5 Miles Of P. Christich, 1 Mile Bare Foot.

Today I again walked 5 miles back from the auto repair place. I’d rather enjoyed the last time. This time I did the last mile bare foot. I spent an entire year barefoot about 1973 or ’74. It snowed that year. Not much, but enough to test my resolve riding a Schwin Varsity with iron ridged pedals in the snow. But I’m not easily dissuaded from things.

This time I wore my cheap Walmart plastic quasi-pool shoes. Like an enclosed toe sandle, but all molded plastic. They have a textured insole that is fine for a little while, then wears. I’d been planing on working to increase my callus anyway, to be fit to walk barefoot in summer; so at the 4 mile point (just after a Starbucks stop ;-) I went unshod.

The world is much more real when barefoot.

What looks warm IS hot. I was reminded of being 5 and diving for the white paint stripe while crossing black asphalt roads. Cement in the shade is cool to slightly cold ( 50 F something at night). Over the black asphalt not only are the feet hot but the body too. Feels like 90-something F. Then under the shade tree on the cool cement it feels like 65 F. All just 20 feet away. A gentle cool breeze under the tree. Rising hot air in the street.

It tells me that just minor changes in Stevenson Screen siting will have big changes in recorded temperature. Over lawn, in the shade; far cooler than over ploughed dirt between two asphalt runways as many airport thermometers are today. Trees are known to attempt temperature self regulation at about 80 F in their canopy, dumping tons of water to stay cool in the sun. There’s a reason people plant shade trees.

Textures seen become textures felt. Where a sidewalk was lifted by a root, then ground down to level, has a different texture than the cement each side. Even different bits of sidewalk have different textures. The degree of cement to sand, the fine vs coarse sand. Does it have voids and pits that showed up, or was it floated smooth?

Walking that last mile I was also reminded of how shoes shape our gate. At the first few steps there was an unfamiliar jarring of the hips and spine. Heel strike. After about 1/8 mile I returned to my older summer gate. Shorter steps. Not a full on prance, but a bit more “prance like” with the leg more bent at impact. Impact slower and on the outside edge of the foot, rolling rapidly to flat across the bottom then rolling forward onto the ball and big toe and off the ground again. More work by the calves and quadriceps, less by the glutes and other back of leg muscles. A bit more forward lean to the stance, less back issues in the stride.

In no time at all the sharp shot of foot impact up the hips and into the spine was gone. At the 1/4 mile mark the foot roll /swivel was working nicely without really noticing. The eyes move down to see where you are about to step more. What is the texture? Is there a stick or sycamore ball there? Will it be hot? Is there white paint? ;-)

So I was much more aware of walking. Aware of my surroundings. Aware of my posture and gate. Aware of cement.

P. Christich & Others

Much of the area was built in the late 1950’s Then, folks had more pride of work and less fear of being sued. The guys who laid the sidewalks put their name on them. Much of the 5 miles was done by one P. Christich. Many corners had his name. One had a scratched in date of 10 / 51 by some kid. Near the end was one with the date pressed in as 1959. While I was in diapers and then playing with toy trucks, P. Christich was pouring hundreds of miles of sidewalks.

No, not hyperbole. I walked 5 miles of it this way. Last time was 5 miles another side. Figure cross streets about every 1/8 mile, that’s 5 x 8 = 40 cross streets at at least 5 miles each or 200 miles. Now another 200 miles on the other direction. We’re up to 400 miles. Now remember there’s 2 sides to the street… And this is just ONE small neighborhood area that was built out then. There are many others.

Where there not other folks doing this? Yes. But in this particular area not as many. There were a few A.C. Bynum from 1956. One A&B Concrete in a newer area from 1967. A couple of M. A. Preeble from 1956, and he must have done well as near the newer area were a few Preeble Bros. 1961. Also in the newer area a few LLOYD NEWGREN from 1962 – 1963. The newest I found marked was a singble C. Cacitti Contractor 1976. Then silence.

Somewhere in the late ’60s to early ’70s we had a “Liability Insurance Crisis” (that really meant the lawyers and judges started doing “Socialism via law” and handing out money like crazy for any possible “liability” from the perceived pockets of the supposed “rich” businessmen.

