Friday, November 30, 2012

Big Dam Bridge Foundation Full Moon Walk

The BDB Foundation Full Moon Walk took place on Sunday night and, though it was a few days ahead of the full moon, it was a beautiful moonlit night and a large crowd took advantage of the mild weather to walk off a little Thanksgiving excess.
Diane and I chose to park at the Arkansas Surgical Hospital and walk to the bridge by way of the Pfeifer Loop. Though we were equipped with headlamps, we did not need them as the moon provided plenty of illumination for the walk through the woods.

Crowds of walkers were turned loose from each end of the bridge as music blared and announcers streamed lively banter.
The lights on the Big Dam Bridge make for a striking scene and walkers crowded the deck.
 The moon was not quite full, but it was bright enough for a walk on Pfeifer Loop.
 Garver, the local engineering firm that designed the BDB and Two Rivers Bridge, was represented by the lovely Mrs. JBar and Bert Parker. Bert is also on the BDB Foundation board and was busily greeting walkers as he handed out small flashlights to walkers.
Thanks got out to the BDB Foundation. This event always brings out a lot of folks, many of whom are seeing the BDB at night for the first time. Many local residents are still unaware of the amazing asset that is the River Trail system, so anything that introduces people to our backyard wonder is a very positive thing!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Big Dam Bridge is Open!

The towers have been installed on the ramps and the BDB is open for all of you holiday riders. I spoke to the electricians on Monday and they will be back at some fututre date to install lighting.

Cleaning Off The Desktop

I've been a bit of a slacker as a writer of late, but, hey, I'm just one man, and working for free, at that, so  don't start complaining. Not that I've had complaints, but I know that it could start at any time, so I'll try to throw a little bit of something for everybody out there.

I'm always on alert for article ideas, some of which actually hit the blog and some of which seem to languish on my desktop, never getting enough meat on the bones to stand on their own. Most have at least some small merit as news or entertainment, so I'll sweep them off of the desktop and onto this space.

It's still dry, but a glorious fall, nonetheless!
Fall colors provide background for the new tower on the BDB's southwest ramp.
Fall usually brings rain, which motivates us to load the kayaks and head off into the Ozarks; however, our ongoing drought means that the creeks have been dry and we have been satisfied circling Central Arkansas. As reports of spectacular colors rolled in from the north, we thought we might have missed the show, but almost overnight the muted colors of our local leaves got an intensity boost. I'm sure that there are prettier places, but the scenes along the Arkansas River Trail are hard to beat.
The Arkansas Queen locked through with a load of sightseers on a recent Saturday morning.
Hill country beauty in the heart of town.
The Society Page
I usually leave wedding photos to the Dem-Gaz High Profile section, but local cyclists Sarah Miller and Frank Webber tied the knot last week as the Quapaw Quarter United Methodist Church. Following the wedding, guests were treated to an elegant reception at the Downtown Women's Club that featured catering by The Pantry, a candy buffet, a popcorn bar, a Jack Daniels coke float bar, a photo booth and a jumpin' bluegrass band. Diane has commented that the only way that she got me to attend my own wedding was by having it at my house on the river, so it's high praise when I say that this wedding was a blast!
 Frank and Sarah made the rounds to visit with their guests.
That fancy dress did not slow Sarah on the dance floor.
Congratulations to the bride and groom, and thanks for including us in the celebration! The Quapaw Quarter Church was struck by lightning the next day, blowing a chimney to pieces. That's quite an exclamation point on the heels of the big event. 
Buddy's Picnic Grounds
Judge Buddy Villines announced plans for a picnic area on this spot, the former location of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Single Track Mind: The Joy of Being Willie
Diane and I have two very mixed breed dogs, Zuli and Willie. Zuli is still frisky at 12-years old and Willie is in his prime at about 3. Both love to get out and run, but while Zuli slows to a trot after a bit these days, Willie can maintain a full-on gallop for miles. The only place that he really gets to do that without getting called back is out on the trails of Camp Robinson with me trying to hold his (w)heel on my mountain bike.
Willie knows that as long as my wheels are rolling, he can simply run the trail. It's pure joy as he stays about 20 yards ahead of me at a steady 10 MPH. I wish I shared his zeal for the run!
My neighbor has named Willie the "squirrel missile", and he'll make an occasional launch off of the trail to make sure that those critters are chased up into the trees where they belong.
Cooling the paws and hydrating along the Airport Loop.
Thanks go out to the CARP crew and others who have been doing trail work at Camp. While a blanket of leaves still covers some of the more remote trails, miles of the more frequently used loops are clean and in fantastic shape as seen in the photo above.
PopUp Main Street/ Color Run
South Main was temporarily transformed recently into a bike-friendly environment.
PopUp Main was not the only event downtown on that Saturday. These folks had just participated in the Color Run, an event in which runners are hosed with colored cornstarch powder as they compete in a 5K. It doesn't have to make sense to be fun!!
"Why me?" Oh, pity the poor little children. Well, that's not exactly how the conversation was going with our exuberant young friend, here. She had a blast!
FREE KITTENS WITH BIKE RENTAL!! ..or maybe, a free bike rental with kitten.
At Fike's Bikes River Trail Station, the resident cat recently produced a litter of four kittens. Amos and this little guy were relaxing as the other kitties romped around as kittens do. David needs to find home for the young ones, so, if you're in the market for a cat......  The momma cat is a black and white and smallish. Other than this handsome tabby, the kittens nicely marked somewhat like their mom.
I'm off to get ready for all of the chores leading up to the big Thursday feast. I hope that all of you enjoy family, friends, good food, and some quality miles over the weekend. I plan to!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rider Down: Diane McConnell

