I write this on a cool, crisp morning, one that holds the promise of the coming fall, and all that walking in the great outdoors I plan to do. We have been talking about the added benefits of exercise in nature, and really, just about any nature will do. I am especially chuffed because it means I can shop, without guilt, for new shoes.

Walking shoes. Shoes to take me the distance. Cool shoes, but functional, too. My friend, Vladka, would laugh at this. Has laughed at this, in fact, when once I told her to wait, hang on a minute, I need to change my shoes if we are going to walk.

In the Czech Republic -- a place where they walk and love to walk almost as much as the English do -- whatever is on your feet are walking shoes. The Czechs just get up and go. They walk far. The streets are heavily cobbled, and maybe it rains. They walk through parks, not around them, and the trails in the parks are just that -- trails -- and maybe a little bit muddy, and stick-strewn, but you will never hear a word of complaint.

I love that about the Czechs.

They think we are silly.

And, well, kinda we are.

Instead of lamenting that I am not in Olomouc or a pretty English village, I change my focus to walking routes in town that will offer me some green and natural vistas. Owensboro has a lot going for it. We are flat as a flitter. We are a leafy city, with old neighborhoods and mature trees, and for many of us, all this is right outside our front doors. And there the sidewalk ends.


I have clocked this, tried to walk to my sister's house, less than a pleasant half-mile walk away, and covering that distance, in the middle of town, on sidewalks. It can't be done. I can get a little of the way there, but then the sidewalk ends and I am in the street or on the easement when cars are coming, and it is dangerous and infuriating and not conducive to my good mood, which is the point of walking outside to begin with. Even so, perhaps you will have more luck in your neighborhood, and let me suggest a neat app for your phone to use to figure out nice little walks around your home, looking out for cars, as surely you must.

"Map My Run" will provide you will all sorts of ways to plot and record runs you take -- but you can use it for a walking plan, too. It is simple to use, and I find it helpful to have a few routes

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to keep me interested. I bore so easily. It won't help you find sidewalks, though. You are on your own for that.

A friend in another state has recently retired, and one of his daily routines is to get up, go down to his riverfront, and walk every morning, early. We can do that, too. If I would get up and actually try it, I might see those of you who are out there doing that already. The river, any river, is a powerful bit of nature, and working in a regular visit has to be good for us. As kids, we begged our parents to drive down by the river. I can take myself now, and really, I should.

The Greenbelt Park provides all the natural setting we could want, as do the walking trails at Panther Creek and Yellow Creek parks. I don't always think about them, if I am honest, and I get so tied up in wanting to just step out my front door and take a pleasant walk that I forget it is perfectly reasonable to drive to nature. These walks are better commenced with company and they are not so far out of town as to constitute a trip.

What might be more of a trip, but still close, is John James Audubon State Park, in Henderson. It's easy to forget about this one, too, stuck off to the side of U.S. 41 as it is, but go Google it, if you haven't been there in a while. It's gorgeous, and an easy drive for a morning or afternoon adventure.

I love the back-to-school, last-ditch effort aspect of this time of year. It provides us with one more do-over, and just as the weather turns benevolent, inviting. I'm going to take advantage of it.

Greta McDonough is professor of human services at Owensboro Community & Technical College and author of the book, "Her Troublesome Boys: The Lucy Furman Story." Her column runs each Wednesday in Community. She can be reached via email at greta.mcdonough@kctcs.edu.

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