Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ride Log Entries: NR, NR, NR...

NR means "no ride". I had planned on logging some road miles and spending several afternoons on the mountain bike during the course on my Christmas-to-New Year vacation, but you likely know how that panned out! Instead, I've taken a few walks, built a snowman, napped, read, and have managed to eat on a near continuous basis. Being stuck close to home with limited exercise opportunities and a large supply of holiday fare has not been good for me. Knowing that my ride partners were dealing with the same challenges does serve as a bit of a consolation--most of them will be as fat and slow as I am when we resume normal activities.
This is what our Skyline Drive neighborhood looked like on Wednesday morning.
Normally, the I-30/I-40 junction is bumper-to-bumper on weekday morning.
Many of our neighbors lost power for a couple of days as trees crashed down on power lines. My in-laws are still in the dark as of Friday morning.
After the initial assessing of local damage and gazing in wonder at what 10" of fluffy snow looks like when draped over our familiar world, it was time get down to some serious business. We built snowmen! It started as Diane tried to find a place to put the snow that she was removing from her Subaru and escalated from there. We wondered where the neighborhood kids were, as we seemed to have an exclusive on the fun.
Diane went conventional with her snowmen. Willie and Zuli were just curious.
The is the MAN! The snow would not readily roll up, but I had other ideas, anyway, as this biped snow dude took shape.
Everyone wanted to be seen with this guy. Willie just likes to be in pictures.
 By Thursday night, this seemingly indomitable creature had started to do a slow limbo, an Icarus-like victim of the combined forces of sunshine and gravity. A steady rain assured his downfall and he is now but a humble lump in the iris bed. Gone, but not forgotten.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to All From Here in the JBar Bunker

Christmas dinner plans at the in-laws went on hold as freezing rain started falling in advance of what was accurately forecast to be a major weather event here in central Arkansas.

Before the Storm: Diane and I took Willie and Zuli for a stroll along the River Trail over the weekend and paused to take photos at this decorated tree along Pfiefer Loop.
The last few days have made for some nice road rides, but the Christmas Day weather  forced me to forgo one of my Christmas traditions. I usually ride to Diane's parent's house in Pleasant Valley, a 13 mile trip that takes me along the River Trail, across the BDB and up River Mountain Road. Though I've had a few really harsh Christmas Day rides, most have been quite pleasant, and it is always fun to see folks out showing off their Christmas toys, which can range from Pinarello Dogmas to poodle dogs. In looking back over my ride log, I see that most of my Santa rides have been pretty nice, though on my Christmas 2009 ride, the temperature was 34, with a northwest wind at 10-20, and in 2010, it was 38, spitting sleet and rain, with 20-30 MPH winds.  I'm a hardy rider, but Tuesday's rain, sleet, ice and snow would have put me firmly into the heated seat of Diane's Subaru rather than in the saddle. Would have, that is, if we had not received word at 2:30 that the in-laws' power was out. The new plan was to pool resources with neighbors for a feast; we have dressing, green bean bundles, cranberry salad, and beer. They have turkey, wine, and sweets.
Jingle Bell Ride
 We hooked up with some CARVE folks on Sunday for their Jingle Bell ride around the River Trail. It was quite festive.
John Kelly seemed to be trying to convince Chuck Richesin that he had been a good boy all year long. I don't thank that the wise elf is buying the story.
Libby Davis was also smartly topped off with seasonal headgear.
As I finish this post, the snow is still pouring down. Our internet service has been up and down all day, but we have power, unlike many of our neighbors, and we're warm and well-fed.We're going to call it a good day.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Single track and tarmac

Seasonal Joy
I've been out on the mountain bike in Burns Park a couple of times this week, and have really been enjoying getting off of the road bike for the change of scenery and ride style. One of the things that I miss during the winter months is the social aspect of the River Trail. There are fewer folks out and we all have to grab rides as daylight and schedules allow, whereas, in the long days of summer there are group rides available almost every evening and casual pick-up rides with friends form easily. On the dirt track, the only place I ride with music, I put my earbuds in and get my groove on to Pandora radio while enjoying the views afforded by the bare trees of the season.

