Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Zip Line and Ropes Course Likely For Big Rock Quarry

In April, the North Little Rock Parks and Recreation Commission approved the development of a zip-line and high ropes course at Big Rock Quarry and Emerald Park along the Arkansas River Trail and the Highland Trail. The attraction would be operated by Loco Ropes which currently operates a concession at the Ozark Folk Center State Park near Mountain View.

As most of you will recall, the Quarry was the subject of a proposed sale to developers back in 2011. That proposal was well down the road before the public got wind of it. The outcry was immediate and loud as all the local media outlets jumped on the story. The result was that the City delayed the vote to sell the property, the developers backed away, and the property was brought into the parks system.
I found it to be a refreshing example of an informed public.

A public meeting was held Tuesday, July 12, at 4:45PM for public comment. Michael Sprague,
State Trails Coordinator & Project Officer, had spread the word to the trail advocacy community, and the appropriate legal notices were run, but there was very little in the way of "public" at the meeting. Joe Jacobs and Lisa Mullis of Arkansas Outside, Coreen Frasier, Michael and one of his colleagues were there, as was I. Almost everyone in attendance was either a city or state employee, or commission member. They needed pubic comment for the record but Berndette Rhodes of NLR Fit-2-Live, was about the only one to step to the microphone. She expressed her concern that the River trail be protected.

This is nothing like that

The Loco Ropes would develop the zip line and ropes courses at their expense, but the land and trails will remain in the parks system and will be open to the public. The city already maintains River Road and the gravel road into the site. The parking lot will be gravel.


The zip line will run from a tower near the bluffs at the northwest end of the quarry to the quarry floor. High ropes courses will be placed in the wooded area above the bluffs and will cross the Highlands Trail at several points. Low ropes courses will be set on the quarry floor.

As I understand, the draft concession agreement calls for the City to receive small set amount in the first year, and then $10,000 or 5% of revenues, whichever is greater, in subsequent years.  There will be no substantial permanent structures built, and the Loco Ropes folks assured a questioner that trees would not be cut. Realistically, I would expect to hear some chainsaws, but the idea is to put people into the canopy, so I would expect it to be minimal.

The plan for the River Trail is for bollards to be placed along the south side of River Road inside the current gates to give trail users a buffer from traffic. I would expect most cyclists to to simply ride the road except perhaps during some high traffic event. 

I think this was pretty much a fait accompli  (that's "done deal" to us regular folks, but I've got to use the remnants of my 2 years of high school French every now and then.) until State Parks notified the city the an environmental assessment was required for the "substantial change of use". That brought about a public meeting with the NLR Planning Commission which was conveniently held at 4:45 on Tuesday afternoon. In my experience, public officials really don't want to hear much from the public when it comes to decision making, but various laws require that they open the doors to the us of the rabble. Their position is understandable, as the the public can be ill-informed, argumentative, vindictive, and just plain old wild-ass crazy, but officials must remember that these are the people who elected them. 

What to make of it
Surprisingly to many, I don't really have a strong opinion on this.
 Given a choice, I'd rather not have squealing zip liners flying from the quarry walls and giggling adolescents overhead on a ropes course as I enjoy the solitude of the Highlands Trail. We cannot claim the quarry is pristine, as it has been mined for near 200 years, but it does still have a natural beauty, and it and the woods above are a remarkable island in the heart of our city. When you climb into the woods and the waterfalls are running, it is easy to feel that you're far away from urban noise and clutter that surrounds us. Even the remaining industrial structures of the quarry itself add character and, as one wag offered, in a few years the remnants of the zip line and ropes courses may well join the historical relics.
Unlike the proposed sale and development of 2011, I don't think this calls for us villagers to storm the castle with torches and pitchforks, but if you have an opinion, contact Parks Director Terry Harwick, thartwick@nlr.ar.gov, or your alderman if you are a NLR resident.
And, of course, you may comment here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

VeloGames Mini League Monday Update-No Spoiler


I've struggled to add any value to the league this year since I can't reward or taunt you by awarding a bunch of valuable prizes, but I will say that we have had some strong team showings


Movin' On Up- Saturday Was a Great Day at the Tour  FOR MY TEAM!
Sunday, not so much.

Sorry, I could not contain my exuberance at having the 1st and 2nd place riders in Saturday's stage. After having really bad teams in the Fantasy Tour de France for the last couple of years, this year's bunch has been steadily moving up, capped by Froome in first and yellow, while Dan Martin picked up 2nd place. Last year, I think I finished 47th out of 49 teams, while the year before my team was down to 6 riders from 9 after the opening week.

