April 24, 2017
by David Ryan

Wandering Through the Mormon Landscape

As we all know, there is a certain amount of sameness and little to give a location a sense of place throughout much of country, especially in those areas built after World War II. It’s almost as if you could be blindfolded and dropped almost anywhere and not have a clue as to where you were when the blindfold came off. But if you were dropped into a Mormon developed community you might notice a difference.

You’ll see that the streets, even residential streets, are extremely wide and that the city blocks are very long. And if you check out  a map, or Google Earth, you’ll see that the blocks are perfectly square with exact north/south and east/west orientation.

A wide street in Provo, Utah

This is no accident. Long before Brigham Young led the Mormons to Utah in 1847, Joseph Smith (the founder of the Mormon religion) described the ideal Mormon town in an 1833 document called the “Plat of Zion.” His vision was to establish agricultural communities with urban aspects.

His plan called for 132 foot wide streets and 660 foot long blocks. The streets would be wide enough to accommodate irrigation ditches and transportation. Building lots would be large enough for a garden. Houses would be oriented to avoid looking directly onto a neighbor’s home. He wanted his followers to live in a town environment to make educating children easier and for members to have access to cultural events and church activities. The agricultural fields would be just outside of town and still readily accessible to followers. Continue Reading →

April 11, 2017
by David Ryan

Wandering Along on a Do it Yourself Kennedy Walk

Three or four weeks ago I saw a mention of “Kennedy Walks” on Facebook or someplace else. I’m not sure where, but it did bring back some very vague recollections of Kennedy administration members doing very long walks along the C & O Canal towpath near Washington, D.C.

In looking into the matter further, I found out that John F. Kennedy had learned of Theodore Roosevelt’s challenge to Marine Corps officers of his era to show their fitness by walking 50 miles. President Kennedy subsequently challenged members of his administration to walk 50 miles in twenty hours as a show of his administration’s vigor.

The President’s brother, Bobby, took the bait and walked 50 miles within twenty hours on February 9, 1963. He wore his regular leather business shoes and followed the C & O Canal towpath from Great Falls of the Potomac to Harpers Ferry for his route.

My memory, which could be wrong, was of twenty-five mile walks being popular at that time. I mentioned seeing something about Kennedy Walks to my friend Phil, and he told me that he did a twenty-five mile Kennedy Walk with some friends when he was in high school.

A couple of days later, Phil called me up to say that we should do a Kennedy Walk. Less than a week later we stepped off from Phil’s house at the base of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque for our own “do it yourself” twenty-five mile Kennedy Walk.

We did not have a pre-determined route with exact measurements. Our destination was my house over eleven miles away by car in the Rio Grande valley. Our intention was to follow existing bike trails and footpaths to get there and to use my Fitbit to track of our mileage.

Our route would be generally downhill or level. And even better we were not going to march. We were going to walk at a pace that would get us to our destination and let us take in what was along the way.

Phil even remembered to bring along a Kennedy half dollar coin to honor our walk.

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February 5, 2017
by David Ryan

Running Into Folk Art While Wandering

Whether you are on foot or in a car, wandering offers the opportunity to notice many of the little things that life has to offer and, even better, encourages you to take the time to examine them. Folk Art is one of those especially wonderful little things to notice when wandering.

Earlier this week I had the chance to wander around, what is, perhaps, the most remarkable example of Folk Art in the world – Watts Towers in Los Angeles. The Towers are currently being considered for listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are currently only eleven UNESCO cultural sites in the country!

IMG_6938 (800x600)

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