art like this.
Happier Than A Bird With A French Fry
My wife Lisa gave me a much needed gift for my birthday; a trip to Ocean City, Maryland. Something about this beach town is very therapeutic to me. I go there when I’m troubled and I go there when I’m happy. Things there affect my senses in positive ways. Take sound for example. When layered properly, all the noises of a summer at the beach create a rich tapestry of sound. You can hear the steps of feet on the boardwalk combined with the distant surf, the seagull cries, the murmur of voices, the arcades, and the sound of the small airplanes flying by with advertisements trailing behind. I met Lisa in Ocean City and even the sound of her beating me at Skee-Ball makes me smile.
It was right after returning from the beach that I crossed the 1000 mile mark. When I look back, I’m amazed at all the places I’ve been in such a short time and this post doesn’t cover them all. What I didn’t realize until I started writing is how closely Lisa is tied to my fondest walks, as she should be. The title of this post is “The Journey or the Steps” and for me it’s definitely the journey. While it’s nice to have walked 1000 miles so quickly, it’s really just a number. What made it special is not that I walked but where I walked.