Monday, May 30, 2011

If A Tree Falls In The Woods, And Nobody Is Around....

...does it still make a sound?  I may have heard an "awshit" or two, but I don't think it came from the tree. As I headed home from a ride on the River Trail Monday evening near dusk, a passing rider called out what seemed to be a warning of something in the trail near the Emerald Park sign. Sure enough, a good-sized tree had fallen across the trail; just fallen, according to some riders who said they'd passed unimpeded only 10 minutes before.
The greenery looks like leaves sprouting from the tree, but it's actually part a very robust poison ivy vine. NLR Parks has been notified and I'm confident that it will be gone by sometime Tuesday morning.
I must admit that I got a little chuckle at the expense of a rider who, while wearing full, over-the-ear head phones and carrying on a phone conversation, failed to hear my warning and stepped right through the poison ivy.

What do you call a gaggle of 'coons?

I was running a little later than planned as I climbed Fort Roots on my way home, but that allowed me to catch sight of a bit of a parade as I approached the gate at the top of the hill. What I first thought to be a line of squirrels parading down the street turned out to be a family of 6 to 8 raccoons. They streamed into a storm drain and what I assume was Momma Coon stood watch as I stayed back and took pictures. Curiosity was getting the better of the kids, as one by one , more little heads appeared.
Parts of four coons can be seen in this shot.

I continue to be entertained by life along the river. Within sight of downtown high-rises, we city folks can observe a wide variety of wildlife, there is plenty of good fishing, and things like mulberries, plums and blackberries are there for the picking. I think we have it pretty good with the river painting a nice streak of nature through the middle of town.

Memorial Day 2011: Thanks to all who have served.

This field of flags at North Little Rock Riverfront Park served as a reminder of those who have served and sacrificed. Thank you.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Catching up

The good news for me is that my business is good. The bad news is that, as a result, I've been working my ass off and haven't had time and energy to ride as much as I'd like, much less keep up with the steady stream of events and ideas for articles. Here's a shot at catching up:

Bike To Work Day

Bryan and Melissa Shipman rolled in with a large group of National Guard Cyclists,
though Diane's Garver bunch once again prevailed in bringing the most riders, something Bryan intends to correct for next year! Good luck, buddy.

BACA's Tom Ezell does the hokie-pokie as Brock Johnson accepts the team award for Garver

Team Garver with their trophy. Photo by B. Shipman

There were activities on both sides of the river. I had to scamper off to work, but the Garver gang rolled across the Broadway Bridge to join the LR festivities. Spokes was well represented, including an appearance by owners Mat and Regina Seelinger on a tandem. Diane has made it clear that she will not ride a tandem with me as pilot.

Want to help that turtle crossing the road? Be sure of your turtle ID!

I spotted this guy crossing River Mountain Road Tuesday evening.

As a critter lover, I decided to help this turtle on his way, fearing his demise under the wheels of a speeding car. Being aware of his potential, I gave him a nudge with my foot, which caused him to be flipped onto his back. He was on his feet in an instant, using his long, strong neck, and into an aggressive posture. He's at the top of his food chain and was not going into his shell on my account! I broke off a finger-thick branch from a tree and tried to encourage him along off of the road, resulting in a lightening fast strike that snapped off the end of my stick. His reach was a good 6 to 8". I left it at that and resumed my climb, only to find a visibly shaken good Samaritan in the road as I descended. He had picked the turtle up, only to have the snapper go for him, "He didn't get me, but I felt the wind from the strike. I'm used to box turtles".

No box turtle! This is a face that only a mother could love.....   This is a snapping turtle. Alligator snappers have pronounced ridges on their back and are equally voracious.

High water is back

The River Trail once again is flooded in some areas, though not nearly as much as we have seen recently. The S-turn bridge and the area near the ski lake/dog park were under water as of Thursday night.
Water once again covers this bridge near the BDB. The weather outlook is dry for the next few days so, hopefully, we'll see a return to lower water levels.

Well, folks, that's all I've got for now. Enjoy the holiday weekend, be safe and try to get in some miles.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stuff That Works: Call Me Imelda...

...because I love my shoes! Not quite like Phillipine First Lady Imelda Marcos famously loved her shoes, but my new Specialized S-Works Pro mountain bike shoes are high on the list of my favorite gear. I'll call this a product endorsement, because I try to share things that work particularly well for me.
My new MTB shoes before field testing. They still look good, but not nearly this good! I've only had to take the hose to them a couple of times.