I noticed this water-filled sink off of the Burns Park Red Trail. I was compelled to dismount and walk down to simply enjoy the spot!
In the summer, the spot shown above would likely have been invisible from the trail and the respite in the woods would have been an invitation to chiggers, ticks, and poison ivy exposure.
The high winds that roared through Arkansas last week left many trails littered with leaves, limbs, and some downed trees. 
New Ride for Roadies: Emerald Park-Highland Trail
Jeff Caplinger of NLR Parks has been keeping us updated on the progress of the trail improvements and repairs, but I guess that I missed something, as I thought that the paving above Big Rock Quarry had been completed last week. After a ride out to Hwy 300 with a CARVE-LeBorne bunch on Saturday, I detoured on my way home to ride the length of the new trail. I was mildly surprised to see the Redstone paving crew at work on Saturday as they finished up the eastern end of the trail near the overlook behind Fort Roots.
Finishing touches.
As I watched the equipment operator smoothing the freshly laid asphalt, he noticed me and stopped to ask if I wanted to pass through. Hell, yeah!
He said it might be best if I walked the bit that he was working on, as it might have still been soft enough for the skinny tires to leave a groove, and even offered to walk my bike if I didn't want to walk on the new pavement in my cleats. Very gracious, I thought! I asked him how long it would take for it to harden sufficiently. When he told me 10 minutes, I decided to ride to to the Emerald Park end as the asphalt cooled and then be the first rider to get the whole experience.
The single-track did not have an exclusive on fallen trees. This pine in Emerald Park required a dismount.
Road riders are going to enjoy the new Highland Trail, with its wide path, sweeping turns and views. The existing Emerald Park trails are pretty rough by comparison.
Improvements to the Arkansas River Trail System continue on both sides of the river and our local single-track trails are in great shape, so don't let winter keep you off of your bike! You might be missing something special.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice: The Time For Rituals

Well, it appears that we have survived the Mayan apocalypse, the shortest day of the year slipped away at 5:02 when the sun set after a measly 9-hours, 49-minutes, and 30-seconds, and some seasonably cool weather is upon us. Those are all good things. Surviving the end of the world is a plus, but the solstice means that the days start getting longer tomorrow, and the warm weather was getting almost a little creepy. Say what you will about global warming, but we're not supposed to be picking zinnias and tomatoes in mid-December.
Another result of the extended warm fall is that one of my annual rituals has been long-delayed. That ritual is, of course, the Ceremonial Taping of the Shoes, that special moment that is indicative of the fact that I have given in to winter. Since the beginnings of mankind, the summer and winter solstices have been a time of great spiritual significance and, therefore, a time of  rituals. The Druids, the ancient Egyptians, and various native American cultures all had celebrations of these pivot points of the celestial calendar, culminating in the modern-day JBar's Taping of the Shoes.

"I got a black cat bone...I got some Mojo, too...I got a little..John the Conqueroo..."

While the ventilation provided by a good pair of road shoes is welcome during Arkansas summers, it is not desirable in the winter. Hands and feet are most vulnerable to cold, and taping the vent holes in the soles of your shoes really helps in the battle to keep your feet warm out on the road.
Last year, the CToS occurred over a month earlier, on November 18. This fall, I've spent more days riding in bibs and short sleeves than I have in tights, so there has been little danger of my feet getting cold. Now, it's time to tape the shoes and get my mind right for a couple of months of winter riding.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fresh Asphalt: NLR Trail Update

There is something about the feeling of fresh asphalt under the wheels that, to a road cyclist, is akin to the smell of freshly tilled soil to a farmer or the smell of freshly baked bread to, well, damn near any human being. It is a visceral pleasure that makes you just take deep breath, smile, and exhale with a long "ahhhh...".

New Trail! Not open officially for  business, but close enough for a short sampling.
I headed out from home on my mountain bike last Sunday to ride some single track at Burns Park. I decided to go by way of Fort Roots/Emerald Park in order to check out the progress on construction there and found the newly paved trail section over the Big Rock Quarry to be a delight! The trail winds through the woods with glimpses of the river valley below. Construction barriers are still up, so I won't be a total scofflaw and suggest that you check it out, but.....
There is still a short section at the east end that has not been paved, but the base is down and it's ready to go.
The evening that Michael Mattox and I checked out the trail repairs between the Burns Park launch ramp and the quarry, the asphalt was still warm and soft, so we just admired from afar. Work continues!
Here's a more recent update (Tuesday afternoon) on the work from NLR Parks:

ARKANSAS RIVER TRAIL - The section between Riverview Park and the Rock Quarry should be completed tonight.  Work should begin tomorrow morning around 8:00am on the section at the Burns Park Boat Ramp by the golf course (weather permitting).


