Monday, April 2, 2012

Bike Races and Stuff Along The Trail

This is definitely a busy time of year for the cycling community, with a lot of racing going on locally and the European classics underway. Many of the best pro races are among the one-day Classics,  including last Sunday's Tour of Flanders and this weekend's Paris-Roubaix, so set your DVR. This race is the reason that so much cycling gear is named  Roubaix. The "Hell of the North", as it is known, has broken a lot high-end bikes and hard men with its infamous cobbles and relentless racing. Unlike the Grand Tours, there is no tomorrow in races such as Paris-Roubaix, only victory or defeat in one of the most prestigious events on the pro cycling calendar.
Local Racing
Over the past weekend the Ouachita Challenge race and tour kept a bunch of mountain bikers off of the streets, while the Northwest Arkansas Classic entertained road racers. That's all good stuff, but the best thing about spring is that it is simply a great time to be out riding the bike. There have been a lot of little developments along the River Trail and I've been knocking out some miles while being a little slow on the keyboard, so we'll take a little tour while I clean up the desktop.
The rain of week-before-last created a little flooding along the North Little Rock side of the trail, causing a few days of detours and still affecting the Isabella Jo Trail.

 As the water receded in Burns Park, it exposed this unfortunate gar hung in the fence at the dog park.

The rest of the trail system was open for business over the weekend and the crowds were thick. Based on the challenges I experienced in riding the BDB and Two Rivers Park, there will be plenty of complaints of user conflict. That's a topic for another time, but it's safe to operate on the assumption that the walkers you encounter are oblivious to your presence and might change direction at any time, and, no, they're not watching their kids. That's not fair to the many folks who share the trail, but it is the conservative approach to self preservation.

Goose Egg
I've resisted discussion of the Burns Park goose problem, but will say that I'm delighted that the dogs have scattered them for the moment and I hope it's a sustainable solution. Before the recent floods, I had noticed a pair of geese hanging out near Victory Lake. On the day prior to the big rains, I noticed why they had been staying so close.
These geese must have read the same article that I did, which indicated that parks folks and volunteers would be searching the weeds and brush for nests in order to addle the eggs.

The geese may have eluded the the people seeking to make the inviable egg by coating it with oil, or addling, but I doubt that it eluded the rising water.The goose will lay another egg and start over. Geese will tend addled eggs, but will lay again to replace lost eggs.

 Dining Options Along the River Trail

Forty Two at the Clinton Presidential Center 
 I had noticed the outdoor dining area at the Clinton Center while crossing the Clinton Park Bridge, and I was curious about it as a lunch opportunity. Then I overheard a friend speaking positively about the high quality and low price of food there, so I decided it deserved a try. I didn't ride my bike there, but it is just a few yards off of the River Trail, so it is a good option if you're out and about and they're open on weekends! The highest price on the lunch menu is $10.50, and I opted for the "Tortas" pork sandwich, booked as a "Mexican sub" for $9.90. There are bike racks in the front of the building near the entrance and you must pass through security, which is quick and painless. Though I'm sure security is relatively high, the bike racks are a little isolated so a lock is in order.
 This view of Forty Two from the Clinton Park Bridge aroused my curiosity. In the shade to the famous "double-wide", I found white tablecloths, casual outdoor dining, and prices that were surprisingly reasonable for the setting.
Impress your best gal or a business client with this choice of lunch spots. Easy parking or easily bike and pedestrian accessible. We may have to try to Sunday brunch.

 Heifer Village Cafe
I've dined at Heifer with a fair degree of regularity over the last couple of years. Initially, I started eating lunch there as an easy-parking alternative to the River Market, but now it's usually a destination of choice. My office is in southwest Little Rock, which offers few lunch options, and Heifer Village is just a few minutes away. Last Friday, however, I was working from home and Diane was leading a lunch ride from Garver's office near the BDB to Heifer Village, so I went downtown to meet them. Access to the cafe is easiest from near the back of the building, parking at the east end of the parking lot. Bike racks are located near the outdoor dining area and are visible from inside, making for an anxiety-free lunch for a rider who doesn't like to leave his bike out of sight.
The menu at Heifer Village Cafe  features many local products, is very reasonably priced, and offers choices for sides that includes homemade chips or healthier salads and fruit.

I highly recommend either of the restaurants, but I advise against the gar. I don't think it was fresh.

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