A Walking Tour

Story by Nancy Marchant
Illustration by Gordon Marchant

Even after 40 years of strolling, the neighborhood remains a visual delight.

Over the last four decades, our time spent outside and beyond our Ashland Avenue home has evolved. In the ’80s, we pushed a stroller to the Thomas Place Community Center park. In the ’90s, we walked the kids to South Hi Mount. And then came 22 years of 6:30 a.m. exercise hikes. And this year? COVID-19 has provided an opportunity for leisurely neighborhood exploration.

My personal favorite trek is “Stripling to Nuts” for the reward of dark chocolate pecans from Vending Nut Co. at the 1-mile point. As we head around the Stripling Middle School track, our goal during these coronavirus days is actually carved above the schoolhouse door: A Sound Mind in a Sound Body.

The first viewing stop east on Collinwood Avenue is a century-old ironstone house studded with petrified wood pieces.

I have a thousand-pound log of petrified wood in my yard, and a load of red rock collected in Central Texas rims my garden, but I’d love to have some built into my house, too.

There are some really special animals on Collinwood: the stone gargoyles on a three-story castle house that convinced my kids it was haunted back in the ’90s. If we detour a couple of streets to the north, there’s a giant metal chicken in the yard. A few houses down, live ones are pecking around.

We live in a neighborhood of artists who have shared their talents in mysterious ways, including a musical cow on the roof and masterpieces of crochet around a tree. We’re so happy to see them revived with new and brilliant color this year.

A few streets to the south, a little orchard (dubbed Kurima’s Farm) allows our favorite chef, Heather Kurima, to make apple, pear, peach and plum delicacies, or maybe whip up a pizza in the giant outdoor oven built by Jay, Heather’s husband, and son, Zack.

As we head toward Montgomery Street, our older daughter’s namesake street (Margaret) leads us to the prize destination. Vending Nut Co. is a neighborhood institution that fills our cupboard with pecans, cashews, sesame sticks and, of course, dark chocolate pecans and almonds.

There’s much to explore from here in all directions. If we go south, there’s the Jazz Cafe to catch a little music or dine on Mediterranean treats.

To the east, there’s the Botanic Garden (we missed it SO MUCH during the coronavirus closure).

Heading north, we can gaze into the 3D tunnel mural painted on the exterior of Fort Works Art or cross Montgomery Street to stroll around Dickies Arena, the Cowgirl Museum and the rest of the “Cowboys and Culture” district.

And as we walk back toward “Camp Ashland,” there’s the possibility of spotting fossils.

Chalky rocks seem to grow up out of the ground in our yards, and if there is any digging going on by construction crews, Cretaceous ammonites are sure to be unearthed.

Our sharp-eyed neighbor boys spotted 18 ammonites on a recent treasure hunt through the neighborhood.

While this time of COVID-19 crisis has brought a variety of sorrows and difficulties, walking the streets of Arlington Heights gives us joy, and strengthens mind and body. We hope you enjoy your discoveries, too.