Friday, September 26, 2014

For Those About To Ride

I would guess that a large majority of JBar Cycling readers will be participating in Saturday's BDB100. Since the inaugural BDB100 on October 1, 2006, the event has grown, evolved and matured as it has become the apex of the season for a lot of cyclists. For many riders, the spring and summer have been spent with an eye forward to the BDB, and now it is time to roll.
Seasoned riders all know the drill for preparing for a long day out on the road, but for many, this will be their biggest ride, so a few reminders may be appropriate as we get ready.

- Is your bike in good order? It's a little late to address major problems, but look over your tires and make sure they are properly inflated. Lube your chain.
- Check the contents of your flat kit. You don't want to flat, only to discover that you never replaced to CO2 cartridge to gave to a buddy back in June. I carry a couple of tubes and CO2 cartridges.
I was advised to do so on long rides with the caution of, "If you flat at mile 10, do you want do a 90 mile ride without a flat kit?"
- Do you have fresh batteries in your computer or is your Garmin charged?
I'm a numbers guy. I want the feedback while on the road and I want to see the stats at the end of the ride. It's frustrating to pull up to the start as your Cateye starts flashing or your Garmin indicates 10% charge.
- Take food and hydration. This may not be a big deal if you plan to stop at each rest stop and finish mid-afternoon, but if you're trying to make good time, you need to be prepared. You may plan to make a stop at 30 miles, only to find yourself in a smooth paceline that is rolling on. You don't want to get off of that train, so hit the start with a pocket full of gels and maybe a third bottle. I also take some single serving packs of electrolyte mix. Some folks are not picky, but I'd rather drink out of a ditch than choke down the dreaded blue PowerAde often served at event rides (Do they give that shit away because they can't sell it?). Being self-contained keeps your options open.
On the recent Wampoo Roadeo metric, I had full intentions of making a couple of stops, but ended up going the distance without a stop because the pack I fell in with was too good to leave. I had plenty of food, but really had to stretch my fluids. It was a thirsty finish, but worth it.
- Be safe and considerate of others
 That means no ear buds, no aerobars in a pace line, riding predictably, and respecting established groups. Most folks will be glad to have another rider join them, but don't just barge into a group that is obviously trying to stick together. We all make mistakes on the bike, but if someone calls you out for something, they are usually just trying to insure their own safety and the safety of the group. This is particularly true if you are relatively new to riding in a group or are unsure of the many, often unspoken, rules. Either respect and accept the advice or move on.

For the first time, I've elected to forgo the century. It is a slight self-inflicted blow to my ego, but 68 miles will allow me to avoid the inevitable suffering that seriously sets in at around mile 80, and most of my little ride pack had the same plan. We plan to be watching over a cold IPA and some food as most of the hundred milers come in.

Be safe and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Milner's Metric: Greers Ferry Lake Area Loop

A year or so ago I started getting questions about cycling from a fishing guide friend in Heber Springs. Matt Milner had traded a guide trip or two for a nice, slightly older, Pinarello and was eagerly embracing life on the road bike.
Flash forward- I can safely say that Matt got "ate up with it". Heber does not have a thriving road cycling community, but he stepped up to a nice Trek Madone, figured out his nutrition and training, and started rolling up the miles. I've ridden with Matt a couple of times since then and, needless to say, he's come a long way, both literally in terms of miles logged and figuratively in terms of becoming a full-on roadie.
I've developed a few viable road routes around the Heber Springs area over the years, but when I got an invitation to join Matt and a group of friends for a ride around the east end of Greers Ferry Lake, I was very interested.
Milner's Metric
Matt called his ride "Milner's Metric" and had created a route map, but I was still surprised by the extent of the organization put into the ride by Matt and his gal pal Krista. 

I have considered doing a ride similar to this, but had concerns about traffic. Matt and Krista used some side roads to cut down on the highway miles and the group gave us more visibility.
We gathered at Matt's house on Saturday and got the lowdown. Matt and Krista had marked each turn on the route, as well as the spots where they had stashed water.  They also arranged for a pit stop at a friend's store in the town of Greer's Ferry. A bunch of riders from Searcy made up most of our group of 16 cyclists.

There was plenty of climbing on the route. I soon discovered that I had thrown in with a clan of hillbillies as I was quickly dropped on a couple of the longer climbs. I showed 4000' of elevation gain in the 64 miles on my Garmin.

