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.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Dark Times Are Upon Us

No allusion there, it's just dark. Starting tomorrow, we have less than 10 hours from sunrise to sunset each day until January 11, 2010. The bad news is charted below:

Dec 1, 2009 6:58 AM 4:58 PM 9h 59m 44s − 1m 00s 11:58 AM 33.4° 147.496
Dec 2, 2009 6:59 AM 4:58 PM 9h 58m 45s − 58s 11:59 AM 33.2° 147.473
Dec 3, 2009 7:00 AM 4:58 PM 9h 57m 50s − 55s 11:59 AM 33.1° 147.450
Dec 4, 2009 7:01 AM 4:58 PM 9h 56m 57s − 52s 12:00 Noon 33.0° 147.428
Dec 5, 2009 7:02 AM 4:58 PM 9h 56m 07s − 50s 12:00 Noon 32.8° 147.408
Dec 6, 2009 7:03 AM 4:58 PM 9h 55m 19s − 47s 12:00 Noon 32.7° 147.388
Dec 7, 2009 7:04 AM 4:58 PM 9h 54m 35s − 44s 12:01 PM 32.6° 147.368
Dec 8, 2009 7:04 AM 4:58 PM 9h 53m 53s − 41s 12:01 PM 32.5° 147.350
Dec 9, 2009 7:05 AM 4:58 PM 9h 53m 14s − 38s 12:02 PM 32.4° 147.332
Dec 10, 2009 7:06 AM 4:58 PM 9h 52m 39s − 35s 12:02 PM 32.3° 147.315
Dec 11, 2009 7:07 AM 4:59 PM 9h 52m 06s − 32s 12:03 PM 32.2° 147.299
Dec 12, 2009 7:07 AM 4:59 PM 9h 51m 36s − 29s 12:03 PM 32.2° 147.283
Dec 13, 2009 7:08 AM 4:59 PM 9h 51m 09s − 26s 12:04 PM 32.1° 147.268
Dec 14, 2009 7:09 AM 4:59 PM 9h 50m 46s − 23s 12:04 PM 32.0° 147.253
Dec 15, 2009 7:09 AM 5:00 PM 9h 50m 25s − 20s 12:05 PM 32.0° 147.239
Dec 16, 2009 7:10 AM 5:00 PM 9h 50m 08s − 17s 12:05 PM 31.9° 147.225
Dec 17, 2009 7:11 AM 5:01 PM 9h 49m 54s − 14s 12:06 PM 31.9° 147.212
Dec 18, 2009 7:11 AM 5:01 PM 9h 49m 43s − 11s 12:06 PM 31.9° 147.199
Dec 19, 2009 7:12 AM 5:01 PM 9h 49m 35s − 07s 12:07 PM 31.9° 147.187
Dec 20, 2009 7:12 AM 5:02 PM 9h 49m 30s − 04s 12:07 PM 31.9° 147.175
Dec 21, 2009 7:13 AM 5:02 PM 9h 49m 28s − 01s 12:08 PM 31.9° 147.165
Dec 22, 2009 7:13 AM 5:03 PM 9h 49m 30s + 01s 12:08 PM 31.9° 147.154
Dec 23, 2009 7:14 AM 5:03 PM 9h 49m 35s + 04s 12:09 PM 31.9° 147.145
Dec 24, 2009 7:14 AM 5:04 PM 9h 49m 43s + 08s 12:09 PM 31.9° 147.136
Dec 25, 2009 7:15 AM 5:05 PM 9h 49m 54s + 11s 12:10 PM 31.9° 147.128
Dec 26, 2009 7:15 AM 5:05 PM 9h 50m 09s + 14s 12:10 PM 31.9° 147.120
Dec 27, 2009 7:15 AM 5:06 PM 9h 50m 26s + 17s 12:11 PM 32.0° 147.114
Dec 28, 2009 7:16 AM 5:06 PM 9h 50m 47s + 20s 12:11 PM 32.0° 147.108
Dec 29, 2009 7:16 AM 5:07 PM 9h 51m 11s + 23s 12:12 PM 32.1° 147.104
Dec 30, 2009 7:16 AM 5:08 PM 9h 51m 37s + 26s 12:12 PM 32.2° 147.100
Dec 31, 2009 7:16 AM 5:09 PM 9h 52m 07s + 29s 12:12 PM 32.2° 147.097

Looks like a long stretch doesn't it, and that's just December! I didn't have to heart to subject you to the whole thing.

