Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Developments

 Arkansas River Trail Task Force and LRBFCC meetings were held in recent weeks and were the scene of discussions of sveral topics of concern to the cycling community. Here are a few infrastucture developments that may eventually affect your ride.


I-30 corridor: Discussions and public meetings concerning renovation/expansion of the I-30 corridor through Little Rock are underway. This is the busiest stretch of higway in Arkansas and any redevolopment is bound to have consequences, good or bad, for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Historically, they have been bad, as freeways are among the most daunting barriers to alternative transportation. From my own Park Hill neighborhood near the I-30/I-40 interchange, there are only a very few routes available to cross I-30 or I-40 and those limited routes are far from "bike friendly" during peak traffic hours. Construction may be a few years away but our experince with the Broadway Bridge project taught us that is is never too early to start protecting our interests.

Speaking of the Broadway Bridge...
Many of us remember being told that construction of the new bridge had to get underway in 2013 of the highway department risked the loss of 50+ million dollars in federal funding. My, how time flies! The project is now suposed to bid on September 17, with construction beginning in early 2015.
Construction will close downtown sections of the River Trail for up to 2 years and likely make "closing the loop" a moot point for that time period. That said, the bike advocacy community needs to maintain efforts to resolve this gaping hole in our bike infrastructure.

Detouring The "Temporary " Route on Cantrell Road
Riders who use the permanant "temporary" bike route of the River Trail along the sidewalk in front of the Episcopal Collegiate School will face further challanges later this year.

This will get worse before it gets better.
 
Before it's all over, sewer lines to this new pump station will have to be installed.

You may have noticed construction at the sewage pump station west of the school at the foot of the viaduct. The pump station is being rebuilt, and that project will include replacement of buried pipe along the road in front of the school. The excavation will close the trail detour for a period of time, so eastbound cyclists will be directed across to the sidewalk on the north side of Cantrell Road. Crossing will be at the traffic signal that serves the school. From there, cyclists are riding the sidewalk across multiple driveways before dealing with a few power poles. Casual riders will not enjoy this.


 Development in this stretch is incredibly dense, with a busy state highway, a rail line, the Arkansas River, and the interests of the Stephens and Dillard families all packed into narrow corridor.

 
There is room to ride around the poles on the off street side....barely.

After dealing with the 6 driveways and multiple mid-sidewalk power poles, I'm not sure what the hell we're supposed to do. I also have no idea how westbound traffic will be accomodated.

Crossing the viaduct may be safer with a barrier to traffic.
 
After crossing the viaduct, the sidewalk leads to North Street. From there, riders will need to cross Cantrell at the traffic signals at Izard or at Chester in order to return to the bike route on Markham Street. I waited through a couple of cycles at each of the lights and never got a green light to safely cross Cantrell. I assume they are traffic activated.
 
A beauty of the bike is that you can almost always pick your way through and around barriers if you know where you are going, whether it be riding on the sidewalks and streets or, worst case, picking up the bike and carrying it. That works OK for locals, but the implications for visitors and tourists attempting to navigate our trail system are a bit murky at best.
There are projects being developed to tie the trail to the sidewalk at this location, but neither will be complete, and likely not even started, by the time the sewer work is done. The pipe replacement in front of the school driveway will have to be done over the Christmas holidays. Other than that, plans for this project are far from clear to me.
 
After exploring passage along the north side of Cantrell, the current sidewalk route  looks pretty good.
 
I don't want to be too strident about this, as there are few options within this corridor. My goal is to inform trail users about what is to come this fall.  If I had any better ideas than the current plan, I would have shared them.

Medical Mile Trail Section- Even as progress is being made toward the start of construction of what eventually be the east terminus of the River Bluffs trail section near Dillard's HQ, another potential problem has arisen. You may recall that a section of trail slid off into the Arkansas River a couple of years ago. That slide was recently repaired, but now it appears that another section of trail, just east of the UP RR tracks, is sloughing off. The seriousness of the problem has yet to be determined, but it could affect plans to bridge the tracks and make the trail connection to Cantrell Road.