Jeff Caplinger, CPRP 
Project Coordinator
North Little Rock Parks and Recreation
Phone: 501-791-8540



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Recycle Bikes For Kids: Where Santa Gets The Work Done

I've mentioned Ron King's Recycle Bikes for Kids here before, and Tuesday night, I finally made it over to Ron's warehouse to see what was going on. The mission that Ron has undertaken is to take unused and unappreciated bicycles from basements, garages, carports and backyards and make them usable again. Then, he gives them away to kids. So far, 1126 bicycles have gone out the door in 2012, and Ron expects another 300 to 350 to be gone by Christmas. In addition to kids, Recycle Bikes has made bikes available to adults for whom a bike is their primary transportation in exchange for a little shop time. Some of the guys may not have a home or a regular job, but they can come to the shop and put a smile on the face of some kids while keeping their own rigs in riding shape.

Ron bears a bit of a resemblance to a slim Santa. He has plans to expand the shop area into some of the warehouse space. On the evening I was there, all of his work stations were buzzing.

Volunteers were busily cranking out bikes for kids on Tuesday night. The work stations were well-equipped and well-organized.
The regulars were much more adept with the bikes that we worked on than I was. I took on the Speed Racer at right and my task was unfinished at quitting time.
I know a little about bikes. I do most of my own work and can readily change a tire, adjust derailleurs, replace chains, cables and housings, adjust bearing preload, wrap bars, and in general perform most tasks associated with keeping my high-end bikes in good working order. Very few of those skills mattered when Ron pointed me to a small bike on a work stand. A volunteer named Gene had taken it on and he said, "Do you know anything about gears?" Sure, I know about gears. I was set to shine as I started on my first bike, only to meekly give up after finding that a cable had rusted in half within a housing and condemning two shifters gleaned from large box of salvaged parts. Many of these bikes were cheap to begin with, and feature a lot nuts and bolts. Servicability is not a common design feature. Ron shys away from multispeed bikes and coaster brakes are the stoppers of choice. I found that anything with a cable was problematic, as these bikes, for the most part, have never seen a drop of oil or a touch on maintenance. Cables rust into housings, shifters are jammed or broken, chains and chainrings are rusty. Open ended wrenches are the tools for the job and simplicity is favored over elegance.  Single speed bikes with coaster brakes are the set-up of choice for a reason.
The "out-the-door" year-to-date tally.
Recycle Bikes for Kids was the benficiary of memorials for the late Brock Johnson, and that money enabled King to buy several cases of new tubes. Most parts are reclaimed and organized into large boxes that are mined for things like pedals, seats, and grips. On the night I was there, handlebar grips were in short supply and Ron was pondering where he could obtain what was needed.
I was pretty much a failure at getting bikes out the door, but Ron assured me that my experience was typical of first-timers. When asked what they needed, he said that usually it was volunteers, but that they are closing in on Christmas and they will take a little break afterward. They can always use repairable bikes, basic parts, and cash to buy supplies. The shop is a 1212 E 6th, behind Rocktown Distillery, and Ron's number is 501.952.4581. If you want to see where Santa Claus does some of his best work, give Ron a shout and lend the elves a hand.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cyclocross: 2012 Arkansas Super-Prestige

Cyclocross is a wintertime cycling sport that is closely associated with cold, mud, beer, cowbells, and rowdy crowds. 'Cross is growing in popularity in Arkansas and this season's race series culminated with the Super-Prestige championship races at Burns Park. The promised rains fell Saturday night, but Sunday was rain free, cloudy and still unseasonably warm, making for perfectly atrocious course conditions that delivered a full dose of mud but none of the cold that we might of expected.
You can find results here, and I will not attempt to provide a narrative of the racing except to say that it was damn fun to watch and the open class was decided at the finish line as Seth Rider of Germantown, TN, threw up his arms to celebrate victory just in time to be pipped by Gerald Drummond of Springdale. Hell, yeah, that's racing!

