This past Sunday, Cathy and I had big plans of joining in on the Lone Wolf Cycling Field Ops MA ride that was departing from the Ride Studio Cafe at 8:30AM. On Saturday, I raced a pair of very challenging cyclocross races at the Silk City Cyclocross Race in Manchester, CT. Excellent course but very, very tough. Lots of running as well which assured that I'd be extra lame the next day.
The race order was also reversed from what is usually the case, with the single-speed race first in the middle of the day and the Elite race the last race of the day. This as it turned out, was a much more difficult order. By the end of the Elite race, in which I was pretty flat, I was crippled. Cathy opted to do a social ride on Saturday and skip racing. She participated in the second annual Honey 100 metric century all terrain ride which also went from the Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington. Not exactly the easy way out but a great route and excellent event with a whole lot of really good folks.
Come Sunday morning however, neither of us were feeling very spry or chipper. We dragged our feet well past start time for the ride and continued dragging right up until midday. By noon however we knew that it was time to make a decision. Withing the hour we were dressed and rolling, choosing to ride the geared MTB's with the plan being to do as much of the LWC ride as we felt like.
The ride started in Lexington and made it's way through countless chunks of suburban park and conservation lands linked together by Michele Smith and Chip Baker. The bestower of much of the awareness of the chunks of land however, is Rob Vandemark of Seven Cycles and the Ride Studio. He is a master of linking these chunks together and I suspect, lays awake at night linking up routes. Oddly enough, I spent years and years doing the same thing in areas from Bedford outbound and used to run a number of different rides of this ilk, suck as the BAD-ASS (Bedford Area Daring All-terrain Seventy Something - an offroad MTB metric plus ride) and the O-SHIT (Offroad Specific Hiatus Involving Tandems - offroad MTB tandem metric century'ish ride) but Rob's territory and range far surpasses that of anyone I know. He knows all the little nooks and crannies of green-space within probably a 35 mile radius of Lexington. I look forward to the day when I finally step back from bicycle racing and can get back to doing more exploration. Honestly, that is one of the best parts of cycling, at least for me.
The route, which we reviewed on the map, ventured through a number of somewhat known areas but also showed us many areas we'd never been in. It seems in the years that we have been busy either racing or simply riding bikes locally and doing almost no destination riding, many of the local areas have had extensive trail development occur. It would seem that instead of losing trail and conservation areas in the greater metro Boston area, we have actually seen an increase in purpose build public access trail. The Greenway is a perfect example. Many of those areas used to have trails but now there is a perfect corridor trail through from Belmont to Waltham. Advocacy groups like NEMBA and responsible town conservation commissions are largely responsible and to credit for this. On the flip side, many vast areas and trail systems that we used to link together have been affected negatively by development and are now disjointed or non-existent. Still, I think we are still lucky to have as much green-space as we do, to spite the continual development going on in the area.
Anyhow, Cathy and I soon found ourselves in a small chunk of land right in Lexington that we'd never been in before, land I used to live less than a mile away from, back when I didn't ride bikes. Then we hit a bunch of areas that we had been in, some not for years however. Then the Greenway, which the Ferret and I had ridden much of back this past spring. We navigated based on the GPS tracks loaded into the Garmin 500. This worked OK, though a number of times we had issues and just abandoned the electronic guidance, opting for the most logical course of direction.
I was amazed by the number of trails we found in many of the areas. For instance, the Prospect Hill Park in Waltham had a ton of stuff, a ton meaning at least a hand full of miles of trail and path. Not a destination and the park is somewhat isolated but still. Later, we hit the old railroad bed to Weston in Waltham. I remember years ago hitting part of this bed briefly to connect sections of trail in Weston many, many years ago when doing rides from the Lincoln Guide Service. LGS is, by the way, where the Bikeway Source was born from and why we have the long standing connection to the shop, since it's inception really.
The trails we hit in Weston were ones that ironically, I was unfamiliar with. It seems we never really rode that section of land despite riding the Weston trail extensively, back twenty years ago anyhow. We eventually made our way out to a known area and onto trails in Lincoln. These trails we are very familiar with, not from biking but from XC skiing. We still ski there frequently and that was where the relationship that Cathy and I have was born, while XC skiing those same trails back in 1996. In fact, those trails had at one point been closed by the town of Lincoln to cycling but are now back open again for multi-use. One more example of progress.
The last section of trail that I was very interested in, probably the most interested in, was just over RT2 in Concord off from RT126. I'd been in there a few times over the years but saw from the map that there was now a cut-through trail. I was interested to see what it was all about. After missing some cues we finally caught the right trail and I was happy to find that it was excellent. A really nice fast, flowy tight singletrack right along RT2. The only downside was simply that it was longer. Still, a great find.
From there it was some side street followed by some of our staple connector trail and onto the very familiar Reformatory Branch railroad bed back home. We finished up with about 42 miles and had about 4 hours moving time. Navigating was slow going but honestly, neither of us had a big effort in us anyhow. Great ride and great exploration of the local area. I need to volunteer to put together a MTB loop and ride for the Studio. I think that would be a whole lot of fun. Yea, right after cyclocross season :)