Fog is common on cool mornings around the lake. It was a little nerve wracking to ride in poor visibility, but early traffic was light.

The sun was soon burning through.

We climbed out of the fog and into the sunshine on a ridge over the lake. Matt celebrates.

Matt and Krista. Krista was alternately credited and blamed for the route, depending on the difficulty of the climb at the moment.
** Photo credit goes to Jason Morgan of The Bike Lane in Searcy.

This was a casual ride with amenities!
We even got T-shirts!
I want to thank Matt and Krista for including me in their ride. The organization far exceeded my expectations, the route was great, and the company was good. I can say that it was also unique in my experience. I've done a lot of casual group rides, some larger, many smaller, but none that had a marked route, water caches, a rest stop, and a T-shirt! It had a little of the feel of an "event ride" without the entry fee, waivers, and inevitable sketchy riders barging into your pace line. It was really a neat model and one that might deserve to be duplicated.
When Matt is not on the bike, he's is a fly fishing guide with Jamie Rouse Fly Fishing Adventures. Fall is a great time to get out on the water and Matt may still have few openings for the season. If you want to be put on some big fish with the added bonus of  having a guide who is more than willing to talk bikes, get in touch with Matt!

Monday, September 22, 2014

PopUp in The Rock-Park Hill a resounding success!

I was excited when PopUp In The Rock Park Hill was announced for September 13. I have lived in Park Hill for most of my many years and there is much about the community that still feels like neighborhood I grew up in. Granted, the sleepy 2-lane Ark-Mo Highway has long been replaced by the 4-lane Highway 107 corridor carrying rushed commuters from neighborhoods to the north that once existed only in the imagination of developers, and most people are just passing through Park Hill. The Park Theater, where we gathered on Saturdays to watch classics like "The Blob" and early James Bond movies (starring Sean Connery, of course)  now houses Crye-Leike Realty, and locally owned retailers like Ben Franklin 5&10, Corbett's variety store, and Black and White grocery have faded into Norman Rockwell-esque memories.
By all accounts, last Saturday's PopUp was far and away the most successful of the three that have occurred to date. While the last year's PopUps on South Main and on 7th Street were certainly successful, neither had the kind of community turnout that Park Hill had. One factor was simply because, though it is a major traffic artery, JFK runs through still-vital neighborhoods so there are a large number of people who live close enough to easily walk or ride to the event. It was estimated that 5000 people visited during the course of the day. For Diane and I, the fun was just a short walk or ride on the town bikes.

This was the site of the Park Theater when I was a kid. Though I had to work on Saturday and missed the big crowds, there were still several hundred people enjoying the beautiful afternoon.
The beer garden was still crowded when I arrived after 4PM, with many folks watching the Hogs on big screen TVs.

As I took photos, this lady apparently took offense, "Hey! What are you doing?"
"Taking pictures for a cycling blog. I'm not taking pictures of you, but I can."
Show me the love! My charm and a few beers can usually bring out the best in people.
This was also the first time in many years that a beer could be legally bought in Park Hill. A recent vote allowed alcohol sales in the long dry township for the first time in decades. We're hoping that the change will bring more local dining opportunities. The PopUp events can help showcase what a neighborhood can be when made more pedestrian and bike friendly. We have a local bike shop in the form of Angry Dave's, and would like to see more local businesses join the neighborhood.
 I wish that I had taken a photo of the beaming BACA President Mason Ellis, PBR in hand, as he glowed in the success of this well-received event. Even as the tents came down and the tables were being folded and loaded into trucks, families were still lined up at the Baggo court challenging their neighbors to a friendly game. That's what I want my neighborhood to look like.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Broadway Bridge Bids Are Taken

Good News, Bad News
The low bid, submitted by Massman Construction of Kansas City, came in at $98,400,000.00.
The good news is that the bridge will only be closed for 6 months. The bad news is that the bridge will be closed for 6 months. I haven't seen any official word on a start date, but the general impression is that it will be next spring.
Planning? Not so much.
Having sat in on quite a few meetings of various committees that discuss such things, I think the city governments are very concerned about the impact that the re-routing of the 24,000 cars per day that presently use the bridge will have on local transportation. They're very concerned, but the options are few. For the most part, I believe the traffic plan consists of, "we 'll see how drivers adapt, then go about solving problems." I don't mean that to be critical, as there are a fixed number of options for crossing the river.
It's just going to be a mess.
So, what will we do?
The contractor will be required to present a plan on their requirements for equipment and materials staging along and near the river.  At that time, traffic planners will make what refinements that they can, and riders will have a better idea of the impact on bike traffic and the River Trail. The west end of NLR  Riverfront Park will be closed, along with that section of the trail. Bike traffic will be directed to Riverfront Rd, which will be carrying much of the commuter traffic served by the Broadway Bridge as drivers head to the Main Street Bridge or to I-30. The Little Rock trail near the bridge will be closed as well, though it crrently sees much less use than its NLR counterpart. Discussions as to how to detour bike traffic in downtown Little Rock have been inconclusive. Ideas to designate on-street routes, perhaps on Clinton Ave/Markham or 3rd Street,  have been vetoed due to the fact that those streets will already be carrying a much increased traffic load.