There may be a problem with the geology here. This is just outside the UP RR right of way east of Dillard's.
 
Highway 10 Corridor
Look for opportunities to comment on this major project. As I understand, designers of this 10-11 lane rebuilding of Highway 10 west of I-430 have been instructed to make some provision for bike and pedestrian traffic crossing fro Rodney Parham to River Mountain Road. That said, I was recently told that any kind of bike-ped overpass had been ruled out. A suggestion was made at a recent LR Bike Friendly Community Committee meeting that we could await the public comment period. That didn't work too well with the Broadway Bridge as plans were, for the most part, deemed too far along to make substantial changes by the time the public was heard. That was in spite of a design contest that resulted in.....the original plan with some basket handles.
Just talk, for now...
There has been some discussion of a proposal to rezone the park-like residential area at the top of River Mountain Road to commercial to allow for a retail development. I'm told that the chances of this moving forward beyond some inquiries are very slim, but let's pay attention. A big box parking lot at the top of the hill would serve as a sad gateway to our trail system and further exacerbate a traffic nightmare. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Breakdown- Have you ever felt forlorn? Lonely and abandoned?

Were you feeling lonely because your ride partners pedaled away, abandoning you on the side of the road with a preventable mechanical?  Oh, they'll probably stick around until you have a rescue arranged, and they probably won't talk bad about you until they're out of earshot, but you'll still have your ride cut short.

DISCLAIMER
If your eyes glaze over at the mention of the words "hex wrench", just stop reading now and take your bike to your favorite local shop and ask them to check it over. Likewise, if you're a seasoned bike tinkerer, I'm unlikely to teach you anything.

Miles matter.
Many cyclists will get their bike checked out in the spring as the season ramps up, only to ignore routine maintenance, service checks, and repairs as they pile on the miles through the summer months. I'm going to reach into my bag of recent experiences to point out a few things that could go wrong in the hope that it may save you that dreaded phone call home--"Honey, can you come get me? Do you know where Garrison Road is?"
Don't ignore noises.
Most of us know the sound of a normally running bike and of a dry chain in need of lube. For noises beyond that, make it a point to hunt down the source of clicks, creeks, groans, and squeaks. If the bike doesn't sound right, it probably isn't. Most noises can be corrected with a hex wrench or some lube. Some can't.
Noise can precede catastrophic failure..
Usually, stopping a noise can be as simple as greasing your seat post or dropouts, but it may signal a disaster in waiting. Last year, after riding for a couple of weeks with a tube of grease in my pocket chasing a creaking noise, I discovered that the seat tube on my titanium frame was seriously cracked. Only last week, a ride partner found that the source of an irritating click was a carbon seat post that was cracked and near failure. Either of those could have caused a crash or at least that roadside phone call.
Noises radiate through frames, often making it difficult to pinpoint the source. If you don't feel comfortable making minor repairs and adjustments on your bike, take it to the friendly folks at your favorite bike shop.

It shifted OK yesterday....
A change in performance means something is wrong. Sudden problems with shifting, usually the rear derailleur, can signal one of a number of problems, but the source can be narrowed down pretty easily.
First, ask yourself if your bike has fallen over or otherwise taken a blow to the drive train. Then, make sure that the rear wheel is firmly and squarely set in the dropout.
Next, make sure that the cable end is firmly tightened under the retention bolt and has not slipped. Once properly tightened, the cable rarely comes loose, but it's worth checking. If it is slipping, you will likely get phantom shifts to smaller cogs as tension comes off of the cable, and the cable near the retention bolt will usually show signs of having been flattened. 
The next most likely cause is a failing shifter cable. The cable usually breaks a strand at a time, usually inside the shifter housing, effectively lengthening the cable and allowing phantom shifts to a smaller cog.
This cable is on its way to total failure. Roll back your shifter hoods to check for failing cables.

You can usually shift back up to the desired cog, but as more strands break, the derailleur will drop again to smaller cogs. This often takes place over a period of time and a couple of rides before the cable fails completely.
 
Nothing like a wad o' wire to enhance shifter performance.