The strong stage gave my team top points for the day for the first time ever. Unfortunately, that still doesn't give me bragging rights among my core ride partners. Sam's, aka Lester Moran, Road Hogs moved to the top of the league, while Jumbo Jo slipped slightly to second after 3 days in the lead. The Home Team is third, but I expect big things in the coming high mountain stages. Having Sam, Jo and I in 1,2,3 was fun while it lasted.

Sunday shook up the Minileague standings much than they did the Tour itself.  Tom Doumolin, who was one of my early crash casualties last year, rode away from a powerful break to claim the stage, while Alberto Contador (my GC guy last year and early crash-out in 2014) withdrew. Doumolin was a revelation at last year's Vuelta before falling to the pure climbers near the end of that tour. He is a big, strong time trial specialist who managed to stay with, then drop, the best climbers on the Tour.
On the rest day, the grimly named Disc Brake Amputees team reigned in a brief moment of glory, only to be toppled on Monday as the Road Hogs regained the league lead with Jo's Jumbo NL back on his wheel in second. Sam and Jo made some heady picks with riders like Greg VanAvermat and Stephen Cummings.
Gaylen Horton is back this year with another high scoring Veni Vidi Velo team, while Moffeed has greatly improved over his last year's performance, when he was about the only thing between me and DFL at times.



The league is strong with the leaders in the top 2% of 42,000+ contestants.
We have some sprint stages upcoming, followed by the reckoning that is sure to follow in the Alps. Nobody is running away early with the league honors this year, as things are sure to be reshuffled in the coming days.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Birthday Girl Bags Bragging Rights In Tour Contest

JumboNL team director, aka Jo Spencer, celebrates her birthday today from atop the JBarCycling leader board after Greg Van Avermaet's unlikely win in yesterday's hilly stage. GVA is regarded as a classics specialist but he and his breakaway companions put up to 15 minutes on the GC contenders in a move that ended with him in yellow. He's not only in yellow, but has over 5 minutes on all of the GC contenders.
Normally, the team of the yellow jersey takes the responsibility of defending the jersey, but I see a different dynamic here. Van Avermaet is unlikely to hold the lead through the mountains, but the teams of the likely GC contenders cannot count on him losing 5 minutes if they allow BMC to control the tempo.

Where's the big prize?


Though everyone was supportive of a Velogames competition without the prize pool that I've managed in recent years, Jo's immediate reaction to her elevated position was to ask, " What's the prize for leading after Stage 5?"  The prize, my dear friend, is the momentary respect and admiration of your peers.  Enjoy it while you can.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tour De France- The Standings That Really Matter After Stage 3

Well, the standings that matter to the 25 JBarCycling MiniLeague team directors.I can tell that it matters as I was given a celebratory ration of shit by the JumboNL team director after her team's sterling performance in stage 2. Of course, like Andre Greipel in stage 3, her celebration came just a tad early, as she had slipped 2 places to third the next day. Still, not too shabby. That said, the sprinter-heavy teams are showing well early on as expected. O Canada, led by Bob, currently leads our standings.


My own team is currently 10th of 25. I can't say what drove the picks of other players, but each year I try to put emotion aside and be objective about my picks. And I usually fail pretty badly. Mark Cavendish has long been my favorite rider in the peloton. I like the sprinters and, while Cav can be as cocky as a banty rooster, he impresses me as an truly humble guy who appreciates his position in life. It took a while for Peter Sagan to grow on me, but he's right up there with Cav in my estimation, and is certainly more universally popular. I didn't pick either for my team this year and have been punished for it, as Cav has won 2 stages and Sagan won the other. They've swapped the yellow and green jerseys and racked up big points.
My perspective is that as a fan, the Tour could not be going better. As a fantasy team director, I'm being punished for my objectivity.

Question marks for Olympic hopefuls 
At question is whether either Cavendish or Sagan will finish the Tour, as Cavendish devoted much of his season to making the British Olympic track cycling team and Sagan will ride mountain bike in the Olympics.
Sagan is more likely to ride to Paris, as I don't think his mountain bike bid as is serious as Cavendish's track ambitions.  Cavendish is off to an incredible start in the Tour but the mountains of week 3 may temper his enthusiasm for a sprint on the Champs d'Elysee.

As I write this, Stage 4 is in the books but no spoilers here!








Monday, June 27, 2016

VeloGames Tour de France MiniLeague code #232403132015

I have formed the 2016 JBar Cycling Minileague, code #232403132015 ,  so sign in, choose your team and follow the prompts to join the league. It is very easy to go back and change your team selections right up to the July 2 deadline so you don't have to agonize over your first picks.Just get it done.

