Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Kicking it Old School - From CAL to CAL - Part 3

This is the third part of this journey.  For part one, click here, and for part two, click here.

Hurstbourne Lane, at one time or another, has been called the busiest surface street in Kentucky.  It’s in competition with another road in southern Lexington which, when I’ve been on it, has earned its reputation well as a logjam of stoplights, university traffic, and invisible turn signals.  Hurstbourne is much wider, but it’s still the main drag for this part of town, leading to everything to strip malls, grocery stores, large subdivisions, and endless office parks.  Today, though, it was quiet enough I could cross and snap a shot.

Just twenty steps to the middle, then twenty to the other side.

This side street, technically. is a no outlet street.  The joy of being on foot, though, means that you can go where a motorized vehicle can't, so I'm actually planning to shave off a bit by defying the sign.  Let's test it.

The road was lined with well-manicured lawns and several large homes, but soon, these plots gave way to closely-bound townhouses.  On either side, these townhouses generally bore the college flag they preferred. 

For those of you outside of Kentucky, college ball is a huge deal here.  Because we don't have any pro teams in Kentucky, we latch on to our admittedly very successful college ball teams instead.  The red, flapping cardinal head indicated University of Louisville (we call them U of L), and the blue University of Kentucky flags bear the two letters used to identify them (UK, never U of K, for some reason.)   There was about an even split of 'em.  Myself, I was a UK fan all through going up (like my dad), but became a U of L fan when I stated going there myself (who my mother cheers for.)  My sister doesn't care, so we pretty perfectly represent the Kentuckian sports gamut. 

Under a house that hailed no public allegiance, I saw this little sheepdog (?) guy batting at the plate glass door.

This little fellow was batting at the door, causing the plate glass to wobble with each swipe.  He seemed to be calling out, too, but I couldn't hear him.  Or her, I guess.  That admittedly sounded much more ominous then I intended; I'm sure little Fluffy is just fine.

"End of the line, everybody off!"

Not me.


A cloister of quiet office buildings rested alongside the prefab homes.  Amedisys, one of this building's tenants, isn't a company I've heard of, but the home health services space is a popular one.  Before I got my full-time position out of college, I interviewed at such a place.  Their small, well-differentiated and, well, uninteresting to must 22-year-olds.

A quick turn at the end of the drive put me on Whittington Parkway, which circles around to meet Shelbyville Road, the East End's main drag, the one I bypassed.  Turns out if you want to cross between the East End and anywhere close to downtown, this is the most economical way to do it.

Speaking of old jobs, this was the corporate headquarters for the first place I had full-time employment.  I was only ever here once, for my original orientation, and we had a training session across the street once.  Most of the time I sat in my cubicle though and punched in and out like any good corporate lackey.

...and here's the building where the temp agency was based where I became the lackey.
I passed a typing exam in there; 78 words a minute, and 75 was the minimum.  Didn’t know how to use the numpad then, but now I do.  123456789987654321.

Isn’t this convenient?  I wish my work had an off-ramp directly from the main drag; I’d get to work three minutes faster every day.  When you’re considered late after clocking in five minutes late enough times, you’ll know how it feels.

And here it is, Shelbyville Road.  As US 60, it goes all the way to Virginia Beach, hundreds of miles east of here.  I remember when my dad told me that in my youth, I couldn’t believe that Shelbyville Road (as I saw it), could be that long; it seemed impossible.  Now I know that, in theory, roads can stretch for as long as you’ve got land to put ‘em on, and even then, sometimes there’s a tunnel or a bridge to keep it going.

The length of Shelbyville Road would be my home for the next hour.  As it seems to be with most walks I undertake, there is a particular stretch that is long, unbroken, and necessary to facilitate the journey’s more complex and time-consuming interactions down the road.  This marked the halfway mark for me, and the road would carry me for a spell before I hooked a left.

Seems like I’m not the only one to walk this way.  Benches and sidewalk furnishing are something you never notice while you roar down the road.  Even though I’ve driven Shelbyville probably a thousand times, I could never have told you there was a bench here, or frankly, that there was even a sidewalk there.  After a good eight or nine miles on my feet, I was tempted to stop, but I knew that the sit at the finish line would be all the more rewarding. 

Hurstbourne Baptist Church, up ahead on my left, is a bizarre bit of architecture.  Unlike traditional churches, it’s build in the style of the Doge’s Palace in Venice, with its prominent arcade area that surrounds the main, square building.  It looks totally different externally, with different colors, patterns, and about a six-century age difference.  Still, when I first saw a picture of the Doge’s Palace as a kid (admittedly in a video game,) I recognized the homage the next time I rode by.

And, appropriately, there’s a gate on the other side.  As the gate doesn’t have a road leading up to it, I might venture a guess that it is the original “Hurstbourne” estate entrance, built in the 19th century, perhaps.  Unadorned and, apparently, undocumented, I took a moment to consider this bit of history.  Someone has to know what it’s from or they’d have bulldozed it decades ago. 

