Wednesday, March 16, 2005

On the joys of walking to work.

A number of my friends who have taken up bicycling – either as a hobby or as a means of transportation – have commented to me that they are suddenly more aware of their local terrain. Suddenly, hills appear where they didn’t know any existed; the exertion required to propel a bicycle, it seems, reveals inclines that are invisible when you are driving. The same can be said of walking.

Since I started my new job, I haven’t ridden to work. I only joined the gym yesterday (they have a shower) and I’ve had some sort of sub-flu for about three days. Thus, I’ve been riding the Metro and walking. In doing so, I’ve become much more familiar with the terrain of Capitol Hill. It wasn’t until this morning, walking to Union Station, that I realized that Fourth Street reaches its apex at East Capitol and slopes away on either side. The slope is gentle, so much so that I’ve never noticed it on bike or car. Yet by walking, I could not only see the slope, but feel it too, if only as a slight pull in my calves.

As I walked, I mulled over the shape of Capitol Hill. Having never really thought about it before, I realized that I don’t really have a clue how Capitol Hill is shaped. I know it drops off down to the Mall, I know it has a gentle decline down to the Anacostia River. Beyond that, I don’t know much. So, when I got to work this morning, I wasted 15 precious minutes of government time and did a little googling. Turns out there’s not many free topo maps online that I could find. I did, however, stumble across this fascinating site that discusses the history of Capitol Hill and includes a topo from about 1792. Very cool find, and all because I walked to work!