I simply don't have the time and energy to gather prizes and do the admin work that went in to last year's effort. We had 47 teams and prizes for almost every stage. That said, I'll gather up a few primes and we'll see who can come up with the best team.

Details on how to join VeloGames are below. Some Tour teams have yet to announce their final selections, so keep an eye out for updates at CyclingNews , Velonews, Etc.


Here are some current details from VeloGames:

Dear Velogames directeur,

FANTASY TOUR DE FRANCE: ONE WEEK TO GO

There's just one week left until the Grand Depart of Velogames Fantasy Tour de France 2016, with the peloton set to roll out of Le Mont-Saint-Michel next Saturday lunchtime
Make sure to enter your team, and make changes to your line-up, before 12:50 CEST (Central European Summer Time) on Saturday 2nd July 2016.
The game is free to play, so head over to the website at www.velogames.com to make your selections.

LATEST RIDER LIST CHANGES

There's been several changes to the Fantasy Tour de France rider list changes the past couple of days, as the pro teams confirm their line ups for the big event.
Recent additions to the rider list include Team Sky climber Mikel Landa (14 credits), Lotto-Soudal secondary sprint option Jens Debusschere (8 credits) and breakaway specialist Ruben Plaza (8 credits), who backed up a stage victory at last year's Tour de France with a stage win at the La Vuelta 2016.
The biggest names to be removed from the start list are Andrew Talansky, who has been suffering with illness, and Michal Kwiatkowski who has failed to make Team Sky's final section.
It is expected that the rider list should be complete by Tuesday evening, so be sure to keep an eye on your Team Roster page, which includes a column which shows whether eachof your selected riders is in or out of the official start-list.
As always, I will be updating the rider list every day as teams are confirmed, and you can make unlimited changes to your team ahead of the entry deadline, but none thereafter!

FANTASY TOUR DE FRANCE ENTRY DEADLINE IS 12:50 CEST ON SATURDAY 2ND JULY

You need to have created a team and made your final team changes before 12:50 CEST on Saturday 2nd July. That's 11:50 in the UK and 06:50 on the US East Coast.
Good luck!

Friday, June 10, 2016

JBarCycling Tour De France Mini-League

Sinced announcing officially the JBarCycling was going on what I'll call abbreviated hours, there has been a minor outpouring of concern. It has not been about important civic matters that affect the cycling community, nor has it been remorse over the loss of timely River Trail information or pithy insights and self-described humor.

No, the big question has been, "Are you still doing the Velogames Mini-league?"
In a word, "yes."

We had a huge response last year and good support from Spokes, Angry Dave's, Arkansas Cycling and Fitness, and Ozark Outdoor Supply with a passel of great prizes. The biggest challenge for me was to administer a system of awarding the many prizes in a manner that would spread the winning around. The prize package will likely be whittle down appreciably but I know that folks are really only playing for pride and bragging rights.........and prizes. I get it. 
This week's Daupine is a great place to get a feel for the Tour contenders, with Froome, Porte, and Contador already in a tight battle. Start thinking about your team and I'll set up the league when Velogames opens for tour business. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The State Of JBarCycling

As the frequency of my posts has diminished, I've been asked more than once if I had given up JBarCycling. I guess the best response is, "not quite".


I find myself having a few too many interests and demands to keep up the task of spending the several hours each week that it takes to conceive, research, and produce articles that I think will be of interest to you folks. I have been at it for 7 years and have written just over a thousand articles since the first post on February 25, 2009, some that I deem to have been important (blowing the whistle on the sale of Big Rock Quarry by the City of North Little Rock), some that were really fun (April 1 report of a Walton grant to complete the River Bluffs trail section behind Dillards HQ), and many that hopefully entertained and informed the cycling community in central Arkansas.

 The Big Rock Quarry story was first picked up by Max Brantley at the Arkansas Times( OK, I tipped him), then by all the other local mainstream media outlets. Friends of Big Rock Quarry arose on Facebook, and the questionable deal was ultimately shut down and the land became a part of the parks system.
Max also picked up the River Bluffs story, and was only a little taken aback when I pointed out the April 1 publication date.
One of my most rewarding moments came on a BDB100 when a guy rode up beside me and asked if I was JBar. After introductions, he said that he had been stationed in Kuwait on a C-130 crew flying into Iraq, and he wanted to thank me for helping him stay connected to his riding community at home. I was humbled that such a small thing could have meant so much to one of our service men.

I followed the construction and opening of the Two Rivers Bridge, which was fascinating.

In an introspective moment, I clicked through some blogs, mostly cycling related, that I had added to my bookmarks over time. They seem to come and go as either a cause runs its course or the blogger simply runs out of steam, so I guess the JBarCycling state-of-being is a natural thing.