On the bright side, we turn the trend around after the Winter Solstice on December 21, when the days start getting longer. Facing winter can be a little oppressive to those of us accustomed to being outside for several hours a day, but here in Arkansas we only have to bear a few weeks of it and the lack of daylight is more of a limiter than our usual temperatures. For those of us who don't have a training plan, winter can cause a serious lapse in fitness, often accompanied by weight gain. When it gets dark at 5:00, I'm hungry by 5:15, whereas in the summer, we seldom eat dinner before 8:30 and the closest thing to a snack for me is a Clif bar on the bike.
Thank goodness, it's not really that hard to dodge the worst-case scenario of having to drag out the fat pants. The key for me is to keep things simple and convenient.

Here are a few things that I manage to do in the winter in order to avoid becoming something akin to bloated algae:

Walk: just put on your shoes and jacket and walk out the door. Don't make a big production out of it, just do it often. Running is an obvious choice but even my short runs require a little warm-up, cool down and a shower. You can be impulsive about walking. Instead of walking into the kitchen for cheese dip, walk out the door and around the block. Walk 10 minutes. Do it often.

Weights: I have 3 pair of dumbbells, some stretch bands and a yoga mat. Not much of a home gym, but it's close at hand and I do a lot of micro workouts, sometimes just one set of a specific drill, but 2 or 3 times a week I get a fairly well-rounded upper body workout with some squats, lunges and step drills thrown in. Probably just enough to keep my body from going into shock when I ask it to work again.

Ride: This is obvious, but hard to get done. Night riding is a viable option with our trail system and for many of us, lunch rides are also possible. The good thing about winter is that you can actually get away without a shower. I ride alone or jump on a noon ride group from time to time. It really makes you feel better to grab some miles and get some sunshine during the week. It takes me less than an hour to do a loop from the sub to the BDB and back, so I'm off the phone for less than an hour and back at my desk in an hour and a half. Well worth it if your schedule is flexible enough! I seldom take more than 20-30 minutes for lunch, so I don't guilt over the time when I get the chance to get in a ride.

Micro Diet Steps: I'm as undisciplined about eating as I am about training. I don't stick to plans , so I don't bother making them. I do weigh every day so the pounds don't sneak up on me. That goes against the weight loss gurus, but I'd rather spot a trend early than have to face losing 6-8 pounds. Reach for salsa instead of sour cream. Ditch the glob of salad dressing and have balsalmic vinegar. Eat more green beans and less rice. No deprivation, just making choices that can easily add up to a couple of hundred calories a day, which is a couple of pounds a month, which easily translates into 10-12 pounds of ugly fat ready to reveal itself on the first warm days of Spring. Please spare us the sight and I'll try to do the same.

On Topic: How's Your Vitamin D?

Maybe a few nanograms short of a full load if this article is any indication.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Deer Strike Back!! Urban Assault.

At this time of year 300,000 heavily armed Arkies head out of town to do battle with the wily white-tail deer. ATV's are gassed up, Bud Light is selling like hot cakes at a church breakfast, stands are erected, feed plots have been planted, trails are scouted and, finally, guns are loaded for the offensive. For the rural deer, it is a time of escape and evasion, hide and run, live or die, but even with the massive army on their trail, the deer population is huge and I think they're getting organized.

My imagination or a frightening new reality???