Last Saturday, local rider Diane McConnell was struck by a car while riding on Kavanaugh Boulevard in Little Rock and seriously injured. She remains hospitalized in critical condition. There's little that we can do to help Diane at this time, but we can try encourage city officials to make the streets of Little Rock safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

Follow the link below to and add you name to the growing number of Central Arkansas cyclists pushing for safe streets.

Little Rock Public Works Department: Improve Kavanaugh, Markham, and Capitol Ave. by installing sharrows.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Report from the November BACA Meeting

Diane and I headed to the Capital Hotel for last Thursday night's BACA meeting. The shift from the long-tine venue of the Oyster bar to that of the Capital Hotel has certainly changed the feel of this get-together. We pulled up to the front door a little early, turned our car over for valet parking, and then eased in to join friends for beverage in the stylish Capital Bar and Grill. When set for a meeting, the nearby ballroom is much better than the O-Bar, in that everyone can actually see and hear what is going on up front.

Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines was on the agenda, as was Lorie Tudor from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. Buddy is a long-time builder of bridges and supporter of cycling infrastructure, so his appearance is no surprise, and he usually has some news about new initiatives or projects that are of interest to the alternative transportation crowd. Lorie's presentation, on the other hand, represented a bit of a shift in that the AHTD has historically been all about cars and trucks, while accommodations for cyclists and pedestrians have been largely ignored.

BACA president Tim McCuen presided over the program that included Willa Williams giving an update on the RR Spur trail development in NLR and announcing some opportunities for riders to begin training for League of American Bicyclists instructor certification.
Ron King spoke about his Recycle Bikes for Kids initiative and showed off an oversized $7500.00 check. The check was presented to Ron at the recent annual meeting of Garver, LLC, and was the result of memorials donated in the name of Brock Johnson, who passed away recently. Brock was the president of Garver, a good friend of Ron's and a supporter of cycling in Central Arkansas.

