Seniors Not Acting Their Age
My admittedly defective recollection believes the Androscoggin Bike Path was constructed during the summer of 1997. I’m old with a faulty memory so excuse me if that timeframe is incorrect. What I am sure of is that when it was being built, I repeatedly biked across the bridge from Topsham to inspect on progress. In fact, I was there so often I knew some of the workers on a first name basis. I also recall telling my wife, “This is the best thing that’s happened in this area since we moved here.” Having ridden the path before it officially opened, I suspect that I was one of the earliest users if not the first. A confession, I completed a ride when signs stated it was still closed. The statute of limitations for illegal trespass must have expired.
I always thought it was called the Androscoggin Bike Path. According to the Town of Brunswick website, the actual name is the Androscoggin River Bicycle and Pedestrian Path. I prefer the shorter version. Regardless, the path has lived up to my lofty expectations.
Since its inauguration was BKR (Before Knee Replacement), I initially began both running and biking there. My route took me out of a Topsham neighborhood, down the Foreside Road to Elm Street and across the bridge where a rounded ramp joins the path. I embraced every aspect of the excursion. The contrast between traveling through quiet residential areas before reaching the scenic beauty of the path along the majestic Androscoggin is therapeutic and exceptional.
From the beginning, the path was particularly appealing to older citizens looking for a peaceful outdoor walk, run, bike or rollerblade away from traffic. Yes, there are geriatric roller bladders. Not me. The prospect scares the daylights out of me. I can skate fast but could never figure out the turning part. My life expectancy would be somewhat short of the first outhouse at the half mile mark. In my early 50s at the time, I became friends with a host of senior “regulars.” Ralph, Louie, Cecilia, Walt and Dale were recurrent social companions during my morning run.
Time inexorably passes and all but Dale are gone. Now I’m one of the older users. No longer running, I’m still a habitual on my bike and a sometimes walker in the winter. If I were Emperor of the Path, I’d leave a portion unplowed in the winter for cross country skiers and snowshoers.
Since its inception, the path has evolved into a multi-purpose community park. There is an excellent boat landing next to the Brunswick entrance where friends and I have launched numerous sea kayak adventures. Shortly beyond is soccer field followed by a fenced dog park where dogs can run free. Another confession, I’m not a fan of loose dogs. I’ve been chased hundreds of times, thrice bitten and once knocked from my bike. Leashes and fences are my friends. The dog park is a wonderful thing.
The 2.6 mile paved trail is truly a tale of two paths. In the early morning hours, a handful of dedicated walkers, runners and cyclists are usually found enjoying its tranquility. During the day, especially weekends, holidays and in the summer months, the path is a bustling place. Families abound. Multiple generations are frequent. Lovers stroll. Little children learning to ride their bikes and Moms and Dads wheeling infants in carriages are common. Elderly folks, some actually older than me, and others dealing with disabilities often take advantage of the security it offers. In short, it’s a celebration of life.
Three decades ago, when I first began cycling routinely, long road rides and challenging trail outings were a normal part of my agenda. Road hazards have increased, my fear of injury is heightened, ongoing battles with arthritis persist and old age has mellowed the need for thrilling adventures. Now, I take advantage of placid bike trails at every opportunity. The Androscoggin Bike Path integrates nicely into my favorite morning ride.
Taking my traditional route from Topsham to the path, I ride east past the Cook’s Corner entrance to the end of Storer Road. Backtracking to the west access and then returning home incorporating a lightly traveled street in my neighborhood; I can enjoy a serene 12 mile ride with minimal traffic.
Dale doesn’t run anymore but walks virtually every morning. We often chat and reminisce. I have a dream. Before I pass on to my eternal reward, I hope the path is extended to Bath. What a treat that would be.
The author of “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England,” Ron Chase resides in Topsham. Visit his website at www.ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.