Saturday, December 29, 2007

Google Street View

Google Maps Street View covers much of the Boston area now, including nearly all of Arlington and much of Lexington. A Google LatLong Blog post explains how to embed street views in other web pages, so here we go. The location is the Bow Street crossing of the bikeway in East Lexington.

View Larger Map

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Plowing + Melting = Clearing, Pretty Much

Some natural melting coupled with Arlington's plowing has made the trail much clearer. In Arlington Heights the trail averages nearly two-thirds of its full width, with some icy spots. A December 16th news item on Clear the Trail mentions the trail being plowed past the Arlington line to Bow Street in Lexington. That must have been for one storm only, as the latest plowing stops abruptly behind Mal's. From there to Bow Street it's solid ice.

Looking toward Bow Street from Drake Road

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I Took Pictures

I recently discovered that all the pictures I uploaded for this blog were accumulating into a Picasa web album. Now that I know, I've made the album public, captioned the photos, and made the whole mess searchable through Google Images. I'd link the photos back to their blog entries if I could, but Picasa Web Album captions seem to be straight text.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Then What Happened?

It got cold. It rained. I was tired. I was busy. My mother was visiting. I had stuff to do at the office. The dog ate my homework. Bottom line, I stopped skating in late October and now it's too late.

Arlington is plowing the trail this year as an experiment and it's working about as well as I expected, which is very poorly. Many entrances are blocked by snow and runoff forms patches of black ice on the trail. Plowing prevents skiing or snowshoeing on the path, but doesn't make it walkable.

At Hurd Field, Arlington

Behind Trader Joe's, ArlingtonCheck out the frozen footprints.

This year: 1439.5 miles. The End.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Falling Behind

Some rain, some damp, some cold mornings, visiting relatives, an urgent project at work, and suddenly I've missed two weeks of skating. The ghost of 2006 went tearing past me somewhere in there and now he's 60 miles ahead. That's OK: I can look into the past and see that he gets lazy around the end of October. I know I'll catch him then.

Meanwhile the dry, brown leaves have been falling. The fall color is very subdued this year after such a dry summer. There are leaves and fir needles all along the trail now, completely covering it in some stretches of Lexington and Bedford. Watch out for the hidden sticks.

Near Hartwell Avenue

Yesterday: 14.5 miles. This year: 1433 miles.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Bike Trails in the News

Sunday's Boston Globe had an article about the quirks of what vehicles are street-legal, trail-legal, or otherwise: Two-wheeled weirdness. For example, "You can drive a moped on the street, but not on a divided highway, and never faster than 25 miles per hour. You can drive a moped in an on-street bike lane, but you can't drive a moped on an off-road recreational path, such as the Minuteman Bikeway."

Monday's Globe has a prominent story about future trails: State eyes extensive bike trail expansion. A companion column provides A look at several rail trail projects underway across the state, from west to east. True to their headline, they list projects from Pittsfield in western Massachusetts to Yarmouth on Cape Cod and Nantucket off shore.

Today: Rain.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Meet and Greet

Sunday I saw Jeri Zeder's note in the Globe about seeing a deer on the trail. Monday I looked in vain for her e-mail address to let her know there was a photo of the deer here. Tuesday I sent her snail-mail instead. Wednesday she e-mailed me, thanked me for the note, and described herself as riding an unusual recumbent bicycle. Thursday it struck me that I wasn't likely to identify her by her bike: I rarely pass cyclists, while overtaking and oncoming cyclists go by too fast for me to say anything.

When I crossed Hancock Street, though, there was a woman on a blue recumbent talking to a passer-by. I wondered if it might be Jeri. I greeted her by name when she passed me a few minutes later and we stopped to chat for a few minutes. It was a wonderful coincidence, as I don't know that I've ever seen her before on the trail.

At the end of the trail that same day, a different cyclist remarked that I was running late. I was surprised: I don't think you can set a clock by my skating and didn't realize I was becoming a regular feature.