photo by Kelly Quinn
Ron King accepts a big check from BACA President Tim McCuen, as Paula Johnson looks on, at the recent Garver, LLC annual meeting. This memorial will help put a lot of kids on bikes. Brock would like that!
Recycle Bikes for Kids has given away 740 bikes so far this year, and will give away 500 more by year end. Ron gather bikes from wherever he can find them and refurbishes them to be given away. He also has a program so that adults can exchange work days for bikes. Most of the adults are homeless and the bikes serve as primary transportation. Ron has work sessions on Tuesday evenings and Saturdays. Give him a call at (501)952-4581 if you have a bike or some free time to donate!
Judy Lansky discussed plans for the November 25 Big dam Bridge Foundation's Full Moon Walk. Assuming good weather, the Full Moon Walk is a great way to introduce some friends to the wonder that is the Big Dam Bridge at night! Judy also started warming us up for Bike-to-Work Day, which will take place in May.
Gordon Fisher announced the annual Jingle Bell Ride to take place on December 1, which will head over to the state Capitol lighting and will include a stop at Diamond Bear Brewery for photos and the possibility of a sample. I would appreciate it if someone could share details or a link in the comments section below!
Judge Buddy Villines shows a rendering of a sculpture celebrating a family walking and riding, which is to be installed at Two Rivers Park. Donations will be accepted and sponsors names will be added to brick pavers. 
Judge Villines always has some words of wisdom to share and usually has a project or two up his sleeve and this was no exception. He picked up on the discussion of the RR Spur trail, which goes from Levy in NLR to Camp Robinson, and said that when that trail is complete, Pulaski County intends to extend it to reach Sherwood and Jacksonville. He mentioned that since May, over 250,000 people had crossed the Two Rivers Bridge and that since August, when counters were put in place, 127,000 had crossed the Big Dam Bridge. Numbers like that should put to rest any questions about the value of those projects. Bids have been let recently for a plaza near the restrooms in Two Rivers Park, and plans are underway for a family picnic area at the site of the old Coast Guard station near River Mountain Road.
The Judge also mentioned some big plans or ideas for the planned new Broadway Bridge, but he was keeping his cards close on that. There was a mention in the newspaper of a proposal to paint the bridge red, white, and blue, but I think that Buddy has bigger plans than paint!
Lorie Tudor of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department laid out an initiative to pull Arkansas up in the bike friendly rankings.
Arkansas's ranking of 50th out of 50 in terms of Bike friendly states may have been a blessing in disguise, as it got the attention of Governor Mike Beebe. An upset Beebe called together an advisory group of various department heads from AHTD, the Arkansas State Police, Dept. of Health, Parks and Tourism, and the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards. Their purpose was to assess our current status and to make recommendations on how to move forward.
As a result, there will be a Bike/Pedestrian Technical Advisory Committee formed that will oversee things such as adding cycling law information to the state drivers licence study guide and exam, add in-service and recruit training for law enforcement personnel, and to work closely with the AHTD and with Parks and Tourism, which are seen as the key agencies as far as infrastructure is concerned. Funding has also been set aside to develop a statewide bicycle plan to include legislation and enforcement, policies and programs, education, planning and infrastructure.
Lorie provided a lot more information than I can relate here in my world of quasi-journalism, but let's just say that things appear to be moving in the right direction. One of the most telling statements was when Lorie quoted the AHTD director as saying something to the affect of  "Transportation isn't just about moving cars and trucks. It's about moving people." Sounds obvious, but it represents a change within what has often been called the "Department of Cars and Trucks" by cycling advocates.

Thanks to the Capital Hotel for hosting BACA. We stuck around to visit while enjoying another beer and a burger in the Grill, miking for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. I believe that Diane is going to start thing of BACA meetings as a date night. That works for me!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Weekend Flash: Street and Trail

Little Rock's South Main Street Transformed!
PopUp Main Street
Temporarily, anyway. At Thursday night's BACA meeting, Mason Ellis made a presentation about PopUp Main Street , an effort to show the city what SoMa could be like with traffic calming measures, bike lanes, outdoor dining, and a dog park, among other urban quality-of-life amenities. With cooperation from the City and many local businesses, hay bales were hauled in to create a median, traffic lanes were closed, bike racks and art pieces were installed, bike lanes were marked, food trucks were invited, and bands booked, all for a weekend-long event to which you are invited! As I understand, the creative folks at studioMain did the design work.