Where I used to rush in from a ride with an article concept simply begging to be put to the screen, these days I am hard pressed to sit back down at my computer after a day of work.  I will continue to post articles from time to time with the hope of regaining my enthusiasm.
The JBarCycling Facebook page will stay up, as I've allowed its use by local bike shops and some groups.
I'll raise my head from time to time. Until then, thank you all for reading and for the many kind comments that I've received from you over the years. And thanks to the many folks who helped keep me informed about local cycling events, city government issues, and the many little bits of knowledge that allowed me to help keep our community informed.

Lifetime Warranties Revisited

I wrote an article three years ago in which I related my experience with Litespeed's "lifetime warranty".
I wasn't very impressed with Litespeed's response to the failure of my 7 year old titanium Ghisallo frame. While I considered a cracked frame to be a materials failure, Litespeed says that a "lifetime warranty does not imply unlimited useful life". The fine print of their warranty backs them up, so that is that.
On the whole, my warranty experiences with top tier manufacturers has been very good. I'll recount two recent experiences that I've had with makers of some popular cycling accessories, Serfas and Genuine Innovations.

Serfas makes a wide array of cycling accessories ranging from saddles to shoes, bar tape to bike locks. We own several Serfas lights and I have Serfas saddle bags on three of my bikes. They are well-designed, reasonable priced , and widely distributed. Serfas products are available at most local bike.One of my favorite Serfas bits is a very small, stealthy front blinkie. They no longer make this particular light, but I love the fact that it almost disappears when strapped below the bars of my #1 road bike and gives me the confidence that drivers will have a better opportunity to pick me out of the visual clutter of the road when they happen to glance up from their cell phones and actually look at the road.  You never know when you'll be riding home in the dusky dark and need that margin of visibility. It is USB charged and stays on my bike full time.

Recently, the stretchy rubber strap that attaches the light broke. Not shocking, and the light still works great, so I went to the Serfas website. Lo and behold, there was the magic statement:

LIFETIME WARRANTY
Serfas warrants to the original purchaser of our product that the product is free from defects in material and workmanship for the lifetime of the product.


I noticed that batteries were covered for a year and they give you the opportunity to order small parts to "get back on the road quickly".

The warranty statement was followed of course by the usual disclaimers of abuse, neglect, alterations, etc,etc, but I had committed none of those atrocities, so I followed up with a phone call. 
I was politely told that the attachment band was not covered by the warranty and that it could be ordered for $5.00 plus a $4.00 mailing fee. Those charges were reasonable enough so I ordered the part to get my 4 or 5-year old $25.00 light back on the bike. I would describe the Serfas experience as "OK".


The replacement strap was mailed a week or so after I ordered it, and I'm back in business. Fortunately, my collection of tools includes the tiny star driver required for the repair.

When overkill is barely enough....

I'll start my next warranty story with some build-up.
A few weeks ago, I had a clusterf--k of a flat tire situation. While riding with friends, we ran through some gravel that had washed out onto the River Trail from a recent deluge, resulting in what I thought was a pinch flat. We were finishing our ride and I was only 3-4 miles from my car so I waved my friends on for their ride home. I'm capable of fixing a flat and I had my usual kit of 2 spare tubes, an inflator, and 3, count 'em, 3 CO2 cartridges.  Being good folks, they stuck around, anyway.I inspected my tire rolling surface for damage and ran my fingers around the interior, but I was pretty sure I had the classic "snake bite" flat. 
I quickly replaced the tube and proceeded with the inflation. I immediately noticed that CO2 was spewing around the valve stem. Hmmm.., I guess I hadn't really opened the presta valve. I fully opened the valve and got the tube inflated enough to notice that it was protruding from a tear in the sidewall of the tire. Shit. 
Tear down the whole mess again and insert a dollar bill as a boot. Used my second CO2. Still had some leakage around valve stem (when something seems wrong, it usually is. I should have stopped before now to carefully inspect everything.) but thought I had enough pressure to ride. By now, my loyal friends had seen enough and had departed. I was wrong yet again, as after a few yards, I realized that I would not make it to my vehicle. At this point, I installed my second spare tube on the assumption that I had compromised the first, and I actually took a close look at my inflator. The O-ring at the valve stem fitting had a small tear in it. 
I was on my second tube and my third and last CO2 cartridge, so I waved down a passing rider and borrowed an inflator. Neither he nor I knew how to use it, but it seemed simple. Screw in the cartridge and depress the trigger. Which worked only a small burst at a time. That allowed me to get just enough tire pressure to limp back to my car.
I could have avoided most of my problems by:
1) doing a more thorough inspection of my damaged tire
2) doing an inspection of the seals on my inflator when I first noticed air leaking around the valve.

