Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fire Retrorockets!!

This ol' spaceship is flying through spring and heating up on the way! For some reason, I don't think I'm alone in feeling like we're hurtling through spring at an outrageous pace! It's still March and our daffodils have come and gone, dogwoods have been in bloom for a week or two, the irises are magnificent, and I've mowed the yard three weeks in a row. I'm resisting breaking out the sleeveless jerseys because I know I'll be rotating through that limited selection all summer long. It's nice having some May in March, but it makes me wonder what the summer will bring.

 Saturday in the boat

 The weather has been perfect for riding except for a couple of days of flooding rain and I've had a hard time staying off the bike, but Saturday was a textbook day for boating. Diane and I had invited our new friend Carol to join us in kayaking the Cossatot River, so we headed out early to meet friends and arrange a shuttle.
 The Cossatot Falls can be a challenge for unskilled boaters, but are hard to beat for scenery, particularly on days like this.

The water and the day were nothing short of spectacular, and we hooked up with some new friends from Texas and Little Rock boater Gordon Kumpuris. Once on the river, it was old home week for Diane and me as we ran into a lot of old friends from around the region. Blue skies and predictable high water combine into a magnetic force that draws enthusiasts from anywhere within a day's drive to the rivers of the Ouachitas and Ozarks.
Diane in an eddy in the middle of Cossatosser, one of six named drops in the falls. The others are Eye Opener, BMF, the Washing Machine, Whiplash, and Shoulder Bone.
Yep, this is how I roll! Carol, left, is a very accomplished boater who claims to have lost a bit of her edge. Knowing that scouting leads to doubting, I successfully discouraged her from looking at the drops in Cossatot Falls before she successfully ran them all.

I had told our Texas companions that we often saw bald eagles on the lower Cossatot in the winter and that perhaps we were still early enough to catch a glimpse of one. As we approached the take out, Diane called our attention to a mature eagle circling above the Hwy. 278 bridge, marking the end of a textbook day on the Cossatot River.
The day of hard play on the river left me tired to the bone. Many folks assume that boating is all about the upper body, but you're literally joined to the boat at the hip, so active playboating takes a toll on your core and lower body.

Sunday on the bike

I was a slow moving machine on Sunday morning, laying in bed well past awakening as I savored the feeling that comes with well-earned exhaustion, but the draw of sunshine soon pulled me out. I eased out on the bike, subconsciously blowing off my ambitions for a long ride as I met up with my buddy Sam and cruised out to Two Rivers Park. Sam had commitments, so I soon found myself out on Pinnacle Valley Road, somewhat committed to my favored Barrett-Garrison Loop.

I stopped in at Pinnacle State Park for water and noticed this guy doing some amazingly acrobatic stuff. His name is Reggie and he's been practicing martial arts for 23 years, since the age of 8. I watched and took a few photos of his workout and was blown away by his abilities.

As I headed out Barrett Road, I spotted another bike approaching on Hwy 300. It turned out to be Stephen Tucker and Meredith on their tandem. Meredith had had a tough week and threatened to simply unclip and open a beer.
It's easy to find rural scenery within easy riding distance of the city.

About 35 miles into my ride, I felt like I had overreached but I was still over 20 miles from home and the hills of Pleasant Valley were faced with a little dread. The ride was not particularly long or hard, but I had started the day in a state of moderate exhaustion. The result was a satisfying but totally draining effort that ended with a hot shower, a tall glass of chocolate milk and a nap in a recliner on the porch before I could muster the energy to cook some real food and start my recovery. Good stuff, and a reminder of the range of outdoor opportunities that we have here in Central Arkansas. Just get on the bike a choose a direction.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thieving A-Hole Alert!!

 These lovelies are thieves. Photo from Arkansas Times site.

There were reports this morning in both the Dem-Gaz and on the Arkansas Times blog about two women who have been breaking into cars at Two River, BDB and elsewhere. Let's see if we can help catch the bitches!
Follow the link to the Times blog to get the details on the car they are thought to be driving. Let's be alert. If you see these gals, call LRPD Detectives at 918-3532.and snap a photo or two to put them at the scene. Car break-ins have been an ongoing problem along the River Trail, with many occurring in broad daylight with many people around. As a community, we can help change the impression that we're easy pickings by aiding the police in catching the scumbags.