This year: 1418.5 miles.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Flying South for the Winter

No, I don't mean me. I looked up to check the lights at Hartwell Avenue this morning and saw above them a large flock of geese. There were fifty or sixty of them spread out in a wide, shallow V and flying a little west of due south.

The deer I saw on August 6th (well, probably the same one) got a few lines in the Boston Globe's Magazine section on Sunday:

In late August on the Minuteman Bikeway in Bedford, an elderly woman taking her morning constitutional with the help of a walker had stopped to rest. She was looking at something just ahead. I squinted against sunshine, then jammed my bike's brakes: A doe was making her stately crossing of the bike path. The woman and I watched as a spotted fawn joined her and the two turned up the whites of their tails and bounded off into the woods. "Wonderful!" the woman exclaimed. Neither of us could wipe the silly grins off our faces. Wonderful, indeed. -- JERI ZEDER Lexington

Today: 13 miles. This year: 1392.5 miles

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fabulous Weather

The weather today was perfect: 50 degrees, sunny and dry this morning. Some dry leaves are falling, but most are still on the trees to create a picture-postcard dappling of sunlight on the trail.

Near I-95

Today: 13 miles. This year: 1275.5 miles.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Arlington Town Day 2007

Arlington Town Day 2007 (pdf link) started this evening. Tonight's festivities included activities at Spy Pond Field and fireworks over the pond. Tomorrow there are the usual booths and entertainment along Mass Ave in Arlington Center, a 2.7 mile run, library book sale, and more. Read the brochure!

Fireworks over Spy Pond

Today: 16.5 miles. This year: 1205 miles.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Shorter Days, Lower Sun

The days are still long enough that it's full daylight when I leave the house at 7:30. They're also short enough that there's plenty of time to see the sun rising through the trees along the trail.

Between Revere Street and Parker Meadow

Yesterday: 23 miles. This year: 1175.5 miles.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Shorter Days, Longer Shadows

Behind Mal's Auto Body

Today: 13 miles. This year: 1131 miles.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Excavation at Woburn Street

Construction along Woburn Street in Lexington has reached the trail. An excavator was cutting a trench across the end of Vine Street and Hayes Lane this morning, stopping just short of the detoured bikeway crossing.

Today: 13 miles. This year: 1118 miles.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Heads Up!

I wore no hat today under the solid overcast, so of course a mature acorn crowned me near the Bedford end of the trail this morning. A full-size acorn doesn't weigh much, yet packs a quite a sting after falling thirty feet.

Someone repainted some of the distance-from-Bedford markings at half-mile intervals recently. They're fresh up to four miles from Bedford, old and faded after that. The full-mile marks nearly agree with the mileposts -- they're each within sight of the matching milepost without lining up exactly.

Eastbound approaching Hancock Street

Hancock Avenue in Lexington dead-ends at the trail and was a handy place to park while skating. And it will be again, once the full reconstruction and repaving are done.

At Hancock Avenue

I skated against the clock on Tuesday and Wednesday to reassure myself that I can still keep a 5:30/mile pace over long distances. A steady pace and minimal coasting let me strike small obstacles much harder and raise my chances of a fall. Even without falling, the staggering and flailing that follow these impacts really strain my shoulders. I'm backing off.

Today: 13 miles. This year: 1075.5 miles.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Lost? Forgotten? Discarded?

I expect I'll never learn the story of these skates.

At Hancock Street in Lexington

Today: 24 miles. This year: 1023 miles.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Coming Detractions

There's construction on Woburn Street within sight of the trail. An eruption of pavement markings at the crossing tells me it's going to be dug up soon.

Looking west across Woburn Street

Today: 16.5 miles. This year: 990.5 miles.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Little Foggy in the Morning

Wetlands near Hartwell Avenue

Yesterday: 21 miles. This year: 961 miles.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Deer Spotted

A doe and fawn were grazing along the trail west of Wiggins Avenue this morning. A bicyclist and I saw the doe first, on the trail side of the trees, then the cyclist spotted the fawn nearly hidden behind the rock wall and tree line. I wanted to headline this item "Spotted Deer Spotted" but couldn't get a clear picture of the spotted fawn.

