Saturday, October 30, 2010

And So It Begins: Seasonal Winding Down

The warm weather of the last few weeks has made it easy to forget that it is almost November, but as we learn over and over, time marches on. Those sweat-soaked 30-40 mile evening rides, whether social cruises or heart-thumping group rides, have come to an end. I've tried to take advantage of extended Daylight Savings Time as much as possible,  but my after work rides will soon be limited to a quick 50 minute routine of riding from downtown to the BDB and back. Those rides will begin in dusk and end in darkness, so it's time to replace the batteries in the blinkies that reside on my road bike and get the headlight charged up. I rode in a sleeveless jersey Wednesday night, but a cold front was already roaring our way. Saturday morning was a cold 37 degrees and I was donning long sleeve base  and jacket, tights, ear band, toe covers and full gloves.

Some of the boys milling around before Saturday's CARVE cruise. The temps were in the high 30's to start, but it was a beautiful day and warmed to near 50 by the time we finished up.
Some of the jackets were unzipped, but it was still cool as the pack rolled back to the sub.

A week from Sunday, the clocks get set back and sunset will be at 5:10PM. That is simply rude.
So, do we simply curl up and surrender? Hell, no! We don't simply surrender! We curl up, fret about lost fitness, eat too much, put on a few pounds, then fret about getting fat, and that's just next week! We have months of this shit coming our way. Some redemption will come due to the fact the election will soon be over and I won't have to see another nasty attack ad. I really had not realized that Nancy Pelosi was running for office in Arkansas, but a whole lot of folks seem to be running against her.  As usual, I'll keep slugging away on the bike this winter, driven by fear of fat and lost fitness, and I'll throw in some weight work and a little running. I plan to spend more time on my mountain bike on weekends, which should provide a little intensity. That's about as detailed as a training plan gets for me, but, hopefully, it will be enough to allow me to stay in my race cut jerseys without facing undue ridicule when Spring rolls back around.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Oh, Really? On Bikes and Burgers

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette arrived this morning with it's "Best Of.." insert this morning. We're all familiar with these advertising selling vehicles employed by the Dem-Gaz, the Arkansas Times and other print publications. They solicit feedback from readers for opinion on "Best Of.." in every field from neurosurgery to snow cones, aggressively sell ads to everybody mentioned and publish the insert. Of course, I always check out the bike shop ratings. This morning, I was not surprised to see Chainwheel listed as the "Best Place to Buy a Bike" and I pass my congratulations to Pat, Ernie, Sarah and the rest of the crew. They have earned the loyalty of many riders and spawned much of the bike business that has grown up in Central Arkansas. In second place was J&P in Sherwood. Those guy have been around and serve their customers well, so that also made some sense. In third place was Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart?? I would expect Wal-Mart to be the best place to buy dry dog food in the 20 pounds and up category, or perhaps the best place to buy Tide (family size box), but bicycles? Wal-Mart also got top honors for "Best Oil Change and Lube". Burns Park was voted Best Place to Bike, edging out the River trail and BDB. I guess that most folks who ride bikes were out riding their bikes instead of filing out newspaper surveys and most voters have likely never bought a bike. It made a little sense when I scanned the page and saw that under "Best Burgers", Wendy's was the big winner. What? I though sure that McDonald's would have topped that list.

 I have some good friends at the Dem-Gaz, but this is the same publication that endorsed Tim Griffin on his principles, so I can't be too surprised.

Quality of Life: Argenta Market

Both of my parents were from North Little Rock and I've lived here for my entire life, save for a couple of short stints in Fayetteville and in Memphis. It's always been home and an OK place to live, if for no other reason than that it is easy to get out of town and off to the creeks and hills. In the last few years, I've come to be very excited about my home town. I love the vibe of the River Trail, the River Market, and Argenta. A jewel of North Little Rock's Main Street is the Argenta Market. It's truly a neighborhood market, featuring some of the best meat in town (Vegans, skip this: If you want a really good steak, pick up a couple of their dry aged tenderloin filets. You need the protein!) and  fresh local produce when available. They have pretty much everything you might need in the way of groceries, plus Boulevard bread, Community Bakery pastries, and prepared meals to go from the same busy kitchen that feeds the lunch crowd. They also serve breakfast on Saturday morning and the place is like a neighborhood social center.