My most recent experience with a frayed cable was a little different in that the wad of broken strands prevented the cable from feeding out of the shifter. The result was that I couldn't use my smallest 3-4 cogs.
A failing cable is easy to overlook, even by experienced mechanics, if you are not specific about the symptoms. The shifting can often be adjusted to perfection on a workstand, only to have the problems return out on the road as more cable strands break under the load of shifting. If you suspect a failing cable, check it yourself or ask you mechanic to take a look. Better yet, if your cables are more than a year old, just replace them. They're inexpensive and should be considered a wear-and-tear item like tires and chains.
Cable life can vary widely and can depend on the cable routing. Failures are likely to happen at sharp turns of the cable. The current DuraAce and Ultegra 11-speed groups require several sharp bends to the cable, inspiring Shimano to use more expensive PTFE coated cables for smooth operation. The components work beautifully but I think that cables will need more frequent replacement than on older systems.

More gradual degradation in shifting performance may indicate drive chain wear. That usually starts with a worn chain. If the worn chain is not replaced, it will cause excessive wear to the cassette and, eventually, to the chainring. 


This chain is within spec. A worn chain would allow the .75 tab to drop between the links. A worn out chain will allow the 1.0 tab. 

A chain with excessive wear usually means it is also time to replace the cassette. Most mechanics check chain wear as a matter of routine. If you don't have a chain check tool, it is easily checked with a 12" ruler. This video link shows both how to use the chain check tool and how to use a ruler for the purpose. The host refers to "freewheel", though modern bikes use a freehub and cassette, but the idea is the same. You can replace a chain now or a chain and cassette, and possibly chainrings, later. It usually makes more economic sense to stay ahead with chain replacement.

Tires and flat kit
As always, you want look over your tires from time-to-time to check for cuts or excessive wear. Also, check the contents of your flat repair kit. It's easy to forget using a CO2 cartridge until you need it again.

This is a rainy day post. If you're reading it on Saturday, it is also a good day to check over your bike or to get it to the shop.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Weekend Ride Opportunity- Big River Parkway Levee Ride Event

You may recall a recent article about the Harahan Bridge Project at Memphis
I received this from Greg Maxted announcing a unique ride opportunity for this Sunday:
 


Wanted to let folks in Little Rock know we are having an open levee ride Sunday Morning.
Hopefully we will have another opportunity in the fall, with more advance notice.
St. Francis Levee Board has given us the OK to start a Demonstration project, West Memphis to Marianna.
Late notice to be sure, but we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity with the Levee Board.
Riders can start early at 7:00 AM, or wait until it gets nice and toasty later in the day.
One can ride all the way to Marianna , or just a few miles to see what it is like.
Might be the start of something really big!
Greg Maxted, P.E.
Executive Director
Harahan Bridge Project
 
 

 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Along The Trail-Dog Days And Progress Reports

Darn these pesky crowds
I often say that if you want some solitude along the trail, you can head out any time the temperature is over 95 or on most weekend evenings in the dog days of summer. Sometimes, though, the crowds can erupt when you least expect them or you can feel like you were the only one left out of the rapture.

Inexplicable: Last Saturday at noon, temperatures pleasantly in the 80's, a nice breeze, and not a soul in sight.
 
Our trail system gets a lot of use-over a million people have crossed the BDB- but there are always areas of light usage. Since the opening of the Two Rivers Park Bridge, much of the casual walking crowd has migrated that way, along with riders passing through to the open roads to the west. That leaves much of the North Little Rock trail less crowded than in the past, though still very active.
 
 
Open and Shut Case-Culvert Collapse On Trail Along Rebsamen Park Road

We've experienced another infrastructure failure along the River Trail near the BDB. This one was not as painful as the culvert collapse that blocked the trail near River Mountain Road for many months last year, as the bike lanes on nearby Rebsamen Park Road made for an easy detour and repairs were quickly made.

Rider, runners, and walkers found the trail blocked between the BDB and Rebsamen Park on Monday evening.
Yep, it's a hole, alright. Trail users discovered this on Monday morning.
 