Contact points
As I started getting serious about cycling,  I was very eager to learn all that I could about bikes and cycling. My neighborhood bike guru offered a bit of advice early on that went something like this, "If your ass doesn't hurt and your feet don't hurt, then you've won half the battle of riding long...". Add "hands" to the list and you've covered all of your contact points with the bike. I've been pretty well dialed in with the "ass" part on my road bike for a few years. I favor Giordana or Assos bibs and have a dwindling stash of Selle Itailia Genuine Gel Flite saddles. After trying many saddles, I settled in on this one about the same day that they quit making them in their then-current form, so I snatched a couple of spares on close-out from a shop in Southern Cal somewhere. There is a lesson in that exercise: If you find something the you really like and use frequently, buy several. The maker will inevitably change to something quite different. In this case with the Flite, the new version of the same saddle is a centimeter narrower and just doesn't do it for me.

Shoe shopping
As particular as I am about bibs and road saddles, I have had a much more difficult time finding shoes and gloves that fit me well, especially shoes. I have a very high instep, that is, my feet have a lot of volume from top to bottom, which has always made it hard for me to buy penny loafers and cowboy boots. I've got a common shoe size when measured (10D) and normal arch, but just need a lot of volume in the toe box. Unfortunately, most cycling shoes seem to be built on a European last with a relatively flat forefoot area. As a result, I can't close the top buckle on any Sidi I've tried, I can't get my foot into a "right sized" Shimano, and I've tried on LG, Mavic, Northwave, and more. I've worn Diadora shoes with some success, but my mountain bike shoes have never fit properly without winter socks. Along came Specialized. I've had a pair of their S-Works road shoes for a few years and have been absolutely satisfied, so I finally circled back around to them for mountain bike shoes. They tell a long story about why their shoes fit better, but the bottom line is that for many of us they DO fit better than anything else. They offer a variety of insoles, so I assume they leave some room to accomodate those in need of arch support, etc., and they also offer the Pro in wide and narrow sizes, which, for me, resulted in a gratifying perfect fit!
Sharing a Specialized road shoe moment with the lovely (and fast!) Melissa Shipman at the Bike To Work event.
I also use Specialized gloves for the most part. I've got big hands and many brands simply don't make a glove that fits. I prefer not to have Velcro on my gloves, so these really meet my needs. I have a collection of gloves that I've tried and shuffled to the back of the drawer.

Specialized claims that their shoes are the most popular shoe in the pro peloton and I think there are factors at work beyond sponsorship! If you have a difficult time finding accesssories that fit, give Specialized a try. They solved a couple of problems for me.

Edit: I got wrapped up bragging on my shoes and failed to mention that Arkansas Cycling and Fitness is the Little Rock area dealer for Specialized bikes and accessories.

River-2-River Memorial Ride

On each of the last couple of Memorial Day weekends, Jon and Jeff Aldrich have led a 5- day 295 mile ride from Fort Smith to West Memphis. The ride serves both as a memorial to those who have fallen and as a fund raiser for the Disabled American Veterans. You can learn more about this ride and how you can participate at the River-2-River Memorial Ride website. Good work, guys, and I know the Vets appreciate your efforts, as we should all appreciate their sacrifices.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pushing Up Daisies, Dirty Dogs, And Richland Creek Boating

The past weekend was a real break in our routine of late, and a bit of a return our pre-bike boater lifestyle. Well, kind of. We headed up to Richland Creek to remember the passing of our good friend Dave Wood by depositing his ashes and planting a big bed of flowers near the cabin that Dave shared with his brother Zach and close friend David Alexander. Dave wanted to be pushing up daisies and I'm sure he'll do a fine job.
As we headed up into the heart of the Ozarks, we were sure that each passing wave of thunderstorms would be the last, but that was far from being the case, as it stormed all night Friday. The creek was pretty high on Saturday morning, so we loaded boats on a 6-wheel ATV and headed a mile or two upstream for a little play time.
This makes for a cool shuttle vehicle, much better than carrying in the boats on foot!

Our friends' cabin is on lower Richland Creek and is at the bottom of a very nice stretch of whitewater. David Alexander leading down a little drop.

Willie shows off his dirty belly after a 6 mile run. He was much dirtier at the top of the climb, but a few creek crossings on the way down gave him a little belly rinse.