I still would have wasted one CO2 cartridge, but would have had the flat fixed and still had a back-up on hand.

If I had been out on the road alone, I would have been screwed, but I likely would have been more methodical away from the confines of the Fiver Trail. Or so I tell myself.

Genuine Innovations is best known to cyclists for their CO2 inflators and accessories. I could not find any explicit warranty information on their website.

Back to the warranty experience. 
I called Genuine Innovations to see if they could send me a couple of O-rings. The pleasant customer service rep helped me identify my inflator as a Microflate Nano (it was old enough that all the graphics were long worn off) and she said they would be glad to send me some O-rings, but that the inflator had a lifetime warranty and she was also going to send me a new inflator. Cool. I love it when people exceed my expectations. As I thanked her, I recounted the short version of my trials and tribulations on the trail. Upon hearing that I had blown through some CO2 cartridge, she said that she would also throw in a couple of threaded cartridges and asked whether I needed 16g or 20g. size (MTB or road )

Genuine Innovations blew me away with their warranty fulfillment. The old inflator with damaged O-ring is shown at the bottom of the photo. It might be worthwhile to take a look at yours before you need it. This one has seen a lot of flats.


And, it just keeps getting better. 
The same rep called back to tell me that my package had shipped and then called a few days later to let me know that UPS had delivered the shipment and had left it at my door. I came home to find the O-rings to repair my old inflator, a new retail-packaged MicroFlate Nano, and a half-dozen CO2 cartridges. Remarkable.

Needless to say, I think Genuine Innovations deserves your business. Their parent company also makes Slime, which I have used for years in everything from wheelbarrow to tractor tires. 
 
 The internet makes finding contact information easy. Diane needed to replace her many years-old NRS kayak flotation bags recently. She called their 800 number and told them that the bags would no longer hold air. They told her they had a lifetime warranty and shipped new bags, along with a label to return the old ones.
If a product fails you, it never hurts to call the maker and ask about warranty. Serfas left me with a neutral feeling. Good stuff, but there's a lot of good stuff around. Genuine innovations and NRS earned loyal customers. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

River Trail Results-Riverfront Dr., Rockwater

Thanks go out to Chris Wilbourn, NLR Chief Engineer and Traffic Director, along with Chief-of-Staff Danny Bradley, the NLR Traffic Department, and Alderman Charlie Hight for their help in reclaiming a little pavement for riders along Riverfront Road near the Broadway Bridge.
There are no villains in this story, but we will need to continue to work together and be alert to encroachments along the trail.

Chris shared these photos of the new realignment:


 Much Better!

In addition to moving the barrels, the Traffic Department painted dashed lines on the pavement to indicate the proper alignment for Massman Construction crews when they are not actively working in the area. They also cleaned the area with blowers and will make a pass with a street sweeper when they are in the area.
This was done for the sake of rider safety, and is very much appreciated.

KEEP IN MIND: This is still a construction zone and we will lose the buffer from time to time as the bridge project progresses. Respect any barriers or warnings that may appear. It is for your safety and the safety of the workers. 

Chris related a story of a rider who recently ignored a barrier and rode though a wet stamped concrete crosswalk repair near Rockwater. That kind of action does not endear the cycling community to the folks to whom we go to for support.

On the subject of Rockwater.....

During an open house at Rockwater Marina last fall it was reported that the River Trail was blocked by parked cars at its intersection with Rockwater Blvd . Chris has discussed that situation with the Rockwater Marina principals and they will work to prevent that from happening at future events.


There will always be some minor conflicts when a wide range of activities take place on a shared resource like the Arkansas River Trail, but most people want to do the right thing.

Thanks again to the folks in the NLR city government, Massman Construction, and at Rockwater. The River Trail is a valuable resource that we can all enjoy through cooperation.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Along The Trail- NLR Broadway Bridge Site Detour, Felonious Drivers, and Unusual Trail Area Traffic

One year ago, I posted an article regarding the safety issues created by Massman Construction's closure of the River Trail at the Broadway Bridge and the resulting detour onto Riverfront Drive. I had met with Chris Wilbourn, City Engineer, Danny Dillon, alderman Charlie Hight, and the mayor's chief of staff Danny Bradley to help explain the dangerous situation from a cyclists point-of-view. The City quickly went to work to improve the confusing signage and to re-position the dreaded orange barrels along the eastbound lane in a manner that would provide cyclists with a bit of a lane headed east. The speed limit was reduced in the construction zone and a radar sign was put in place for a short period of time. The improvement was immediate.




There is no shortage of signage on the approach to the construction zone.