I saw a deer near this spot several years ago and two adult deer together in the woods near Valley Road last year. Between those two points I've seen a fox, rabbits, snapping turtles, snakes, chipmunks, squirrels, and mice. There was even a beaver dam near Hartwell Avenue in past years, but the beavers were reclusive.

West of Wiggins Avenue, Bedford

Today: 13 miles. This year: 927 miles.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Lexington Sweeps Clean, In Spots

There was plenty of storm debris on the trail in the first half of the week, especially along the East Lexington Shoals and at the private driveway between Seasons Four and Woburn Street. I fell in the sand and gravel at the driveway on Wednesday, so Thursday I was happy to see that Lexington had done some sweeping -- but only along the shoals and not at other sandy or littered spots.

I felt old on Wednesday even before I fell, as a skater half my age tore past me in the wetlands near Hartwell Ave. I sprinted after him in hope of crossing Hartwell in the same light cycle, so I was in time to see him make a sharp left around the gate and finish off with a 270 spin. I'll never skate like that.

The end of July means that Queen Anne's Lace is in bloom and the oaks are dropping tiny acorns. Last year I thought the tiny acorns were just the early ones, but they turned out to be nearly all there was. 2007 won't be a mast year either, at this rate.

Queen Anne's Lace near the Great Meadows

Yesterday: 13 miles. This year: 905 miles.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Orthopedically Correct Greetings

After ten or fifteen miles, my right shoulder often hurts. I didn't think much about this for a long time, since it's not unusual for my shoulders to hurt a bit, but the recurring pain finally bothered me enough to assign a few brain cells to the problem. Their report: it's a combination of being right-handed and giving a big friendly wave to those courteous motorists who stop for me at unregulated crossings. It's an awkward wave because of the need to balance, stride, and face forward as I do it.

I'm testing this diagnosis by waving left-handed for now. After two days, I think it's helping. Once my right shoulder recovers, the long-term solution might be to wave left with the right hand and right with the left hand, so my arms stay close to my body and there's less strain on the shoulders.

Today: 13 miles. This year: 853 miles.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I hope I won't encounter any new kind of rudeness or recklessness along the trail, but I was pleased to benefit from a novel courtesy this morning. A bicyclist passed me as I approached Westview Street. The trail crosses Westview at a tree-lined curve with bad sight lines. The cyclist crossed the road just ahead of me and called out "Clear!" when he had the best view to let me know I needn't stop. I appreciate the traffic report.

Today: 13 miles. This year: 840 miles.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I'm Not Overweight

I'm not undertall, either, even if being 5'6" means I'm shorter than you. Today I weigh 11 stone exactly for a body mass index of 24.9, exactly at the top of the normal range. I've dropped just over one stone to get here and I'll have to drop another to return to my lowest-ever adult weight of 10 stone. It's not likely.

Today: 8.5 miles. This year: 810.5 miles.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Scattered Showers

The trail was dry in Arlington and most of Lexington this morning, wet for a couple of miles west of Bedford Street, and dry again at the Bedford end. Summer showers can be very small.

Mice are the one kind of wildlife that I see more often dead than alive along the trail. There were three of them scattered along the trail in Lexington this morning, more than I've seen in a single day. It's high season for mice, apparently.

Today: 16.5 miles. This year: 775 miles.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What Happened Here?

Losing a side-view mirror is a common enough auto accident -- my wife lost one to a snowplow a couple of years ago -- but I wonder what happened that left a cyclist's helmet mirror lying in the trail.

Near milestone III

Near-daily thunderstorms are keeping the vegetation lush along the trail.

Westbound in Bedford

Today: 16.5 miles. This year: 714 miles.