In between  morning and afternoon kayak runs, Willie and I headed up the three mile climb to the top of what is jokingly referred to as a road. It averages about 10% and is made up of big rocks, red clay, creek crossings, ruts, washouts and poison ivy. I did it last year and should have known better. I found it difficult and Willie and I both got dirty. I had to wash my kit twice and it's taken me a few passes to get the Niner clean. It took me nearly an hour to go three miles, but it takes about half an hour in a 4-wd truck, and I can come down much faster on the bike!

On Sunday, Diane facilitated another, longer creek run by driving shuttle for me on upper Richland. There were a lot of old friends on the river and, though I've spent more time on the bike than in a boat in recent years, I felt like I belonged there. It's one of the most beautiful places I know.

After a miserable ride experience a couple of weeks ago, I've been trying to prepare for an upcoming Colorado trip by doing some climbing on the bike, but I've been more concerned about spending some time in my boat. Up until the last couple of weeks, I have been unable to paddle since my crash, so it was good to get some quality river miles in.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Quick trail update

The west end of the Little Rock River Trail is temporarily detoured for construction at the Two Rivers Bridge.
Detour photos compliments of Bert Parker, Garver, LLC

The detour is gravel and is ridable, but caution is advised for road bike riders. It's a bit rough.

Bridges rumors
I had a chance to visit with NLR mayor Pat Hays at the Ride-To-Work event this morning and asked about projected opening dates for Two Rivers and the Clinton Park Bridge. He could not answer with complete certainty, but his rumors are probably fresher than mine!
Two Rivers Bridge will likely open in late June or early July. The Clinton Park Bridge will probably not open until October when President Clinton can be present for the festivities.
My previous report that construction would start in June on the Shillcut Bayou bridge (wooden bridge) replacement was apparently in error. I'll try to get an updated schedule on that project.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tuesday Night's A Big Night

Down at the honky-tonk, Saturday night's the big night, but on the River Trail, Tuesday has evolved into the big night for group rides. The long-standing Fast Girls Slow Guys Tuesday/ Thursday rides have never really ramped up this year, after having been a reliable option for the last 4-5 years. Instead, there a two primary options available on Tuesdays. Tuesday Nitro is a race oriented ride that mostly sticks to the roads of the Burns Park loop. Anyone is welcome so long as you have the skills to operate safely in that environment. If you are unsure of your skills, start somewhere else. It's not an event, so nobody can tell you that you can't ride, but a sketchy rider will feel a cold shoulder, as nobody wants to fall victim to somebody who chooses to get in over their head. This is a "word-of-mouth" ride and not sanctioned by anyone. If you are up to it, I suspect you already know about it.
The Arkansas Cycling and Fitness group rides from the sub at around 6:30 and has evolved into a very nice, inclusive ride. There are usually three groups, casually designated A, B and C. You do not have to declare your intent, as natural selection determines where you'll be riding. While big groups on the trail portions of the ride can be intimidating to the uninitiated, the emphasis is on safety, both for the riders and for other trail users. The pace is restrained on the trail portions of the ride, but there are enough opportunities on the road for fast riders to stretch their legs.

Dan Lysk leading out the Tuesday night ACF ride.

With good leadership, group rides are a great way to improve fitness and hone bike  handling skills. The slogan of the Fast Girls was "Fast, Fun and Friendly", with a real focus on safety. The same philosophy seems to have found its way to the ACF ride. It is always rewarding to see new riders work their way up through the cycling pecking order as their fitness, skill, and confidence improves. I'd call both the ACF ride and certainly Nitro "performance oriented", but there are many other options for more casual riders under the auspices of such groups as the Arkansas Bicycle Club and the growing Melo Velos cycling club.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ride of Silence

A large contingent of Central Arkansas cyclists turned out for Wednesday's Ride Of Silence
. This from the Ride Of Silence website:

On May 18, 2011 at 7:00 PM, the Ride of Silence will begin in North America and roll across the globe. Cyclists will take to the roads in a silent procession to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. Although cyclists have a legal right to share the road with motorists, the motoring public often isn't aware of these rights, and sometimes not aware of the cyclists themselves.

Tom Ezell of BACA reads names from the growing list of fallen Arkansas cyclists. Sadly, a young man passing through White County on a coast-to-coast cycling trip joined the list as he was struck by a vehicle and killed just this week. Ghost Bikes are left at the scene of accidents to remind motorists to watch for cyclists.

