Saturday, December 26, 2009

Trail Update

I did my usual Christmas Day ride to the in-laws' house and in doing so checked out the River Trail. It was all ridable, though I did have to dismount to step over a fallen tree across the trail just east of the Burns Parks woods. 

On most Christmases, the Bridge is busy with folks who are test-driving either new bikes or new puppies. The day was sunny, but cold, windy and generally harsh, so I had things pretty much to myself.

This young lady apparently didn't get the memo concerning the temperatures and wind, as she was strolling in a pair of gym shorts and a sweat shirt.

What a difference a day makes. The trail into the quarry drained quickly once the rain stopped.

I stopped and moved enough rocks to ride through this rock fall; only to be stopped by a fallen tree about 100 yards up the trail.

A large dock had broken away from Maumelle Creek and drifted downstream into the I-430 bridge. I stopped and spoke to one of the boat owners who was sizing up the salvage job. He said that several boat owners, including some folks who live on board, were trying to secure things as the creek went into flood. The dock that his boat was on broke loose and drifted downstream, breaking off the piers that secured the wayward dock, which headed downstream with several boats still in slips or tied alongside. A large cruiser and a houseboat got loose and were tied off to the river bank on Christmas Day and another dock had run aground on a sandbar off of Two Rivers Park.

The highway department inspected the bridge and determined that it had not been damaged by the dock strike. Clearing the mess is the responsibility of the dock/boat owners. They've got a job to do! The river is high and should continue to rise for a day or two.

Friday, December 25, 2009

After The Flood

On Christmas Eve, I took a little River Trail stroll from near the FOP. I started poking around some of the old quarry structures and then followed the sound of rushing water its source, a small stream tumbling down the hill in the steady rain. Once again, I was pleased with how easily we can step off of the trail and into the woods to find a sense of quiet and remote isolation. I could well have been in the heart of the Ozarks. I followed the stream up to Emerald Park, climbing past small waterfalls and wet weather springs, where water sprung from the ground surrounded by shade loving moss and lichens to join the small rivulets coming together to add volume to the fast flowing rush of water. A trace of a trail paralleled the stream to the top of the hill and I was soon into the low hanging clouds. I then crossed the rim trail through Emerald Park and headed down the switchbacks to the River Trail, noting the many small streams pouring off of the bluffs making for some nice waterfalls.

While the rains made for a great day of enjoying water features and the winter woods, it also impacted the trail as would be expected. The usual rock falls have mostly blocked the trail near the woods into Burns park and the trail was partially flooded near the FOP.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Poem

Ok, it won't win any prizes, but Merry Christmas and may you all get toys!!

Christmas Eve: Not According To Plan

Well, my Christmas Eve started out fine, as I awoke to the sound of pouring rain and knew that my boating plans would not be foiled by a shortage of water. Things quickly went south as I headed down to my basement office, aka: The Bunker, and was greeted by a drip of water on my head as I neared the bottom of the stairs. SHXT! (Yes, I cursed) DA#$&^()T!!, a roof leak. Then I entered the office and noticed that the carpet was soaked, something that has occurred on occasion since we had a sprinkler system installed a couple of years ago. The digging disrupted the soil structure next to the house so the water comes in through the footings during those rare events when we get more than about 3" of rain in a day. Of course, those rare events have happened every few weeks this year. Instead of bouncing down an Ozarks creek in my kayak, I found myself at Sears at 7:00AM on Christmas Eve in search of a wet vac. For those among you who just love to shop and have a disdain for being cold and wet, this may have more appeal than roaming the hills in pouring rain and spending the day running rapids in a 7 foot long boat, but in my world, this was not a positive trade-off.

I have become determined to avoid self-induced negative energy, so I'm taking this in stride. I've been on my roof three times and feel the tarp I secured over the roof of the stairwell will suffice for now. I've lined my side yard with tarps to direct water away from the house and avoid any more saturation of the vulnerable area. I've been to the friggin' MALL on Christmas Eve, sucked up a bunch of water, soaked a few washer loads of towels and been soaked myself several times by a driving rain. Sucks, right? Well, I'm not letting the bullshit get me down! The floor is going to be wet whether I'm in a good mood or bad. Life is good and it's Christmas Eve. I think I may put my rain gear back on and head down to the trail. I've been wanting to see the water pouring off the walls at the quarry on a really rainy day and there's something to be said for being outside on days like today. I'm missing the boating but I'm not missing the day.

