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Walking Santa Rosa, one street at a time

Monday, February 25th, 2013 | Posted by

By CHRIS SMITH

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

You must get out and walk, Eva Martin’s cardiologist told her. As someone who’d suffered three heart attacks, she knew the doc was

Eva Martin, 72, marks off another street on her map as she walks through a neighborhood on the west side of Santa Rosa, on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013.  (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/ PD)

right.

But the prospect of stepping out her door and padding again and again about her neighborhood off Sonoma Highway in east Santa Rosa sounded so boring.

So about this time in 2011, Martin, then 70, devised a challenge: To walk every street in the city.

As she closes in on completing the mission, she values her new-gained perspective on Santa Rosa and she swears she feels renewed.

“This has been just a lifesaver,” said a grandmother proud to call herself The Streetwalker.

A native of Hamburg, Germany, who came to America in 1961 aboard the Queen Mary, Martin was methodical in her quest.

Before the launch two years ago, she did some research to determine what she was getting herself into. “I checked with Public Works and they said there are more than 500 miles of streets in Santa Rosa.”

She acquired a current city map and decided to use a colorful highlighter to mark off each street she’d walked.

Rather than carry the map with her, unfolding and folding it as she went, she planned to photocopy just the quadrant she would walk that day. She would pause frequently to trace each street or portion of a street she’d covered, and upon returning home would use the photocopy as a guide to update the master map.

Martin set out from home in the St. Francis Acres neighborhood on March 1, 2011. As she moved farther from home, she had to drive to her starting point or ask her husband, Bob, who’s retired from Optical Coating Laboratories, to shuttle her.

Early on, Bob accompanied her on the approximately 90-minute walks she has taken generally four or five days a week. But he advocated shortcuts, such as when his wife would walk to the very end of a cul-de-sac before turning back.

He’d sometimes say, “You can leave this out” and she’d reply, “No I can’t.”

Martin has been committed to walking every foot of every street in the city. Some of the toughest going came on her assault of the Fountaingrove hill.

“It happened to be in the high 90s,” she said, “and it was up and down, up and down.”

She’s had no interest in listening to an iPod as she goes. “I want to be here, in the moment,” she said. “And I want to know what’s going on.”

Moving back and forth across Highway 101 has given her a greater appreciation of Santa Rosa’s east/west disparity.

She found that while some of the streets on the west side are as orderly and inviting as those on the east, she found on the west more than a few that have “nothing but pickup trucks parked in the yards.” The lack of sidewalks on some westside blocks had her walking along the shoulder and, in one case, in a ditch.

Though she almost always walked alone, she said she never encountered any trouble. Once she did feel a bit anxious as she approached a clutch of young men on a corner in a rough-looking neighborhood.

“I said a friendly ‘Hello!’ to them and they said ‘Hello’ back, and that was that.”

She recalls the thought coming to her as she prepared to walk the southern stretch of Santa Rosa Avenue: “I should put on fishnet stockings and a short skirt, and see what happens.”

A pleasant discovery she’s made while walking hundreds of miles along nearly every thoroughfare, boulevard and retail, residential and commercial/industrial street in the city is that drivers are surprisingly courteous to pedestrians.

“Maybe after all these horrible crosswalk accidents of the last year or two, people have really become more aware,” she said. “Often, cars will stop while I am still approaching the curb — that is, if there is no light. They wave, smile, indicating that it is safe for me to cross.”

Martin said, while walking a neighborhood near the busy intersection of Fulton Road and West Third Street, that her multi-year odyssey has made her stronger and about 25 pounds lighter.

“I feel really good,” she said.

Her map is by now a glorious thing. The large sector of the city she walked in 2011 is highlighted in blue. All the streets she walked last year are traced in red, and the many streets she’s covered so far this year are bathed in orange.

Supportive friends have already reserved a picnic area at Finley Park for a mid-March “Golden Spike” party to mark the completion of the mission.

Martin hasn’t decided what she’ll do for exercise once she has walked the final street. She knows there’s an awful lot of nice park trails out there.

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Ann Hutchinson is our Santa Rosa correspondent.
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