The long procession of cyclists rode in silence two abreast. Motorists were mostly patient, if a little confused. It might be a good idea to have some simple signs posted along the route to inform folks of the intent of the event.
The fallen are remembered at the end of the ride.

The Ride of Silence can be a good reminder to the driving public that sharing the road and paying attention is a duty. For us, it is a reminder of our vulnerability and of how much we count on the responsible actions of others. Even as we started the ride, my friend Robert was reporting that he and another rider had just descended River Mountain Road with a pissed off driver in a pickup riding their wheel, honking his horn and screaming at them. Needless to say, it was a frightening experience. Too bad the Ride of Silence had not been meeting at the launch ramp.
Be careful out there.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Contador: I Wish I Could Like The Guy

Alberto Contador is undoubtedly the best stage racer in cycling today, seemingly a class above the rest. His searing attacks on the final climbs of stages 8 and 9 of the Giro d'Italia have sent a clear message to the rest of the peloton. If they want to have a chance to win the Giro, they're going to have to find a way to get some serious time on Contador and they're going to have to be able to ride with him in the mountains to minimize the damage on the summit finishes that remain. Alberto has shown that so far nobody can hold his wheel in the mountains and the fact that he is also an excellent time trialist, perhaps as good as anybody in this race, does not bode well for the other contenders. AC will likely have to suffer an untimely flat or some Schleck-chain to lose the pink jersey. Unlike Lance Armstrong's formulaic approach to winning 7 Tours de France, Contador almost always races to win. He's exciting, he's impulsive, he's dynamic and opportunistic. He's everything that an international bike racing hero needs to be. I wish that I could root for him, but he just seems to be kind of a dick. As polarizing as Lance was/is, his leadership and charisma could not be overlooked. Contador doesn't seem to have too many friends. Perhaps if I spoke Spanish, Alberto might have more charm for me, but I just find it hard to warm up to him. I'm going to keep trying, because it looks like he'll dominate the sport for the next few years*.

*That is, if he doesn't face a 2-year doping ban starting next month, when the UCI/WADA appeals of the Spanish federation's findings in his clenbuteral case. Then, I won't have to try to like him for awhile.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Along the trail: Mulberry time!

One of the many small pleasures of springtime along the River Trail is the arrival of free-for-the-taking snacks growing along the trail. There is a bumper crop of sweet, ripe mulberries right now, and they'll soon be followed by plums and blackberries.

These beauties are sweet and delicious.

You can't eat mulberries without staining your fingertips, but it's worth it! Trailside mulberry trees are easily located by the smashed fallen berries marking the trail.

Another call out for NLR Parks!
Diane reported that NLR Fire Dept. crews were out Thursday washing the the dirt off of the trail. Thanks!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

LeBorne Coaching Event:Sunday, May 15

I dropped by Chainwheel at lunch today to pick up a part and Ernie invited me to come out and take some photos at the LeBorne Cycling Clinic he and Scotti are holding this Sunday. I can't make it, but I'll give it a pitch, anyway! Ernie is an excellent teacher and I'm sure that it will be time and money well spent.

Here's the flyer. It looks like you'll need to contact Ernie or Scotti for location and details.

Giro d'Italia: A Race To Watch

I know that most of my readers are very aware of the fact that the Giro d'Italia, one of the three Grand Tours, is in its first week. In terms of historical importance, the Giro is second only to the Tour de France and, in some ways, the Giro does more to embrace the challenge and drama of the three week road races that include the Tour, the Giro, and the Vuelta a Espana. After fading in its glory for a few years as many top riders used it for a warm up for the Tour de France, then dropped out after a couple of weeks or simply failed to seriously contest the race, the organizers simply stopped inviting some top teams  who they perceived as not coming to race. That got some attention and the Giro has been re-enlivened by torturous courses, many summit finishes and multiple stretches of strade bianche, or "white road". The strade bianche sections are gravel, many of which cross the highest passes of the stage involved so that riders must both climb and make very technical descents on steep and narrow gravel roads. The course has already taken a bitter toll with the Stage 3 death of Wouter Weylandt but, that tragedy aside, the Giro is a beautiful and it's not on Versus....
…..but, you can watch!