Could it be that while the rural deer are laying low or running for their lives, the herd inside the city limits is on the move, taking retribution for the carnage being visited upon their country cousins? A few weeks a go, a local rider was blindsided by a deer as he zipped along 3rd or 4th in a paceline in the Hooper's Crossing/ North Shore Trail area. The rider suffered a shoulder injury and according to a buddy who was on the ride, "He was out like a light. He never saw the deer. I thought he was dead." When I heard about this incident, I wrote it off as an accident, just a unfortunate crossing of paths. Then, last week, while on a trail tour, another deer attack occurred when a large deer ran directly into the path of a young lady riding near the same area. The rider was taken to the surgical hospital with a likely broken wrist and ribs. Coincidence? Another "accident"? Unlikely, I say.
While I know there are many deer along the River Trail, and in particular the new North Shore Trail crosses the regular path of the deer herds seen each evening in the fields to the East; however, these deer are usually cautious and do their best to avoid trouble. What could be causing these once passive creatures to attack? I think they are fighting mad and they have sensed our vulnerability while on the bike.
As I considered defensive measures that could be taken by cyclists, I looked to the Deer Whistle, which produces subsonic tones that cause deer to freeze in their tracks; however, the Deer Whistle requires speeds of 35 MPH to be effective. That might protect the average rider descending River Mountain Road but is unlikely to help many of us out on the flats. Pending further research, it looks like we'll just have to depend on a sharp eye, good luck and the mercy of the marauding bands of white-tails.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

JBar Cycling: Nine Months In

Nine months isn't much of a milestone, but I was asked just Monday night how long I'd been writing this blog. I stuttered a little bit and said,"uh, I don't know....since Spring...maybe"

Well, as has been the case with disturbing frequency of late, I was wrong, though close. My first post was of February 25th, 2009, though I had set up the blog in May 2008 with no idea what I'd do with it. After my first article or two, I sent a link out to a couple of folks of the nonjudgemental friend variety, then later posted a link to the ABC site, which, unfortunately, has got to be one of the loneliest forums around. In spite of the fact that I assumed that I had maybe two or three mildly interested readers, I've plugged away to the tune of 135 posts. At times, I feel like a guy who talks to himself as he walks through the woods. If somebody is listening, then he's not really crazy and if nobody hears him, then, what the hell, it doesn't really matter.

I still enjoy the writing and wish I had more time for it but I feel that I'm meeting my own small goals of providing some information and insight about our local cycling community, pulling in some pro racing and technical stuff (some homegrown, much flagrantly lifted from other media), along with some off-cycling stuff related to boating and universally interesting subjects such as our dogs, coots, fashion and nuts.

It is very gratifying to me when a rider tells me that he's learned something useful or just enjoyed reading something that I've written and, lately, I've received some good feedback. Of course, well-mannered folks are more likely to say, "that's nice" than "you suck", so I prefer to take well-mannered folks literally when it is in my interest to do so. Many of the people who have commented are surprised that I've been at this as long as I have. I have no idea how many hits I get. I tried a counter widget, but it doesn't seem to have a report function, so I don't know what it is counting or who it is telling about it. Based on the positive feedback, I've spread the word a little via an e-mail signature and by posting links when I see somebody ask on a forum about some topic that I've covered.

If there is a point to this post, it is just to say thank-you for reading. Feel free to drop me a note if there's a topic you'd like to see covered, particularly if it has to do with our local cycling scene. If I don't know anything about the subject, I can readily make some stuff up. I'm also eager for information about anything happening locally that has to do with bikes. There are a lot of positive developments for cycling in Central Arkansas and I look forward to things just getting better and better. I hope that this space can be a small part of it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Hound In The House

Diane and I lost her 16 year-old Josie dog a few months back, leaving us with one dog in the house. We changed that Saturday when we adopted a young male dog who is now called Willie. He had been found with a broken leg, dropped off at the house of the woman who ended up fostering him through the Maumelle Animal Shelter. He was listed as a Border Collie, but other than the fact that he's black and white and medium sized, he bears only a passing resemblence. He does have some kind of working dog genes and he seems to be a sweet, smart boy. He's pictured above in portrait view and with Zuli.
Nothing to do with bikes, but an important change for the household! Zuli started off liking him, but is now showing some signs of jealousy as she realizes he's staying. They'll work it out and she needs some dog company.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

..And It's Got Little Nanopockets to Hide Your Dope.