Walking along, I could almost hear the echo through time of the lawyers of the day informing their clients: “Do NOT put your name in the cement. Don’t make it easy for them, 20 years from now, to know who to sue when a root lifts the cement and you are held 1% and fault but 100% deep pockets liable”. In California, if you are found even 1% responsible by a jury, but are the only one with money, you get to pay 100% of the damages. “Make them pay $1000 / hour for 20 hours of lawyer time to find out who laid that cement ‘whenever’ AND have plausible deniability about it in most cases. That will cut down a lot on the nuisance suits.”

So the new cement is all blandly silent. No pride of work allowed. Nameless and story-less. No “Making it, come on out brother” in the names. No “My God they laid 400 miles of sidewalks in 5 years?” for the future

At some corners were metal castings around the entry to the storm drain. (Now we just use more poured cement). “Johnson Water Works”. Mr. Johnson was busy casting iron in San Jose in the ’50s. At most major corners in San Jose, they have cut out P. Christich and Mr. Johnson and replaced them with fresh poured concrete ramps for the handicapped. Despite there being nearly no handicapped on the streets (they, too, like their vans and living room TVs).

This was almost completed after about 5 years (for the major streets), then they ripped them all out for a “Do over”. The old-new ramps had a rippled cement border to let the blind know it was a street. “Someone” decided to change the “standard” to an embedded horrible thing with raised circles in it that make for a really bad experience with shopping carts and kids-mobiles. But THEY Decided! So out came all the just completed work and in went the much newer ramps with the crappy surface. (At no time in my walk was a blind person seen walking… so who is using these is unclear).

Eventually all the Johnson and P. Christich markings will be obliterated. Things that lasted 66 years ripped out to be more PC (then ripped out in 10 years to be even more more PC, then what’s to come?…) Now that they have re-done what they did on main streets, they may get back to the residential neighborhoods to do them. (Happening now near me).

In Conclusion

I find the “urban hike” and interesting experience. I’ve discovered more things than I’d ever expected. The Urban Camp near the railroad off the underpass of the freeway. Nice tents surrounded by ‘trash as treasure’ (just past the “State Property KEEP OUT Violators will be arrested and persecuted” signs…) as people without $3000 /month rent try to figure out what to do.

A nice river with decent flow and a nice bridge over it. It has some trivial mercury contamination so you are not supposed to eat the fish – cinnabar mine up stream, but lots of things living in it just the same. With proper filtration a good source of emergency Aw Shit water.

More small businesses than I’d thought existed. The odd bits of humor. A prosthetic repair company store front next door to a dance studio. The Weight Watchers next to the Hamburger Joint. Car repair places with a pile of clearly trashed cars strewn around. (Oh, the irony…)

The Spouse was all in my grill about “You are NOT going to walk home again are you?” I said maybe I’d catch the bus. Not wanting to make a point of it that as long as I do walk home then I can walk home and it is the stopping that results in the ending of ability…

Besides, I’m trying to do a bit of conditioning for this summer. Not only do I hope to do some more barefoot in the woods, but I’m hoping to try a few 5 to 10 mile hike-in bits in the woods. Maybe even a bit of camping out. (Don’t tell the spouse. Her idea of “roughing it” is a Best Western … no room service you see.)

So I’ll be doing more of these Urban Hikes. And more distance bare foot. This was just the first mile in a few decades to get the callus formation barely started. In a few months I ought not to even notice the black pavement or rough textures. Then would be a good time to take a barefoot walk in the woods… (on the wide dirt trail… I’m not daft enough to walk barefoot over the litter strewn homes of scorpions and snakes… for that I wear high top boots).

With luck, sometime this summer, I’ll have some postings from or about camping and fishing. At least, that’s the dream.

Anyone know how much beer can fit in a backpack with minimal tent, bag, and stove? On second though, forget the stove; with beer who’s going to cook or eat? Forget the bag, too. With enough beer you don’t need the bag… Maybe forget the tent. That weight is enough beer you wouldn’t make it to the tent anyway. ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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10 Responses to 5 Miles Of P. Christich, 1 Mile Bare Foot.

  1. Larry Ledwick says:

    Walking is good for you, there was a recent study that found the two best indicators of health (mortality) is natural walking pace. Faster walking pace very closely associated with good general health.


  2. E.M.Smith says:

    Mine is very brisk. At the start…

    So am I going to be in very good health, for a little while? ;-)

  3. H.R. says:

    E.M.: “he odd bits of humor. A prosthetic repair company store front next door to a dance studio. The Weight Watchers next to the Hamburger Joint.”

    The best one I ever saw was a funeral home right next to a small, 1/4-block square, 3-story hospital. I was on a two-lane road passing through a 3-stoplight town in West Virginia. It seemed to be the only hospital for a good ways around.