Though US teams and riders have more presence than ever before in the European peloton, the lack of Lance Armstrong means most Americans simply are not interested, so there is limited TV coverage. Universal Sports has come to the rescue! For 14.99 (or, you can get the 19.99 package that includes 5 issues of Bicycling Magazine), you can get both live and delayed feeds of every stage on line. I bought Milan-SanRemo earlier in the spring for 1.99 and was very pleased. The quality is good and it became part of my "library", so I can watch it as many times as I want, though once is usually enough for me.
This is my preferred set-up for watching bike races on Universal- HDMI cable from my notebook to the HDTV.

Universal coverage uses the same Italian TV feed that Versus has used in the past, typically showing the last three hours or so of the race. Depending on your point-of-view, it is a good or a bad thing that you don't get Bob Roll, Paul Sherwin, and Phil Liggett commentary. The announcers are OK, but there are long stretches that simply have no commentary and it is sometimes frustrating when they say, "There goes a Liquigas on the escape followed by Aqua-Sapone and a Radio Shack....". I guess I need to have my team rosters close at hand. The upside is that there are virtually no commercials and you can watch on your schedule. Check it out. The best of this race is yet to come, as the mountain top finishes are all yet to come.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Thin Line That We Ride

The tragic death of Wouter Weylandt in the Giro d'Italia serves as a reminder of how fragile life can be and of how exposed we all are when we saddle up. We go fast in an environment that contains many hazards. The same elements that make cycling rewarding also create dangers that are usually mitigated by skill, good judgement, the right equipment and luck, but sometimes skills falter, equipment fails and luck runs out. I can't add much to the reams of copy that fill the cycling media except this: We can't enjoy life if we spend it fearing the unlikely. We do our best by wearing a helmet, keeping our rigs in good order and using common sense. And then we ride.

Bless you, Wouter. From what I've read, you were a friend to many. Your luck ran out and I'm saddened.

North Little Rock ROCKS!!!

As pointed out in a recent comment, the NLR Parks and Rec crews were Johnny-on-the-spot as flood waters receded and the mud and debris covered trails were exposed. I rode out at a little after 7 on Saturday morning to meet my buddy Sam for a loop out west, taking my most direct route to the BDB, which takes me through the Burns Park soccer fields. Considering the fact the the soccer fields had been under water for a week or more, everything looked really good. There is still some standing water in low areas and there was a bit of a funky aroma of rotting vegetation, but the fields themselves looked ready for play and the spot where we spotted bow fishermen last Thursday was back to being an intersection.
As I approached the S-turn bridge to the BDB, city crews had the heavy equipment in place and were already hard at work.
NLR Parks and Rec brought out the big toys on Saturday morning!

I made my way to my rendezvous by way of the Cunningham Lake and Isabella Jo trails and then proceeded to ride the Barrett-Garrison Loop with Sam. By the time I returned a few hours later, the progress was evident.
Still a little dusty, but crews had already cleared the brush piles, large logs, and most of the mud from the trail near the BDB pavilion.
This was no broom and dust pan operation!
This cheerful driver seemed proud of the work they had done, "Hey, man, take a look at the trees we moved out of there!".  Indeed, he was hauling one of several loads of big logs that had been piled on the bridge up the way.
The bridge had not even been approachable three hours earlier. There was still 5-6 inches of water over the road bed, but I was tired and made the crossing.
This spot near Victory Lake is where Diane mired her bike in the deep mud last week. The remains of the the mud are clearly seen.
This is a cool little machine, just right for clearing mud from the secondary paths.

City of North Little Rock, thank-you!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Quick River Trail Update

As of yesterday, the River Trail is now passable with a couple of considerations. Parts of the Isabella Jo Trail still have water, but from the east, you can take the Campbell Lake/ Northshore Trail to Hoopers Crossing, then Isabella Jo to Cook's Landing Road. At Burns Park, take the road in front of the dog park to avoid deep, sticky mud on the trail in front of Victory Lake (ski lake). I didn't ride yesterday, but I got the pleasure of helping Diane clean the muck off of her bike after she chose the trail here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Arkansas River Flow Graph

The graph above shows recent and projected levels for the river at Little Rock. My best guess is that we should be able to ride a loop somewhere around the 13' level.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Trail Divided; Reunification Pending

The water level on the Arkansas River is dropping pretty rapidly, but enough of the River Trail was still underwater Tuesday night to create a dead end at Burns Park west of the soccer fields. The situation demanded a little more imagination than usual to get in some miles, a mild inconvenience and a reminder of how good we've got it with a trail system that normally allows riders to jump on and do any number of routes with nothing in the way of a plan. I dropped by the Specialized bike demo, presented by Arkansas Cycling and Fitness, and then rode upriver toward the BDB to see how far I could get, which turned out to be the last soccer field. It was there that I encountered a crew from Competitive Cyclist bent on riding from CC to join the Tuesday Nitro ride as they pressed on crossing the "deer field" through hub-deep water. I did complete a loop of sorts, riding back downtown, up to the BDB, then rode out to Crystal Hill Rd and back to Burns Park via city streets.

