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.

Polishing The Ol' Blinkie

I have not been very inspired to write lately, but last night I closed my work computer down for the evening and considered my next move. Rain and wind had made even working late more appealing than heading outside for a ride. Like most folks, my backlog of chores is constant, so there is an ongoing process of shuffling, prioritizing, scheduling and sometimes even completing the many tasks that we each face daily. I ultimately decided to clean the mud splatters off of the taillight that sat charging on my desk. I may even buff it up with a little Armor All for good measure.

A clean flasher is a happy flasher.

I'm happy to report that my tiny USB front blinkie was clean as a whistle, so I had time on my hands to write this piece of wholly unsolicited and likely unnecessary advice.

Clean your bits

By that I mean the small things on your bike like your lights, seat bag, computer mount, seat clamp, and, importantly, brake pads. When it's cold and dark bikes are less likely to get washed frequently, and damp, gritty roads mean that abrasive buildup in nooks and crannies. Over time, this stuff can mar your frame and wear your braking surfaces. That hissing you hear as you come to a stop is the sound of your dirty brake pads eating your precious wheels. Get a damp rag and take a few minutes for the small stuff. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Camp Robinson NOT Closed Wednesday, Thursday

I was just informed (Thurs morning)that the MTB trails are not affected by this closure, which is actually for a competitive event for guardsmen.

I noticed a sign posted at the Visitor Center stating that the Camp Robinson training areas will be closed We'd. Feb 10, and Thurs., Feb 11.

The sign is addressed to hunters,but applies to riders as well. I was told that a controlled burn is planned.
Pass it on.

Monday, February 1, 2016

BDB-Open and Shut Case

I got reports that the BDB was open on Sunday, and passed that information on via Facebook. I then got information from Jeff Caplinger of NLR Parks that the gate was supposed to have remained closed as clean up and repairs continued this week. There will be more heavy equipment operating in the area this week.
Jeff advises that we should plan on the gate being closed this morning, Monday, until further notice. The intent is to have the bridge and at least some of the trail approaches open for the upcoming weekend.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

BDB-River Trail Update as of Monday Jan 25, Iron Mountain Trails

Things are still a mess along the North Little Rock side of the river. I got out on my mountain bike on Saturday to scout around, and then followed up on Monday night with a ride across the BDB to confirm that the gates were still closed.
 A lot of progress has been made in clearing the trees and debris near the BDB, but much work remains.
 The silt has created large mud/sand flats in the park and along the trail. The NLR crews have learned a lot from recent experience and are spreading out or hauling off a lot of the sand to return the grade to normal.
 The silt goes from being sticky mud to hard-pack to fine sand. None of it is easy to move.
 The new pavilions held up well. Good work, scouts!
The ski platform at Victory Lake did not fare so well.

Ugly. And, as always, the debris piles are full of an amazing amount of litter. 
This shadowy rider made the only set of tracks in the Pfeifer Loop. It was not really as bad as  expected. The area closest to the river had the most debris and looked like a disaster. Behind the tree line, things were not quite as bad, but will still require extensive clean-up and rehab.

North Little Rock Parks and other department crews are hard at work to clean and repair the trail, but they have a long way to go. Things are expected to be back to normal within a couple of weeks and for now, the north gate on the BDB is closed "indefinitely". Typically, as soon as any viable route is open, the gates will be opened as well. There is a lot of equipment working in the area at this time.

Ride alternatives
As in the "not so good ol' days", North Little Rock riders are faced with driving or riding to the Little Rock side of the river or simply deal with riding open areas of the trail and Burns Park loops. Road rides east of town are always a possibility but do not lend themselves to quick evening rides due to to traffic. Once on the Little Rock side, Two Rivers Park is fully open, and there were only a few muddy spots on the trail Monday evening. 