Update: Minden reports they are now believed to be driving a silver 2012 Chevrolet Equinox, with Georgia plate number BVS3641.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Quick Monday Trail Update: Receding Waters

As of Sunday afternoon, the North Little Rock River trail was ridable, though use of the NorthShore-Cunningham Lake Trails was required to bypass the still-flooded section at the S-turn bridge, and the trail along Victory Lake remained covered with mud, demanding use of the road through Burns Park.
NLR Parks crews had been out since early Sunday morning clearing mud from sections of the River Trail.
After most of the slick river silt was scraped off by use a a Bobcat and shovels, the pressure washer provided the finishing touch.

The NLR Parks crews seemed to be enjoying the day as much as anyone, in spite of the fact that they were working on Sunday. I made it a point to stop and thank them. The upcoming week looks to be perfect riding weather!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Trail Report

We got another bump of rain along the Arkansas River valley last night, but according to the latest river stage data the Arkansas is cresting Friday night and should begin to recede barring more rain or water releases upstream. 

 I've only seen the gates wide open a few times over the years, though I'm told by a more informed authority that they are opened fairly often for short periods of time.

 Parts of the trail are inaccessible, but I don't expect the water to get to the foot of the bridge.

On Friday afternoon, the River Trail was flooded below the BDB, but I assume that the North Shore Trail would allow you to get as far as the gate into Burns Park from the deer fields, where water was already bottom bracket deep last night according to man in the field Mike Collier. At some stages, though the trail is flooded, you can bump through the field and reach Burns Park. The road from Cook's Landing to the BDB was also flooded, so I rode the levee, which is grass and hard packed dirt. Once across the Big Dam Bridge, everything on the Little Rock side and Two Rivers Park is dry. Should be a great weekend, so hit the road!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Flooding On the Trail

Expect flooding for the next few days along the North Little Rock River Trail. Water was on the trail in a few places Thursday evening, and rising rapidly. The S-turn bridge was well under water by the time I passed, as was the trail near Victory Lake, but the Cunningham Lake / North Shore Trail was open, as was the road past the dog park. I would not expect that to last. I would expect the trail to be impassable just west of the soccer fields and the gate to the deer field, as it is known, at the least, so be flexible in your ride plans. The river is supposed to crest Saturday if we don't get much more rain, so expect flooding through the weekend. Consider it an opportunity to learn your way around Crystal Hill Road.
This is just the beginning of this trail flooding event.

Some of the extended high-water periods of past years have temporarily reshaped the cycling community by isolating riders or forcing them to change their routine due to trail and bridge closures. It really made for some fun pick-up rides with folks that you know or have seen around but don't normally ride with.
Be careful. Look out for snakes if you ride through water. I didn't see any snakes, but I did see a lot of bugs being flooded out of the grass and a big carp swimming next to the trail.

Spokes Brings Felt Bike Demo

The bike builders seem to all have their demo rigs out on the road and Felt is no exception. The fine folks at Spokes will be hosting a Felt bike demo at the NLR submarine this Saturday and, as I understand, they'll have something for everybody, from "lifestyle" bikes to mountain and road rigs.
Here is the lowdown from Regina Seelinger of Spokes:

Are you ready for FELT'S RIDE AND BELIEVE FACTORY DEMO TOUR? It's happening this Saturday, March 24th, 10:00-4:00, Submarine/River Queen parking area, 100 Riverfront Park Drive, NLR. Felt will provide a wide range of bicycles with on-site Felt staff to answer questions. Please bring your helmet, pedals, shoes, photo ID, and a credit card. FELT...the most sought after bikes in the world!

