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I've never been much of a long distance biker; the fast majority of my rides are 10-20 minutes probalby 13-20. Shorter than that and I walk, longer than that and I don't bother. There've been the rare 'expeditions' into Altadena, or the SF Zoo, or further and further up the Minuteman bike trail, all the way to Bedford once -- 19 km each way. But mostly I'm a utility biker on a cheap mountain bike.

Well, motivated by various desires for more exercise and sunlight and such, I headed out for Bedford again. Leaving at 9:30! it wasn't too warm, 25 C. Still, I packed *two* liter bottles of water, as well as my spritzer.

Nothing too exciting at first, just biking and timing (25 minutes from Alewife to the Arlington TJ, Google says 23 minutes and 6.1 km, so I was doing 14.6 kph or 9 mph.) I noticed lots of side paths into nature preserves, as well as Spy Pond of course, and an art museum in Arlington; plenty of stuff to explore, if I wished. But I wished to go to Bedford and back.

One thing I noted: past Lexingont, some other bikers greeted me randomly, and I started doing the same myself to oncoming people. It sounds silly, but the smiles and acknowledgments with total strangers felt good.

So, I get there. The building at the trail end is only open weekends, but there's water fountain, and an older biker I asked showed me public bathrooms around the corner. So there's some utilities. Not much else -- like the much closer end of the Belmont bike path, you're dumped out into nother but busy streets.

But here's where my day got interesting. I asked another woman (whom I though was east Indian), whether the trail truly ended. Yes -- but there are dirt paths you can take to Concord and toward Walden and such. Interesting, I filed it away for later. I got to pay her back by pointing out the water fountain and bathrooms.

Then she asked if I wanted to follow her and her male companion to Concord. "Sure," I said, with the privilege of not even have to think about my safety. And I did. Down Loomis, and then left onto some path.

Good thing: on my own, I doubt I'd have had the courage to brave a narrow dirt path, unmarked, especially with T-Mobile's habit of dropping signal when I need it, not that Google knows about this route. We pretty much went in a straight line, so I could probably duplicate the route. The path itself is through some nature preserve, I later learned. Also... well, I'm glad I'm on a cheap and heavy bike; some small rocks in the path were surprisingly bumpy, and there were some dust pits near the end that made me worry about traction.

A friend IDs it as the Reformatory Branch Path. Yep. Huh, Google does know about it.

"This is Concord," she said. They split off, I found myself at Concord Road, eyeing some giant preserve across it, along with a hidden trail extension. Go bacK? Go on to Walden or the interesting parts of Concord, as she suggested? (I'd found that those were way south of where I was -- 20-24 minutes by Google time.) I figured I'd try for Walden, and noted it'd be faster to go to the train station than to bike back. Granted it's mostly downhill from Bedford.

She'd mentioned pastures; I saw farms. Like the Frank Scimone farm, with a giant sunflower, fields of corn or such, a decrepit greenhouse, and a flowers and produce stand, also looking somewhat decrepit. I bought a peach and a tomato; the peach was decent, haven't had the tomato yet. Some other produce was falling apart and covered in flies, though.

Down Concord, which turns into Bedford Street, then left onto Old Bedford Road, where out of nowhere a giant tree branch fell down with a dry creaking sound. And by 'branch' I meanmore like 1/3 of the trunk -- one of those trees that forks low down, and one of the tines just fell over. I gave that tree a wide berth.

More farms and other stuff to explore, if you wanted to roam old Concord, and a road I thought was rather faster than she'd led me to believe. 35 mph limit, which means even faster cars. I sidewalked most of it, but couldn't always.

I had another first, though: while I've used Google Maps a lot, I've never used the car GPS-style navigation voice. Figured it might serve me here, even speaking up from my pocket, and it kind of did.

Crossing Concord Turnpike was a pain, and the cars are REALLY FAST as you stand in the middle waiting for the next walk sign... though I didn't know the half of it.

Finally, Walden Pond! Looked on the left for bike parking, saw a replica of Thoreau's house, went down the hill to the right and found racks right by the pond. Sweet! And more water fountains!

OTOH I was totally unprepared for a beach, and I was running out of energy to go hiking around. By my stopwatch I'd been in motion for about two hours from home, not counting the various pauses. Remember that I usually don't do more than 20 minutes. And the temperature was up to 32 C -- not bad in the shade and with the wind of a bike, more oppressive standing still.

Chatted a bit with a ranger about trails, and how they should put up signs saying "bike parking and no trash cans down here".

And so I headed to downtown Concord, which is when it got unpleasant. Naturally I crossed Walden road to head back the way I'd come. But see, there's no real bike paths as such here, just a white line marking off the edge of the road. Coming, I could often pretend that was a bike lane, if narrow. Going... it was really narrow. I ended up walking to the intersection of Walden and the Turnpike.

Which is when I found no crosswalks. There's only one crosswalk, on the Pond side. I had no legal way of escaping my corner. I did, of course, but eww.

Then Walden continued to have a missing path problem for a bit: I continued to salmon even after that changed, since I was supposed to turn left onto Thoreau. Which also isn't bike friendly, until a sidewalk crops up on the other side.

Finally, the train station. I thought of exploring Concord before the next train, but was really beat. Hoooome.

Another first: I'd never taken my bike on commuter rail before. Turns out a 40 lb bike up rather steep and narrow steps is hard. I backed off to let the other passengers on, and finally wrestled it up. Then I folded up the basket, thinking that might make it easier to get off. Turns out, at Porter Square they let us off at a DIFFERENT door, so we had to dash our bikes down the aisle. Good thing I'd closed my basket, I'm not sure it would have fit.

'We', I said? The Indian couple who led me to Concord in the first place were also taking that train back, to Porter Square, even...

So, in the end, I probably biked as much as I would have simply coming back from Bedford. Maybe pedaled more, rather than coasting. But I got to see a lot more!

Photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstalk/sets/72157656754439411

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Damien Sullivan

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