A quick look reveals that there is no structural support immediately under the asphalt, leaving an open 6-8 foot drop to the ditch bottom below. I didn't climb down to check out the structure, but I guessed that the trail bridging the culvert would have to be removed and rebuilt. I was wrong!
The trail had been patched by Tuesday according to this KTHV report, and was to open Wednesday. Good work, Little Rock!
 
Work underway in NLR
 
River Road 

The contractor has milled out the asphalt to make the River Road trail section nominal trail width.
 
The narrowing of the trail near the Rockwater development is underway, and the trail will be detoured for a month or so as landscaping and lights are added. There is currently a lull in construction, leading many riders to go around the barriers, but the road is littered with gravel and the detour is actually kind of a nice change.
 
Shillcut Bayou
 
Construction continues as workers put the finishing touches on the approaches to the new bridge. Riders should continue to use caution in this area.
 
This rider could have used more caution, as he rode into freshly poured concrete. The crew offered him a hose-off and tightened up the barrier of barrels in the area.
The new approach from the east invites speed. Please use good judgement.
 
The old bridge is closed.
 
I'm pleased that attention was paid to the aesthetics of the new structure. While it is a pretty utilitarian design, the approaches are being bordered with pigmented, stamped concrete and rock work at each end adds a lot to the visual appeal. The bridge will be with us for a long time so I'm glad to see the finishing touches.
 
 
Go ride your bike! 
 
 
 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

NLR Trail Updates: New bridge open; Detour on River Road

The approaches to the new Shillcut Bayou Bridge at Burns Park were completed yesterday, though a few hours later than expected. The crew was still rolling out asphalt at about 5:30 or so, but they said it would be ready to ride in a couple of hours.
A later visit found the crew done, asphalt sufficiently cooled, but the barriers still in place. The situation called out for a test ride, so it was done for the sake of proving the safety of the new structure. It seemed stable. I'm making the assumption that the barriers came down this morning.

This unidentified rider testing the new bridge at my encouragement.

The east approach just looks fast! Don't let your awesomeness overwhelm your good sense when coming out of the woods onto the bridge.
 
River Road
Expect a detour around the River Road trail section between Pike Ave and Rockwater Blvd.,  beginning today. The road-wide trail is being narrowed to allow for landscaping and some lights. Work is expected to take about a month. The detour is easy and won't add more than a minute or two to your ride.


Thanks to roving reporter John Martin for this photo.
 

Monday, July 28, 2014

JBar Cycling MiniLeague-Lanterne Rouge Stranglehold Broken, Truckers Can Tour Takes Grand Prize

It looked like Marshall Meggers's Team Lanterne Rouge was going to simply steamroll the other 28 teams in the JBar Cycling VeloGames Tour de France MiniLeague, but Kelly Thompson's Truckers Can Tour surged with a powerful performance on stage 19 and finished on top with a score of 7858 points! Congratulations, Kelly, you have won the grand prize of a Team CARVE jersey.


Thanks to Team CARVE for providing our podium prizes.
 


Mat and Regina at Spokes generously provided 2 $20.00 gift cards for our Spokes Leader Board prizes, awarded for top scores at each rest day
 


 
Chainwheel  provided 5 $10.00 gift cards for the First-In Yellow, Stage 5 Hard Man, 2 Chainwheel KOM prizes and, finally the Lanterne Rouge for our last place finisher.
 
Marshall, who won damn near every thing else (multiple gift cards from both Chainwheel and Spokes), will also receive a Team CARVE T-shirt for his 7086 point second place finish. Michael and Krissa  Mattox of Team Wheel2Wheel will also get a CARVE T-shirt as they round out our podium with 6943 points.

The scores here were pretty impressive, as Kelly's team finished in 139th place out of over 30,000 entries worldwide. And she did it using only 94 of her 100 point rider budget.

Jeremy Boyd's Angry Vikings kicked things off by taking the Chainwheel First-In-Yellow prize, and things finish up as our last place finisher, or our real Lanterne Rouge, is also a winner. Tyler Bayles, Team alldopedup, please email me at JBarCycling@comcast.net, and I'll arrange for your $10.00 Chainwheel gift card. In case you're wondering, Tyler finished in 29,771st place

Thanks again to the prize sponsors and to everyone who played or followed along.