I hopped on the CARVE Saturday morning ride out East early last Saturday morning. With 50 miles on my legs and an empty belly, I rolled into the Argenta Market for Eggs Benedict.Mmmmmmm! It's my habit to have "second breakfast" after my weekend rides, no matter the time of day. I was very pleased to see the entry to the market decorated with pumpkins, locally grown greens, and several bicycles.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Camp Robinson Update 2

This map has been posted at the C.A.R.P. parking area kiosk at Camp Robinson. The crosshatching represents the area the should be avoided due to timber cutting activities. I am also told that the area will be completely closed through today to allow for a hunt.
Here is a link to an interactive map on the C.A.R.P. website that will help you identify the trails by name:

It appears that the remaining open trails will need to be accessed via Can of Corn or Merlin's Trail. We will just have to deal with the closures and then be prepared to go to work to rebuild trails when the logging is done.

Camp Robinson is my favorite place to ride my mountain bike, but, frankly, there are really not that many users this time of year and we do have options. Burns Park offers a wide range of opportunities to select trails that are anywhere from beginner easy to technically difficult, Allsop Park is a favorite for many riders, and new trails have opened at Pinnacle, just to name a few.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Camp Trail Update

I think this is a pretty complete list of the affected trails at Camp Robinson:

Five Mile Loop

FreeWay (Past Pipeline)

Dogwood (South of Merlin's Trail)

Ten Bridges


Christmas Tree and Extension

Center Road/Helter Skelter (South of Porta Potty)

Outer Loop (South of Porta Potty)

There is still plenty of good riding available, so avoid the affected trails for your own safety and to avoid the possibility of creating a reason to close the area. There are better maps on the C.A.R.P. site now, but the map below is accurate enough to get you around if your familiar routes are off limits. This is a good excuse to change up your ride!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Camp Robinson: Fire out, chainsaws fired up.

Persistent fires at Camp Robinson

Last week, wildfires blazed for days at Camp Robinson, burning 2500 acres and choking the air over much of the city with smoke.
This photo was taken from Palisades Drive in Little Rock, over 12 miles away.

The C.A.R.P. trails were unaffected by the fires, but.....

Timber harvest underway

Thursday evening, I  decided to try to grab an hour on the mountain bike at Camp. I threw a headlight on the bike in the event that I pushed my luck on time or had a breakdown, but the moon is full and I figured to be out of the woods by dark. I headed down the new Shipwreck Trail to Merlin, then hopped over to Christmas Tree. Then came the Airport Loop and Ten Bridges back to the truck. I had a pretty good groove going, when I noticed a couple of trees that had been cut but had not been dropped, leaving them leaning on other trees. That's not a good situation, but it was a calm evening and the tree was stable, so I snapped a photo and rode on by.
The cut-but-standing timber was the first sign that my ride was about to change.

I didn't make it much further before I found the trail blocked.

I rolled the bike a few yards off-trail before I had to pick it up and carry it out.
I regained the trail here and found that I had jumped over to Yucca Trail from Ten Bridges, as all landmarks were pretty well wiped out .

I nosed down Dogwood and found that the skidders had already been in.

I often start my ride by going out Yucca or Ten Bridges, and almost always head down Dogwood when riding Merlin. If I had not taken what for me is an unusual route, I would have been disappointed early and probably would have packed it in since I didn't have time to explore. Instead, blissfully ignorant, I circled the affected area until I headed back to the truck and, as a result, had a really good ride.
 Nobody seems to know the full plan for this timber harvest, but it is certain to close many of the trails in the upper part of the training area. Right now, Shipwreck-to-Merlin works, and possibly Five Mile, but it will be a guess until the cut is complete. After that, there's going to be a lot of trail work to be done and some of the terrain will be very different. Perhaps the creative trail builders will have some ideas for some cool new features.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Two Rivers Bridge: We Have Lift Off

After a few delays, the steel center span of the Two Rivers Bridge was lifted into place on Wednesday morning. Everything was ready to go on Tuesday morning, but the first rain we've in over a month came sauntering in and set things back a day.