This is the lane alignment as agreed upon and as implemented last spring. This is still in place west of the bridge.
This is the situation as of Monday night between the work site and the entry to Riverfront Park.

.
 Since that time, Massman has regularly moved the barriers out in order to create more room for construction activities; sometimes realigning them, but usually leaving them near the lane dividing line. Over the winter, the lane was narrowed and remains so. Riders are once again forced into the single traffic lane, where I would guess the average vehicle speed to be about 45-MPH. I've never seen a hint of enforcement in the area. In addition, the area is often littered with sand and gravel from the job site. It appears that the area has been swept of most of this material pretty recently; except immediately adjacent to  the barriers where cyclists must ride to avoid drawing the ire of drivers or running the risk being run down.
Even as I started putting together this article, a local ride group complained about the situation on social media after being buzzed by a speeding driver, and they reported having contacted the mayor's office. I contacted the city engineer who had previously helped with problems in the area and received a promise that he would get with the mayor's office to follow up.

 I expect that we will get some resolution, if only temporarily.

Delays of the Broadway Bridge replacement project have only put off the inevitable mayhem that will result when the bridge is closed. At that time, I expect the screams of thousands of commuters will drown out our small voice at city hall.

As is usually the case, everyone is simply acting in their own best interest. It is inconvenient for Massman to maintain even the the narrow quasi-bike lane so they don't. Until now, the city has not received any recent push-back from the cycling community so it is most convenient for them to leave it alone. Polite input from NLR residents to their alderman or to the mayor's office often gets action.

Vehicular Assault On Pinnacle Valley and
 an Accident Involving Cyclist on County Farm Road

It was reported last week that a rider had been intentionally stuck by a vehicle on Pinnacle Valley Road. The rider escaped serious injury, but this is yet another example of the aggressive behavior of some residents of this area toward cyclists who share "their" road.
The vehicle was a white pickup with no license plates, likely a Ford. Other riders reported being verbally abused by the driver of a similar vehicle. Be alert and report incidents to the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department. The sheriff's department has promised increased patrols.

Another cyclist was hit by a car while riding west on County Farm Road. The driver ran a stop sign and had neither insurance nor a driver's license. The rider was luckily only bruised and pissed off. The bike was destroyed.

Driver's licenses and license plates seem to be in short supply in western Pulaski County.





On the lighter side...

While riding on the River Trail west of Burns Park this week I noticed a helicopter doing a couple of not-quite-touch-and-go's in the adjacent field.


Uh....on your left, please.


On approach for another pass.


You just never know what you will see along the trail.

For the sake of clarity, a telephoto lens was in use for the top photo and the helo stayed well away from the trail.



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Spring Classics-Bike Racing At Its Manliest:Paris-Roubaix

For most casual bike racing fans, the Tour de France is likely the only European pro cycling that is worth following, and even though it is one of the world's premier sporting events, enthusiasm among Americans is slight in the post-Lance era. With that, TV coverage of cycling in the USA has also waned.

Where the hard men reign 
The Spring Classics are one day races that are deeply rooted in the history of competitive cycling. Remember, there was a time when bike racing was a huge spectator sport worldwide. From the roads of northern Europe to the track in Madison Square Gardens, cycling as as big as NASCAR in its heyday.
Where leading contenders in the Tour often go for days at a time sheltered by their team as they drone through the predictable pattern of breakaways, the catch, and then getting the hell out of the way for  a frenetic final kilometer or two by the sprinters' teams, there is no hiding in the classics.
Here is a link to the last 14k of last week's Tour of Flanders where Fabian Cancellara battles with world champion Peter Sagan to the finish. This is bike racing at its pure best.

Race your bike on this! Cobbles of Paris-Roubaix
They are races of survival and glory. They a built of cobblestones, mud, cow shit, and pain, and the most revered among them is Paris-Roubaix. Ask a Belgian bike racing fan (that could just say "ask a Belgian". This is a country with dozens of daily bike racing publications) what the most important races of the year are, and you'll likely hear "Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders".


Live Coverage this Sunday on NBC Sports!!

Remarkably, this will likely not appear in their programming guide, but NBC Sports will cover Paris-Roubaix this Sunday at 8:00AM. My Comcast guide shows Premier League Soccer at that time, with a 3-hour rebroadcast of Paris-Roubaix at 3:00PM.


Check this out: Paris Roubaix 1988

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

'tis The Season..for Perfect Riding Weather along with....

....wind, pollen, rain, and a little of the usual minor trail user conflicts.

Spring is upon us. We are  past the vernal equinox and well into Daylight Savings Time. The long hours of daylight mean that after-work weekday rides are available to us regular working stiffs. As is the norm, March weather has been going through its usual mood swings, with summer-like mid-80's followed by downright cold mornings, so we are not quite to the point of being able to count on grabbing a pair of bibs and a short-sleeve jersey to be ready for the day's ride, but we are getting close.

