With long winded explanation.
Chad has a post asking about how far we were allowed to roam as kids. HP (comment #40) suggested you look up your old neighborhood, because he over estimated how far he actually went from home. I over estimated how far away the library was by a little bit - Google says it's 1.7 miles driven miles. The house I grew up in is the blue thumb-tack.
View Larger Map
The library was the farthest place I routinely went without my folks but my brother, some friends, and I would sometimes ride the bike trail a couple of miles out just for the heck of it. One time we rode out to the West Falls Church Metro Station*.
We lived on the corner, while the street we faced (Polly ST) was quiet, Wolftrap RD was a little busy. When I was little (pre-k) Mom would walk me to Christie's house (other side of Wolftrap). Later she'd walk me to across from her road and Mrs. Patrick and Christie would walk to the other side to "meet" us. Sometime around kindergarten or 1st grade Mom started letting me go on my own. Our school bus stop moved over the years but in Kindergarten it was at the end of Christie's street; after the first day, Pat (then a 4th grader) walked me.
As far as playing went, we would usually play in any of several yards (usually back yards). There weren't that many kids on our block so there were only so many places I could have been. I guess Mom knew which house we were at most of the time. Mike's mom would sometimes call our house and tell Mom if she saw him to tell him to put on his shoes. So maybe our mother's didn't always know.
I'm not sure when I started riding my bike places. Certainly by 10, I was riding to the library, 7-11, and drug store. I can remember being sent to People's Drug to tell Pat it was time to come home on a Saturday or in the summer. People's had several video games and he'd spend all afternoon there. I'd also go to the stationery store in the shopping center across the street from there, or the fabric store (more rarely). But, oh, the library - being able to ride their myself = many many happy hours.
In the summer, I'd ride my walk bike to the pool and meet Caroline or go with Pat. Once I joined the swim team, Dad would drive me to practice (@ 7:30am) and then I'd walk home. The summer between 6th and 7th grades, after practice I'd either read or go to the library for most of the day. One summer I babysat a girl (6ish) from around the corner in the mornings. The younger kids practiced at 8:30, so I'd shower and dress at the pool then Lizzie and I would walk to my house.
I used to spend lots of time at the little park on the other side of OLGC (named "Town Park" on Google). In elementary school I organized my friends once to map the stream that ran through it. I sucked at naming things even then. The best name (and only one I can remember now) we came up with was "BR tree". It was pretty big around, easy to hide behind, even if not standing up. Our Irish Setter got a lot of nice long walks in the woods all summer long. I'd walk in the stream sometimes (man the stone bruises I used get!) other times we'd stay on the path then follow the stream up to Echols St and walk home that way. I was always careful to walk really close to the stream so no one would be upset I was in their yard.
Another place we would sometimes wander around were the undeveloped lots at the industrial park. (Mom almost certainly didn't know about that.) A few times in the summer Pat and I went to the playground at Vienna Elementary (near the community center and library) and played tag or had water gun fights on the "play structure". In tag if you touched the gravel you automatically became it; the water gun fights would have to have ceasefires so we could go across the street to Town Hall and refill from the water fountain. There were never as many parents at the park as there were kids. In 8th and 9th grade I sometimes ride up to visit my 6th grade teacher, Rick Wormeli after school.
I marked the pond at the country club because we skated there a few times one winter. Until a guy came by and told us the pond had been deepened the last summer from 4 feet to 10 feet. Suddenly we could all her our mothers calling. The idea of falling into 4 feet of water didn't seem nearly as scary as falling through into 10 feet of ice cold water. Who knows if it was true but it got gone.
I often wish Nettie didn't live some far out and on a busy-ish road. Our road is too narrow, windy, and crazy drive filled for her to even ride her bike on it and there's only one kid her age in walking distance (directly across the street, actually). Another of her friends may move out our way, her family's looked at a couple of houses with in a mile of M&D's. Maybe Nettie will become a little more brave about walking along the road if she has somewhere to go.
*By the time we got back to where we got on the roads (about a mile from home) I didn't think I'd make it but Pat pointed out that I kind of had to. When we got home I was hot, thirsty, and exhausted. I poured a glass of kool-aid, sat down, drank it down, and promptly vomited it back up on the family room rug. The first and last time I made that mistake!