As seen beyond I-430 from the BDB on Sunday evening, the 210 foot truss span had been assembled on barges and moved into place. The cranes were rigged and at the ready.

After a wet, foggy daybreak on Tuesday, the skies rapidly cleared and the lift was underway. As the cranes took on the weight of the 208,000 pound span, their barges got low in the water.

The crane booms were kept pretty much vertical due to the big load. Adjustments in position were in the most part accomplished by moving the barges on which the cranes were mounted.

Crews were busily readying the supports on the pier tops in the final stages of preparation for the lift.

Here it comes, boys!

Almost there.

I've done some construction, but I prefer working at ground level. This is higher than it looks.

 The precision of this operation was pretty impressive.

The dance was done.

I watched the lift alongside folks from Pulaski County, from the steel fabricator, Contech, from the designer, Garver, and from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. There was a little anxiety in the air (Will this thing fit??), but it was an experienced team and everyone was very confident in the bridge contractor, Jensen Construction. Nonetheless, everyone was a little relieved when the span was resting on the piers.

Even as the span was being lifted, county officials and representative of the highway department were looking forward to the completion of the Two Rivers project and beyond.

John Ruddell is the project manager for Garver, and he seemed pleased with the way the project is shaping up. Garver also designed the Big Dam Bridge.

As many of you have, I've been keeping up with this project closely since I ride by it many times per week. I appreciated the opportunity to have been on hand with many of the professionals involved in the job when the lift was done. Today marked a milestone in a years-long development and it is always interesting to be able to share the perspectives of the people who make such things happen.
In visiting with Sherman Smith, Pulaski County Public Works director, I found that bids had been let for building a bike path to Maumelle Park from the corner of County Farm Road and Pinnacle Valley Road. This stretch of bike path will be "behind the power lines" so that cyclists will not have interact with vehicular traffic. This will mean a continuous bike route from the River Trail to the Corps of Engineers Maumelle Park. From there, the plan includes bike lanes on Pinnacle Valley Road and Highway 300 to Pinnacle Mountain State Park. This will be a remarkable accomplishment and most of the credit seems to go to Judge Buddy Villines. Along with North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays, Villines' vision and persistence has helped to create a bike infrastructure that will continue to enhance Central Arkansas's growing reputation as a cycling destination.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Clarification on Photos

The online albums on Snapfish are a convenient way for me to let you guys view a photo album. Snapfish is in the business of selling prints, albums, etc., but I am not. If you want a copy of any of my photos, feel free to save them from the site or drop me an e-mail if you want a full-size file. If you have found a way to make money from my snapshots, I fully expect compensation, but if you just want the photo, I'm delighted to share. No charge.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

CARPe Diem Day II: Crosscountry Racing, Trials Demo, More Food, Fun and Schwag

The CARPe Diem Mountain Bike Festival resumed Sunday morning near the ski lake pavilion at Burns Park. The weather was perfect, the scene along the Arkansas River Trail was beautiful, the crowds were friendly and vibe was everything that could have been hoped for.

Namesake C.A.R.P. were ready to ride or lounge from here at HQ.

Robert Mooney won his division

Chuck Emmons, shown here with Richard Machycek on his wheel, came in second to Mooney in their very tough division. At this point, Richard had already won his 2-lap age group race and was back on the course dogging his buddies as they rode their third lap. That privilege comes with being both old and fast. I've got half of that covered!

Things were a bit dusty out on the trail. Patrick Small shows off his dirt-Roubaix look.

Eric was showing off some serious trials chops.