Here's a site map of PopUp Main Street.
A schedule of events follows. Drop on by and be a part of this exciting project. The set needs you and your bike to make it complete!
Friday, November 9th
6:00-9:00 pm Oxford American serves food samples
6:00- 9:00 pm Loblolly Creamery serves drinks at Bernice Gardens
7:00-9:00 pm Cons of Formant perform at Bernice Gardens (Amanda will meet the band to set up)
*The Root Café will be staying open late with a limited menu (6-9pm)
Saturday, November 10th
9:00 am Meet at StudioMain to empty trash, set up vendors, outdoor seating, etc.
10:00 am Vendors Open, Dog Park Opens, Rock Wall Opens*
11:00 am- 1:00 pm Oxford American serves food samples
11:00 am- ?? Food Trucks for lunch/dinner throughout the day
4:00 pm Rock Wall Closes
5:00 pm Vendors Close, Dog Park Closes
5:00-9:00 pm DJ King Julian spins the 1s and 2s at Bernice Gardens
6:00 -9:00 pm Loblolly Creamery serves drinks at Bernice Gardens
6:00- 9:00 pm Oxford American serves food samples
CARP Camp Robinson Work Day: Sunday, November 11, 1:30PM
Get out of your skinny jeans and grab your tools and mountain bike for some single-track and trail work at Camp.
I know of a couple of groups that were already planned to ride at Camp Robinson on Sunday, so it should be a big day if the rain holds off. The trails need riding almost as much as they need tool work, so come on out, get your ride on and then work a little.
 Don't forget that you need a Sportsman Pass. If you hurry, you can get one before 6PM on Friday.
Here's the lowdown from Basil Hicks III:
Camp Robinson Mountain Bike Trails Work Day
Sunday, November 11, 2012, from 1:45 – 5:00 PM
We will meet Sunday at 1:45 PM at the CARP Parking Area.
The plan is to work in groups of three.
Basil Hicks is bringing two walk behind weed eaters, two backpack leaf blowers and a couple of loppers and a saw.
That is about enough for 4 groups of three if we add a couple of loppers and saws.
If you can bring your own equipment, please do so.
There is plenty to do at Camp, and we need all the help we can get.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

BDB Ramp Tower Update and Pavement Report

Progress has been rapid in the raising of the decorative towers on the south ramps of the BDB. The SW ramp was closed Tuesday night, but the tower is in place and is visible in the left of the photo above. The SW ramp is scheduled to be closed from Nov. 12-21 for tower installation, but I cannot imagine that there is 10 days of work left to complete the project. That's a good thing, and the sunset view isn't bad, either!

The southeast ramp was scheduled to have been closed Nov. 5- Nov. 9, but the tower was up and the ramp open on Tuesday night.
Our experience has been that construction schedules for River Trail projects have been very conservative, allowing plenty of time for delays due to weather and river conditions, resulting in earlier-than-expected completions. That appears to be the case for the towers, as well, though I con only speculate on the time required for wiring and light installation.
Resamen Park Road: Silk
There are few sensations better for a road bike rider than wheels rolling across fresh, smooth asphalt. My sampling of the new pavement on Rebsamen Park Road did not disappoint. Striping was incomplete and it was dark, so I just jumped off the trail for a short stretch of road, but it is sweet!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bike Advocacy Meeting:Thursday, November 8

Here is an opportunity to hear about efforts within state government to lift Arkansas from our current rank of 50th in "bicycle friendliness" as rated by the league of American Bicyclists. The very fact that the speaker is from the AHTD and is reporting on the efforts of the Governor's Bicycle Advisory Group says that we are making progress, at least in terms of perception, at the state level.
And it's always good to hear from Judge  Buddy Villines!

This from Joe Jacobs:

Thursday, November 8th, 2012 at 6:30pm - 8pm at the Capital Hotel Ballroom.

We'll be hearing about the current status of several cycling/transportation projects in central Arkansas including an announcement from Judge Buddy Villines.

Our featured speaker will be Lorie Tudor of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.

Lorie will be speaking to us about the Governor's Bicycle Advisory Group and presenting the report that this group of state agencies made to Governor Beebe. Find out what state government is doing to address our recent showing of 50th in the League of American Bicyclist 2012 Bicycle Friendly States ranking. Her presentation will be followed by a short question and answer period.

We'll see you there.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Big Dam Bridge Ramp Closures

The three approach ramps of the Big Dam Bridge will each be closed for a period of time over the next few weeks to allow for the installation of decorative towers similar to those on the main deck. The bridge will remain open during the construction, but will be closed to crossing traffic from 7AM, November 12-4:00PM November 21, when the north ramp tower is being installed. 