Monday, July 2, 2007


I've seen these signs around for the last couple of years and could never understand them. They're posted at a few regulated intersections, including on Summer Street in front of the Arlington Recreation Center. My best guess was that cyclists were expected to stop on green lights, which made no sense. The Boston Globe explained in yesterday's Starts and Stops column: when the light is red, stopping at the line should activate the loop sensor and change the light to green. But only if your bike has enough steel in it, as aluminum and carbon fiber don't count. The highway department has got to get better writers.

Today: 13 miles. This year: 671.5 miles.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Bikeway in the News

The Minuteman Bikeway is the subject of a front-page story in today's Boston Globe, provocatively headlined "Rage on the bikeway". The story seems overstated. I think the great majority of trail users are reasonable and act decently, even if they don't observe the rules strictly. The racers who fail to signal, pass on the right, and generally threaten the safety of all around them are a tiny minority.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

2007: A Banner Year for Turtles

This is the fourth big snapper I've seen this year, twice as many as in any previous year. Perhaps they like the swamp better without the beaver dam, with the water much lower than it was.

In the wetlands near Hartwell Avenue

Today: 10.5 miles. This year: 658.5 miles.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Chasing the Ghost of 2006

At the end of this week a year ago, I'd skated 630.5 miles. This year so far, 627. If the forecast thunderstorms clear up in time, I'll pass last year's ghost tomorrow or Saturday. (I'd have passed him already if not for this week's rising heat and humidity.) We'll trade leads through early July, then I'll leave him behind for good when he takes two weeks off to shuttle my younger son back and forth to day camp.

Today: 13 miles. This year: 627 miles.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Trail Conditions: Clear Sailing

Lexington swept their part of the trail and now the East Lexington Shoals (near Bow Street, behind Ixtapa) are just slightly sandy. Last Friday they were heaps of sand and gravel that blocked half the width of the trail.

Today: 20 miles. This year: 584.5 miles.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hang Up and Pedal!

I heard a bicycle close behind me as I was coming up the slope toward Bedford Street yesterday. I thought it was odd when the rider said "Hello!" very loudly instead of "passing on your left" and even odder when he mumbled something about "...riding my bike..." as he passed me. Of course he was riding his bike, any fool could see that. Only after he passed could I see he was steering with his right hand and holding up a cell phone with his left. Cycling doesn't really engage him, I guess, so he needs to talk about it as he rides.

To be fair, I should mention the phone-and-coffee lady, a skater I saw frequently near Lexington Center last year, never without a phone in one hand and a coffee cup in the other. And pedestrians yakking on cellphones are a fixture now, but they're slower and more stable than skaters or cyclists.

Today: 13 miles. This year: 564.5 miles.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wear Limit? No Kidding.

Monday I noticed my brake was down to the marked wear limit. I figured I'd change it over next weekend. Tuesday the brake sounded like I was dragging an iron shoe across the pavement. Turns out the wear limit is for real - I'd worn away part of the mounting bolt.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Decals, Bricks, and Another Turtle

The passenger car at Bedford Depot Park has new decals, a visible sign of progress in its slow restoration.

Bedford Depot Park / Milepost X

This is the third snapping turtle I've seen this month, more than I've seen in any single year. Maybe the wet spring was good for them or maybe they're doing well generally. This one is draped with small water plants she must have picked up in leaving her pond.

West of Hancock Avenue

The masons rebuilding the passenger platform at the Lexington Depot are the most meticulous bricklayers I've ever seen. They've been putting down bricks for a week now and are about two-thirds done. The platform was excavated and then received layers of gravel, crushed stone, and sand. The sand is spread and leveled just a couple of rows at a time so that it's never walked on before the bricks are laid. The bricks are set one at a time, pounded down and squared with a mallet. The masons sweep stone dust into the gaps after every few rows to keep the finished bricks from shifting. The results are remarkably neat.

Today: 13 miles. This year: 530.5 miles.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Was it a rat I saw?

Yes it was, all palindromes aside. Our furry friend was running through the trees between the trail and the Hurd Field parking lot this morning at 8:00. I've seen plenty of mice, squirrels, and rabbits along there, even a possum once, but never a rat until today.