The Specialized bike demo at Burns Park was successful in spite of compromised trail conditions and unusually cool weather. Richard Machycek is showing off his freakishly large hands in response to a comment I made in a recent post.

The Specialized Team had a bike for you!
Noah Singer, Ryan Johnson and a couple of other boys were not going to miss Tuesday Nitro! At the rate the river level is falling, we may have dry pavement by Wednesday.
Noah did his part to clear the Yellow Trail equestrian path of vegetation. It's a good thing these guys are in the bike business, as I think they will need to service their hubs and bottom brackets.

New Pavement Markings For the BDB: When all else fails, read the instructions.

Painters had been busy on Tuesday with stencils and a spray rig adding some new messages for Big Dam Bridge users. Walkers are now clearly instructed to keep to the right, while cyclists are advised to reduce their speed on the downhill ramps. Hopefully, this will help interaction on the bridge a bit, as most rudeness is the result of oblivion rather than aggression.
These signs now appear every 500' on the BDB.

Don't feel left out. There are new instructions for everyone!

As soon as the water recedes and the weather warms to normal, I expect an explosion of trail use, so the signage is probably a good thing. I've heard rumblings that the speed limit on the bridge will be increased from the present silly 5MPH to 10MPH, and that some effort will be made at enforcement. Folks, the rude riders among us can be our worst enemy.I'd rather see riders simply behave responsibly than force the hand of county to call in the law. A strict speed limit should not be required if folks behave responsibly and ride appropriately for the conditions-of-the -day on the BDB.

Arkansas Trails Day Event: Revised Plan

Thanks to Bert Turner for providing this announcement and the following press release regarding Arkansas Trails Day activities. This represents a change in plans due to flooding in North Little Rock's Burns Park:


I regret to inform you that the Arkansas Trails Council has decided to cancel ONLY the Burns Park activities for Trails Day.  Trails Day events are going on in other venues around the state, but the forecasts for the Arkansas River water levels at Burns Park make using the River Trail, some of the natural surface trails, some of the parking lots, Victory Lake, and other facilities questionable for Saturday.  We cancelled the canoe trip earlier this week when it became obvious safety on the river was an issue.  The water is supposed to be off of the River Trail late Friday/early Saturday, but that does not give the crews much time to clean up the mess—and if the forecasts are off by a couple of inches or a couple of hours, we could have a very bad logistical situation on our hands for the hundreds of people who were planning to participate.  We looked at ways to move certain events to higher ground, but that created other logistical issues we couldn’t adequately address in time.   

We hate having to cancel those activities, but the water levels and the soaked ground just aren’t conducive to safety and fun, plus we may do more harm than good by misusing the trails and related facilities when they are too wet.  After much deliberation, we decided to cancel all of the events in Burns Park (except the Tour de Rock training ride which can be handled separately) instead of just some because it would get too confusing and we wouldn’t get appropriate representation at the big celebration with only a sliver of the many trail users.

In central Arkansas, the celebration to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the completion of the first section of the Ouachita Trail and a hike to follow is still on (see attached).  Lake Sylvia was closed for a time, but it is open again and is expected to remain open.  We hope to see you there. 

We want to thank all of the user groups who had planned such an interesting and complete array of trail events for users of all skill and age levels.  You guys were truly amazing in your enthusiasm to put on such a wonderful celebration of our many trails!  We also want to thank the City of North Little Rock for all of the preparation they put in to help host this event as well as MEMS, Pulaski County, Arkansas State Parks, and other organizations for their fine support. 

This isn’t an email I wanted to write, but if you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me directly.  Please express our great disappointment to all of the individuals who planned to hike, ride, bike, paddle, and generally enjoy the great system of trails in central Arkansas.

Thanks again for all of your support!  We look forward to seeing you on the trails in the very near future.