Another positive thing about this story is that Diane seems to really like the Craftsman wet/dry shop vac she got for Christmas! Imagine her delight!! She even got to open it early under "Emergency Santa" clause! I just love it when I can surprise her with something totally unexpected. As she adjusted her ear protectors to the roar of her gift, I could see her lips moving apparently singing a joyful song.She did give me a glance from time to time and, though I couldn't hear above the jet-engine sound, she appeared to be mouthing "Vacuum, vacuum" in expressing her gratitude. I will admit, though, that I have sometimes have trouble distinguishing between V's and F's when reading lips so I may have missed her true meaning. In the spirit of the season, I don't think I'll ask her for clarification.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Bright Side Of The Road

In the "Ice Box" on the Little Rock side of the BDB, there ain't no sunshine on a winter afternoon.

Just move on over to the North Shore, where the sun shines all day long!!

In winter, riders often comment about the temperature difference between the North Little Rock and Little Rock sides of the trail. On the Little Rock side, the low southern sun is blocked for much of the day by the ridge running parallel to the trail. In North Little Rock, it is open river to the south and the sun shines all day long. Not only is it more sunny, but the pavement stays warmer and the difference can be apparent even when the sun isn't shining. Come on over to the sunny side!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Calling All Druids: Winter Solstice Is Upon Us!

Getting Over The Hump

OK, we've made it to the shortest day of the year. From sunrise to sunset today is but a paltry 9 hours, 49 minutes, 28 seconds. From here on out until June 21, the days are getting longer. We only pick up an extra minute for tomorrow, but I'm feeling better about things already. Break out the Coppertone!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mountain Bike

I really don't have any mountain bike mojo. I love being in the woods and the concept of riding in them really appeals to me. I have a nice mountain bike, a Gary Fisher 292 full suspension 29er. It seems to be a fine bike, though my perspective is limited as it is the only full suspension bike I've ever ridden, but the fact is that I just haven't found true joy on a mountain bike. As a result, my skills are rudimentary and my rides are few, but I do get in the occasional ride on the dirt. It usually takes place on cold, windy winter days when the road has even less appeal, so it was on such a mission that I embarked to Camp Robinson this morning. Camp is a fantastic resource and I was disappointed to be told that the mountain bike section was closed through December 24 for a special deer hunt. Fortunately, we are fairly resource-rich so I was able to drive a couple of miles and ride at Burns Park. I like Camp better, but Burns Park is much more accessible and has miles of trail with a wide range of difficulty.

Though I'd prefer to hear only the birds, rustling leaves and my own gasping, There's something to be said for having trail scenes like this just a few miles from home, even if I-40 traffic is roaring by only a few yards away.

I like a clean bike and I am meticulous about the condition of my drive train.  Things were a little muddy on the flat trails and steep and rocky on the dry trails, but I was glad to get out for the spin on a cold windy day, even if it means a bike cleaning session.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Trail Alert: Rocks At Quarry

Hardly a surprising find, but Thursday evening small rocks were scattered on the trail in the company of a bunch of dirt. The alert folks from the city of NLR have been working to fill in the washed out riverbank in the area, so they've got some heavy equipment moving some earth around in the area. I'd bet that it will be clean by the weekend, but night riders beware!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Slow Times and Not Too Bright, Please

Well, things are pretty slow here in JBar Blogville. Most of my ideas for articles come to me in the form of revelations, observations, and conversations that occur while I'm out on the bike. Here within a week of Winter Solstice, I haven't been able to ride as often or as long as usual and there are few people out on the trail so conversation is scarce, and the revelations and observations are few and far between because, well, it's dark.
We did get out Monday night with the Arkansas Bicycle Club for a ride through the Christmas light displays at Burns Park,then followed up with a spin downtown and a side trip up Fort Roots to take in the view of the city. It was a warm, dry evening and very pleasant along the river. I'm glad we got the ride in, as I've been work-bound for the last couple of evenings.