3 Bow Street in Lexington, vacant since the demise of Minuteman Cycle despite signs about PeopleFit, will soon be the home of Hadar Dental.

The traffic lights at Hartwell Avenue are flashing yellow today, like yesterday. The traffic cruises through like there aren't any lights at all, so be cautious.

Today: 14 miles. This year: 517.5 miles.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Reid's Ride and More Turtles

Posters are up along the trail for Reid's Ride, a cancer research fundraiser. The third annual ride is Sunday, July 22nd, starting from Lynnfield High School.

Snapping turtles are still laying eggs near the wetlands. Watch for turtles crossing the trail.

Near Hartwell Avenue

Today: 13 miles. This year: 450.5 miles.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ambiguous Sentiments

Facing the southbound traffic over I-95

On the Grant Street bridge

Today: 21 miles. This year: 437.5 miles.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Snapping Turtle

Two days later, the flower petals are dust. Watch for them next year.

I met this snapping turtle near the swamp off Hartwell Avenue today. It might have been searching for a spot to lay eggs, something I've seen before at this time of year.

Today: 13 miles. This year: 416.5 miles.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Flowers and Fluff

If you've ever harbored romantic notions of strolling on a flower-strewn path, this is your week. Thunderstorms have stripped the petals from the trees and dropped them on the trail in thicknesses ranging from a scattering to solid cover.

Flower petals on the Hurd Field entrance

Cottonwood snow near Hartwell Avenue

Today: 21 miles. This year: 382.5 miles.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Happy Birthday, Arlington!

Arlington started its 200th birthday celebration last night with fireworks over Spy Pond. Most of the crowd watched from Spy Pond Field -- that's where the birthday concert and cake were -- but we enjoyed a close and unobstructed view at the foot of Linwood Street, just a few steps from the Minuteman Trail.

Fireworks at Spy Pond

Yesterday: 13 miles. This year: 361.5 miles.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Construction Progress

Curbs were going in around the parking lot expansion in Lexington Center today. Over at the Depot, workmen were breaking up old concrete and putting down a gravel bed ahead of bricking the passenger platform.

Today: 10 miles. This year: 348.5 miles.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Tunnel of Green

East towards Wiggins Avenue

Today: 13 miles. This year: 338.5 miles.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bits and Patches

The passenger platform at the Lexington Depot is completely dug up in preparation for repaving. The trail in front of the platform is cut and patched: the big dip there is gone. The broken pavement around one side of the gate at Hancock Street is also patched, but the patch was too soft and is scored with bicycle tire tracks.

The construction site at Edison Way is paved over now, except for a strip down the middle in the shape of a traffic island. So it's not another substation, it's an extension of the municipal parking lot.

Grading the new Lexington Center lot

Yesterday: 10.5 miles. This year: 325.5 miles.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Trail Conditions: Damp Debris

There's washed-in debris all over following a week of rain, plus a few puddles. But the leaves are fully out and the trail is practically a tunnel now through under a continuous canopy.

Near Bow Street, Lexington.

West of Hancock Avenue

Today: 21 miles. This year: 281 miles.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Loose Ends

The cut at Camellia (or Camille) Place and Hancock Avenue is smoothly repaved. Only a little of Monday's trash has been collected and some bags have broken open. The excavation at Edison Way is filled nearly to ground level with drainage pipe and coarse gravel. I'm still thinking it's another electrical substation.

The first cottonwood snow of the year lightly lines the path near Hartwell Avenue. It's early -- most of the cottonwood snow falls in June.

June 2004 cottonwood snow in Lexington

Today: 13 miles. This year: 217.5 miles.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Excavation and Sanitation

The sand-filled cut across the trail at Camellia Place (spelled "Camille" on the sign) and Hancock Avenue was an open excavation on Monday. It looks ready for repaving, but you'll have to skirt around it until that happens.

There's a much larger excavation just off the trail between Edison Way and Grant Street in Lexington Center. It's right behind the existing substation and I wonder if it might be another.