These bike demos are a great opportunity to ride your dream bike or just to get a taste of current technology. I was about to suggest that in addition to your helmet, pedals, shoes and photo ID that you take a fresh credit card, but I see that Regina covered that.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Heart Of The Ozarks In The Heart Of Town

When the rain stopped Wednesday afternoon, I was more than ready to get on the bike, but with the streets wet and a few stray showers still around, I decided to go for a little hike. Diane got home as I was readying to go, so she joined me for a little stroll from the end of River Road near the quarry along the North Little Rock River Trail. Hidden from view in a gap in the cliff face is a trail up a fern lined ravine through which a small wet weather stream falls. Once on the trail, when the sound of running water drowns out the sounds of traffic, it is easy to believe that you're far from the city.
This spider wort was thriving along with the poison ivy.
These were two of a series of three falls near the top of the trail.

The trail is easily followed, though steep and a little slick when wet, but it's easy to give in to the temptation to climb down to the stream bed below for a different perspective. I'm sure that most of the time it would be fairly easy to climb up the creek, but we had a pretty good flow. Of course, the little waterfalls are why we were there.
This side stream made effective but very slick steps. 

This little gorge is tucked between the River Trail and Fort Roots. In between the industrial remnants of the quarry and the VA facility is a neat little microcosm of green. The old ruins of the quarry machines and structures add some interesting shapes to the area and also deserve exploration.

Sometimes when exploring the wilds it's possible to discover ancient temples or shrines. I think this is a temple to that most powerful god, KRYLON.
This is where roadside litter stops on its way to the beach. 
A portion of the mural by artist VL Cox reflected in a pool of rain water.

There are many little havens like this around town, some that I know about and I'm sure many that I don't. It's fun to get out and explore your own backyard from time to time.  It's a pleasure to enjoy a little walk in the Ozarks 10 minutes from home.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Immediate Hazard And A Troubling Report

This utility construction on North Street presents yet another hazard to riders passing by the Episcopal Collegiate campus

Yes, it's been less than a week since a cyclist was struck by a car ( read details at Tim McCuin's MoveArkansas blog) as she tried to negotiate the patchwork of sidewalks, one-way streets, and driveways that represent a bike route past Episcopal Collegiate and then on Sunday, we were greeting with this hazard. As I stopped to take this photo, a pair of cyclists approached from the east and Diane noticed that one of the riders flatted as her wheel struck the edge of the steel plates.

Adding Insult to Injury

While I'm still awaiting details, a reliable source told me that recently a cyclist was struck by the mirror of a passing car on Resamen Park Road. The "insult" part came when the cyclist, who was not seriously injured, was held responsible for the incident because he was riding too far out into the traffic lane. Hmmm...what about that state law requiring that motorists allow 3 feet when overtaking a cyclist on the road?   Here's the statute on passing cyclists:
27-51-311. Overtaking a bicycle.
(a) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle
proceeding in the same direction on a roadway shall
exercise due care and pass to the left at a safe distance of
not less than three (3) feet and shall not again drive to the
right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken
(b)(1) A person who violates this section shall be
subject to a fine not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100).
(2) A person who violates this section with the
violation resulting in a collision causing death or
serious physical injury to the person operating the
overtaken bicycle shall be subject to a fine not to
exceed one thousand dollars ($1000) in addition to
any other penalties prescribed by law

This is likely what would be relied upon to find the cyclist at fault:

32-489. Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.
Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall
ride as near as to the right-hand side of the roadway as
practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing
vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction. Persons
riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two
(2) abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside
for the exclusive use of bicycles. Whenever a usable path
for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway
bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the

(Code 1961, § 39-117)

Given the usual condition of the bike lane on Resamen Park Road, I'm curious as to what standard was applied to determine how far right is "practicable".  I hope for some follow-up on this incident. I did find that a police report was filed but have not elected to spend 12.50 in order to satisfy my curiosity.

On the brighter side...
The bypass trail west of the BDB has been patched. This temporary trail will not meet the same standards as permanent construction, but thanks to the folks at Pulaski County for responding to the need for repairs.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hey, Ladies: More Giant/ ACF Action Just for You!