Most recreational riders affected by the trail closures can easily just shift their rides out west and completely avoid any disruption. That's assuming they can get to the trail. For bike commuters, the concentrated traffic flows represent a risk, but will also slow traffic down......likely to a crawl.
It will be interesting to see how things evolve during the bridge construction. It will cause some challenges for riders, but will also create an incentive for many people to think outside of the car. The reward can be an invigorated corps of new bike commuters. In addition to the health and financial benefits of cycling that those riders will enjoy, there are bound to be those moments of riding past a line of snarled traffic while thinking, "I'm glad that's not me."

Friday, September 12, 2014

Take The Arkansas Business Poll!

Follow the link above to participate in this simple poll from Arkansas Business. If you need help with the answer, call me.


Should central Arkansas leaders invest more in bike-friendly infrastructure?

  • Yes. It's better for our health and the environment, and it's attractive to young people.
  • No. We've made enough investment already.
  • Maybe. The Metroplan study shows we should at least investigate the issue.

Pop Up In The Rock-Park Hill- Saturday, September 13.

Pop Up In The Rock comes to North Little Rock's Park Hill this Saturday. Pop Up On Main a year or two ago helped provide momentum to the transformation of South Main St. in the thriving SoMa neighborhood.
I have lived almost my entire life in Park Hill, so I'm very pleased to see the event come to my neighborhood; unfortunately, I will likely be working. So, you'll have to ride on up, have a beer, play some games, have some food truck fare, and tell me all about it!

It is an easy ride to Park Hill on weekends from anywhere near the River Trail. From the ART, go out the main gate in NLR's Riverfront Park.
Ride past Dickey-Stephens Park on Willow St. and continue on Willow to 8th.
Right on 8th, left on Main and you're on your way. Ride right up Main, which becomes JFK Blvd on Park Hill.
Mrs. JBar , aka, Diane, is managing our community garden, and she is hosting an introductory event at 12:00 on Saturday in conjunction with PopUp.
Whether you live in the area and are interested in having a garden spot, or just want to drop by the garden, come on by. If you ride up Main/JFK you can just turn right on Skyline at the top of the hill.
Ride on up to Park Hill! You'll like it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Trail Love, Ride and Picnic - An Invitation From CATA

Here is a post on behalf of the fine folks at CATA. Bruce Alt and the gang are doing good things, including the upcoming Big Rock Mountain Bike festival.
More on the Big Rock Fest later, but here's something for this Saturday, September 13, at Boyle Park.

Please share this special invitation with your mountain biking and cycling friends. We (Central AR Trail Alliance) are going to have a special Trail Love, Ride and Picnic this Saturday, Sept. 13 in Boyle Park to prepare the trails for the Oct. 4 Big Rock Mtn. Bike Festival and Take a Kid MTB Day.

We will start at 7:30 am but come any time; trail work will be finished by 11 so we can ride.

We are going to build another short bridge, actually use our new ProHoe tools (donated by Bell and Company MTB Team) to build a short section of new trail (reroute), trim and groom existing trails, ride the kid's and intermediate trails, and picnic together afterward.

Meet at Pavilion #3 in the northwest corner of Boyle Park, 7:30 am. Bring all the usual tools, including loppers, brushcutters, rakes and blowers. 

Note to Moms and Dads: this will be a very "kid friendly" Trail Love event, including bridge painting, so bring your junior riders for the stewardship and trail fun!


P.S. Why not invite a cycling friend to come with you and see what CATA is all about?

