READERS' PICK: All too often, we complain when things go wrong, but fail to cheer when things are done right. And this thing is done very right. It's a narrow oasis through town with vegetation on one side and the usually-dry Rillito riverbed on the other. For a special treat, take a walk a couple days after a big winter storm. The melting snow from the nearby mountains can get the Rillito running pretty fast, giving the exercisers a rare treat for both eyes and ears. While the route must be shared among cyclists, skaters and pedestrians, it is remarkably free of animosity. Walkers can go for miles without having to worry about cars, buses or trucks. And the occasional cyclist steers a wide berth. A haven from the city, right down the middle of the city.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Fourth Avenue. (See Best Urban Ambiance, page X).
LOOSE CHANGE: Railroad tracks from 16th Street to Speedway Boulevard. This walk traverses downtown diagonally, crossing familiar territory in a most unfamiliar way. It's not a long walk but it's strangely, even deliciously disorienting. Most of us experience downtown from the grid of streets, and the views from that perspective have become so familiar we no longer really see them. The railroad track walk treats us to a view from a different angle, and everything becomes new again. Because of its diagonal orientation, distances between two familiar points are not as far as we're accustomed to, causing a pleasant horizontal vertigo. The route leads us past lush washes we never saw before and gives us back-door views of warehouses. The underpass crossings (they're actually OVERPASSES!) are a special treat. Walking the tracks makes you rethink all your assumptions about the downtown landscape; the longer you've lived here, the more of a surprise it will be.