I don't drive but even if I did, I would walk to schul. I love long walks. I am new to the South, and the weather has stayed summery well into October. I do not miss the autumn leaves. They remind me too much of something that is dying. I even love the bright hot sun. I have gotten sunburned coming back up the hill, but somehow I have not minded that either.
Walking to schul takes time. The schul is four miles from my apartment, and located on a busy street, but at 9am on a Staurday morning, the main road is not busy. I smell treif meat cooking at the Denny's. I see workers on their way to jobs. I see men in rags. I have seen a prison work detail with the men like cargo in the back of a truck instead of like passengers in a van. They will work shackeled together, come rain or shine. I remember the prayer about the Lord freeing the bound. I see pedestrians, people heading through the black asphalt deserts of empty parking lots on their way between the neighborhoods that have grown up on either side of the main road.
Walking back from schul, I try to avoid the main road. It is cooler on the streets where greenery drops the temperature. Some Saturdays it was close to a hundred degrees if not over. I travel through neighborhoods that those in cars avoid in their rush to get from here to there. I pass houses that are on a creek that is like a canal. I make my way past a huge park in the historic district. I pass a high school and see people washing cars or sitting out on their front porches.
I remember the long schul walks I took when I lived in Syracuse.There were a bunch of us graduate students who attended an Orthodox schul in Dewitt, a suburb of that city. We walked three miles through town. This surprised the rabbi at my current schul. He debated whether walking such distances without a special boundary was permissable and finally came up with the rule: as long as one walks through inhabited area, long schul walks are fine.
Of course the walks in Syracuse were different. We talked and there was a feeling that one was part of something vital. Also, even though I was not shomer shabbos, I got a feeling of sabbath release from cares and troubles as the walk was an enforced break from studies and even worries. Here walking is different, because I walk alone. I still enjoy the break from a week's worth of worries as I walk the silent main road or climb the hill back up to my apartment in the heat of the afternoon.