This past Saturday was perfect riding weather. Sunday seemed to be shaping up to be the same, but 25-30 MPH winds made for painful work heading west. Add blowing streams of sand along parts of the trail to the clouds of pollen and the resulting conditions could have been more comfortable. Such is the pleasure and pain of March in Arkansas

On those recent days when the weather has been good, the expected large crowds have flocked to the River Trail. With that comes the usual complaints about the behavior of some trail users. Some of them are legitimate, as there are people who do not mind their manners, whether they be fast cyclists, long-leash dog walkers, or people who simply have no awareness that others are moving along the trail.
My friend Mike Moore recently posted a comment and photo on Facebook that took issue with people who allow their pets to leave large quantities of canine excrement, frequently referred to in conversation as "dog shit," on the Big Dam Bridge. While he got a lot of support, cyclists as a group came under attack from one writer who no longer walked his dog, who we will call "Beast" to protect the pup's identity, because he feared for the life of his Maltese or mastodon or whatever breed Beast may be, due to those madmen on bikes zooming around.

Let me make a couple of points on that conversation:
-There is no excuse for not picking up after your dog on a crowded paved surface such as the BDB. Assume that your dog is going to poop and pick up a bag from one of the dispensers on the bridge. You know, the ones with the signs that say "Pick up your dog shit" or something along those lines.
Former Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines and current Judge Barry Hyde have threatened to ban dogs from the bridge due to the behavior of some pet owners. Nobody really wants to see such a ban but trail users get disgusted by the presence of so much poop on the bridges and they complain.
Also, if you keep your dog by your side and under control, nobody is going to run over him. The danger to the cyclist is usually more immediate than the danger to the dog. Self-preservation is a powerful incentive.

While the discussion of dog poop on the BDB always lends itself to a lively discourse, if you really want to get folks riled up,  post a complain about horse manure on the mountain bike trails. Of course, they are multipurpose trails, but I don't have a horse. 

Saturday afternoon at the Two Rivers Park Bridge

- Do not complain about the crowds when you choose to visit the busiest spots on the the Arkansas River Trail System on the first beautiful days of spring. Remarkably, many, many people will have the same idea and head to the same easily accessible and scenic points.
There are miles of lightly used trail in North Little Rock and on the back loops in Two Rivers Park. If you want solitude, you don't go to the Riverfest....or to the BDB and Two Rivers Park Bridge on nice days.

Sunday was cooler and very windy, so the crowds were thin in "the ice box" between Jimerson Creek and Two Rivers Bridge.

Cyclists seem to bear the brunt of complaints on shared trail systems and I have given the reasons a good deal of thought. The most obvious is that, yes, there are some rude cyclists, but there are also rude runners, walkers, mid-trail chitchatters, show-offs doing pushups, and free-range preschoolers.
I think cyclists get more complaints simply because we cover more ground. One on-your-left-barking, ear-bud wearing, time-trialing fool can cover the length of the trail in well under an hour, pissing off scores of people along the way. A long-leash dog walker with a couple of loose munchkins will likely only cover a couple of miles and a relatively small crowd  in the same time frame.

Folks, these can be the best days along the trail. Ride your bike, walk your dog, mind your manners and bring along your supply of mellow. Enjoy. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Big Dam Bridge, Late Opening and Closure Extended-Questions Raised

Extended Closure On Wednesday Announced
From Lynn Bell of Metroplan:
I just found out that Pulaski County and the Corps are still working on the inspection of the Big Dam Bridge and it will be closed today and possibly even through Friday. The press release that I had seen just mentioned Mon.-Wed., but it should have said through Friday March 18. Can you spread the word to your bicycling friends? It might be closed as late as 7:00 tonight. I will be posting updates on Arkansas River Trail and people can get also get updates from Pulaski County. 




Is It Is or Is it Ain't Transportation?

On Monday, the announced closure of the BDB for inspection went as announced. The bridge was open at 5:00 PM as throngs of commuters, rec riders, and others swarmed across the span on a glorious spring afternoon, the first evening of Daylight Savings Time.
On Tuesday, the throngs of people were there, but the gates on both ends of the bridge remained locked well after 6 o'clock.
5:18PM on Tuesday

 Commuters with daypacks and a load of frustration loitered as groups of walkers and recreational riders left disappointed or, in my case, called up the people we were to meet across the river to change plans. The NLR gate was opened around 6:15. Unfortunately, the gates were still locked on the Little Rock side as a crowd of reportedly about 40 people gathered on each side of the closed gates. A worker finally showed up to unlock the gates and was said to have taken his time while seeming to get a bit of a kick out of his position of power. Some riders had already had enough and were handing bikes over the closed gates and climbing after them.
I made a call to someone with better connections and found out that a lift used by workers to inspect the underside of the span had broken down, causing the delay.