Commuters beware! The closure of the north ramp will preclude crossing the BDB during the tower installation period!
Each of the south ramps will also be closed for a period of time, but those installations will not prevent crossings of the bridge.
Here's the schedule for folks who refuse to read signs:
        Southeast Ramp: November 5-9  
        North Ramp and Southwest Ramp: November 12-21  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thursday Update: Dark, lights, road work, work station, trails

Out in the dark

The sunsets just keep getting closer to quitting time, leaving far too little time for riding before darkness sets in. This coming Sunday, things will take a decided turn for the worse with the return to that sucky stuff called "standard time", which was placed into the American experience by the railroads. Time had been kept by the rising and setting of the sun and/or some local standard such as a clock in a town square, but railroads couldn't deal with it being 7:00 in one town and 7:16 at the next town down the line. The result is a necessary convenience in our so-very-connected world, but I digress. I could go for year 'round Daylight Savings Time, but the reality of living in the northern temperate zone is that days get shorter in the winter. Unless you are retired or work some undesirable shift, post-work rides are already ending after dark, and so require some sort of light. Fortunately, the technology of bicycle headlights has progressed rapidly in recent years with improvements in LED emitters and Lithium Ion batteries for ~$120-150.00, you can get a self-contained, USB chargeable,500-600 lumen (bright!) headlight that is more than adequate for a couple of hours on the River Trail. To get the same light output even 5 years ago, we were looking at spending $500.00 and lugging a battery pack weighing half as much as a nice road bike.
The latest generation of bike lights is compact, self-contained, and bright!

Any of our local bike shops have such lights in stock by Light and Motion, Serfas or Cateye.
Note: The electronics on some lights can conflict with older wireless computers. If you use old stuff like I do, it may be worth testing a light with your cycle computer.

Dress For Success
I've already written about gathering your winter bits for riding in cold weather. The problem is often knowing what to wear for any given condition. Even with experience, it is easy to be fooled into wearing too little after stepping out on a bright sunny morning, or overdressing when faced with a dreary overcast one. I suggest keeping notes. I keep a ride log and include weather data and, in winter, notes on what I wore for the conditions. An entry might look like this:
37-51 NW 10, sun, Pi tights, 2x ls base, jacket, ear band, shoe covers
That was from last Saturday. It was 37 degrees at the start, 57 at the finish, wind was NW at around 10MPH. I wore 2 long sleeve base layers (very light), my Pearl Izumi tights ( I have several weights of tights), cycling jacket, ear band, and shoe covers..
I also note whether my choice was too warm, cold, etc. The result is that I can refer back to my log and almost always pick the right gear for the next ride's forecast.That may be a little much for many of you, but I seldom miss the mark on comfort.

One of my many self-penned old sayings is: Dress for the thermometer, not for the calendar.
If it's 80 degrees in December, it's still 80 degrees. If it's 50 in September, I'm pulling on my knee warmers.

Rebsamen Park Road Repaving
Rolling out the hot asphalt!
The City of Little Rock has been under fire for failing to deliver on many promises made to the cycling community. I won't enumerate those shortcomings at this time; instead, I'll commend them for following through on a promise to make a priority of the resurfacing of Rebsamen Park Road. The existing bikes lanes were pot-holed and littered with debris, which drove cyclist into the traffic lanes for some measure of safety. Hopefully, the newly paved and marked surface will make things better for drivers and cyclists alike as we share the road.
Two Rivers Park Work Station

The new bike repair station is in place at Two Rivers Park.

Camp Robinson

This large fallen tree makes a natural arch over Flatlands Loop.
I took a day off on Monday to take care of a few small chores and to ride at Camp Robinson for the first time this season. I rode 10 Bridges, Airport Loop, Buddha, Ball of Nails, Flatlands Loop, Elevator, and Outer Loop. The trail surfaces were remarkably clear and in good shape. As usual, falling leaves are covering the trails, obscuring them in places, but the surfaces are hard-packed and recent dry weather means there is very little mud and the water crossings are easily dealt with. The only thing that this trail system really needs is more traffic! You can revisit access information here.