Drive-to-ride mountain bike destination-Iron Mountain Trails at DeGray

I admittedly don't get around much. There is so much to ride within minutes of home that I seldom venture outside of central Arkansas. On Sunday, with the trail a mess and local roads still thawing from the big Friday snow, and Camp Robinson closed and likely still snow-covered, I saw a mention on Facebook of the Iron Mountain Trails on DeGray Lake near Arkadelphia. I had heard good things so I threw the Niner in the truck and headed out I-30. I had only a vague idea where I was going, but in a little over an hour I was at the parking lot trailhead for the Orange, Blue, and White trails, and was getting good advice from the riders I met there. 
 The pine forest makes for an open understory and the trails are smooth and flowy. 
The new White Trail follows the shoreline of a peninsula into Lake DeGray for much of its length.

My experiences on mountain bike venues are pretty limited, but I'll say that Iron Mountain is about as good as I've seen in terms of trail surface, accessibility, and simple fun. I'm sure that there are more challenging sections, but the counter-clockwise trail direction that I rode on the Orange and White trails seemed have long stretches of flowing downhill followed by slightly sharper, short climbs. Advanced riders can fly through well banked turns while beginners can hone their skills and gain confidence while enjoying the scenery. A summer ride could easily include a break to dive into the clear water of DeGray. Iron Mountain is not news to local mountain bike riders, and I saw several Little Rock folks while I was there, but it was new to me. I'm eager to get back down there and explore some more. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Day At Girls' Camp. Well, Sort of....

Last week, Diane noticed that Missy Vail was leading a beginner/intermediate ride at Camp Robinson for the ladies of Arkansas Heels on Wheels. She decided to meet the women for the ride and I tagged along to take some photos and let our dogs enjoy a day of running the trails.
The Heels had a great turn-out, as the Visitor Center was crowded with women when we arrived to check in, and they arrived at the TA2 ride area like a convoy on a drill day.

The Heels on Wheels convoy had arrived.

Soon, the bikes were unloaded and the more experienced riders were sharing insight with beginners in the group. The group ranged from experienced intermediate riders to first-timers, so everyone got an opportunity to teach, learn, or do both. 

Final preparation: Air and hair must be correct for conditions.
 Willie and Ivy making a run for it. I tried to keep them out of the group, but Willie is a mama's boy and bolted to join when he caught a glimpse of Diane through the woods. They are good trail dogs and the ladies didn't seem to mind.  
 Missy leads as the pack crosses the new long bridge on 10 Bridges trail.

I am always glad to see opportunities like this for women in sports. Having spent all of my adult life engaged in "male dominated" activities ranging from whitewater boating to windsurfing to fly fishing and cycling, I have observed that, though there are obviously women who excel at all of them, there is a bit of an intimidation factor. Women are often hesitant to reveal their lack of knowledge in the presence of a bunch of boys, so gender-specific events are helpful in breaking the ice.
Guys have big ol' egos, but most of us have done enough dumb shit so as not be embarrassed to ask anymore. I was such a goober when I started riding bikes, I had to call the shop from which I had a demo to ask the salesman how to shift gears after getting stuck in a 39-12. "Oh, the brake levers shift the gears, too??Wow."  He had tried to show me in the shop, but I was all, "I got this".  
A couple of guys, including Richard Machycek of Arkansas Cycling and Fitness, joined the ride. I have a difficult time saying Richard was there for "moral" support, but he checked tire pressures, answered technical questions and handed out rolling advice on shifting, bike handling, and trail features as he rode among the participants. Richard is an excellent rider and can communicate well, he he is good to have along. 

The group gathered at the center road to decided on their next loop.
Richard Machycek of Arkansas Cycling and Fitness initiating a fat bike wheelie for the camera.

And that's not all....
Basil Hicks III was conducting a trail maintenance training session on Saturday afternoon. Basil II, Sharon Saunders, Brian and Melissa Shipman were set up at the shelter with hot drinks and snacks for that event.  It was a great opportunity to socialize and discuss the state of things at Camp Robinson. 

More trail miles...