This has been an unusual Tour de France in that so many top riders crashed out early, and there was never really much of a challenge to Vincenzo Nibalo after he gained 2 minutes over the remaining contenders on the cobbles in Stage 5.

There is some good racing in Utah and in Colorado coming up, and then it's the Vuelta.
Bike racing season doesn't end with the Tour.

River Trail Closure-Tuesday, July 29, At Shillcut Bayou Bridge.

The River Trail east of Burns Park will be closed for much of Tuesday to allow for the paving of the approaches to the new Shillcut Bayou Bridge.

Read the signs, please.
 
Please respect the trail closure. There is not an easy detour, so last time it was closed for work at this location, several cyclists apparently pushed on through. The job should be complete and the new bridge open by mid-afternoon if all goes as planned.

Very nice! Smooth and wide.

While the old bridge has some bone-shaking character, the new one promises to be a big improvement. It was initially planned to leave to old bridge, which is built over a sewer main, open, but recently discovered structural deficiencies led to a decision to close it to all users.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Have You Had A Toolbox Stolen??

NLRPD is looking for you! And not in a bad way!
If you are this theft victim or know somebody that may be, floow up on this!

From John Alston, NLRPD:
ALERT: Pass along to all cyclists you can...if you know someone who had a cycling toolbox stolen from their vehicle near the Big Dam Bridge or Two Rivers Park, let me know ASAP! We are working a big case & believe we have recovered a distinct toolbox that belongs to a cyclist. Sorry if I may not have included others in this message. I've been up all night working on this case. Put the word out to all cyclists you know!

Blast it wherever. Like I said, we "believe" it is what I described. Don't want to be too specific, but whoever is missing it will know. Have them call me @ 771-7153 or 351-4528. Both are work numbers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Trail Updates: River Road, I-30 boat ramp, Shillcut Bayou Bridge

North Little Rock River Road

The revamping of the River Road  trail section near the Rockwater development will begin soon, starting with the milling of the existing asphalt as the area is narrowed to normal trail width. The project will also involve underground power, landscaping, and the installation of 15-18 decorative lamps. The work will be done by a combination of contractors and the employees of various city departments. That requires quite a bit of coordination and will make scheduling challenging.
Chris Wilbourn, an engineer with the city of NLR, is going to try to keep us updated on the schedule, but things can change from day to day.
The work may start as early as next week, so be alert to possible detours.

Bass boat traffic at the I-30 boat ramp.

Apparently, there have been some traffic conflicts between cyclists and bass fishermen at the launch ramp under I-30 between Fike's Bikes and the Clinton Park Bridge. On tournament nights, there are a large number of pickups with boats on trailers entering and leaving the area, and their drivers tend to pay more attention to their boats than to riders.
After a report of a couple of cyclists getting bumped, I got in touch with some city officials. I got the impression from the tone of the reports that it was nothing really consequential, but vehicle/bike encounters are never good.  The City is contacting the tournament organizers so that they can ask participants to use more caution, and there will be discussions as to whether some signs would help.
We share the resource, so be aware of the congestion and use appropriate caution in the area.
As usual, NLR City folks are engaged and responsive. Thanks!

Shillcut Bayou Bridge

Do not use this ramp! The bridge will be open soon enough.
The new bridge should be opening around August 1, which is the original schedule. Construction was ahead of schedule but rainy weather has slowed things down. There will likely be a day or two of trail closures as the pavement is tied into the new bridge.
One significant change to the plans is that the old bridge will be closed to all traffic when the new one is complete. It was originally planned to leave it open for walkers, fishermen, and folks just wanting to gaze at the water, but recent inspections indicate that the structure is in poor shape.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Margaritaville Alleycat Race: No Losers Allowed

..because everybody is a winner!! You're on your own to figure out how, but take a few bucks for a Vino's IPA at the finish and you will definitely not be a loser.
Check it out on Facebook! This is one of the fun events that is usually associated with one Vinny Ferguson. It is a part of the growing Central Arkansas bike culture that not only includes races, big ol' event rides like the BDB100 and the upcoming Wampoo Roadeo, but quirky fun stuff like the Tweed Ride and Seersucker Ride.
 
