Walking the Main Line

It sure beats driving (most of the time).

The idea came to me suddenly. It was a gorgeous day, and I’d just dropped off my car in Devon to be serviced. Someone at the dealership asked me if I’d like a ride home, and I replied, “No, I think I’ll walk.”

Home is in Haverford—not exactly the Appalachian Trail, but still. I reasoned that, at any point in my walk, I could hop on the R5. So I set off, deciding to stay on Lancaster Avenue the whole way.

The first stretch of my great trek was wholly uninspiring. Passing through the parking-lot wasteland that anchors Whole Foods and Kmart, I never saw another person afoot. There were, however, a lot of cars honking at each other for some perceived automotive transgression or another.

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Coming into Wayne, the scenery improved, though nearly every street corner was under construction, making walking difficult. On one corner, I waved my arms around like a lunatic to avoid being crushed by a massive dirt-digging tractor. I thought briefly about jumping on the train, but the sun was shining, and my mind was chewing on the things I needed it to chew on.

Just past the center of Wayne, I passed through a lovely little park that I’d never noticed before. I sat down and took a load off, as we walkers say. Henry James describes the creativity that surfaces during walking as “the rich, ripe fruit of perambulation.” I resumed my trek, thinking my brilliant thoughts.

Most of Radnor is no man’s land for pedestrians. After Bed, Bath & Beyond and Genuardi’s, it’s the perfect storm—no sidewalks and those precarious 476 ramps. Should I walk on Lancaster Avenue itself as text-messaging drivers zoomed by, hell-bent on making it through the yellow lights? Or should I hoof it through the matted grass to the right side of the curb, hoping not to step on broken bottles or any other trash I didn’t want to look at too closely? I chose a kind of sporadic jaunt, hopping up on the curb when traffic seemed heavy, then back down in the street during a lull.

The Blue Route underpass was creepy, dirty and noisy, reminding me of Cormac McCarthy’s end-of-world novel, The Road. I half-expected someone to throw something from a car above, where it would find my head, killing me instantly. Then my husband would’ve wondered for the rest of his life what on earth I’d been doing there.

I jogged toward Villanova, which lay just ahead of me like a shimmering mirage. I mingled with students on their way to class and again considered the train. But, being both stubborn and determined, I rejected this thought and continued on.

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Onward I went to the Bryn Mawr Starbucks, an iced tea and a cookie my reward. Fortified, I cruised the rest of the way home. Total time elapsed: two hours.

I should mention that I probably walk more than the average person. I often trek to the Haverford post office and the bank, down the street to Acme and FoodSource, swinging by Starbucks and looping back home. It doesn’t take much longer to make those stops on foot than it does by car. The only drawback to all this walking is that some people might think I’m a little odd. As in, “You’re that lady we see walking everywhere.”

To which I reply, “Yeah, that’s me. You really ought to try it sometime.”

Local freelance writer Kathy Stevenson last wrote about riding the R5 for the July 2008 issue of Main Line Today.

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