Quick lunch hour post:

The folks at Arkansas Cycling and Fitness are wooing the ladies all week! The weather looks sketchy for the rides, but the Monday evening event is indoors at the Little Rock store and looks to include some good learning opportunities. Their Sherwood location is undergoing expansion and remodeling right now, though Dan and the crew are doing their best to continue to serve customers through the process.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

'Tis The Season

Well, spring has swept down upon us in full force here in Central Arkansas, with heat and humidity more like May than March, flowers abloom, pollen covering everything, and riders taking to the local trails and roads in droves.
With that surge comes the usual list of complaints from walkers about cyclists, cyclists about oblivious walkers and , of late, equestrians feeling that they are getting short shrift as complaints come in to local authorities about horse poop on various trails. I was a little curious when I noticed that an article posted here early last fall had suddenly shot to the top of my "most visited" list. I had been contacted by the NLR Parks folks about mountain bikers' view on horse manure on the Burns Park trails, so I knew there was an ongoing discussion, but I didn't realize that it was actually coming before the NLR City Council. Most of the debate centered on whether the pile in the photo used for the article was a natural deposit or a composite. I will say that it is an awesome pile of poo, but Bike Nerds have better things to do than doctor up feces photos. I will also say that in my informal survey, local mountain bikers were very supportive of the horsemen and appreciate the fact that we share the trail. In spite of my somewhat snarky article, I find that riders of horses and mountain bikes get along very well here, which is not the case everywhere. In many places, horsemen fight to keep mountain bikes off of what they consider to be "their" trails, resulting in ill will between the factions. I think that we can all get along with a little mutual consideration.

Some folks would say that a busy Saturday is not the best time to ride horses on the paved trails of Two Rivers Park. I don't have a problem with it, but the horse community will have to take the complaints that will certainly arise from some faction, just as cyclists do.
No matter how well-behaved horses and horsemen are, they will get complaints over scenes like this. Cyclists generally leave no trace behind. Even mountain bikers.

Horsemen will have the same image problems resulting from scenes like this that cyclists suffer as the result of a few bad actors. Just as a racing cyclists can make an impression on trail users over miles along the trail, static reminders like manure on the trail can offend walkers for days. I'd rather see this than dog poop, but that sentiment is not universally shared.

Other Trail Hazards
Riders, walkers, and horsemen aren't the only critters drawn out by the spring weather, as our local cottonmouths and copperheads often find comfort on the sun-warmed asphalt of the trail.
I ran across this big cottonmouth in Two Rivers Park and encouraged him off the trail.
 A couple of hundred yards further on, I stopped to remove some sticks from the trail before realizing that one of the sticks was this fellow. The sticks had been placed by a walker as warning about the snake, who seemed determined to stay put.
Cottonmouths seem to range in temperament from cranky to aggressive and are not to be trifled with. Copperheads are more reclusive and much less likely to be seen, which can result in accidental encounters as people put a foot or hand in range of an unnoticed snake.

Two Rivers Plaza

Work is progressing nicely on the plaza at the foot of the Two Rivers Bridge, with the arrival of landscaping plantings and the installation of sprinkler and water systems.

I'm glad to see the water fountain in place.

Folks, we're bound to have the usual complaints and conflicts along the trail, so let's not take ourselves or others too seriously and just ride friendly. We've got some great resources to share and there is plenty of room for all of us.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Laying It Down: Fresh Asphalt

I mentioned last week that the climb to Fort Roots was being repaved. The job is done and the result is a more pleasant climb and the potential for flying descents.
Chuck and Bob doing some high speed posing for me.

Fresh blacktop makes for a sweet, sure feeling under the wheels.

Always be aware that Fort Roots is a VA medical facility and ride responsibly. The VA would prefer that large ride groups stop short of the gates.

BDB West Ramp Bypass 

The temporary bypass trail west of the BDB has deteriorated to the point that it resembles a gravel path. I contacted Sherman Smith with Pulaski County and he responded quickly that they are on it! If my experience with Sherman is any indication, we'll have smooth rolling very soon. This is a temporary trail and it is in an area that stays pretty wet, so I don't expect the trail to be much more than just serviceable. The new ramp should be open by fall.

Arkansas Cycling and Fitness Bike Demo Days; New Line At Spokes

 AC&F Giant Demo

Arkansas Cycling and Fitness will be offering you the chance to test ride Giant's line of road and mountain bikes this weekend at Burns Park.
From the ACF Facebook page:

The GIANT (men's) demo will be here on March 17th-18th! We will be in the parking lot by the boat launch on Tournament Drive, from 10am-4pm. Come out and test ride both mtn and road GIANT bikes! Please bring your ID, helmet, shoes and pedals. See you there!