 
 
 
Race Starts at MacArthur Park 3PM, Finishes at Vinos backroom!

Short Alleycat race with around 5 checkpoints
$7 suggested donation to race
*Road Category
*Women's Category
*Fixed Gear Category (Single Speed might get lumped into this Cat)...
Made possible by:
Chrome Industries
Loblolly Creamery
Arkansas Cycling and Fitness
Recycle Bikes for Kids
Vino's Pizza-Pub-Brewery
Stone's Throw Brewing
Rocktown Distillery


Race Starts at MacArthur Park 3PM, Finishes at Vinos backroom!

What's an Alleycat Race? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alleycat_race

What will I need?
*Helmet! (YES)
*Lock
*Bag\Backpack
*Cash for one checkpoint

JBarCycling MiniLeague: Oh, the humanity...

SPOKES LEADERBOARD

This continues to be a brutal Tour de France, oth for the riders and for most of the 29 teams in the JBarCycling MiniLeague. The weather has finally cleared up a bit, but riders continue to withdraw due to injuries and illnesses acquired in the first two weeks of racing, with current world Champion Rui Costa being the latest notable departure. Costa wimped out with pneumonia.
On the home front, Marshall Meggers's Lantern Rouge team maintained a stranglehold on the leader's jersey and wins yet another $20.00 Spokes gift card.
Kellie Thompson's Truckers Can Tour team is hot on Marshall's wheel and I'm sure that most of us are hoping that she can jump him at the finish. No offense, Marshall, but you've been cleaning up!

I set up the prize schedule with the goal of spreading the awards as much as possible, but I obviously need to be more heavy-handed! There are at least 4 more primes, including the Team CARVE jersey for the overall winner, Team CARVE T-shirts for the other podium finishers, and a $10.00 Chainwheel gift card for the true lanterne rouge, though the alldopedup team of Tyler Bayles seems to have the lock on that last place "honor".
 
Thank the sponsors!!


Once again, I would ask that you THANK THE SPONSORS!!! JbarCycling has got a revenue stream of exactly -0- dollars so, while I can order up a few coffee mugs from time to time, this would adventure would not be possible without the generosity of Team CARVE, Chainwheel, and Spokes. CARVE helps it because they are investing in the community and would like to grow their membership and gain a sponsor or two themselves. Spokes and Chainwheel are also giving back to the cycling community and they would appreciate your business.  Please mention the Tour Minileague when you're in the stores or around the CARVE guys.  I couldn't have supported this adventure without them.

Rider Down: Laura Wooldridge

By now, everyone in the cycling community is likely to have heard of the tragic loss of Laura Wooldridge, 39. Laura died in the aftermath of injuries suffered while pre-riding the race course at the Eureka Springs Fat Tire Festival on Saturday.

Laura leading a group ride at Camp Robinson recently.
I was just getting to know Laura, but seemed to see her everywhere. Whether I saw her at advocacy meetings, leading a mountain bike ride, or signing up women for a ladies' road ride Laura seemed to be front and center. She was an easy friend, in that if she had met you once, she always seemed genuinely glad to see you. She was a leader and a friend to many. She will be missed by her friends, family and the entire cycling community.
Laura has been remebered in various ways by her friends, and there will be a memorial ride and service on Thursday at 4:00PM fromthe New Life Church on Crystal Hill Road.
Joe Jacobs at Arkansas Outside knew Laura well and did a far better job of telling her story than I can do here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Along The Trail

Family Statue Unveiled

The "Family" statue commissioned by Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines and paid for by generous donations from Arkansas Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Garver, and many others, was unveiled on Wednesday at River Mountain Park near the Two Rivers Park Bridge.


It was a rare sunny and cool July day for the unveiling.