When I saw a trash bag on the trail at Woburn Street, I thought it was illegal dumping. When I saw another at Bedford Street, I thought it was more illegal dumping. Then when I saw a rusty ladder, an old lawnmower, and more bags in the wetlands area near Hartwell Avenue, it finally dawned on me that there must have been a cleanup, and all this trash was waiting to be collected. The rusting cot below was near Wiggins Avenue.

Today: 21 miles. This year: 204.5 miles.

Friday, May 4, 2007

"... about seventeen miles an hour"

"I think you're going about seventeen miles an hour" -- actual unretouched quote from passing cyclist. If I could do that uphill or upwind, I'd be in great shape.

Today: 13 miles. This year: 175.5 miles.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Trail Conditions: All clear

Repeated sweeping, Earth Day volunteers, and a stiff breeze have all helped make the trail about as clean as it ever gets. There's no construction or maintenance in progress anywhere from Mill Street to South Road. These are the best conditions you'll ever see.

Today: 18.5 miles. This year: 137 miles.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Trail Conditions: Twiggy

The trail is clear of the trees and branches that came down in the storm, but teeming with twigs. Lexington sent out their sidewalk sweeper to clean up -- it's not a perfect solution.

Near Woburn Street, Lexington

Monday, April 16, 2007

Trail Conditions: April Showers

The rain and wind brought down everything from twigs to whole trees. Just off the trail on Mill Lane, a hole in the bridge shows the gushing Mill Stream underneath.

Westbound at Lowell Street

Westbound near Park Avenue

Upstream from Mill Lane

Downstream from Mill Lane

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sonik Art

Cambridge artist Caleb Neelon / SONIK posted paintings along the trail years ago. Now only this triptych near Valley Road survives, and this article at the official bikeway site.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

"My Maps" @ Google

On Thursday, Google introduced My Maps, a new map markup feature of Google Maps. Here's an overview of the trail with entrances and crossings marked.

If the map doesn't load automatically, refresh the page. It loads promptly for me in Safari, but not in Firefox.

Monday, April 2, 2007


Your progress along the trail is marked by literal milestones, engraved in Roman numerals of a sort.

Milestone VIII, near I-95 in Lexington

These Roman numerals run from top to bottom. The numeral I lies on its side and V stands upside down. X is the same any way you look at it. There are no prefixes: four is IIII, not IV.

Westbound distances start from Alewife Station in Cambridge, where the trail entrance has no distance marking, and end at Bedford Depot Park with milepost X. Eastbound distances start with mile I at the Depot, so the two sides of each post always add up to XI.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Trail Conditions: Polite, with occasional dogs

There was a welcome outbreak of courtesy along the trail today. At least three-quarters of the passing cyclists signalled loudly and clearly "passing on your left!", not mumbling "left" at the ground. One dog walker apologized that I had to wait a moment to see which way the dog would go, and another held her dog back at a crossing even though I had a stop sign.

Morning ice on a vernal pool in Lexington

Today: 17 miles. This year: 70.7 miles.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Free Skate Lesson Day - May 12th, 2007

Browsing at the Inline Skating Resource Center, I saw that Saturday, May 12th will be Free Inline Skating Lesson Day. In the Boston area, the participating skate school is Four Wheels Inline.

Today: 10 miles. This year: 40.7 miles.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Trail Conditions - The coast is clear, sandy, and wet

There's clear pavement all the way to the Bedford end of the trail, if you don't mind some sand at the street crossings and a little run-off from the last of the melting snow.

Today: 8 miles. This year: 30.7 miles.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Trail Conditions - not enough snow to matter

Last night's expected one to three inches of snow didn't even stick to the pavement in Arlington. With today's high in the upper forties, I'm confident the trail will be clear tomorrow.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Trail Conditions - almost there

A cycling co-worker tells me the trail is passable today from Alewife Station to Seasons Four in Lexington, with just a little bit of walking. Monday might be a good day.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Trail Conditions - Impossible

This mess won't melt for a week.

East from Fottler Avenue