 Details are at the  AC&F website  or you can find them on Facebook.

Spokes Now Offering Santa Cruz Mountain Bikes

Spokes has picked up the Santa Cruz bike line. Mat Seelinger said that they had frequent inquiries about Santa Cruz, particularly the carbon Tall Boy 29er, shown above.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Time To Ride

I did not feel that the administration of George W. Bush accomplished much that was positive in the area of national energy policy, other than to assure that we would continue be locked into an oil-based economy for a longer time, him being somewhat of a Texan and all, and in league with folks like Halliburton. I will say that I am thankful to W for one thing, though, and that is the extension of daylight savings time. I've heard the sad tales of children huddling at their bus stops in the dark and cold pre-dawn hours and I'm not too crazy about rolling out of bed in the dark myself; however, it is a SO worth it because it means an extra hour on the bike with no headlights required! I'm already looking forward to sweat-soaked bibs, 9:00 dinners, bug-coated legs, and oven-hot pavement, but before we get into the full-on summer mode, we get to enjoy a few weeks of conditions that we can call perfect. That means that the bike needs to be road-ready. If you've been riding through the winter and know everything works OK, at least clean your bike and take a few minutes to take a close look at your tires, cable ends, wheels and frame. Replace worn tires and chain if needed, clean and lube cables, and wrap the bars if your tape is looking nappy.

Freshly wrapped bars spruce up your cockpit. White tape is passe and black is all the rage in the ProTour these days. Of course, my bars were also black when white was totally in vogue.

I like to do most of my own work, but if you're not comfortable doing so, call up your favorite local shop to make an appointment for a bike tune-up. It's a little about safety and a lot about convenience and pleasure. It's no fun to ride a creaky, poorly shifting bike and it's even less fun to be stranded on the side of the road with a mechanical. I called three local shops, Spokes, Chainwheel, and Arkansas Cycling and Fitness, and found that a "tune-up" can cover a wide range of services from simple safety check with brake and derailleur cable adjustments to a complete bike tear-down and overhaul. Prices ranged from $40-110.00 depending on the level of service and type of bike. Expect to pay $60-80.00 to have cables adjusted, wheels trued, bearing preload adjusted, cables cleaned and lubed, etc. Right now, those shops have a backlog ranging from 2 days to a week, so plan ahead. Spokes's policy is to turn bikes around in 48 hours unless parts have to be ordered or there are other extraordinary circumstances. Those are only shops I called, but we got a door-hanger  today that included $20.00 off coupon for a "Spring Bike Cleaning and Tune-up" from J&P Bike Shop in Sherwood, and any of the other fine shops in town can provide that service. In fact, if you're at a shop not mentioned here, feel free to post your tune-up deal in the comments.
Take the time to get your bike ready for the season and, while you're at it, feel free to engage in a little retail therapy at the bike shop. Hmmm...I'd get the full season out of some new bibs if I shop now.....

Saturday, March 10, 2012

On Our Team: Bernadette Gunn Rhodes

I attended a meeting this past Monday of the North Little Rock Bike Friendly Community Committee, typed forever more as  "BFC" unless I can think of something shorter. Early in the meeting, chairman Charlie Hight announced that he was turning his role over to Bernadette Gunn Rhodes, NLR's Fit 2 Live Coordinator. I have been acquainted with Bernadette for some time due to her work with the committee, but, frankly, I did not really have a clear idea what she does in her primary job. I was interested in how she might approach leading the BFC efforts, so I contacted her and arranged a visit at her City Hall office. Bernadette was in the process of rearranging her office when I arrived, so we adjourned to a borrowed space for a visit. Bernadette is from Connecticut, received her degree from Middlebury College in Vermont, and most recently lived in Montana where she worked with the Montana Food Bank Network and other agencies. Her focus there was on helping to improve nutrition and to provide long-term solutions to hunger. She prefers to speak of "policy" rather than of "programs". Programs generally have an end date whereas policies continue.
When Bernadette and her fiance, now husband, made the decision to leave Montana,  Little Rock was a natural option since her husband is from here, but it was not assumed. When they considered moving to the area, her in-laws suggested to them that they move to North Little Rock, and the Argenta neighborhood was the deciding factor in their decision to move here. She loves the fact that she can walk to work and to area stores and restaurants, and has the River Trail close at hand. That's lifestyle, and precisely what makes developments such as the BDB, Clinton Park, and the entire River Trail system well worth the investment that has been made. Young, educated professionals will seek out a city that has such amenities and our local culture and economy are the better for it. 