Nalini has introduced a new line of clothing that incorporates “basket-molecules nanotechnology” integrated into the fabric. These nanobaskets are capable of capturing "vitamins" (wink, nudge)and then releasing them where they are absorbed through the rider's skin. Nalini provides the vitamin packs, which are added to your laundry. Though described in the article I read (link below) as vitamins, other information indicates that the design is for electrolyte infusion rather than vitamins.

This technology begs some questions like, should we be looking for Testosterone Tide on the supermarket shelves? Maybe some vitamin E(-PO) rinse from Amgen? How does it know what to absorb? Will it capture my stinky, salty sweat and give it back to me on the next ride? (No, thank-you! You can keep that!)

I'm just not sure about running around in a crowd of nanoparticles. Research is still in its infancy, but indications are that some of these little machines can have a mind of their own and that their use can have unintended consequences. For at least the time being, I think I'll keep absorbing my nutritional supplements the old-fashioned way. Pills.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Bids Are In!!! Two Rivers Bridge

Bids were taken on Thursday, November 19, for the Two Rivers Bridge project.
I dropped by for the bid opening. There were three bidders on the project and the bids ranged from $5,326,962.62 to $6,961,086.10. The low bidder was Jensen Construction and their price was very close to the Engineer's Estimate. Hopefully, it is also within the county's budget for the project.
This is another big step forward in the development of Central Arkansas's bike infrastructure!

In my haste to put this out, I got almost everything wrong! The date and the contactor's name have been corrected from my original post. Jensen is the same contractor that built the BDB. Their bid was appreciably below that of the other two bidders, so their experience and familiarity with the site makes me feel better about their ability to bring the job in.

I do strive for accuracy so I am appreciative of the reader feedback.

Monday, Nov.23, 5PM, River Trail Station: Be There!!

North Little Rock has been awarded Bike Friendly Community status by the League Of American Bicyclists. The League's Executive Director, Andy Clarke will be in town next Monday, November 23rd to present the award to the Mayor Hays and the NLR City Council.
Prior to the City Council meeting, there will be a reception at the River Trail Station (aka: River Trail Rentals) starting at 5PM. Come on out to hear a little bit about the League's Bike Friendly America initiative and to show Andy a warm welcome from our community.
North Little Rock is the only city in Arkansas to receive the award (Little Rock's application got honorable mention last year). It is a big deal for our cycling community and is something to be proud of!
Refreshments will be served.

Reflections On the River Trail

On a ride just before dark one evening last week, I caught this image of the Arkansas Queen paddle boat as it passed a towboat pushing barges upstream. I thought the scene of river commerce and recreation sharing the corridor was a bit of a reflection of the use of the River Trail itself. While the River Trail was built primarily for recreational use, it is a major link for many bike commuter routes and has served to help attract commercial and residential development along the Arkansas River and in the downtown areas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Stop! Thief!!!" Oops, Sorry, It's Just a Cyclocross Rider

Pardon my reaction, but when I see somebody running like hell with a perfectly serviceable high-end bike on their shoulder, instinct tells me that it ain't theirs! In this case, the suspect is a participant in the growing sport of cyclocross. Cyclocross has bored me for the last several off-seasons. I pick up VeloNews and see guys with trashed bikes riding through mud pits and then jumping over barriers and running while carrying said bikes. Frankly, this is NOT what brought me to cycling. I really enjoy putting on my fresh, stylish kit and riding off on my sparkling machine with my drive train tuned like a Swiss timepiece.
Cyclocross is different. Bikes are muddy. Riders are muddy. The couse is, by design, muddy. I try to avoid mud while riding my bicycle but, in reading up on a couple of events, I came across tidbits like this:

"Water was $2.00, beer was free."
"Every participant gets a beer at registration"

I remember reading about a BIG, national level cyclocross race last year in which the race leader lost time and a couple places because he slowed to grab a beer on his way to the finish.
I'm a lightweight in the field of drinking these days, but I like the attitude, so maybe there is something to it after all.