Last week, Eric Grimmett unveiled his yet unnamed new trail off of ZigZag/Pipeline. On Saturday, Basil Hicks told me that they had just opened up a new mile-long extension of Can Of Corn. I have not come close to riding all of the current trail system at Camp Robinson. Trails range from well-marked, easily accessible beginner loops to some very technical routes. I think that "E" may have set a new standard for technical with his new trail, but I'll have to check it out when I'm ready for a little bike hike. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

River Trail, BDB Status Report

Thursday represented my latest "first road ride of the year" ever. The mountain bike has been a welcome diversion and a means of shedding some holiday gravy, but I'm a roadie at heart.

The BDB north access remains closed
The Arkansas River Trail from Burns Park to the Big Dam Bridge remains closed, and the gates on the north end of the bridge are locked. I'm told that it will be Wednesday or later before this section is cleared.

 Always a sad scene.
There are actually signs that some major trail clearing has been taking place at the approach to the BDB. The huge logs look to have been moved and there is at least a track through the sand.

There is obviously still a lot of work to be done ion the north side, and officials have asked that folks stay clear for their own safety as so as not to interfere with work crews. That said, I've received reports from explorers that say Pfeifer Loop is a total wreck, mostly due to the massive accumulation of sand. I'm sure that once a plan is in place, volunteers will once again come out to aid with the recovery.
The trail is open from Burns Park east to the sub, and all roads east of town are clear, including Faulkner Lake Road which was submerged for a few days.

Two Rivers Park is open and the trail is dry and clear. 

The trail through Two Rivers Park is dry and mostly clear.

Some trail areas still have a coating of dirt that may turn a little ugly when wet, but this well-equipped cyclist ain't scairt. With a rear fender, nice big mirror, and "praying mantis" aero bars, he is prepared for whatever he may encounter. 

We'll have to deal with some minor inconveniences when choosing routes for the next few days, but it is time to get riding.
Be Safe.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Camp Robinson Mountain Biking: Raised From The Near-Dead

Each year, I embark on a quest to embrace my inner mountain biker, with some years bearing more fruit than others. This year, I started out with a declared plan to enjoy my mountain bike more frequently, and that plan has only been encouraged by trail flooding and few days of cold, windy weather. The result is that I have been riding at Camp Robinson pretty frequently.
Riding at Camp always turns me into a cheerleader for both the trail system that exists there and for the many volunteers that have created, maintained, and improved the many miles of well-groomed single-track. A few years ago, a timber harvest in Camp's TA2 almost shut down riding for an extended period of time, and optimism for a revival was at a low.

Here is a comment from a December 2010 post regarding Camp Robinson that puts that state of things at that time in perspective:

... there are a few (literally) riders who maintain or even use the trails at camp. If these riders quit, the trails will disappear and eventually there will be no need to maintain a sign-in log at the visitor center. Who knows what the future holds for cycling on camp?
C.A.R.P. Christmas ride, December 2010. Logging had destroyed much of the trail system and rendered some still-ridable areas nearly inaccessible. Only a few stubborn riders hung onto the notion of riding at camp during this time.

The original "Christmas Tree" was only a stump when this photo was taken. It had been decorated over the years with old wheels, broken chains, and discarded tubes. It wasn't really art, but served as a meeting place and landmark at the junction of Yucca, Christmas Tree, and the center road.

Those were dark times for mountain biking at Camp. I was at the height of my enthusiasm for the place, and was determined to deal with the logging and the ensuing burn-offs and mud. For those of you who have never had to traverse a fresh clear-cut, consider that marketable timber is hauled out, leaving behind a maze of shattered wood and twisted branches. In addition, the dozers, trucks and skidders churn the soil so that wet conditions can add bottomless mud to the mix. After that, as at Camp Robinson in 2010-2011, you can then burn it all off to leave a smoldering expanse of wrecked unrecognizable terrain. I remember one cold night after losing the trace of whatever trail I was trying to follow, likely 10-Bridges, I decided to try to beat darkness by taking a more-or-less straight line back to my truck. My mistake resulted in an adventure of knee-deep mud, thrashing maddened maneuvering of bike over downed timber, and a decision that it simply was not f---ing worth it. There were still a lot of quality trail miles to ride even at this point, but access and atmosphere sucked.