You can follow the link above for more, but here is the short story of Fit 2 Live the city website:
 What is Fit 2 Live?
Fit 2 Live is an initiative created by the City of North Little Rock and North Little Rock School District in 2009 to address the obesity epidemic in our city and make the healthy choice the easy choice for our residents.
More than 1 in 3 children in North Little Rock are overweight or obese. If this epidemic is not reversed, we may be raising the first generation of Americans that will live shorter and sicker lives than their parents.

Bernadette Gunn Rhodes will be leading North Little Rock's efforts to achieve a Gold level Bike Friendly Community designation in addition to her many other duties.

My primary focus here is nominally cycling, but it bears mentioning that Fit 2 Live includes a wide range of program and policy efforts aimed at supporting a more healthy community. This includes community garden grants, of which my own neighborhood is an early recipient. Few of us have much sunny space to allow for raising produce and a neighbor offered up a vacant lot for use as a community garden. Zoning laws were amended to allow 4' fences and free-standing structures such as sheds and hoop houses in support of the gardens, and participants will also be allowed to sell their surplus produce if they wish. An employee wellness program has been put in place for the city, along with a proposed "Healthy Food Options" policy which will require that vending machines in city-owned rec centers, schools and workplaces have visible labels indicating the relative food value of the snacks. That honey bun may not look so tasty when there is a visible prompt indicating that it is a much worse choice that a granola bar . It's about helping people make the healthy choice. They're also partnering with the Boys and Girls Club by repairing the Club's pool in exchange for access to the pool for 250 kids who otherwise wouldn't have the resources to join. Just about anything that can get kids engaged in positive physical activity and better nutrition gets my approval.
Bernadette is also administering a Safe Routes to School grant  for the evaluation of areas where kids can best walk to school and will then educate children, staff and volunteers on safely riding or walking to school. The grant will allow for the purchase of a trailer and 24 bikes for use in bike training programs for kids. A program coordinator will be hired for a one year period to get this effort off the ground.
Rhodes does not consider herself to be a serious cyclist, though she regularly rode to work while living in Montana and likes to cruise on her cross-trail bike, preferably with a beautiful destination in mind and a picnic lunch on board. That said, she is serious about helping North Little Rock attain a gold level Bike Friendly Community designation from the League of American Bicyclists. I've been involved in a lot of discussions recently about the state of bicycle advocacy in Central Arkansas, and there has been some concern that cities are overly-focused on a fill-in-the-blank effort to achieve these designations at the expense of some more practical projects. I understand that concern, but my exposure to the BFC metrics leads me to believe that the LAB sets high but realistic standards for what makes a city bike friendly. In other words, meeting those standards will result in positive results for the cycling community as a whole.
One segment of the cycling population that Bernadette feels is underserved is that of utility cyclists, those folks who depend of bikes for primary transportation and are often at the low end of the economic spectrum. Many of our through streets are line with strip centers, have no shoulders or sidewalks, and are generally unsuitable for pedestrian or bike traffic. She sees traffic calming measures and bike lanes as necessary steps to give people non-automotive transportation choices, and, in order to better understand their needs, sees a need to engage in dialogue with those folks who rely on bikes to get around. Their needs should be the same as those riders who would like to commute by bike but that are fortunate enough to have other choices.
I'm glad to have Bernadette on board and I think that she has the right ideas for promoting transportation choices, along with wellness and nutritional options. It will be interesting to see how these ideas translate into asphalt and policy changes, but North Little Rock  has a good track record of getting things done. We can hope that the progress will continue after Mayor Pat Hays leaves office.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Big Weekend In Central Arkansas!!!

