Walking across Winnipeg

Covering ground on foot to discover new landscapes

Self-professed urban hiker Tyler Sneesby (a.k.a. DJ Hunnicutt) has travelled far and wide, and brought that perspective back to use in day trips closer to home. Here’s what he’s learned and discovered through walking across Winnipeg – twice.

 

Sneesby stopped to visit some friends at the Graffiti Gallery, including Rob Crooks, DJ Kutdown, Bob Veruela and Pat Lazo.

Uniter (U): What inspired you to do this walk the first time?

Sneesby (S): Well I had heard about a couple acquaintances of mine, Tom Dorey and his pal Joel, had done it. And then I related it to my own theories of exploring cities. I always pronounce that the best way to experience a new city is by walking. 

The first time I went to New York City, I walked for hours and hours and hours. Any city I go to I say, “the best way to experience a city is by walking it,” and yet I had never done that in my own city. So I thought, well, it’s possible, so I’m going to just try it.

 

U: If you walked for a whole day in New York City you still wouldn’t get very far, but in Winnipeg, you can walk the whole city in a day.

S: Yeah, I’ve thought about doing it in other cities. I thought about doing it in Berlin. What’s unique about Winnipeg is that it has a perimeter highway, and when the city is done, it is done. You can actually hit the end of the city and be like, “now you are at the not-city.” It’s quite an easy target to set because there is an actual defined border of our city. It’s still a daunting task because it’s almost 30 kilometres East-West, but at least you can say, “yeah, this is where my end point is.”

 

Jeff Bishop in front of The Sound Exchange on Portage Avenue.

U: How long did it take you? You did an East to West trip and a North to South trip?

S: Yeah, East to West from Dugald and the Perimeter to Assiniboia Downs, and that’s 29 kilometers. With two breaks, a lunch break and a dinner break, it took eight hours. 

And the North-South, which was Main and the Perimeter to St. Mary’s and the Perimeter was 25 kilometers. I stopped at Parlour, and I stopped at McDonald’s to charge my phone, so with a couple stops I think that was about six and a half hours.

 

U: Was there anything you did to prepare to see the city with that fresh perspective?

S: Honestly, I’m much more interested in urban hiking than going out to look at some trails. I’m much more interested in something to look at, architecture, design, signage. Urban hiking has always appealed to me more. Because I like to take photographs, I timed my walk based on where the light would hit at the stuff I was most interested in. So I wanted something interesting to look at, I wanted a place I had never been to, and I wanted to find a direction, I guess those were my criteria.

 

On the Western side of the city, Sneesby walked past the iconic Rae and Jerry’s steakhouse.

U: Did you stumble upon any gems in your walk?

S: No question! You drive down Main Street, North Main, or you drive down Henderson, and you see these places like the Billy Mosienko Bowling Alley, and you’re flying past them at 60 kilometres an hour and you don’t really stop. Once you’re walking by them and you stop, you look at them, you photograph them, it’s just, no question. 

Or even East-West – it took me from Dugald and the Perimeter to Lagimodiere, it took me two and a half hours. That’s how big Transcona is. And Transcona’s a gorgeous neighbourhood, really cute mid-century bungalows. Some houses look straight out of Edward Scissorhands, just pastel yellow houses. 

You don’t understand the scale of something, of your own city, until you walk it. You certainly don’t appreciate it when you’re flying by at 60 kilometres an hour. 

 

U: Did this change your perspective on Winnipeg being a walkable city?

S: I tried to do the point A to point B in the straightest line possible, which ironically both ways took me right through Portage and Main. A few times I was stumped as to, “do I have to climb these railroad tracks?” I was lucky that the Nairn overpass does indeed have a “sidewalk,” it’s meant for pedestrians I guess, but it’s certainly not pedestrian friendly by any means.

It’s walkable in the sense that if you have two legs and you can have shoes you can walk, but it’s not a walkable city by any means. That being said, it’s still very fun to do. 

 

Sneesby’s East to West walk began and ended at the Perimeter Highway.

U: So you’re planning on revisiting this tradition this summer possibly?

S: Yeah, there’s some other routes I’ve got in mind. Like I’d love to do Selkirk Street, I’d love to do Logan, these streets fascinate me. Or just (walk down) Arlington as far north as I can go – I’d love to do from the northern point, from Arlington, over the bridge, through Midtown, and then I don’t know. Once you get South of the Taylor train tracks, it just gets a lot less interesting because of the area, in what appeals to me personally. Maybe other people find that area interesting. But yeah, I’ve got lots of plans, I just need to build up the energy to do it.

 

U: Do you have any words of advice for other lovers of walking or others who may take on such a journey?

S: I’ve always preferred walking over bike riding or driving. Walking is something that is about the experience, and not about the getting to somewhere. It’s what you do while you’re walking. So take your camera, or a phone would suffice. Prepare some music. It’s a great way to listen to music you haven’t heard before. 

Don’t try to do it in X amount of hours. If it takes 12 hours, do it in 12 hours. Stop lots, stop as much as you need to. Take lots of photos. And I personally like doing it by myself. I like the solitude and I like being able to dictate my own pace, and I highly, highly recommend it. It feels great on a lot of levels.

 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Published in Volume 70, Number 26 of The Uniter (March 31, 2016)

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