Judge Villines wanted the statue to represent the many families who benefit from the River Trail and bridges. photos by Diane Barton

I dropped by on my ride last night and found a small group of folks admiring the work. One snarky observer noted that the donor plaques looked like grave markers, but that could simply be seen as part of the total effect. You know, completion of the circle of life from the infant in the stroller to those who have passed....
I don't think that is what the sculptor or Judge Villines had in mind, but much of the beauty of art is in its interpretation, so see it as you will.

Rider Topiary





Speaking of art, every time I pass this point near the BDB, I notice what looks to me to be topiary of a rider. Though by definition, topiary requires the clipping or training of a plant, this vine covered tree is close enough for me.

Changes in store for the River Trail near Rockwater Marina

The North Little Rock City Council approved the expenditure of $70,000.00 to make improvements to the River Trail near the Rockwater Marina. The trail, which is now simply a blocked off section of what was River Road, will be narrowed to its standard width, and lighting and landscaping will be added. The developer of the area requested the changes and it was seen as a way to make the adjacent residential lots more attractive while creating a buffer between the trail and private residences. I can appreciate the desire for lighting in this area, along with some separation from the trail, though I have mixed feelings about the City footing the bill.

This stretch will soon look more like the rest of the trail. It is unique in that residential lots abut the trail. Several lots now have "sold" signs.

...on the topic of the marina
Things seem to be progressing very slowly at the Rockwater Marina. In spite of a large federal grant to provide transient slips and the support of the City, only a few slips are occupied, I don't think the fuel dock or the ship's store are yet to open and none of the promised Rockwater Amenities such as "concierge services" seem to be in place.
When ground was broken with great fanfare in February of 2013, I fully expected the marina to soon be bustling with activity, with my greatest concern being that of traffic conflicts with trail users. Time went by and I then figured that spring of 2014 would bring an influx of boats along with the promised store, beer sales, and activities.

I would have expected things to be hoppin' by now at the Rockwater Marina on a July Sunday afternoon, but there was not a soul in sight.

As of last Sunday, there were about a dozen boats scattered among the hundreds of empty slips, the ramp the marina and docks was gated and locked, and the facility was not staffed. Given the time of year, I would say that 2014 will come and go without much additional progress. I hope the developer proves my concerns to be unfounded and that the Rockwater Marina becomes the center of activity that was promised.

 Launch Ramp Coming to Area Near Skate Park

I don't have a time line on this project, but the City of NLR sold a parcel of land near the skate park on River Road for the construction of a new launch ramp. Part of the proceeds of that land sale are being used for the trail improvements at Rockwater.

The inlet to the existing launch ramp at Burns Park is silted in to the point of being unusable by most boats.
The new ramp will be convenient to the marina, though few of the boats served by the marina are likely to use it. The ramp is needed because the inlet to the ramp at nearby Burns Park so filled with silt that only small, light craft can get in and out. Dredging is expensive and temporary and, since it is not in the navigation channel, it does not qualify for any assistance from the Corps of Engineers.

Shep The Goose Dog-Back From Injured Reserve
I dropped a note to NLR Park Ranger Ian Hope a couple of weeks ago to suggest that he and Shep the Wonder Dog spend a little extra time around Victory Lake. A gaggle of poop producers was littering the trail and terrorizing the citizenry. Hope responded that Shep was off-duty, having injured his paw while on the job in Burns Park.

This scene was reminiscent of the bad ol' days when the geese gangs controlled much of the North Little Rock River Trail.

 I'm happy to report that Shep is back on the job and the geese are back to watching their step.

Back where they belong.

While the geese are beautiful birds, they are a nuisance when they cease to migrate and overpopulate. Unfortunately, parks, golf courses, and soccer fields are perfect habitats for them with water, plentiful food, and no predators.  I'm glad that Shep and Ian are on duty.
 

Pat Hays Pedaling For Progress Event, and My ArkansasOutside.com Debut

My friend Joe Jacobs of the Arkansas Outside blog recently asked me if I would be willing to fill in for him in interviewing former NLR Mayor and Congressional candidate Pat Hays  for an article on the AO site. I have enough trouble keeping up with writing for this space, but I readily agreed. Joe and Pat are both friends and I am supportive of Hays's campaign.