Jimmy Buffett Tailgate Party

Wow! What else can I say about this past weekend in the Little Rock area?! It was huge, and I didn't even participate directly in the two big events, the sold-out Jimmy Buffett concert and the Little Rock Marathon, though I did sniff around the edges of both. Things got started at 8:00AM Thursday when the gates opened for the Jimmy Buffett tailgate party along the flood wall in downtown North Little Rock. I've been to a lot of rock and roll shows, but I've never seen the city roll out the welcome like they did for the Jimmy Buffett circus-come-to-town! 20,000+ folks went full Parrothead long before the first notes were played in Verizon Arena. I didn't plan to go to the concert, but I wanted to check out the party. I didn't dare try to park anywhere close to downtown, so I rode from Burns Park after work and found festivities to be in full swing. A good vibe and spectacular weather set the background for what seemed like just a very large party among friends.

The crowd was large and lively in the warm-up for Buffett's show, and it was pretty easy to discern the veteran Parrotheads from one-day islanders. The heads above the crowd are those of two cyclists on VERY tall bikes. They had my respect, because I couldn't pedal through there without putting a foot down.
Why is this man smiling? Friend Chrissy Fox allowed me to hold her beer. Beware of Parrotheads bearing roses!

The Margaritaville Tailgate Party was hosted by The Buzz 103.7 radio, the City of North Little Rock, and the Chamber of Commerce among others, and it was a roaring feel-good success for Central Arkansas. Traffic was obviously going to be a mess, and folks were fairly warned to expect some inconvenience, so I was surprised to hear of a couple of grumbles about the River Trail being closed. It was easy to pop out on to Riverfront Drive and go to the Clinton Park Bridge, so trail traffic was only slightly rerouted. We'll have to deal with big events just like we deal with Riverfest; by the time we can get irritated about it, it's gone away, and the river front is a great place for a big party!
The outskirts! The crowds closer to the RV park to the west were too thick to navigate with a bike, but the street outside the flood wall was open.

I didn't stay for much of the party and didn't see the concert, but I'm still glad that Buffett came to town. It just felt good.

Little Rock Marathon

The marathon brings thousands of guests to central Arkansas and I think that they are almost always impressed. The event is run with precision, covers a challenging course, and gives the biggest damned medal that you ever saw! The neighborhoods along the route turn out and wrap much of the route with a festival atmosphere, though I was surprised at the lack of folks in the long flat stretch along Riverfront in Little Rock. Local rock star Leah Thorvilson won her fourth consecutive women's title and told the TV news that she'd been training her ass off and was ready for some beer. You go!
Along with a team of other local cyclists, I rode in escort of some of the runners. I'll admit to having ridden the entire course in previous years, visiting and encouraging my running friends along the way, but then two years ago, some of us were asked to escort the wheelchair and hand cyclists. That was well received and expanded, so that there are cyclists scattered along much of the course, helping keep inattentive folks from impeding the runners and also serving to quickly alert emergency personnel if they encounter a runner in need of assistance.
The bike escorts included, among many others, several riders from the Spokes mountain bike team. Somehow, Chris Randle is always front-and-center when the camera comes out. Robert and Bethany Mooney are ready to run and are probably telling these guys to stay the hell out of their way.

Bikes belong! MEMS also had EMTs on bikes at the Buffett party. I can't think of a better way to get a first responder to where one is needed in a crowded urban environment.
The start. Everybody was ready to go!

Fast forward to about mile 20. These two runners would finish first and third. I stuck with my guy to the finish, arriving to the cheers of the large crowd of race fans.Oh? They weren't cheering for me? OK.

I somehow failed to get any pictures of the finish, but close your eyes and visualize a large crowd of happy people, some of them quite tired, under clear blue skies. Nice!

Central Arkansas was just a very nice place to be over the last weekend. If you're local and you didn't enjoy it, then you just need to try a little bit harder!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Crosswinds Classic Photos

I posted a bunch of finish line photos from the Crosswinds Classic in a Facebook album. There were some issues with the scoring, so this may help some riders figure out where they really finished. Otherwise, just enjoy! I'll be glad to forward full size files if anybody wants them.