No worries. The car's a rental.

Chris Randle, showing the love from the top step of the podium. The chainring medallions were appropriately gaudy and there were plenty to go around for the various divisions.

There were some real tough guys out on the trail!

....and not all of them were guys!

I'm not going to make any attempt at running down the results of the races, but if anybody has a link, send it to me and I'll get it posted. CARPe Diem was another in a string of really enjoyable bike events that have taken place recently here in our community. The serious racers raced seriously, while the not-so-serious racers and all of the rest of us just enjoyed being out on the bike among a bunch of like-minded folks, enjoying a beautiful fall day along the River Trail, and I'd speculate that very few of us were more than 20 minutes from home. This is what quality-of-life in Central Arkansas is all about.

PHOTO LINK: There is a link at the right of this page to all of my Sunday CARPe Diem photos. Feel free to copy any that you want for personal use. If anybody wants a full-size file of any of them, drop me a note and I'll be glad to share.

CARPe Diem Rocks!!! And Rolls Again Sunday!! Schwag Outstanding!

More than eighty fat tire aficionados prepare to roll out for the Orbea Schwag Ride at CARPe Diem.

The CARPe Diem Mountain Bike Festival got underway on Saturday with a huge Orbea schwag ride, short track races and a cook-out followed by a "Huffy toss". More than eighty riders signed up for the schwag ride and every rider received a schwag bag stuffed with lock-on grips or mountain bike tires, along with the usual Clif bars and water bottles. This was some really premium schwag!! Thanks to C.A.R.P., Orbea, Chainwheel, Competitive Cyclist, Arkansas Cycling and Fitness and anybody I may be missing!

Riders had a sticker placed on their bars at a check point along the trail that coincided with a numbered bag. The system broke down a little, but everybody got a bag full of some really great stuff. When word gets out about the fat bags, the next schwag ride will likely be overwhelmed by a huge number of riders. You know that riders all love free stuff!

The Orbea folks had plenty of sweet trail rigs on hand for demos. At least one of my fellow riders was having a hard time deciding between giving up his demo bike and handing over a credit card! (How'd that work out for you, Josh?)

Chainwheel's Sarah Miller demonstrates her Huffy tossing technique.

The rules were more blurry than this photo as the judges are faced with a decision: "Mark the toss at the frame or at the saddle?" It was decided to give it to the saddle, which flew from the bike upon impact.

CARPe Diem continues on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Two Rivers Bridge News!

Work continues at a brisk pace on the Two Rivers Bridge, with the final piers being poured and the steel truss sections arriving over the last couple of days.

The truss sections were shipped in on trucks, assembled on barges and moved out into the river.

The entire span will be assembled and then lifted in one piece.

These trailers carrying the two halves of the next section arrived on Wednesday. The last two trailers were on the road and expected to arrive Wednesday night.

There is no set schedule for the lift, but I hope that I get some notice so that I can be there! Everything will be done and ready before the lift starts, because once it is in the air, they don't want to put it back down anywhere but in its place on the piers. The rest of the horizontal structure is also moving right along. I was told that within the next couple of weeks, "people looking at it from I-430 will see a bridge".

Carpe Diem Mountain Bike Festival- This Weekend!!

I've missed the previous Carpe Diem festivals either because I didn't hear about it in time or because we were busy boating down the Colorado River, but we will be there this year. I won't be racing, but the reports from previous events just make it sound like too much fun to miss! Here is some information and a link to the CDMBF site:

Get Ready to Race!

So the racing weekend of the year is almost upon us. Online registration for Sundays race has closed, but you can still register Saturday night at the ski lake pavilion from 5-7 PM. Dinner will be served, so come hungry and hang out with all your fellow racers!!

Also, don’t forget that there is a super-cool short track race on Saturday afternoon starting at 3 PM, and online registration is open until Saturday night. AND, if you are on the fence a little birdie told me you can use the coupon code CARVE and score $5.00 off your registration fee. From looking at the sweet prize list, you should really just sign up, race, and hope for some killer schwag!