Cyclocross bikes look like road bikes at a glance, but require wider clearances for bigger tires and mud and are equipped with caliper brakes for reliability in, you guessed it, mud . Some are actually designed with toptubes featuring a flattened bottom surface to facilitate carrying the bike on your shoulder. While I've carried my bike from the road to a rest stop at Hotter'n'Hell to avoid flat-causing goats heads, I've never considered buying a bike for which "ease of shouldering" is a desirable design feature.
Locally, there is a bit of a movement to introduce cyclocross. This from the ABC website:

The Community Bicyclist Cyclocross Training Series
9:30am Sundays now through January 25 at North Shore Business Park (SE corner- next to ADEQ). Mountain bikes welcome. Questions? Call Frank at 663-7300.

Competitive Cyclist held a race or two a few years back, but it got about as much traction as a road tire in the mud pit, but 'cross seems to be catching on.

I'm always glad to see anything that brings more people into cycle sports and the area along the river can certainly produce the key ingredient of mud, so maybe it will attract some participants. Besides, it will eventually require serious riders to go out and buy more bikes! That's got to be a good thing!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Local Justice

A few months back, an incident occurred along River Road near the skate park and Fort Roots in which a young man reportedly crossed the center line while passing a group of westbound cyclists. He was supposedly yelling at the cyclists as he passed and this distraction caused him to scatter an unnoticed group of eastbound riders as he drove head-on into the paceline. His actions resulted in several minor injuries and landed him in traffic court. My information isn't first hand, but my understanding is that the judge fined the driver the maximum $1000.00 for reckless driving, wished that he could have done more, and chastened the kid and his mother for their courtroom demeanor and lack of responsibility.
I won't try to add any more detail given my lack of direct knowledge, but it was gratifying to hear that the cyclists' right to be on the road was not questioned and that our system worked. The victims are still working on settlements with the car owner's insurance company to compensate them for their injuries and damage to bikes. The car belonged to the mother of the driver's girlfriend.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Race Across The Sky" Trailer

I've missed the showings of this movie about the 2009 Leadville 100, featuring , of couse, Lance Armstrong. This is trailer is very cool and worth your five minutes if you haven't seen it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Night Riding: Don't Give Up Your Weeknight Rides

OK, it pretty well sucks that it gets dark by 5:30. As the season winds down,so does my riding as the days and my weeknight rides get shorter together. After a few evenings of finishing up in the dark, I change the batteries in my blinkies and eventually get out my headlight. This usually happens after a few very dark rides through the woods along the trail, the result of my failure to fully appreciate the fact that 6:30PM is NIGHT TIME! And then the time changes and...BOOM! suddenly it is dark when I get off of work.
I had an especially harsh transition this year as we returned from the Grand Canyon just in time for a week of rain and the later-than-usual time change. I find it hard to head out when it is already dark, but it can be very gratifying.

Tonight, I decided at a little before 6:00 that I needed to ride. I usually drive to the trail at that time of day as it's just minutes by car and rush hour in the dark isn't my favorite time to ride my bike through town. I parked on Main in Argenta and as I entered the park at the sub, a group of riders flew by. I chased them down and found them to be a bunch of 6-7 guys, most of whom I know. We headed up Fort Roots, then up to the BDB where the guys finished up their ride. I headed back down the Trail and soon encountered a skunk ambling along, and then another. I am very deferential to skunks. We had just been discussing the best place to be positioned in a paceline that has a hostile encounter with a skunk.I've given it much thoughtful consideration and figure that the first rider will only startle the skunk, the second rider will serve for target acquisition and the third or fourth rider will likely have to ride home alone. Yet another reason to ride in the front!

I also saw three buck deer along the trail in Burns Park. We see many deer, but I don't see many bucks along the trail. All three of these guys were solo and had pretty good racks. As I crossed the wooden bridge by the launch ramp, a fearless bunny blocked my path. I actually had to stop and shoo him along, the silly rabbit. He's supposed to at least act scared.

It is beautiful along the Arkansas River at night and our winter temperatures are often mild enough for riding. While a light is necessary, it doesn't have to be the expensive flamethrower you would demand for blasting through the woods on your mountain bike. If you are on the River Trail, you can get by with a simple $40.00 LED headlamp, like the Black Diamond Spot shown above,and a couple of flashers. I have a handlebar mounted LED light that cost about $100.00 and have started putting the headlamp on my helmet. This allows me to have light both in the bike's direction of travel and wherever I'm looking.
If you get on on the road, the flashers are important, as is reflective clothing. Street lights may allow you to see fine, but being seen has to be your priority. A couple of patches of ScotchLite can make a dramatic difference when it comes to being seen by drivers. Only a few of my jerseys have reflective features, so I try to grab one of those when dressing for the dark.

