Stepping lively in city he loves

  • Article by: JEFF STRICKLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 5, 2011 - 5:18 PM

A Minneapolis resident is out to walk every street in the city as part of a physical therapy regimen.

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Steve Bossert checked out the scenery on a walk near Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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Steve Bossert already has netted an $11.18 profit from his shattered leg, and he's only half way to his goal of walking every street in Minneapolis as part of a post-accident therapy regimen.

The money is the amount of change he's discovered on his journey, which has covered 717 miles so far. And that's not counting the bus token or unused 42-cent stamp.

"I keep track of everything I find and spend," he deadpanned. He'd have more, but he has a rule to buy something every time he comes across a kid's lemonade stand.

His quest to walk every city street grew out of a combination of need and affection. After finishing six months of physical therapy for a rickshaw accident -- more on that later -- he needed an exercise regimen that his still-mending leg could handle. Walking was a perfect fit: He could do it year round, and he could adapt his workout to fit his schedule as an applications engineer at Floyd Total Security.

As for where to do the walking, that was a no-brainer.

"I love this city," Bossert, 44, said of Minneapolis, his home for the past 25 years. "Not only is this a chance to see all of it, but I can mix my routes. I can go through residential neighborhoods or industrial areas or downtown."

He's not a casual stroller. He researches each area before he goes there, enabling him to comment on everything from the architectural styles to the names of famous people who have lived in the neighborhood. And he takes photographs that he posts on his Facebook page (under Stephan Bossert), a gallery that ranges from the iconic (the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture) to the whimsical (a funky yard sale sign).

He started walking two years ago. There are 1,068 miles of city streets; despite a mileage total that would indicate that he's nearing 70 percent completion, he's actually only 48 percent of the way to his goal.

"I don't lay out my walks based on efficiency," he admitted. "I go by whim, and, as a result, I end up overlapping a lot."

At worse, that means it will take him longer to cover all of the streets, progress that he tracks with a map and a GPS he carries as he walks.

"I figure it will take me four or five years" in all, he said. "That's OK. I love walking."

A twist of fate -- and leg

His leg was shattered during a vacation in Thailand. He and his wife were riding in a rickshaw when a car forced it to turn sharply, and it tipped over.

"My feet were down in a little cubbyhole," he said. "My body went flying, but my feet were trapped."

Onlookers called an ambulance, "which turned out to be two teenagers in a van," he said. They took him to a clinic where they had "a circa-1910 X-ray machine that they kept in a shed behind the building." After determining that he needed surgery, which the clinic was ill-equipped to perform, he was airlifted to a hospital in Cambodia.

"It was the first time I've ever crossed an international border without my pants on," he quipped. "Hopefully, it will also be the last."

While he's happy with the medical care he got in Cambodia, there was only so much the doctors could do. To envision what happened to his left leg, "Think of a cardboard tube that is twisted until it splits at the seams," he said. "My femur was pretty much destroyed."

Focusing on the positive

From physical therapy onto the streets, Bossert said he's never feared for his safety on any of his walks. But there was one time near 38th Street and Park Avenue S. that he heard gunshots coming from an area he'd just left. At least, he thinks they were gunshots. "I decided not to go back to check it out," he said.

But he has many more positive stories to tell than negatives ones. He's seen four albino squirrels and three wild turkeys. He's run into five people he knows, and he has declared the 5900 block of Oakland Av. S. "the tidiest block."

He also has had a chance to visit with Francine Corcoran, who finished a three-year quest to walk every street in 2005. While they both enjoy walking, they discovered that the biggest common denominator between them is a love for the city.

And don't forget all the young lemonade entrepreneurs he has supported, assistance that has gone beyond just being a loyal customer.

"Once I had to give a brief business plan lesson to some kids who had just set up their lemonade stand," he said. "Their sign read: '1 for 25 cents / 2 for 15 cents.'"

When he completes his trek across Minneapolis, will he tackle St. Paul?

"I actually considered that at one point, but, no, I don't think so," he said. "The city has a sidewalk commission [the Pedestrian Advisory Committee], and I have thought about joining that after I'm done."

He certainly would have the background.

Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392

  • WANT TO JOIN STEVE ON WALKS?

    Steve Bossert always is happy to have people join him on one of his walks, which average 3 to 3 1/2 miles on weekdays and about 6 miles on weekends. Send him an e-mail at bossertino@gmail.com.

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