    Struck me as a strong vote of ‘no confidence’ or perhaps a practical solution to bitter experience.

  4. philjourdan says:

    I keep callouses year round. The only time I shod is when the temperature goes below 20. As this is the east and we get the humidity, that means we do not get the naked heat. I will not go barefoot in Imperial Valley in the summer.

    But yes, at 95, the blacktop is HOT. so you seek the shade of trees (fortunately we have many) or the white line. Or even the gravel shoulder if the first 2 are not available. Since my feat are very calloused, the gravel is not a bother (surprisingly the only thing that bothers me are holly leaves – as they do tend to find the only parts of the foot NOT calloused – e.g. between the toes.

    I have noticed my stride is shorter when barefoot. I can understand why now (I never thought of it before). But as I have an arch that makes my feet parabolas, all I can do is heel/toe. And that is also why I hate shoes. None fit right.

  5. E.M.Smith says:


    Note THAT’S a backpack I can appreciate!

  6. Wow, we must be about the same age. In 1973 I did a “spring hike” organized by my city annually for hikers. The “Gold Medal” was 35 KM. A few thousand people usually did that in April. In 1973, I decided to do that hike barefoot. So I practiced, went to school, rode the bus, hung out, all barefoot in the months leading up to it. In Germany (cold). Your comment about barefoot in 1973 reminded me of that adventure. Thanks.

  7. E.M.Smith says:


    I’m now 65.

    Glad you enjoyed it! I’ve heard it said that my Irish ancestors only started wearing shoes in the last 200 years. No idea how much truth is in it, or how much was just the poverty of 250 years ago.

    I do know that my feet generally hate shoes. Anything fully enclosed runs the high risk of them starting to mold… So when I MUST wear enclosed shoes, they are made to slip off discretely under the table / desk and often do so… Shoes come off the moment I’m in the door at home, and often in the car too. About the only times I find them a big feature is when it is working in the yard time (and there are stiff stems poking up hiding in the grass) or when real crud is involved (oil on driveways, doggy-do, farm “cow stuff”, etc. or on factory floors (steel toes are helpful with crates are dropped…) Oh, and we would wear tennis shoes when floating in the irrigation canals / rivers as some jerks would toss their beer bottles in and there was some risk of broken glass on the bottoms. Good use for worn out ones ;-)

    Pressure on the sides of my foot cause cramping. I eventually learned to buy oversized shoes (ignore their toe length based measure and just get a size that fit the actual FOOT and did not press on the ‘baby toe’ side of the foot). Usually that’s about 1 size larger then the shoe guy says. That was the reason I was wondering if I could go barefoot year round. The answer being yes… with some work.

    It was interesting that in summer the local grocer would notice and nag about no bare feet in the store. (“I’m sorry, thank you, just ring me up and I’ll go home where my shoes are” – not mentioning I’d not put them on… or wear them next week…) Yet in winter the conditioning that everyone would obviously be wearing shoes was so strong that they would not notice. Go figure!

    My opinion was that my feet had about 2 million years of evolution to make them fit for running around on the plains of Africa and walking to Europe (including winters) and only a few dozen thousand years of civilization at most, so were likely still competent as native feet… and they proved me right. Don’t think I’d want to do significant “below freezing” without some protection, but occasional walks in light snow were not a problem.

  8. DonM says:

    Hand placed concrete.

    I had a recent job where half the street was already complete … we had to tie in and complete the other half (infill development sucks).

    Current standards require a minimum gutter slope of 0.004 ft/ft. The existing hand formed/poured curb & gutter on the other side had a slope of 0.0018 … it was built 50 years ago. So now I need to get creative to make a 0.004 slope on the north side match the 0.002 on the south side. I do this by screwing around with the street cross slopes adding a few inlets.

    I have watch contractor closely throughout this area of the project because it is non standard and I don’t want puddles in the street and the cross sections transition. It is apparent that the existing curb is poured perfect … no bird baths at all for 500 feet. The 4,000 feet of machine poured curbs, at twice the slope, have puddles at almost all curves, returns, and inlets.

    If the concrete guy that put in 500 feet of 0.002 slope gutter had put his name on any part of it I would have tracked him down to shake his hand and tell him he did the best work I have ever seen.

  9. Steven Fraser says:

    @DonM: contact the city engineering office. They may have a lead to the contractor, or even know them by memory.

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