I'm told that Pulaski County is ultimately responsible for the scheduling and execution of the closures. We all recognize that the inspections and maintenance are required, but the county has a responsibility to provide accurate information and, if that information proves to be incorrect, they should have someone on site to update users of the situation. I'm sure that Judge Barry Hyde, who is a rider, would be glad to hear from you if you have an opinion on the handling of the bridge closure.

Alternative Transportation
The River Trail and the BDB are transportation links built largely with transportation dollars and serving a growing number of people who seek a means of travel beyond jumping in a car. Like all transportation infrastructure, the ART and especially the BDB must be open and available to be used by folks who are going to their job, meetings, or to any activity for which there is a schedule. One of the calls I got yesterday was from a healthcare professional who works at the Arkansas Surgical Hospital and who commutes by bike from her Heights home. Last night, she was tired after a day in surgery and simply needed to get home. The implications of her failing to arrive at work in time for a procedure are far worse.
Unfortunately, city, county, and Corps of Engineers officials treat these transportation resources as if they are closing off a playground. Bike advocacy groups have long pushed for recognition of cycling, walking, and public transportation as alternatives to the car, but many decision makers still don't get it. The recent extended closure of the BDB for post-flood clean up is another example of this attitude. Even as cleanup progressed on the trail along the river, the bridge could easily have been re-opened with access though Cook's Landing. Had this been even the smallest county road used by drivers, there may have been some orange barrels directing traffic around obstacles, but the road would have been open in short order.

Build For The City You Want
During the course of the long discussion on the Broadway Bridge design and its bike-ped facility, I often heard the argument that few people walked or biked across the current bridge. The downtown areas on both sides of the river are growing in population density, and it is becoming obvious that the ability to dine, shop, drink and eat in one's own neighborhood is a huge draw.  So, if we want this kind of quality development to continue we have to expand those opportunities. That means, among other things, recognizing that alternative transportation resources are as important to those who use it as an open road is to drivers.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Big Dam Bridge Closure- Mon-Wed, March 14-16, 7AM-5PM

The BDB will be closed next Monday-Wednesday from 7:00AM-5:00PM for inspection and maintenance, so plan accordingly.

Sunset comes an hour later starting Sunday.

Monday also marks the first weekday of Daylight Savings Time, so we can cross the bridge after 5:00 and still have a couple of hours of daylight. While I am sympathetic with the poor little school children who will be huddling at their bus stops in the early morning darkness, they'll have to lay blame on the Bush administration. My reaction to the time change is, "Yahoo", and I'll give "W" credit.

Flood or No Flood?

Yesterday, the forecast was for the Arkansas River to crest at 18.5 feet at Little Rock, which would have caused considerable trail impact on the NLR side. Today's forecast shows a peak of 13.1 feet, which would not impact the River Trail. The rain seems to be tracking further south and east than originally predicted.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Camp Robinson- Trail Love Saturday, February 27

"Work day Saturday Feb. 27 at 9am. Brian Shipman is heading a crew to work on the new Bench View Trail connecting Elevator and Dogwood. Other crews working on new part of 5 mile and new trail from Dead Elvis to Buddah that is easy and avoids Ball of Nails."

I've bragged recently on the folks who have done the amazing work of rehabbing, building, and maintaining the trail system at Camp Robinson. Here's your big chance to be a part of this illustrious order of trail fairies (they hate it when I call them that, but I find them to be magical.)

The trail dogs love the view from this new bridge on Can o' Corn
 
They hauled in the big wood for this impressive structure. Riding the  lower trails  during the wet times has meant mud and some major water crossings. Ambitious trail crews are solving problems.
 There is a new trail link from from the bridge on Can O' Corn to Dogwood
 Though it is a straight shot and looks clean with a reasonable grade, I had a hell of a time getting started here but it was better than riding up Elevator. The fresh trail is off camber, a little narrow and has some loose dirt. It will only improve with some riding.
 I think this is on 5-Mile Loop, and is a good example of some of the rebuilt water crossings.

It seems that every time I ride at Camp, I encounter trail builders and some new trail. Trail construction is becoming more sophisticated and sustainable as these volunteers have learned what works and how to better use the terrain. That's a good thing for all of us.

Get out there on Saturday if you can. We're going to be engaged in the task of skiiing and soaking in hot springs, but we'll be there in spirit.