My Lovely Commute

There are a zillion reasons why I love my job, but at the very tippy top of my list is my commute. It’s less than three miles, most of which is along grassy berms or on well-kept bike paths. I’m insanely lazy, though, and don’t often wake up early enough to stroll to the office rather than spending six minutes in my car. I’m making a concerted effort now, though, to walk more often, and I’m hoping that bringing the camera with me will encourage me to do it. Here’s a look at what I saw along the way yesterday when I pedicommuted:

It was an utterly beautiful, perfect July day yesterday, and I hit the road at 8:30, having slept through my alarm. After a few days of relentless humidity, it was relatively dry, surprisingly cool (in the low 80s? High 70s even?), and the sky was impossibly blue. My walk starts by wending through a couple of blocks of well-spaced houses, first in our little development of dumpy, older ranch houses, then into the ritzy, recently-built McMansions the next street over, and then into the weird, poorly-financed, ugly McMansions on the street past that. Because the builders of that development were shifty and ran out of money, the development comes to an abrupt stop where what used to be the neighborhood’s entry road has been bulldozed down to half its width (I happened to be walking to work the day they did that) and is now just an access road.

I love walking there because it looks, while approaching it, like it’s going to be wending into some lush, abandoned, overgrown woodland. Of course, the reality is that just on the other side of those trees is the main drag out of our little town toward my workplace. I don’t like that stretch of my walk, and it’s often the reason I use to talk myself into driving instead; the road doesn’t have a sidewalk or much in the way of shoulders, and while the speed limit is 25 heading out of town, it’s along a pretty sharp turn that’s reasonably heavily trafficked during the morning commute hours. If I could walk to work at noon I’d probably be able to stroll down the center of the road, but in the mornings, I cling frightenedly to the narrow shoulders, picking up ticks, and hoping the people driving by me are coworkers who like me, so they’ll do their best to avoid hitting me. The scenery along this stretch is lovely, I’m sure, but I don’t often look at it for how tightly I’m squeezing my eyes shut and hoping I don’t die.

Okay, it’s not really that bad. This is a really rural part of New Jersey, and the drivers in these parts are used to joggers, walkers, and especially bikers. We share the road pretty well. And what I love about this part of my walk is that it’s over an expanse of protected wetlands. Yesterday morning I saw a heron swooping down over the trees, and this was the view off the little bridge:

There used to be a huge tangle of fallen tree just beyond the rail of the bridge, and a couple of years ago Boomer, Pookie and I saw a kingfisher perched at the top of the broken branches while we were speeding by. Sadly, there wasn’t a kingfisher in sight yesterday.

The other reason I like the bridge, beside the view, is that it’s the only bit of sidewalk along here; once I get across it, the speed limit goes up to 45, and I become increasingly convinced I’m going to meet my maker. (And really, wouldn’t that suck to forgo an extra hour of sleep just to get hit by a car?)

Just past the bridge is the swampy bit where two geese used to lay their nest every year:

Every spring I would look forward to seeing the goslings when they hatched, but every year it seemed to happen on a weekend or something, and I never saw them. Then, one spring, we had torrential rains that flooded out the nest (and washed away the kingfisher’s tree), and the geese haven’t been back since.

There’s about a 100-yard bit of narrow shoulder to traverse after the bridge, getting buffeted by the whooshing of the traffic hurtling by and receiving puzzled looks from drivers who wonder if they’re supposed to be stopping to help you or if you’re actually voluntarily risking death by SUV, but then — hallelujah! — the farm fields start.

There’s a wonderful high berm, with a row of old maples evenly spaced along it, between the street and the fields, and this year the farmer has done a nice job of keeping the grass short and walkable. I’ve done this commute sticking to the road because the grass at the top of the hill was waist-high and full of ticks, and I much prefer it this way.

Besides, I get to stop on a sunny morning and enjoy the shade.

This side of the road is all cornfields, while the other side has more of what I’m guessing is wetlands, or maybe is just undeveloped farmland (considering how expensive that land is, I doubt it, though):

I think this bit of New Jersey, just this bit along the road to my office, is one of my favorite places on earth. I love how beautiful it is in every season. There are the big, gnarly maples, in various states of health…

… the corn and pumpkin crops that grow the same, year in and year out, spelling out the seasons…

… the white barn with the soybean field on the other side of the road…

… and the farm stand that sells the best corn I’ve ever eaten in my life.

As lovely as the walk toward work is, the view coming home is just as spectacular. I especially love, in the afternoon light, watching summer turn to fall along this stretch:

I’m under the impression that the land on this side of the road is owned by my employer, and leased to the farmer who grows the corn and has a modest herd of cattle.

Yesterday I got to wander past some wee baby corn, to be harvested late in August or September:

Middle-aged corn, at the base of which some pink volunteer petunias had sprung up:

And, in the field that runs along the length of the entry drive to my office campus, tasseled corn, almost ready to go (on my drive home this afternoon, the farm stand had put out the sign we all eagerly look for each summer — the first corn is harvested!):

As a little surprise treat for having made the effort to propel myself on foot to work, I was greeted in the field just inside the security gate by the cows.

They were quite charming, eyeing me calmly as I stepped closer to the fence, and then perking up and seeming to pose for me when I got out my camera. Seriously, they were very sociable cows — when they realized I was looking at them, they started primping.

So that was my walk to work yesterday. I am not an adventurous driver, and actually grew up in a neighborhood about a mile past my current workplace on this same street. I joked when Pookie and I first moved back here that I was going to have to get a job at the corporate campus here because it’s the only place I know how to get to, and as it turns out, that’s exactly what I stumbled into. The combination of the beauty of the land, the familiarity of the road, and the memories of my childhood is hard to top — yes, it’s helped by being such a short trip, but still, this has got to be one of the best commutes out there.

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6 Comments

Filed under Away From Home, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

6 responses to “My Lovely Commute

  1. HG

    Now when I start my walk to Maple Hoo, I’ll have some landmarks to keep my one good eye on! Yay! And if I run low on rations, I’ll stop at the flower stand.

  2. Sarah

    Well that is just charming, Liz! What a nice walk and what a good idea to take pictures along the way to make it better. I drove to the park yesterday. yeah, that’s right. The park that is half a mile from our house. Maybe 3/4 of a mile. But certainly no more. But we finally caved and have purchased a double jogging stroller and when it gets here we’ll be walking all the time. I swear.

  3. Oh sure, you’ll be walking… except when it’s rainy. Or too cold. Or too hot. Or snowing. Or buggy. Or the ground’s really wet because it rained recently. Or you read somewhere that it MIGHT rain, even though it looks highly unlikely. Or you don’t want to get up an hour earlier. No, wait — those are my excuses for not walking to work. They won’t necessarily all apply to you. :D

  4. What a pretty walk! My commute to work is FAR too far to walk, but if I could take pictures, it would look like a bunch of strip malls and then a bunch of shots of downtown Dallas. :p

  5. Douglas

    What a nice story. Interestingly illustrated, too. This is an admirably “green” commute, but it seems like a pretty long walk. Have you ever considered making this journey by bike?

  6. I’ve biked this a couple of times, Douglas, but I’m not really a big fan of bicycling (and the entire way there is uphill, and I’m in terrible shape :P). With the traffic and my sense of balance on my bike, I actually much prefer walking. It’s only about a 35 minute walk, so it’s not too bad! :D

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