It took me about three hours and 15 minutes on a fairly good day weather wise, and I only stopped to sit down once for lunch (and another stop for coffee to go of course!) I figure then I actually walked for 2 hours and 45 minutes, or, I made a bit better than 3.5 MPH on average. Google's walking directions seem to estimate time based on a pace of 3 MPH, so, it is true: us New Englanders walk fast!
However, I did it, aside from "just because", because I wanted to look at a few things. Primarily, I wanted to see how safe the route was on foot, how bikeable it'd be (I just got a bike!), and how many of these places I'd never been on foot looked at 1/10 the normal speed. I also wanted to check out the time/space compression caused by the automobile: how far apart are things *really*?
I only took a few pictures, but because my Google Pedometer came up with some completely crazy numbers for how far the walk was (15 miles, or 50% off...), and elevation gained and lost (I somehow went 150 feet below sea level and ended up at over 1,000 feet above, with a total elevation gained of a good mile! I'm blaming solar flares on the GPS failure), I'm going to use my photos and Google Maps as timestamps for the trip. I started about 10:30 and was done by 1:45.
|End of hour 1: North Chelmsford, a Live Smart Community|
|Southwell Woolen Mill: From when companies cared enough about their communities to put their names in stone (literally).|
|Welcome to Tyngsboro! You'll be back in Chelmsford shortly, don't worry. Then Tyngsboro, then Westford, then Chelmsford...|
|End of Hour 2: This is the overpass separating Wesford from Tyngsboro. It's actually more of a haunted pigeon dungeon. Of course, there are no signs along this road ever mentioning you are in Westford.|
It was at this last mile or two that I started to get tired and decided that this wouldn't be a pleasant bike ride. Aside from the sight line issues, lack of a shoulder, and the poor condition of the edges of the road which could easily throw you from a bike, something occurred to me that I never thought about before: Lowell is at 30 meters above sea level. Vinal Square is at about 40 meters. Flint's Corner, at 50. That's 20 meters, or about 80 feet, elevation gained over six and a half miles or so. Another 10 meters is gained in the next mile by the beginning of Chestnut road, and another 50(!) in the next mile and a half over the length of Chestnut road and up Scribner to near the intersection of Groton Rd where I turned off. No wonder it was such a tiring stretch!
Suddenly, it was clear to me why there were so few old houses out here, and why the automobile, to which these changes in elevation are insignificant, was required to populate this part of town. The old Connell farmhouse on Groton Road is the only "old" house I can think of after the farmhouse on Westford Road about halfway between Swan and Chestnut. Biking up these grades would be slow-going and dangerous with cars unable to see you around corners. Trying to hump this road 100 years ago, before it was paved, with something to bring to market or something to bring home would've been incredibly daunting. In the winter, it'd probably be nearly impossible, even with a horse and cart.
Kind of makes you understand why they say before the Model T, few people ever traveled more than five miles from home. As I finished up the trip, it occurred to me that I had walked many times from downtown all the way out to Middlesex Village, and I had been in Vinal Square on foot before as well. However, until I got to within a mile of my family's house, I had never set foot on the roads. They aren't exactly pleasant or safe to walk on much of the day, and there is also nowhere to walk to unless it is for pleasure. The entire western part of Tyngsboro is given over to private houses, save a fire station. I guess in the end, Tyngsboro should zone for a small corner store and maybe a small playground somewhere along Scribner Road. People need to get out of their houses and use their legs, which means they need attractive and safe roads to walk along and destinations to walk to. It's nice to be out there, see all the greenery, the well-maintained colonial-revivals, the people doing yard work, etc. It shouldn't involve being afraid of cars.
All in all, it was good physical exercise and a decent mental exercise, but I won't be doing that again! Just think: On a modern interstate, I could drive all the way from Lowell to Albany, NY in the time it took to walk to just shy of Groton, and I could do the drive in much more harrowing weather conditions, and be a lot less tired at the end!