Monday, January 4, 2016

Habits of the Happy Urban Treker

Last week I discussed some helpful habits for your urban canine.  Humans are creatures of habit too and our habits can add to or detract from our enjoyment of walking the urban enviroment.

Mind your bladder and your bowel.

Unlike Fido, we shouldn't just squat when the need approaches but need to plan ahead.

If my walk will be for five miles or more, I cut myself off of coffee, water, and any food which my loosen me up a bit three hours before I start out.  It is a pain but not near as much a pain as breaking into a jog to get to the nearest restroom or ducking behind a secluded spot where the homeless men relieve themselves.  Yes, we should be well-hydrated when we start out, but we should also be well-peed.  Take water with you and use it as necessary but not more than necessary.

Some public bathrooms close in winter

Preparation is better than cure but among the first things I look for when investigating a new area of the city is the location of public restrooms.

Minneapolis and St. Paul both do a great job placing public porta-potties along public paths frequented by walkers, joggers, and cyclists.  If you venture off the beaten path, however, your are more likely to be on your own.  In the winter, some public restrooms will close because it is too expensive to heat them.

For liability reasons, construction companies don't like to share their porta-potties with the public, though if you plead your case and threaten to pee your pants in front of them, the average construction worker may relent.  Still, it is better to not be in need.

Training dogs to wait patiently while you duck into a coffee shop to use the facilities is a valuable canine habit that I should have covered last week, but be sure your dog is safe to be left unattended if discovered by a curious four-year old.  There are a few people out there who will make off with a dog or your dog might make off with herself if not secured well or in a place where patrons of the shop can keep an eye out for you.

Just be smart out there.  That's all.

Know and OBEY your local laws.

Most urban municipalities insist on a six foot leash, that you pick up your own dog's poop, that your dog be licensed, and that dogs not be taken into establishments that serve food.  They're not asking too much.

Don't make the poor barista ask you to remove your dog.
You are sharing the environment with lots of other people.  No one wants your dog to jump in front of their bicycle or break their stride because you weren't fast enough with the flexi-leash.  If you do cause a problem, they'll remember if the issue of dog access a park ever comes up for public debate.

This week I came across a Great Dane sized turd in the middle of the busiest pedestrian bridge in Minneapolis.  This calling card will be remembered by people who show up at city council meetings.

Regularly I am reading stories about people sneaking their dogs into places they are not allowed.  All of this works against dog owners in the long run.  Where different stores have different policies, see if your urban area has a web service like Sidewalk Dog in the Twin Cities, which details which local businesses or patios are dog friendly and patronize them, but if a store has a policy, you're hurting the reputation of all dog owners when you attempt to manipulate the rules for selfish benefit.

Yes, sometimes we all forget the doggie bags, but develop a system where that is rare.  When you do buy a newspaper or pick up some litter to use to pick up the waste or at the very least, come back for the poop.

Frankly, we should build an ethic where we pick up the poop of other people's dogs when we find it, share poop bags when we someone without, or disown/shame repeat offenders.

As dog owners we are looking after our own interests when we demonstrate a commitment to good citizenship first by policing ourselves, then by looking after our own, and where a law or regulation needs to be changed, seeking to have it changed rather than looking for a loophole to exploit.

Take care of your feet and shoes.

I walk in high quality boots, but I go out in all kinds of weather conditions, frequently after working a job where high quality boots are a good idea anyway.  Use what meets your needs but don't skimp on shoes, inserts if necessary, and good socks.  The last time I bought new boots I ended up buy a whole new collection of socks because the old socks, which worked fine with the old boots, had a way of sliding down to my toes in the new boots.  Find stuff that works well together.

Nothing cuts more long walks short than blisters so if your shoes start to rub, take a break, figure out the problem, and fix it.  If you do wear boots, take the time to break them in correctly and waterproof/treat them as required.  I use Doc Martens shoe polish and Foggy Mountain Bearguard waterproofing once every two weeks.  To break them in, took about four months and required using some of the shoe polish on the inside of the boot to make it more pliable.

Replacing shoelaces every couple of months is an unnecessary paing.  Replace your store bought laces with laces made of paracord.  It comes in any color you could desire and they last much longer.  Merely cut it to length and use a match to seal the ends and the laces will out last the shoes, maybe multiple pairs of shoes.  A good pair of store bough laces will last me three months or 200-300 miles.  I've yet to wear out my first pair of nylon cord laces and they've gone at least two years of heavy use.

The only catch, they are slicker than regular laces and require being tied in a double knot.

Go places you enjoy/find new places to enjoy.

It is easy to fall into a rut.  Familiarity is not a bad thing but balance it with exploring new areas and seeing new things to keep your mind engaged in what is around you.  Take a look at a map.  Talk to friends.  Urban areas are filled with new things to see: new sculptures, new architecture, new neighborhoods, new businesses, new insights into the challenges of living in the world.

Though my experience is limited to the Twin Cities, even questionable neighborhoods are empty early on weekend or holiday mornings.  I grant that I see the world through the eyes of a 180 pound male and you should not go anywhere you do not feel safe but part of the joy of walking is seeing and trying to understand what life is like in places I normally do not travel.

Coming soon: how inequality is evidenced in the light rail stations of the Twin Cities.

But I do have my favorite patios.  My favorite coffee shops and my favorite venues.  Enjoy the places you love.  Don't be afraid to find new favorites.  Don't be afraid to try something very different and grow as a result.

New shoes in the original laces.  They needed to be replaced before the boots were broken in.

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