WHO: Globe reporter Geoff Edgers, his daughter, Lila, 10, and son, Calvin, 2
WHAT: Exploring the Bruce Freeman Bike Trail
WHERE: Westford, Chelmsford, Lowell
For years, Lila and I rambled most Saturdays down the Minuteman Bikeway from our home in Arlington to Davis Square. We bought slices at Mike’s, watched the occasional weirdos, and either laughed or admired the street musicians.
Then, last summer, we moved to Concord. Our bicycle moments quietly ended. But isn’t Concord a cyclist’s nirvana, you ask?
Sure, but the open spaces — and our quiet, wide street — meant that Lila could zip all over without worrying about getting hit by a bus. In other words, she could leave me behind. The other factor is Cal. A new child changed the focus. Instead of people-watching, Lila and I spend much of our time baby-chasing.
But I miss those rides and decided to reclaim them one recent weekend. I loaded up our bikes so we could explore new territory near our house, namely the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. This bikeway is part reality, part dream. The reality is a 6.8-mile stretch from Westford to Lowell. The dream is a planned, 20-mile addition through Acton, Concord, Sudbury, and all the way out to Framingham. News accounts tell me the extension won’t happen until 2021. Who knows how many hip replacements I’ll have had by then?
There’s not much parking along the Freeman Trail, so we ended up in a lot around the midway point at Chelmsford’s Heart Pond.
The first stretch was rural. Lila shot ahead and Cal yelled “whee.” We passed brooks and ferns. It felt a lot like the Lexington stretch of the Minuteman. The big advantage is that the Freeman Trail is less populated. Instead of jockeying for space with over-caffeinated, Lance Armstrong wannabes — it can get ugly on the Minuteman on a nice Saturday afternoon, trust me — we were largely on our own.
Bike trails, in general, mirror the place they’re in. Sure enough, the conservation land in Chelmsford ran into a town center and finally, as we approached the end, box stores, rusty oil drums, and the huge, concrete overpass holding Interstate 495.
The kids were hungry. We turned back and found Zesty’s, a Chelmsford place with outside seating, perfect for Cal’s atmosphere-disrupting screams. The kids ate pizza, chicken fingers, and gelato. I hovered, trying to keep the peace. At one point, Cal decided to lie down on the pavement, which I discouraged. He began embracing metal objects. Usually, it’s hard to change his mind. This time, I told him we were going to go “whee” again. He stopped hugging the mailbox and headed right over, raising his chin as he waited for his helmet.