April 2011. Riding at Camp Robinson was at a low point. Even Willie was looking disgusted, his feet and belly blackened by the char. 

We're back, and better than ever.
I did go back to Camp Robinson, as did others. It took a couple of years for the earth to heal and for stubborn trail fairies to make repairs and rebuild or reroute trails.

Basil Hicks and Bryan Shipman, along with others, were at the heart of the trail building and restoration at Camp Robinson. JBarCycling Jan 2012

Basil Hicks, shown above, has since retired and seems to have taken on the CARP trails as a new career. Folks like Bryan Shipman have been very helpful in communicating with the facility administration as some leadership changes have taken place at the Guard. I can't address that facet of things in detail, but it seems that Camp Robinson has been very welcoming of the opportunity for interaction with the local community afforded by the mountain bike trails. I have also met a number of folks taking advantage of the trails who are at the facility for training. While TA2 is still a training area first, the improvements to parking and other trailhead features certainly benefit the mountain biking crowd.
Three good reasons that the trails are in such great shape:
On a recent rainy Sunday, I decided to take the dogs out for a hike at Camp. As I headed in, I encountered a 3-piece band whose music accompanied much of our 5-6 mile walk.

 Sharon Saunders on backpack blower accompanied by her terrier.
Basil Hicks on string trimmer
and Bruce Alt on chainsaw.

It can sometimes be a challenge to identify the trails at Camp when the leaf cover is thick, so the leaf-blowing  is really appreciated.

These folks are often seen hard at work so that we can have some of the best riding around, but they are far from being alone in their efforts. Last Sunday, as were emerged from a cold ride, we ran into Eric Grimmett. "E" was grabbing his helmet and shoes to "go ride my new trail". I had seen Eric, girlfriend Kashari, and his dad logged in ahead of me a few times, but had not run into them out riding. He let me know that they had spent the last couple of months building "the sweetest trail out here". "I'm building it like I build a bike." Eric has a longstanding reputation and as proud and capable bike mechanic, so that means that his yet unnamed trail will indeed be sweet. I haven't seen it, but will likely explore it soon. He might tell you where it is, but I'll let E do the unveiling. 
Update: He unveiled in a Facebook post

April, 2010. These rocks were hauled into this spot on 10-Bridges by wheelbarrow.

I also ran into Lane Septon recently. I first met Lane several years ago as he hauled wheelbarrows of rocks into 10 Bridges Trail, and he was back at work this week clearing leaves from under some of the many bridges to allow the water to flow. 


Even longer than it looks- I walked off the length of this new bridge on 10-Bridges Trail. It is about 85 feet long.

In the past, my winter excursions usually saw me leaving Camp Robinson wet, muddy, and cold, with the bike a total mess. There was almost always good riding but many of the key entry trails had some seriously muddy patches and unimproved water crossings. Good policy says not to ride muddy trails, but back then getting muddy was pretty much a fact of life on the CARP trails. Today, even after a big rain event, you would have to seek out off-path soft spots to experience the hub deep crossings of the past. Trails have been rerouted to better use the terrain, bridges have been built or improved, and most of even the smallest water crossings have been hardened. 

The extensive trail system means that even on the heaviest user days, you are unlikely to see many other riders. I checked in on a recent weekend and there were likely 25-30 riders signed in ahead of me. I rode for a couple of hours on some of the most popular trail sections without encountering another rider until I was headed back to the parking lot. If you want company, you'll need to use your charm at the trailhead, as you are unlikely to cross paths with others once you get out on the trail.

A few short years ago, it appeared that mountain biking at Camp Robinson was not quite dead, but seriously ill. Now, the scene is alive, well, and gaining strength.
Get your sportsman pass, air up your knobbies and head to Camp. If you have never ridden there, or if it has just been a while, you'll be amazed by what you find.