Similarly, this historic house has been left abandoned alongside its enigmatic gated twin.  This simple stone house might have been anything from a guard post to a residence, or maybe both.  The door and window are painted plywood, propped into the empty frames as shoddy barriers against the decades of elemental torrent and breeze.  Thus, my heart was disappointed; no way to look inside, and far too high-traffic to just, well, barge in.  Guess I’ll have to just keep wondering.

I never realized how big Shelbyville Road is.  This stretch of the U.S. Route is flanked on either side by lines of bald trees, drainage ditches and recessed homes and a smattering of small, boutique-style businesses.  Because there’s rarely any reason to go to this particular part as your destination, it’s easy to tune it out.  If you can believe it, though, I do have one significant memory on this stretch of otherwise nondescript and mundane bit of road. 

Over twenty years ago, we were driving down this way in my parents’ 1986 gray Pontiac Bonneville.  I was in the back, picking at the stickers I had stuck to the window, and the radio said that Richard Nixon had died.  Both my parents reacted sharply to the news.  I was six, and I knew he was a former President, but that was about it.  Every picture I’d seen of him he was pretty young.  I don’t remember the conversation that followed, but I’ll always remember where I was when I had it.

After making wobbly and ankle-threatening steps on the pulverized asphalt edges of the road, I decided to abandon the roadside walk and made for the soft, earthen path that paralleled it.  The soil was squishy, likely from the frost or a recent rain.  The earth made an audible sound when I stepped on it; it reminded me of when I was New Zealand.  On a particularly long-distance walk in the South Island, we walked through some very old forest, undisturbed for eons.  The forest was hard at work decomposing its former denizens, both plant and animal.  Thus, the earth was very loamy and spongy, but it wasn’t springy.  It stole your steps when you walked in it, and the ground was covered in feathery moss.  Truly a sight to see, or a step to take, at least.

This wooded path continued for perhaps a quarter-mile before I was forced to switch back to the roadside.

Traditionally, I’m nearly certain that Hurstbourne was a vast estate, and the land was sold to developers perhaps forty or fifty years ago, judging by the sign and the ages of the houses within.  This would have been on the edge of town in the 1960’s, but now it is firmly suburban Louisville. 

Our Savior Lutheran is both a school and a church.  When I was growing up, the kids who went to Our Savior Lutheran were unanimously labeled as “weird.”  The one girl I knew who went there was our neighbor’s granddaughter, and she used to come over and play with my sister.  In fact, I provided that introduction. 

Her grandfather wandered across into our property when I was nine or ten years old, shooting basketball at my newly installed goal.  He asked if she could play with me, and we did for a while before my parents came out to see that I’d made a new friend.  When her grandfather explained, she was brought inside for something to drink, and she, Lil and I became friends.  We didn’t have too much in common, but we got along fine.  My most distinct memory of her involved a friendly wrestling match that went wrong, her pinning me to the ground firmly with her skill and, well, heft.  I was a pretty scrawny fifth-grader, but that was embarrassing.

That’s what I think when I look at Our Savior Lutheran: an eight-year old pinning my chest to the floor in my parents’ upstairs hallway.  Not sure that’s the connection they’d pick.

To see a truly barren storm creek is unusual; combined with the low precipitation level and the fact that it had been very cold the last few days meant that the local creek didn’t have a drop to drain away.

Suddenly, the roadside opened up and I was in a veritable expanse of shopping outlets and parking lots.

Oxmoor Mall, as we called it, is a fixture in most East Enders’ youths.  Choosing between here and the adjacent Mall St. Matthews was a critical turning point for an evening of fun, generally based on what food the food court had, as we were too poor to buy more than one thing in the retail shops.  I have to say, I was a Mall St. Matthews kid; I mean, it had my name in it.  At a bit after 12:00, it was still too early for it to be packed, but it was a warm Saturday, so by mid-afternoon, it’d be rolling with tweens and their reluctant parent chaperones.   

Walking through the mall, with its landmarks and bright colors to distract you from the distance, is generally a fairly leisurely experience.  Walking the length of the mall with traffic roaring by on your right is much less peaceful.  Nonetheless, I took my time and walked along th –

What the heck?

This guy was rockin’ down with the top down; he had some classic rock blaring out of what seemed like a boom box instead of his government issue jeep.  The light turned green and he turned, taking his CCR with him.

I crossed the intersection, and soon I had run out of shoulder.  I either had the option to walk alongside the very narrow shoulder which faced a high-speed interstate off-ramp or walk through a car dealership and hope a small fence.  I decided to split the difference, walking along the fence, avoiding the sharp, rusted barbed wire that lined the top of the fence.  It snagged my hoodie a couple times, but I kept pressing on.  Eventually, I had to cross.  I watched the off-ramp traffic for a moment, and it was steady.  Nope, still too short.  Now it seems – no, I guess I’ll wait another…now!

