Gravel and Grove

Walkable Exeter

22 March 2015
Yes, I live in Exeter. No, I don’t have a car. I walk.

by Robert Perry

Moving to Exeter from San Francisco has been a nice change of pace for me. Things are slower and quieter here than they were in my studio apartment at the intersection of Market and Castro, where every left-hand turning motorist gets approximately 39 honks from the line of cars behind them. Everybody’s in a hurry to be somewhere. And when the bars closed, every night between 2 and 3 o’clock, I could expect to be awakened to the sound of at least one dramatic breakup and three breaking bottles to transpire a mere 20 feet below my window. In the morning, the smell of alcohol and urine would welcome me to a new day outside my apartment building’s door to Market Street. As odd as it might seem, this was a raw, liberating and urban kind of life to which I was attracted… when I was young; when I was bored.

Exeter is the retreat, and now a home. One thing that helps me appreciate the tranquility of this place is walking. In San Francisco, nobody making five figures a year drives—you need those five figures for rent. Plus, it is actually inconvenient to have a car there. Mass transit is everywhere, and so walking and taking Muni is faster and cheaper than finding a parking space. Walking in Exeter is a treat to the senses. It only takes 12 minutes to slow-walk from Firebaugh and South E to downtown; only 22 minutes to walk to Rite-Aid on the west side of town (using West Pine Street and Fairway Drive). Twelve minutes and 22 minutes to me are similar to making good time on mass transit in San Francisco.

So, for me, the transportation situation hasn’t changed much, except for the sights, sounds and smells. Spring mornings in Exeter have a cool, clean breeze that smells of thousands of blossom petals which as they fall from their tree, spin to the sidewalk before me like confetti made by nature’s welcome committee. Autumn afternoons smell of hay and fallen leaves. Cold winter days are perfect when I can smell the scent of wood-burning fireplaces and backyard fire pits, and Tule fog is our closest version of Christmas snow. And while, personally, midday summer can be my most dreaded time for walks (due to the heat), I can usually anticipate the scent of mowed lawns and chlorinated pools when the fertilizer smell isn’t too overwhelming.

On my daily walks to downtown or to the library, I have made friends with a terrier named Oogie, who greets me with a bark and wagging tail. I pass City Park, where there is always a birthday party or some other happy occurence playing out. If it is recess time at nearby Lincoln School, the sound of kids playing is one that makes me feel like all is good here. At night, the sound of freight trains is a kind of lullaby that reminds me where I am on the map of California.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I need a ride, and our Visalia Transit bus lines 9 and 12 are reliable, and they do a good job at taking me to Visalia and back for a dollar and a half each way. They have wi-fi that works now, so bring your smart phone and earphones (mass transit rider etiquette is typically and basically, Don’t be loud). I still occasionally borrow a car from my mom and dad to go grocery shopping. If needed, I’ve heard Visalia-based taxis are also a good way to travel, but I have yet to try them out. I’ve downloaded the rideshare app Lyft, but, I don’t think anyone in the South Valley is out there yet offering rides. Eventually, I might get a bike.

While I could go on to restate the merits of walking as being better for the environment, your health, and easier on the bank account than driving, I have much more selfish reasons for walking around Exeter. It’s really a beautiful place to live… when you’re outside, experiencing it.

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An autumn afternoon at City Park.