Walla Walla by Bicycle

golden_gate_park_bike_rentalWhile I love being outside in the spring and fall, I have a hard time with the summer heat.  I tend to stay indoors enjoying the air conditioning.  The one time of day I do venture outdoors is in the evening after dinner but before dusk.  It’s still warm but bearable and I can usually get at least one if not all of my family members to go for a bike ride with me.

One nice thing about Walla Walla is the variety of routes we can take as we explore.  Some are specifically for bicycles and others are just more enjoyable that way.  Every time we ride through a neighborhood, I realize how much I miss while I drive.  Here are some of the places we like to visit by bike:

  • Mountain View Cemetery.  The roads are paved (better than a lot of city streets) and the slight slope makes it easy to cruse up and down the blocks of gravestones.  We often stop and look for specific names or calculate the ages of the deceased.
  • Whitman College Campus. The grounds are beautiful in the summertime and many seniors pose for their portraits along the creek.
  • The Planet Walk Bike Trail.  The Trail runs from the front of the Veterans Hospital Campus to the Amphitheater at Fort Walla Walla.  It’s not shaded but in the cool of the evening is a nice ride with no cars.
  • Mill Creek Trail.  Also protected from cars, this trail runs from Lions Park on Wilbur Street all the way to Rooks Park.  It’s a slight incline going to Rooks so the best part is coasting down from there.
  • Highway 12 Bike Trail.  From Borleske Stadium, there is a steep hill along the golf course.  Once you climb that, it is smooth sailing all the way to the Vista Terrace Park.  Once again, there is a small incline so the ride back down to Borleske is a fast one.
  • Table Rock and Sydney Heights Neighborhoods.  Both developments are off of Cottonwood Drive as you head South of town.  The roads are smooth, wide, and relatively quiet.  When we see a house for sale, we make bets on the listing price.
  • Division Street Parks.  The streets around Menlo Park are smooth and shaded by large, old trees and one can follow Division Street passed Wildwood Park to Pioneer Park.  Division isn’t the best of roads in terms of traffic or condition, but the parks are fun pit stops for a family ride.
  • The Walla Walla Country Club Neighborhood.  Quiet and green, it’s fun to ride around the golf course at the Country Club.  The community on the backside is gated but the streets along the south side are also fun to explore by bike.
  • The Villages of Garrison Creek.  Across from Fort Walla Walla, this neighborhood boasts a nature trail along Garrison Creek for residents to use.  The houses in this development are well-maintained and close together.  It is fun to compare the different colors and sizes of homes in the community and their roads are smooth.  If you start at Fort Walla Walla, you can ride through the neighborhood to Lions Park on Larch Street on the other side.
  • Walla Walla University Campus.  While not as compact as Whitman College, the campus in College Place has multiple buildings to weave around and surrounding neighborhoods to explore.

Decluttering vs. Minimalism

I recently read an article on another blog about living out of a duffel bag and a backpack for a month to see what it would be like.  The author learned that although doable for himself as an individual, it would be nearly impossible for a family as the items required for family life do not all fit in a few bags.  Families need homes with kitchens and gather spaces, entertainment centers and sleeping quarters, as well as books, toys, and games.  Minimalism and children are a difficult combination.

That being said, families can live well and happily without filling every room in their home with stuff.  The key is to find a balance between clutter and minimalism.  Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject.

  • Making a happy home is about intention and balance.  Be intentional about what you bring into your home and how much time you spend managing stuff.
  • For example, if you have a family of five with 14 loads of laundry after two weeks, you have a lot of clothes in your house.  If dressing your kids well is something you love, great. Enjoy doing laundry.  If not, consider reducing the clothing inventory.  It’s more fun to spend time with the kids rather than washing their clothes.
  • Toys that inspire imaginative play, problem solving, or creativity are worth keeping.  Large plastic monstrosities are not.
  • Teach your kids to be selective about saving papers.  Help them create a portfolio of their best work.
  • Once the designated toy storage area is filled, institute a something in, something out policy.
  • Make purchases based on your actual life, not the life you wish you had.  If you never entertain, you don’t need fancy serving dishes.  Maybe for the entertaining you do, all you need is paper plates.
  • Decide what hobbies are important and make space for them.  Make it easy to engage in the activities you enjoy.
  • Keep up with the latest gaming and entertainment technology only if that is the hobby you wish to invest in.  It will likely be the only one you’ll have money for.
  • Try before you buy.  Rent or borrow sports equipment to see if it’s something you will do often before you buy and have stuff sitting in your garage unused.
  • Invest in experiences as a family.  Go to ball games, concerts, plays, or water parks.  Visit the city, the mountains, or the ocean. Kids will remember the time you spent with more than the stuff you bought.

Walla Walla: A Great Place for Kids

After living in a suburb of Boston for three years, I knew that’s not where I wanted to stay long-term.  Elite preschools preparing toddlers for Harvard, $350 tuition fees for fingerpainting classes, and private memberships to access a local pond made raising  a family there not only cost prohibitive, but exhausting.  While we enjoyed visiting historical sites and the town forest, our connection to the community was non-existent.

Moving to Walla Walla with our kids was a no-brainer.  Here are some reasons why:

  1. We have frequent, free festivals connecting us to our community.  Examples include the Multicultural Arts Festival, the Sweet Onion Festival, the 4th of July in the Park, and the Hot Air Balloon Festival.
  2. We have a vibrant 4-H program in our county and a great county fair each year.
  3. Our city parks and recreation department offers team sports and classes year round.
  4. Our city library offers special programs and reading incentives throughout the summer.
  5. We have lots of history museums like Fort Walla Walla, the Whitman Mission, and the Kirkman House Museum.
  6. We have a wonderful Children’s Museum that can be rented for birthday parties.
  7. We have lots of beautiful and well maintained parks, a splash pad, and a public swimming pool.
  8. The YMCA, Campfire, and many local churches offer affordable day camps during the summer months.
  9. No one has to pay to fish or swim in Bennington Lake and it’s free to hike the trails too.
  10. While we do not have a town forest, the Umatilla National Forest isn’t far away.