Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011: Finishing Strong

Well, happy New Year!  As is the way of the world, 2011 has had its ups and downs, but I’ll just call it good as the result of a strong finish in the form of a spectacular New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t about fireworks or drunken debauchery; though we did manage to stay up late enough to celebrate with the Times Square crowd before drifting off to bed. For me, the celebration was all about taking advantage of the mild October-like weather that enabled us Arkansas riders to close out the year in style with some quality miles on the road or trail. Saturday broke cool and clear, with a forecast high in the upper 60’s, making it a perfect morning to read the paper over coffee and have a first breakfast while waiting for the day to warm.
Days like this bring people out to the BDB and Two Rivers Bridge.

 I got on the road bike a little after 10:00 and headed to the River Trail by way of Main Street, Argenta, then cruised west up the river and across the Big Dam Bridge on my way west to do a Barrett-Garrison Loop*. Arm warmers, knee warmers and a light base were all the cool weather gear that conditions called for, though I saw other riders attired in kit ranging from shorts and t-shirts to tights and full-on winter jackets. I make it a point to dress for the temperature and resist the influence of the calendar or sunny skies when making clothing choices. Riding out through Two Rivers Park was particularly pleasant, as the meandering mass of walkers that had been pervasive in the evenings of the previous holiday week had yet to crowd the bridge and trail. I cleared the park and rolled out County Farm and Pinnacle Valley Roads, passing by Pinnacle State Park before hitting Barrett and Garrison Roads. The scenery and varied terrain make this a fine ride by any standard, as the course takes a cyclist through multiple parks and includes miles of paved trail before transitioning to rural roads through the river valley and adjacent rolling hills. The route turns suburban and holds several good little climbs along the way back into town through the Chenal and Pleasant Valley neighborhoods before rejoining the River Trail at the foot of River Mountain Road. It was the kind of day that just reminded me of why we love to ride bicycles. There were even a few fleeting moments when I felt extraordinarily fit for the season, easily turning over a big gear and rolling powerfully along the smooth asphalt at impressive speed. That elation lasted until I made a turn and realized that the wind that had been behind me had picked up, and soon I was head down and laboring. That effort was a small price. The temperature was perfect, the sky was clear and the sun warm, traffic was light and polite, and my legs felt pretty good for the end of December.
Thanks for the warm kiss good-bye, 2011. Happy New Year, indeed.

*Barrett-Garrison Loop: The Route
The Barrett-Garrison Loop is one of my favorite road rides. From the JBar Bunker in North Little Rock, it’s about 56 miles, and it is about 38 miles for riders starting from the Big Dam Bridge. The route map below actually starts at River Trail Station on the River Trail in North Little Rock due to the fact that that is the point at which I remembered to turn on my ride computer. Here's a link to the Google Earth map.

I was surprised at how few riders were out on the roads west of town, as Two Rivers Bridge has served to make the already popular area much more easily accessible for riders.

Before the opening of the Two Rivers Bridge, the route required a stiff climb up River Mountain Road followed by either a mad dash out Cantrell Road or more climbing through the Pleasant Forest neighborhood in order to reach Pinnacle Valley Road. As a result, my habit is to come back into town by way of Denny Road and Pleasant Valley. Many riders now prefer to simply follow Ferndale Cutoff back to Highway 10, where they can rejoin Barrett Road and return the way they came. The distance is about the same, but the “lollipop” route avoids the sharp little climbs that define the ride back in through Pleasant Valley.


Anonymous said...

First, I enjoy your blog, and congrats on the article into day's paper that will increase your hits. Second, I'm a frequent rider but mostly stick to River Trail/Ft. Roots but have done Harper's Loop some. I'd like to do the West County Loop but have been hesitant due to speeding cars on those curvy roads. What is your experience? Do you feel safe and have you had any close encounters? More and more, I read the safe approach is to occupy the lane, rather than hug the right shoulder.

I think one good idea would be to post graphic signs with a bike and car stating "3 feet, It's the law." I have an example pic I could email you if you'd like.

Arkansas Outside (Joe Jacobs) said...

Congrats on the article in the paper today John. I'm going to have to test your loop once they open the Two Rivers Bridge Back up.

JBar said...

Thanks, Joe. I expected you to be there, too, as you do a great job with Arkansas Outside.

Anonymous, yes I've had close encounters, most recently with an old geezer on Garrison Road who laid on his horn for a couple of hundred yards before blowing by dangerously close to our trio of Bike Nerds.
That said, road riding has its inherent dangers and inattentive drivers are the scariest. The jerks may scare you, but if they see you they're unlikely to actually hit you.There are no guarantees, but by being visible and riding responsibly, we can mitigate some of the hazards. I generally stay on the right side of the lane, but only move to the real edge when traffic approaches. I think I'm less likely to be seen if I'm too near the shoulder because that is not where drivers are looking. When cars approach from the rear on a curvy road, I like to acknowledge them with a glance back and then move as far right as I safely can. If folks think you're trying to work with them, they'll be less likely to get angry if they have to slow for a moment. Most people are pretty gracious by nature and you just have to ignore the a-holes. Good luck and good riding.