Staying close. The leaders fought it out until the dramatic finish.As you can see, conditions were textbook cyclocross other than the balmy temperatures.
Lakefront race village.
Yes, there was a little mud on the course. Above, participants from the earlier races were embracing conditions as they rinsed the top few layers of grime off of bikes and bodies.
Those with the skills hopped these uphill barriers.
Maintaining speed and bike control was a challenge and many riders resigned themselves to running this section and others.
Thank goodness for warm weather.
There were many small rewards for riders. Addie Teo was handing out dollar bills to riders coming out of the pit, though I think she suffered from a few bites.
Yes, cyclocross riders are a thoughtful and rational bunch.
There seemed to be no good line in axle deep creek flowing across the course, but it was a wide place and tempted racers to pass. Few riders successfully stayed mounted and most just ran for it!
Chad Cragle redefines the line. The few riders who stayed mounted here late in the race did so by hugging the ribbons and staying out of the deepest mud.
Cowbells clanged and the crowd shouted words of encouragement as local favorite Zack LaVergne gracefully loped by with his shouldered bike. No, Zack, I don't know who yelled, "You run like a girl.", but it made you look!
CHAD CRAGLE! I'm not sure what the top finisher won, but Chad was a big winner in the sock prime category, coming away with three pair. I'm thinking he probably threw away the ones he raced in.
This kind of racing makes for great photos, and I took a couple of hundred in 45 minutes or so, but this is all that I have the energy to write captions for! This race drew a good crowd, but more is always better. Keep an eye out for 'cross races near you and I'll try to keep you posted here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Problem Solving

What Doesn't Belong In This Group?

1) Freshly Picked Tomatoes
2) Couple riding near the BDB comfortably attired in shorts and T-shirts
3) Runner at Two Rivers Bridge wearing strappy sleeveless top.
4) Zinnias in full bloom.
5) December calendar
6) Muddy kid playing in drainage ditch.
If you picked number 5, you're correct, though it is normally the only one that would be current at this time of year. We're coming to the end of a stretch of crazy-warm weather, so I hope that many of you paid more attention to your thermometer than to your calendar and stretched your riding season. I've enjoyed a week of rides that included a few days in bibs and short-sleeve jerseys.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Latest Word In Sports Nutrition: SPAMé Gel

If you spend many long hours on the road bike in the company of like-minded friends, then you know that conversations can take some unusual turns. Much like the conversations shared on monotonous 20-hour drives with my paddling buddies, riders  end up hashing out the same old political questions, sharing some of their deepest secrets, and telling all of their most tasteless jokes. You know, the ones that are not fit for mixed company or, really, any company for that matter, but, you still laugh your ass off and vow to yourself that you're going to remember it.
It's kind of an unwritten rule that the secrets are forgotten at the end of the ride and that the bad jokes are stashed away only to be shared under some similar circumstances in the future; however, these hours can also be times of revelation and creativity! Jason Warren and I recently shared such a Eureka! moment. Well, maybe it wasn't quite the lightning strike kind of Eureka! moment. It came upon us like the rolling thunder before a spring storm, or perhaps like the sound of the approaching Waste Management truck in the moments before the inevitable crash of the dumpster being emptied below your hotel room window at 6:00AM.
In this case, we were considering the possibilities of melding a popular food item into the over-crowded and over-priced realm of sports nutrition. Let's face facts-- most of us have very little real understanding of long-chain amino acids and the like, but we spend big bucks to support marketing schemes that promise results based on sketchy science and flavored sugar. Let's get real. Get real with SPAMé!

SPAMé Gel: The é gives it an air of sophistication that goes beyond any real science!
The result of our revelation promises to be a popular breakthrough as we shatter the paradigm of sucrose, fructose, and maltodextrin blends by packaging a gelatinous energy food derived from genuine miscellaneous meat products, juiced with caffiene and naturally  high in sodium.
We promise results with  SPAMé! Look for it in your favorite local bike shop or convenience store soon.

Coming soon from the same folks that will bring you SPAMé: Gravy Blocks

Note to Jason: consider name change to Gravée Blocks

NLR Trail Update and Pinnacle State Park Controlled Burn

More news from NLR Parks on 12/6 . Jeff is really trying to keep us updated!

ARKANSAS RIVER TRAIL - Work began late this morning at Riverview Park starting with the road/parking lot today.  


Tentative plans (weather permitting) for CLOSING the four main sections:


River Road west of Riverview Park and east of the Rock Quarry - Friday, December 7 West of Rock Quarry - Monday, December 10 East of Shilcut Bayou Bridge (Burns Park) - Tuesday, December 11 Boat Ramp area at the west end of Burns Park - Wednesday, December 12


As I find out more details or changes, I will be updating:


Here is an update from Jeff Capliger on the paving projects affecting the River Trail and Emerald Park in NLR:

ARKANSAS RIVER TRAIL CLOSURE - The Riverview Park section is open today as work did not begin as anticipated.  We will post dates of which trail section will be closed based on the information we receive from other departments and the contractor, but understand we cannot guarantee the posted section will be closed or open on the posted date. We apologize for this inconvenience but we know the repairs and resurfacing will be worthwhile.  Please plan your route accordingly.  Plans now are to begin work on the Riverview Park section either this Thursday or Friday.