Light Etiquette

It is imperitive that we see and be seen when riding at night and that means lights. While bigger is usually better, there are limits! If you've got the big ol' Light and Motion trail racing flamethrower of a headlight, you can probably turn it down a notch on the trail. At least be aware that oncoming riders will be blinded if you hose them with your laser cannon.
The same can go for tail lights. While you want all of the tail light you can buy while commuting in traffic, when you're riding in a group on the trail, it is unneccessary and dangerous. I recently experienced a ride behind what had to be the brightest blinky in town. Not only was it annoying, but riders behind the beast were totally blinded to the trail in front them. Be aware. "Too bright" is possible.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Headline Summary

Many of you keep up with cycling news as much as I do, but the off-season for Pro Tour road racing can lull many into a break from day-to-day reading. Here are a few tidbits that have gone down in the last few weeks which will likely help shape the 2010 season:

Astana: Alberto Contador is staying after much suspense over the team's ProTour status. He will now be joined by 2006 Tour winner Oscar Pereiro. The Spanish rider signed a contract, only to be told the team could not honor the financial terms that they had offered. He threatened to sue and is now on board. His 2006 win came after an unlikely break-away that gained him big time over the favorites, followed by Floyd Landis's being busted for exogenous testosterone. He was awarded the yellow jersey only after Floyd's protracted legal battle, so the win did not come with the usual glory.

BMC: Pro Continental Team BMC has signed both American veteran George Hincapie and perennial runner-up Australian Cadel Evans. Pro Continental teams must count on wild card invitations to the Tour de France. Radio Shack has been awarded a ProTour license and is almost certain to be included, though they are not guaranteed a spot under current agreements between the UCI and Tour organizer ASO.Other teams depending on invitations include Cervelo, Katusha and Team Sky.

Garmin: The team is now Garmin-Transitions as they pick up a new sponsor in the photochromatic lens maker. They have lost sports physiologist Allen Lim to Radio Shack, as Lim was tired of the travel requirements and can now spend more time in his home of Boulder. Garmin is an American team, but is based in Girona, Spain. It appears that the team has also lost surprise 4th place 2009 Tour finisher Bradley Wiggins to the British upstart Team Sky. This has been brewing for some time as the new team has deep pockets and was hot for a British team leader. Wiggins should get a nice raise and he'll get to race for a British team. All good for him, but a big loss for Garmin.

Greg LeMond/ Trek Lawsuits: On the surface, this may seem like just another commercial dispute, but it is likely to involve a lot of testimony under oath regarding Lance Armstrong and doping allegations.

This could get very ugly for Lance. Depending on what is considered relevant, LeMond could very well drag a lot of dirt into the proceedings which are unlikely to prove anything, but may likely show Armstrong in a very negative light. LeMond contends, among other things, that Trek failed to hold up their end of the bargain in marketing LeMond branded bikes in Europe and that their actions were in large part a reaction to comments Lemond made regarding Armstrong.
I'm not taking a position on the veracity of any of this, but here is a link with some very interesting reading.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Klein Rots Cyclo Kruis

Klein Rots Cyclo Kruis
AR Cyclo-Cross State Championship
Presented by Competitive Cyclist
North Little Rock, Arkansas

The weather was perfect as the temperature was struggling to get out of the 30's, the breeze was harsh and skies were grey. Beer was discreetly flowing at 11:00 AM, french fries were being doused with...Mayonnaise?, cowbells were clanging, and a trombone was bleating out a tune normally associated with Oaklawn Park horse races! They're at the starting line and....they're off!

Cyclocross racing has come to the River Trail with a load of Belgian tradition in tow. Those folks love their bikes, beer and papas fritas with mayo. Every little berg has a race team and the best riders are local heroes. Road champions like Tom Boonen are true national celebrities. The weather is crappy by definition and almost every pro cyclist has paid his dues with a season or two eating mud and dung on the cobbles, learning just how tough you have to be when racing against a bunch of boys whose other career choices often consist of the mill or the mine. Cyclocross is the focus for some riders and off-season conditioning for others.