If you've never ridden at night along the River, then you will likely be surprised by the number of folks that you'll see along the way. And be careful, as many walkers and runners foolishly have no lights or reflective gear.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

L.A Doctor Convicted In Cyclist Assault

In a case that has received much attention in the cycling media and in the Los Angeles area, a Los Angeles physician was found guilty on all counts for his actions in which two cyclists were seriously injured. The Doc was trying to "teach them a lesson" when he pulled in front of two cyclists last July 4 and slammed on his brakes as they descended a hill at 30MPH, which is the speed limit for the road.

While I'm glad to hear of the conviction in this case, nobody really wins. The cyclists were seriously injured and the doctor will likely serve prison time and lose his license to practice medicine. The only positive thing is that the cyclists right to use the road was not overlooked as has been the case in many incidents involving cars and bikes and a very dangerous, self-righteous individual will get his due. Doctor Thompson obvously felt that his inconvenience justified the life-threatening assault. If you read the related stories, you will find that this is not the first time he's taken such action and his previous unprosecuted actions were a factor in this trial.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's Been A Tough Few Days On The River Trail

I've been off in the hills boating again, but got back in time to get on the bike for a few hours on Sunday.

Natural Calamities:

The signs of the recent flooding rains were evident in the rocks, sand and gravel washed across the trail in numerous locations and serious riverbank erosion in a couple. In North Little Rock, a large section of bank washed out, apparently from water draining from the quarry. I'll bet the waterfalls from the bluff were impressive Thursday night when we got 3" of rain in the hour between 8:30 and 9:30! The trail is intact, but the area will need some attention.

In Little Rock, a section of the Medical Mile; aka "Trail to Nowhere", collapsed into the river. The trail dead ends a few hundred feet upstream at the UP rails, so we're not missing much. The area is gated off to protect a temporary Verizon optic cable. The original cable was in a conduit that was sheared off as the trail slid into the river.

Not so natural calamity:

We rode up to River Trail Rentals, now "River Trail Station", to find a large contingent of NLR's finest on the scene and in the act of investigating a shooting. David, the proprietor, said that he was told there had been a shooting at about 7:00AM in the grass parking area across from his shop.
I've always felt very safe down there and still do, but hope that this doesn't represent a trend. I'm not a fan of surveillance cameras in public places, but as NLR looks at expanding their existing downtown network, the park and parking area should be a likely location.

Erosion of riverbanks and civil order aside, it was a beautiful day to be out on the bike!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Two Rivers Bridge: Bid Date Set!!!

The bids for the much-awaited bridge to Two Rivers Park will be taken on November 19. This is fantastic news for the Central Arkansas cycling community!!

From the published bid request:

Pulaski County, Arkansas will receive sealed bids at the Pulaski County Purchasing Office at 201 South
Broadway, 4th Floor, Suite 401, Little Rock, AR, 72201 for Little Maumelle River Pedestrian / Bicycle Bridge,
Bid #09-A-012, until 2:00 P.M., on the 19th of November 2009 at which time and place all bids will be publicly
opened and read aloud.

The construction will consist of approximately the following:
Building a 1,162 foot long pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the Little Maumelle River. The bridge
superstructure will consist of cast in place concrete decks on five 50’ and six 100’ simple prestressed
concrete girder spans, and one 210’ prefabricated structural steel truss span for navigation. The minimum
navigational clearance in 39’-10”. The substructure will consist of cast in place concrete abutments founded
on driven steel piles and single column hammer head type piers founded on single column drilled shafts.
Other items of work include modification of existing trails and construction of new trails for bridge
approaches, modifications to River Mountain Road and parking area, installation of bridge and navigation
lighting and associated electrical work, installation of clearance gauges, and permanent signing and striping.

Monday, October 26, 2009

North Little Rock: Bike Friendly Community!!