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Along The Trail: Telling Time and Clearing The Channel

Resetting The Sundial
I am proud to say that a visitor can now visit Two Rivers Park, walk or ride to the top of Little Buddy Mountain to enjoy the Villines Vista view, and actually be ably to tell the time on the sundial installed at the top. As has been reported here previously, the original sundial, though artfully done and quite attractive, was in no way functional at any time of day.
Diane makes a lovely gnomon, but her shadow would indicate the time to be gravel.

I'm not sure whether the designers of the first attempt simply did not know that a sundial is actually supposed to indicate the time or if they were just incompetent. It was an embarrassment to provide an example of an antiquated but classical means of time-telling, only to so completely fail in the execution. The Egyptians could produce a functional time telling tool in 1500BC and that was at least a couple of years before they had Google and Youtube to provide the instructions. I know that Judge Buddy Villines had some talented people at work, so I'm not sure how this happened here in the modern era.
I'm happy to report that the faulty timepiece has been replaced with an tastefully done and usable sundial. When I first saw it a week or two ago, it was unfinished concrete. I was delighted when I rode out this evening to take photos to find that it had been painted in rich colors. 

The mound on which the sundial lies offers views from the high point of Two Rivers Park.

It was 6:11. The point on which you or your bike stand as the gnomon, the object that casts the shadow, changes with the seasons and the numbered bands indicate the hours for standard and daylight savings time.

Hello, Mr. Sun.
River Cleanup
The Corps of Engineers has engaged a salvage company to remove the remains of boats sunk during a flood in 2011.

 This scene is from May, 2011. Boats from a marina up Little Maumelle River were blown downstream by a flash flood.

Most of the boats were recovered or salvaged. Some found a semi-permanent home in the river. This one has become a virtual ecosystem.

This one is aground on a bar. It seemed surprising that it wasn't washed away in subsequent high water, but it is in a bit of slack water.
The Bucks Are Back
Two Rivers Park is home to a large deer herd, and this time of year the bucks start showing off their racks.

I stopped to take a picture of this buck and he just sauntered toward me.

He just came on by and went to join another small band of deer behind me.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Putting Them Down-Emergency Location Medallions

As I started my Thursday evening ride, I ran across Jeff Caplinger of NLR Parks and Ranger Ian Hope near the BDB. They were installing the last of the 911 location medallions along the main North Little Rock River Trail. They had started near the submarine and had placed the markers at .2-mile increments.

The road crew. Ranger Ian Hope, goose control officer and all 'round good dog Shep, and Jeff Caplinger, Projects Coordinator for North Little Rock Parks and recreation.
 Jeff had placed the medallion at this location, and was preparing to place a temporary sign with information about the markers and their purpose. Ian was watching for traffic. Shep wasn't doing much work when I arrived, but he did hop out of the truck to pose for a photo. I've got to admit, though, that there was not a goose in sight.

 The markers are glued down with an epoxy cement.
In an emergency, the information on the tag will allow 911 operators to access the GPS location to pass on to emergency responders. Knowledge of the location can also tell them whether an ATV, boat, or other transportation might be most expedient.
This is the product of a a lot of discussion and planning focused entirely on making the Arkansas River Trail System and adjoining parks safer places.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Petition Requesting Action On Recent Criminal Mischief On The River Trail

The recent actions by some folks, who I would normally refer to as "a--holes" were this not getting some mainstream media attention, have gotten a rise out of our community.

Yes, I refer to the tack attacks!

Marlisa Goldsmith of  KTHV has done a couple of stories. THV seems to do a good job of following local stories that affect me. (When I clicked on the THV link for this article, there was a graphic of the 911 Medallions, a topic on which I just posted)

Many of you have likely seen a request to sign a petition requesting that:

"Pulaski County Sheriff's Office and Little Rock City Officials: Monitor the Arkansas River Trail to deter individuals from putting tacks on the roads, send street sweepers, & charge culpable individuals once found.."

 along with the request that you post the petition on Facebook.

Can you help this petition win by asking your friends to sign too? It's easy to share with your friends on Facebook - just click here to share the petition on Facebook.

There's also a sample email below that you can forward to your friends.