Sponsored by Competitive Cyclist, I believe the Flemish mouth full above translates into "Little Rock Cyclo Cross". I've got to admit that as a spectator sport, cyclocross is a clear winner.The mood was festive and I was surprised at the number of experienced 'cross riders on hand, many of whom had traveled for the event. I hope that we will see more. I can envision bigger events and a friendly, rowdy crowd making for a whole lot of fun! From what I was hearing, the course could use a little refinement and much more mud, but it seemed to be a great start.

I like French fries. I like mayo. I'm not sure about the combo, but a few hundred thousand bike-loving Belgians can't be wrong! I'm sure it sticks to the ribs and is probably good fuel for standing for hours in cold blowing rain, while guzzling good beer and cheering on your favorite riders.

Diversity Along The Trail

No, we're not talking about gay pride, racial harmony, English as a second language, or the acceptance of regular Baptists by Southern Baptists. That's just too much hair-splitting for me to get into here, where folks are folks as long as they're not some sort of asshole, and we don't bother to sort that breed along cultural lines.
We're talking about horses. Though we have seen the occasional nag along the trail, only recently have signs gone up designating an equestrian-specific route marked as the "Yellow Trail". The Yellow Trail includes a mowed grass path through the deer fields to the Hooper's Crossing/ ADEQ area and the Pfeifer Trail and ties in to existing trails from Burns Park. Gene and Linda Pfeifer have donated much of the park land in that area and share a love of cycling and equestrian activities, so I get the connection. There have been conflicts between cyclists and horse riders in many shared venues, usually public lands where the horsemen wish to exclude what they regard as johnny-come-lately mountain bikers. I would not expect any friction here,especially since most of the horse trail is off the pavement, but let's make it a point to get along. My position on trail users it that we are all allies and have a common cause. If you ever feel compelled to complain about your fellow users, just remember that a broad base of users means more trails, better maintenance, more bridges, and wider acceptance of cycling. I covet every inch of the River Trail and want more.

I have two concerns about horses:

1) The Hooper Crossing bridge is rated for 1000 pounds. The average "light" riding horse happens to weigh about 1000 pounds. I actually looked this up. I hope for single-file horses while I'm on the bridge.
2) We've got little bags for dog owners. Might I suggest a couple of shovel stations?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's Cold Out There: What You Need For Christmas

After getting up at my usual time this morning,somewhat intent on joining the 7:30 CARVE group ride, I stalled out after considering the 24 degree temperature. I'll give it an hour or so to at least approach the freezing mark!
That bit of wimpiness exposed, I will say that I ride year-around. I'm also kind of a gear-head and own a wide variety of clothing and accessories for my various outdoor activities. I've covered some of this ground in previous articles (Stuff That Works and It's The Little Things That Make The Difference), so my intent here is just to list a few items that all cyclists should have in order to extend their season. Many of them also make easy Christmas gifts due to the price range and basic black color choices.
This kind of stuff lasts almost indefinitely, so I suggest going for mid-range or better in terms of price/quality.
You can check off the items you need most and just slip this to your gift givers:

Arm warmers $15-40
Knee Warmers $20-40
Long fingered gloves $20-50
Light weight glove liners $10-20
Ear band $5-20
Toe covers $15-25
Shoe Covers $15-60
DeFeets Blaze socks $10-12
Skull cap $10-25
Vest $30-180 (in most cases, "you get what you pay for" applies. Vests don't get much wear and tear. My cheap one is just as functional as my expensive Assos)
Base layers $10-50

For winter riding in Arkansas, it is desirable to dress in a manner that will allow you to adjust your wardrobe as temperatures change during the course of the day. You may leave the house with temperatures in the 30's and be riding home a few hours later in sunshine and 65 degrees. A vest, knee warmers, arm warmers and an ear band can be easily shed and stuffed in a jersey pocket to maintain comfort. Conversely, for an evening ride, you may start with those items in your pockets and put them on as temperatures drop.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sometimes, The Friendly Wave Just Doesn't Say What You Mean....

Selling these jerseys is the little enterprise of young pro Phil Gaimon. The response from the typical already-irate motorist here would be predictable; however, being somewhat straightforward in communications myself at times, I do like the messages.