Speaking of schwag, don’t forget about the Orbea schwag ride brought to you by the Orbea Store, Arkansas Cycling & Fitness, Chainwheel & Competitive Cyclist. Registration starts at noon on Saturday at the Orbea tent which will be setup in the BMX track parking lot. The ride starts at 1 PM sharp, so don’t be late! There will also be demo bikes available for the ride; for more info contact Scott Burke at 501-414-0236 or

Should be an action packed weekend’o'fun, so don’t get left in the dust!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Short Stuff: New Bridge for Shillcut Bayou; BDB Ninja; Bye Bye Cervelo

Garver gains contract to design new Shillcut Bayou Bridge
The wooden bridge near the Burns Park launch ramp will be replaced by a new structure that will be designed by Garver, LLC, of "just up the trail". Garver also provided the engineering design services for the BDB and Two Rivers Bridge, so they're certainly up to the task. The fact that many Garver employees are regular trail users should allow them an unusual degree of insight. Many riders hate the teeth-rattling ride across the current bridge, but it doesn't bother me. That's part of  the beauty of riding titanium!

Ninja On the BDB
5 MPH sport bike?
My reliable neighbor reported that a guy with his girlfriend on a Kawasaki Ninja rode up the BDB  on Sunday afternoon, making his way through the dogs and kids, and then stopping for awhile to take some pictures.
 Two questions:
What the hell was he thinking?
Why didn't somebody call the police?

I've seen scooters on the bridge, but never a sport bike, though I've heard that riding the bridge on motorcycles is not an infrequent late-night occurrence.

Cervelo Leaving Competitive Cyclist
Cervelo has made a decision to withdraw their product from on-line retailers, including Competitive Cyclist. Read more about it at "What's New" . Be sure to check out some of the comments. If you don't regularly read Brendan's blog, read on down. It's good stuff. 

I've got mixed emotions about this kind of business decision. One side of me says that bikes demand the kind of local service that shops provide, but the other side asks, if you don't have a local outlet for what you want or if you choose not to do business with them, why shouldn't you be able to shop elsewhere? Competitive Cyclist isn't a discount store and they give excellent service to an international clientele by adding value, so they would seem to be the best kind of internet retailer. Needless to say, the bike business isn't the only industry trying to figure out how to best deal with consumers. The knowledge and the high level of customer service available from on line retailers today challenges local specialty stores of all kinds to sharpen their game while smart comsumers are getting great values.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Another Dog Tale (No Biting!)

Pop Quiz: What do these dog breeds have in common?
Golden Retriever






Have you given up, yet? Think about's coming to you....

The correct answer is: Willie

My man, Willie, shown here cooling off in a creek at Camp Robinson during a mountain bike escort run. He loves to run the trails, but at home, he's a Mama's boy.

Last Thanksgiving, we adopted Willie, a rescue dog that was purported to be Border Collie and who was still recovering from a badly shattered leg that he had suffered six months prior. We'd lost Diane's beloved Josie a few months earlier and we decided it was time for another dog. Our little Aussie mix Zuli also needed a pal, so Willie came into our lives. We speculated at length on his ancestry and my opinion was that he was most likely a cattle dog/terrier blend. We continued to speculate until one day Diane read an article about DNA testing to determine the genetic make-up of mutts. The subject came up a few more times, so I dropped by the  CARE  office one day and picked up the testing kit.  We swabbed Willie and sent his sample off to the lab. Two weeks later, we got Willie's report. While chatting with the volunteer at C.A.R.E. as I  purchased the kit, she had mentioned that one dog tested had been the product of seven different breeds. Willie came up one short of the local record with six. Yes, we are the proud owners of a purebred Golden Retriever-Beagle-Chihuahua-Dachshund-Maltese-Poodle, and we have the papers to prove it.

Willie is the product of several generations of artfully indiscriminate breeding and we couldn't be prouder! He is one very fine dog.