There is a fund raising ride for the Hays campaign, Pedaling For Progress, from the Burns Park soccer complex at 8:00 AM Saturday. It should be a beautiful morning for a ride and the requested contribution is just 45.00. You can get in a good ride and a very good lunch is on promise.

Pat Hays is well known in central Arkansas as the result of his long and productive tenure as the mayor of North Little Rock. In today's political climate the term "progressive" is often translated to mean "liberal", while the word "conservative"  has come to be associated with the extreme, often radical, right wing of American politics. I'm going to disregard the polemic that accompanies the common rhetoric of the day and call Pat Hays a "conservative progressive". He's a hometown boy who graduated from North Little Rock High School, a dedicated family man with a penchant for naming pet projects after his grandchildren (Isabella Jo Trail, Harper's Loop, Savannah Lou......), and a pro-development friend to the business community. He’s accustomed to operating on a balanced budget and has made that an issue of his campaign, along with other traditionally conservative positions.

His time as mayor has not been without controversy, but it has been without scandal. While his harshest critics, and I have been a critic at times, can point out areas of disagreement, there simply isn't much in the way of mud to be slung. That in itself is a remarkable feat for a politician who held a highly empowered mayoral office for 24 years. Of course, once the campaign gets geared up and the dark dirty money of the Koch brothers gets involved, Hays will somehow inevitably be tied to, yep, you got it, Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, and maybe even Benghazi. That will be a hell of a stretch, but reality is not much of an impediment in politics in this era of Citizens United where the purchasers of power are not held accountable.
Check out the article at AO. Joe and his contributors mostly cover the fun stuff like mountain bike races, kayaking, and all things outdoors, so I reserved the above commentary on the state of politics for here.

 Something I had wondered about...
 
I've admired this bike boy statue, but never knew the story.
In talking to Pat Hays about his tenure as mayor and his run for the House of Representitives, I heard the story of how this statue came to be at the Clinton Park Bridge. Alderman Murray Witcher had spotted the boy cyclist statue at a sale for half-price and told Mayor Hays that he thought it would be a good fit….somewhere. It was agreed that it belonged somewhere on the River Trail. It was purchased and put in storage for a few years before it found the perfect home at the foot of the Clinton Park Bridge. I had always assumed that it had been commissioned for that spot, as it seems to belong. You will often see people stopping to admire the Bike Boy and have their photo made with the small cyclist.
 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tour de France-First Rest Day for Riders Not Currently Hospitalized

Every time I start thinking that this Tour is going to settle into some sort of natural rhythm, a spanner is tossed into the works, a frame pump is poked into the spokes, and the shit hits the fan. All at once.
Yesterday's first big climb, which had promised a showdown between Alberto Contador and Vicenzo Nibalo, instead saw Contador withdraw after suffering a broken tibea in a high speed crash. He tried to continue but a broken leg is kind of a big deal to a cyclist. Nibalo gained a big stage win as he outclassed the remaining climbers and my team's last hope Andrew Talansky lost more big time.
Niboli is riding like a star after being called out by team director Alexander Vinokourov  in June for not earning his keep. I'm shocked that doping speculation has not hit a fevered pitch, especially in light of Vino's past, but we're all racing clean here in the JBarCycling Minileague and we have a new race leader.

On the strength of a huge daily score of 520 points, Marshall Meggers Team Lanterne Rouge not only claims to Chainwheel KOM $10.00 gift card, but the team also took

the overall lead to claim the Spokes Leaderboard $20.00 gift card.


Two other teams, Kelly Thompson's Truckers Can Tour and Paul Alexander's txotx, each scored over 500 points on the day, which earned them......at best, the respect of their peers.

I tried to arrange the prizes to avoid a sweep by one or two teams but Team Lanterne Rouge is on a roll. Unless the wheels come off, the prize Marshall certainly will not get is the one for lanterne rouge, or last place in the league.

This Tour de France has been brutal, but if fantasy bike racing was easy, anybody could do it.