I bolted across the ramp and through the adjacent stoplight, which didn’t have a pedestrian light attached. 

The Watterson Expressway is the inner of our two beltways, and earlier this morning I had crossed over the outer one.  The Watterson is a solid ten or twelve lanes here, with places to split off onto I-64 just south of here, and the malls draw significant ramp traffic.  Underneath the roaring interstate, the echoes of cars around you and above you made a weirdly toneless music.  If you looked carefully, you could see the overpass quiver as a semi roared by. 

Normally, walking through the underpass is a quick affair, but as wide as it was, it took a couple minutes to cross.

We really forget how big things are when we’re not moving along them at a sprint.  Just the flyover here is probably a full half-mile long, all suspended on concrete pillars that we blindly trust. 

It takes a lot of planning to make sure it all lines up.  Remember when you’d start writing something long on a posterboard in school and you’d crunch up or stretch out the letters to make it look even across the whole thing because you misjudged your letter size?  Can’t do that here or you end up with pancake pedestrians.

The second mall and my preferred retail venue of the two sits on the west side of the Watterson.  We recently got a Cheesecake Factory (OK, maybe eight years ago, now,) which happens to be one of my parents’ preferred Sunday dinner locations.  The first one I ate at was in Kansas City ten years ago.  As a senior in high school, the fancy pillars and bright colors made it feel like a palace.  Now it’s just a place to pay 8.99 for a slice of cheesecake when Sara Lee will do.

The Jared jewelry store down the street was offering free chai tea as a goodwill promotion for their store.  It was admittedly a weird request for me; I was pretty cool, and I was very thirsty, but I was also in extended exercise and never like to drink hot things if I’m exercising (who doesn’t?)  I politely declined, assuming the two kind ladies who offered it to me had no idea the drink conundrum they’d spawned in me.

I crossed a side street, a Whole Foods, a Taco Bell and a Frisch’s Big Boy.  As I walked by their parking lot, I saw a woman getting into her car with some food.  But you see, she’d left her drink on top.  She pulled back and as I reached out to tell her, the Styrofoam cup tumbled off into Shelbyville Road, splattering sugary soda all over the pavement with a pop. 

Flashes of a Powerbook flying off an SUV...

After exactly one hour on Shelbyville, it was time to hook a right, my final destination just a few miles away.

I crossed to the western side of the street and walked down that way.  I was passing a pretty new strip mall that had expanded from its humble beginnings as a Hawley-Cooke Bookstore anchor.  Hawley-Cooke was one of my favorite places to go when I was a good.  It wasn’t video games, but it was close; lots of colorful books with places, animals, and comics, too!  In my youth I loved Garfield comics, so going to a bookstore was exciting, as I’d get to see which book had come out since the last time I was there.

Hawley-Cooke’s been closed for ten years; the whole complex that housed it, formerly a “C” shape with the Hawley-Cooke at the center, got cut into an “I” and “S” shape, with squiggles of strip mall shops and boutiques on either side.  Borders even tried to capitalize on their former location, and we all know how well that went for ‘em.

Bowling Boulevard is a long drag.  I was on it half a mile before I saw anything interesting, besides a bank of luxury car dealers on the other side of the street: Beargrass Creek.

I actually see bits of Beargrass everywhere in Louisville; the little-creek-that-could wiggles all over the eastern part of the city.  Pretty sure I’ve even mentioned it on here before.
Bridge arches over creeks is a great place to find detailed graffiti.  Because it’s relatively easy to access, but very hidden from view, lots of artists come out and make their marks here.

The creek itself was thawing, and large chunks of ice still floated around in it, despite the mid-50s ambient temperature.  It takes large amounts of water a long time to freeze; logically, it takes a long time to thaw.

On my very first walk, I took a very similar picture.  It was August, overcast, and hot, but it’s always funny to slalom past a place you’ve touched before on foot, even if it’s just in passing. 
I followed Bowling to where I met my next road, Hubbards Lane. 

Browns Lane, which I took at my first walk, terminates at this intersection.  Hubbards is its continuation.  I’ve actually known several people to live in this area, so it’s pretty familiar to me now.

Just as soon as those words were out of my mental mouth, I come across a beautiful building I’d never seen before.  How charming!  I’ve always loved yellow houses, whether or not they’re in vogue.  I don’t know; it’s such a bold decision, I think, to paint your house such a firm, loud color.  More power to you!

It appeared to be a bed and breakfast of sorts, nestled in the residential area of the decidedly suburban St. Matthews.  One happy couple in their thirties was unloading their luggage when I passed by.  It’s kind of weird thinking about having to have a place to stay when coming to Louisville.  I’ve always had somewhere to go, so that’s a truly foreign experience for me.  Even for folks who come home to Louisville, if no one they love calls it home anymore, it’s just another city. 

I checked my notes.  Three miles to my final destination, and it was just past one.  One last push!


The final installment will post later this week.  Thanks for hanging in there!

Keep going –


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