Bert Turner

Chairman, Arkansas Trails Council

....and the press release:

For Immediate Release                                                          Contact:  Debbie Ugbade

April 22, 2011                                                                          Phone:  (501) 321-5202

Arkansas Trails Day Event

HOT SPRINGS, ARK--The Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT), in cooperation with the Ouachita National Forest, is planning an Arkansas Trails Day celebration to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the completion of the first section of the Ouachita Trail.  The celebration is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday, May 7, at the Lake Sylvia Trailhead off of Arkansas Highway 324.   

Friends of the Ouachita Trail is a non-profit organization created by trail users to maintain the Ouachita National Recreation Trail as a healthy and enjoyable outdoor recreational asset. FoOT is organized exclusively to provide assistance for the maintenance, enhancement, and use of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail. 

The Arkansas Trails Day celebration planned on May 7 will honor Art Cowley, “Father of the Ouachita Trail” as well as FoOT members who have worked diligently to maintain the Ouachita Trail.  The group will dedicate a boulder-bench and plaque at the Lake Sylvia Trailhead at 10 a.m.  Art Cowley will be remembered for his vision, hard work, and coordination efforts that brought the Ouachita Trail into reality in the early 1970’s. Art’s family and many of the early “pioneers” who worked with Art will be there for the dedication along with staff of the Ouachita National Forest and State Park representatives. This special marker is made possible by a generous donation from the VonBothmer Family Foundation, the Ouachita National Forest, Bennett Brothers Stone Company on Arkansas Highway 7, and Hot Springs Monument Company with coordination provided by FoOT.

Ouachita National Forest Supervisor, Norm Wagoner stated, “The Ouachita Trail is an outdoor treasure made possible by the hard work of many volunteers over the years.” 

The event is coordinated by Loretta Melancon of FoOT.  She may be contacted at (501) 915-8033 for additional information. 

Lake Sylvia is 1.5 miles northwest of Williams Junction on Arkansas Highway 9/10, then south on Arkansas Highway 324 for four miles. Trailhead parking is just beyond the campground entrance.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tell me when we get to 40 days......

The weather has been absolutely miserable for cycling. Normally, I'd just load up the kayaks (or build an ark) and head to the hills under these circumstances, but an still-gimpy shoulder has limited me to a few opportune sessions on the bike and a lot of whining about the rain and flooding. On Saturday morning, I joined my friend Karen for road ride out to the Barrett-Garrison Loop, my first open road ride since my crash, and got in a little climbing before the deluge-of-the-day started. After the ride, I stopped by Cook's Landing and walked to the BDB just to take a look at conditions. In a nutshell, it's a mess! The water has receded somewhat, but it is still very high and has left some amazing debris in its wake.

The flows on the Arkansas River have diminished enough to allow access to the NLR side of the BDB, but much of the trail remains submerged and littered with mud and large logs.
Seating was readily available. Take your shoes off and soak those tired feet!
The gate to Cook's Landing was closed, but the road has emerged from the flood, leaving schools of small fish occupying the roadside puddles. Allison and John Martin, shown here with daughter Emerson safely cocooned in her enclosed trailer, got in a little spin as the showers returned, then headed home for a run.

Sunday was a total wash out for me. On Monday, I ran an errand at lunch that took me to Rebsamen Park Road, so I drove to the Little Rock side of the BDB to check things out and take a few photos. It was a quick stop due to the cold drizzle, but it revealed some of the impact that the high water had on river users. The big eddy in front of the lock contained a swirling mass of dock floats, boat docks, logs, gas tanks, soccer balls, basketballs, ice chests, and just about anything else that floats.

There is a lot of truth here!

Many boats and boat docks, some with boats still in them, were tied off along the bank from Little Maumelle Creek to the dam. Others simply swirled in the eddy along with the huge mass of flotsam.

The folks at the marina on Little Maumelle Creek saw many of their boats and docks blown downstream by a flash flood a couple of years ago. That may have just served as a practice run for the mess they face this go 'round.

There's still a lot of water up in the hills that has to pass through Little Rock, so we'll be facing compromised trail conditions for awhile. Most of this rain fell in Arkansas as opposed to further upriver in Oklahoma as in the last few flood events, so perhaps the water will recede sooner rather than later. In the meantime, it is presently drizzly and 47degrees, so another night off of the bike will have to be OK. I might dress for it and go out in February, but not in May!