Thanks again -- together we're making change happen,

Kayla Applegate

I would encourage each of my readers to sign the on-line petition (link above or right here). While I fully realize that the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department has its hands full with robberies, thefts, crazed meth heads, killers, litter bugs, shootings, and all sorts of other more serious crime, I do think that it is important that cyclists are recognized as a constituency and that we deserve the protections that governments owe the citizenry.
Many of the residents in western Pulaski County don't like the fact that they must share "their" roads with us. Most of them take a deep breath, slow down for the few moments it takes to safely pass cyclists, and move on. Some even express pleasure at the fact that so many people are out on bikes enjoying the place we call home. Unfortunately, there are a few who respond by buzzing us, honking, threatening, roaring by at crazy speed and, yes, by throwing tacks on the road. I know that Judge Villines and the PCSD get complaints from motorists about cyclists, but I've never had any of my ride bunch stop and call to complain when drivers pass unsafely. Experience says that such a call would not be taken seriously and might get a laugh fro the dispatcher.

Sign the petition. It shows support for our community and may remind officials that there a few hundred or, better yet, a few thousand, voters out there watching.

One more thing: If we want to be treated with respect out on the road, then we have to give respect as well. Some ride groups act like entitled gaggles out there. When traveling busy roads like Pinnacle Valley, especially at  peak times after work, line up and give cars a chance to pass safely. The mellow guy patiently following behind you can turn into a floor boarding nut given enough time. Call out "car back", acknowledge the driver so he'll know that you're working with him, and allow him to pass as soon as is safe.

And, thank-you, Kayla Applegate for taking the initiative.


Emergency Medallions- Arkansas River Trail Location System For Emergency Response

I've written a couple of articles over the last year or so about the efforts of the Arkansas River Trail Task Force stake holders and 911 responders to develop an emergency response system for the River Trail. The goal of the system is to allow emergency responders to quickly ascertain the precise location of a victim, and then to respond quickly with the appropriate resources.
That system is now being put into place and you will begin seeing emergency location medallions at regular intervals along the River Trail, at mountain bike trail heads and within the adjacent park system trails.
I've witness EMT's searching for the site of a bike crash or medical emergency. The lack of a precise location often leads to delays or long unnecessary treks afoot by emergency responders. A lot of thought and hard work went into the development of the plan, and I think that it will help make the River Trail a safer place.

Here is the press release from Judy Watts of Metroplan:

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. – September 3, 2014 The Arkansas River Trail Task Force is pleased to announce the addition of trail signage that improves efficiency for emergency responders dispatched to the trail. Emergency medallions are in the process of being placed at trailhead access points and along the main trail every two-tenths of a mile. Trail users will soon be able to relay information from the nearest emergency medallion to plainly communicate an exact location to 911 operators.

Emergency medallions can be identified by “911 Emergency Location” and either “Arkansas River Trail” or the name of the trail printed on the disc. Within the center of the medallion is a set of initials and numbers. For emergencies on the Arkansas River Trail, the public is asked to dial 911 and communicate the set of initials and numbers. Coded to latitude and longitude coordinates, this crucial piece of information will determine how emergency responders enter the location.

“While we want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable experience visiting our wonderful Arkansas River Trail System, accidents and medical emergencies will happen and our emergency responders take their responsibility for you very seriously. You can help them help you if you take note of the medallions as you make your way along the trails,” advised Jon Swanson, Executive Director of Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services (MEMS).

Emergency medallions were made possible by the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock, Pulaski County, and Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Over 100 medallions will be installed along the Arkansas River Trail loop in Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Pulaski County. Other trails are expected to participate in the emergency medallion program in the future. This is a continued effort to enhance the Arkansas River Trail System. In 2013 a grant from the National Park Service for the Challenge Cost Share Program that supports collaborative and mutually beneficial partnership projects funded the Arkansas River Trail way-finding signs that were installed. The grant is being administered through Metroplan.

The Arkansas River Trail System began as a 14-mile loop between Little Rock and North Little Rock, transecting and connecting the riverfront parks of both cities. It has become the catalyst for the development of bicycling, walking, and running trails in the entire metropolitan area, traveling west on both sides of the Arkansas River to Pinnacle Mountain State Park over the Two Rivers Park Bridge. Led by the Arkansas River Trail Task Force and coordinated by Metroplan, a June 1, 2012 “Memorandum of Understanding” established the Arkansas River Trail System to be extended 88 miles across multiple cities and counties. The signatories to that MOU are the cities of Little Rock, North Little Rock, Maumelle, Mayflower, Conway and Bigelow, Pulaski County, Faulkner County, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The signatories to the MOU own different segments of the Arkansas River Trail and work together through the Arkansas River Trail Task Force to operate and promote the trail system.

Metroplan is the federally designated metropolitan planning organization for the four-county region of Faulkner, Lonoke, Pulaski and Saline counties. It is a voluntary association of local governments that has operated since 1955.