EMERALD PARK - HIGHLAND TRAIL - Paving is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, December 12th.


Jeff Caplinger, CPRP

Project Coordinator

North Little Rock Parks and Recreation

phone: 501-791-8540

fax: 501-791-8528

Controlled Burns at Pinnacle Mountain State Park
This does not directly affect riders, but may have an impact on your other park activities.
Pinnacle Mountain State Park will be
conducting a controlled burn the week of
December 17-21, 2012.
The West Summit Trail, East Summit Trail, Base Trail and Kingfisher Trail will all be closed this week to all park visitors,
including all of the West Summit picnic area.
For updates contact the state parks director’s office in Little Rock: 501-682-2873

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Along The Trail: Many Projects

Progress on Emerald Park-Highland trail and Levy Spur
Trail Closures: North Little Rock Sets Trail Repair Work

Signs like this are posted along the NLR River Trail. There are additional signs marking start and end points of specific work zones.

North Little Rock Parks and Recreation has announced trail closures along the River Trail beginning Monday, December 3, and continuing through much of the month of December. Commuters should pay particular attention, as some closures will require lengthy detours. I believe that the most extensive work will be in the area between Burns Park launch ramp and the Big Rock Quarry, where the trail will be overlaid with new asphalt.

I love it when somebody does the typing for me!
This press release from Jeff Caplinger NLR Parks:


Trail layout and foundation building should be completed this week and paving of the trail will begin shortly thereafter with anticipated completion in mid- to late-December 2012.  We will update you on the date of the grand opening ceremony.


Work on the Levy Spur Trail Phase 1 (33rd Street to 52nd Street) is underway.  The anticipated completion date will be in early-January 2013.


Resurfacing and repairs to portions of the Arkansas River Trail will begin next week.  A list and a map of the areas are available at our web site (  Some of the repairs will be spot repairs which will minimally affect trail use.  However, some portions will be completely closed which will close the trail to through traffic (anticipating no more than a day for any one section).  Anticipated completion is December 31, 2012 (dependent upon weather conditions).  We cannot guarantee the date when a portion will be closed, but as we are given a date (usually a day in advance), we will update the web pages below.

These updates have also been posted to our web site and Facebook pages:

If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact me.

Jeff Caplinger, CPRP
Project Coordinator
North Little Rock Parks and Recreation
phone: 501-791-8540
fax: 501-791-8528


Striping Complete Along Newly Paved Rebsamen Park Road; 12th Street Traffic Calming Project Done

Sam Ledbetter and Jason Warren enjoying fall-like warm weather and newly paved and striped bike lane on Rebsamen Park Road.

After several members on the LR Bike Friendly Community Committee resigned in frustration over Little Rock's lack of progress and broken promises in regards to bike infrastructure and and policy issues, it appears that the City is making some positive steps.
In addition to the Rebsamen park Road project, a section of 12th Street has been reconfigured from 4 traffic lanes to 2 traffic lanes with adjacent bike lanes and a median. This "traffic calming" configuration is designed to make the street more safe for cyclists and pedestrians while reducing the tendency of motorists to exceed posted speed limits

Broadway Bridge
Judge Buddy Villines had promised a major announcement at the end of November regarding the Broadway Bridge replacement project. News slipped out early that his prosposal involved painting the bridge in a red, white, and blue motif to honor veterans. My first reaction was, "Really? is that it?" As it turns out, Buddy was apparently holding details of the grand plan until he could present it to the Metroplan Board at their monthly meeting. His double-arch design would include a 20' bike and pedestrian lane, which is a huge improvement over AHTD's 14' proposal, but it would also include the red, white and blue paint design and an LED lighing scheme that would appear as a waving American flag.  Pulaski County has $9,000,000.00 in hand for the bridge and the proposal would require and additonal commitment from a couple of years worth of the county's road and bridge fund.
 I strongly support the Judge's ideas on the structure of the bridge, but I think that we would all soon tire of the red, white and blue paint job and the waving flag design would be better rolled out for Independence and Veterans' Day events. I think that the NLR and LR mayors were both taken aback by the proposal, as I understand that they both abstained from voting on approval. Villines's plan would require a complete new design from the ground up, according to Highway Department officials.
Judge, you're the bridge builder and we appreciate your efforts, but I think that we can do something that will  serve central Arkansas and better stand the test of time while still honoring our veterans. The new Broadway Bridge could be with us for 100 years, so I think a more subtle design approach could be called for.