Photo: Mayor Pat Hays and a new sign for North Little Rock

North Little Rock has been awarded the bronze level of the prestigious Bicycle Friendly Community Award by the League of American Bicyclists. This really is a big deal and is the result of the efforts of a committee consisting of Charlie Hight, Mayor Pat Hays and other members of city government along with several members of the local cycling community.

When NLR Alderman Charlie Hight invited me to sit in on the committee meetings last summer, they had already made substantial progress in the application process. Folks like Tom Ezell, Dr. Rob Lambert, David Holsted, Steve Bentley, and Judy McDowell have all been active locally in promoting various aspects of cycing and were instrumental in this effort. Bud Laumer of the Highway Department added his insight and experience along with city Planning Director Robert Voyles.

The announcement hit the Dem-Gaz on Sunday, but look for more news on this exciting development. I've already seen recognition on the e-newsletter Road Bike Rider and typically Bicycling magazine follows with a feature. NLR is the only city in Arkansas to receive BFC status. Little Rock, Fayetteville and Bentonville have all applied, with LR and Fayetteville getting an honorable mention.Bike Friendly Community status is an indicator of the progressive stance that North Little Rock has taken on quality-of-life issues. BFC cities typically rank above average in education levels, property values and public health. Congratulations to my home town. It makes me proud!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Grand Canyon Slide Show

If you're interested in a mostly water-level trip through the Grand Canyon, follow the link to your right to my slide show of our recent trip. It doesn't require a lot of narration as the beauty of the place does most of the talking, but drop me a note in the comments section if you have a question or comment. There are not many kayak shots in the big rapids, as I usually had my hands full paddling my boat!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Re-Entry: No Flameout, But Not As Much Fun!!

I've never been off of work for three weeks; much less three weeks that included 18 days of teamwork, sand, 225 miles of Grand Canyon, no telephones, no electricity, no running water, nothing that we didn't bring with us (though we brought plenty with us!

Things are good at work as I got a lot done before I left and happened to have some big jobs ship, so I'm having a great month in spite of not hitting a lick! The long vacation goes down much easier with my boss when it is accompanied by strong sales performance. Therein lies the rub. I had to get my ass back to work.

Multiday river trips require a lot of daily physical labor beyond getting boats down the river. Every day starts with loading your bedding, tent (if used), and other personal gear in dry bags and getting it to the water to reload the boats. If you're on kitchen duty,as you gather your own stuff, you get to help your team of four cook breakfast for sixteen people. Then dishes have to be washed and the day's lunch packed.The kitchen has to be broken down along with the groover (toilet) and loaded on the rafts. Everything in the boats is in some kind of waterproof box or bag and secured to stay put in the event of a flip. We probably moved at least a couple thousand pounds of stuff onto and off of the boats every day in addition to hauling water for the kitchen, drinking and our solar showers. It's the satisfying kind of work that gets you to bed early and makes your meals taste better. Real world work just doesn't have the same feel, but for us it makes the occasional side trip to wild-world possible!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Back From The Great Adventure

Diane and I have just returned from the great adventure of kayaking the Grand Canyon. With fourteen remarkable friends, we paddled 225 miles over 18 days from Lee's Ferry, Arizona to Diamond Creek. Our party consisted of 7 oarsmen on rafts and 9 kayakers. We were totally self-sufficient, carrying all of our provisions and equipment on the rafts and camping along the river. We had a sat phone for emergencies, but in the Canyon, even with a satellite phone, service is very sketchy. I'll have some photos posted somewhere soon and tall tales to tell.

The photos above are Diane and I at the take out, a view downriver from the Ansazi granaries at Nankoweap, and a rainbow over the canyon at one of our camps.

I got out on the bike Saturday for the first time in three weeks. It was tough coming back to civilization AND cool weather! My kayak-adapted rear also protested the return to the saddle! I went out and climbed Wye this afternoon and suffered about as much as expected but the beautiful day made it worthwhile.

NOTE: This has probably been discussed on various boards, but Pinnacle Valley Road is a mess due to utility construction. I'd describe it as unridable from Hwy 10 to Two Rivers.