Tuesday, December 29, 2015

River Trail Flooding-Here we go again!

I case you have not had any media exposure in the last several days, here is your notice that much of the Arkansas River Trail in central Arkansas will not be passable for the next week or so due to flooding.
Soaked ground, already high flows, and some remarkable rainfall totals have pushed the river to levels exceeding those that we experienced last summer.

We ain't seen nothing, yet....
The impending river levels will far exceed those we witnessed last summer.

The most recent flood crest of the river was at 22.89 ft on 06/03/2015. The current forecast call for  a crest 26'. Last summer's event was considered an "action" level, below even "minor" flooding, while 26' is considered a "moderate" event, approaching major flooding. 

Arkansas River levels this week and those in June will easily make the National Weather Service top-10 Historic Crests list:

Historic Crests
(1) 34.60 ft on 06/01/1933
(2) 33.00 ft on 04/20/1927
(3) 30.45 ft on 04/21/1945
(4) 27.90 ft on 05/31/1957
(5) 27.70 ft on 05/08/1990
(6) 26.22 ft on 04/24/1973
(7) 25.00 ft on 12/04/1982
(8) 24.81 ft on 11/27/1973
(9) 24.12 ft on 05/05/1944
(10) 23.30 ft on 10/13/1986

Before the flood.

I'm sure that the folks building the Broadway Bridge have seen more than enough high water as they try to pour footings, set piers, and assemble some structure on barges along the river.

We shouldn't complain

After a long, cool spring stretched into a summer marred by crazy rain and trail flooding, fall and early winter have been perfect for riding, with October-like temperatures stretching into December and October seeing August-like heat, including a record high of 98 on October 15.

'tis the season. Christmas Eve was marked by temperatures in the 70's. Short pants were prevalent on the BDB. 

The weather seems to have finally caught up with the calendar, though a few days too late for many outdoor retailers for whom cold weather means brisk sales of fleece, down and flannel (our friends at Ozark Outdoor Supply are having a big sale on winter goods, by the way. Go by and spend your Christmas money.). 

Clean up-again. Alternative Service Opportunity.

I'm certain that when the floodwaters recede, the call will once again go out for volunteers to help clean up the River Trail. This time, you can help by either getting out your shovel and rake or by reaching for your checkbook or credit card.

The shoveling is damn hard work, and, while a cold snap might discourage the swarms of gnats that plagued us last summer along the trail, the credit card route is guaranteed to create fewer lower back ailments and no bug bites at all.

Rob Stephens and the Arkansas River Trail Task Force had already embarked on a campaign to help NLR Parks acquire a trail sweeping machine. You can follow the link below to learn more and to make your tax-deductible donation:

The first fund-raising goal is to provide funds for North Little Rock Parks and Recreation to purchase a trail sweeper, similar to the photo shown here. This will enable quicker trail cleanup after flooding. The approximate cost is $18,000.
ooooohhh, ahhhhhh. Very Nice!

As any of us who helped tackle the clean-up last summer will attest, the sediment that get deposited by river flooding starts out as a sticky, gumbo-like mud, which then dries into densely packed fine sand. The usual practice is to use a blade to push most of the sediment off of the trail, followed by sweepers and then blowers. That creates berms piled on either side of the trail which affect drainage and often result in the material washing right back onto the trail. The new sweeper will allow the sand to be moved off of the trail. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Along The Trail- The Hoga, Bike Boy, Broadway Bridge and Grants

The past couple of weekends have produced some absolute perfection for cycling in central Arkansas. Mild temperatures, clear skies, and light winds made for the kind of days that we yearn for in December, so where was everybody??  I'm sure that the allure of the shopping centers and malls kept some people under a  roof, but I don't think I know any of those folks. 

I decided on a recent Saturday to take a bit of a tour around town. As always, I found some interesting developments along the away.

The Hoga (YT-146) is here. Finally.

The heroic Hoga has a new home. 

 After 10 years of haggling, maneuvering, transporting, starting and stopping, the WWII era  harbor tug came into port at the North Little Rock Maritime Museum last week, in plenty of time for Pearl Harbor Day ceremonies. The project to bring the Hoga here was a mission of former Mayor Pat Hays and, though I had doubts about the value of the project, I will admit that the account of action aboard The Hoga during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor makes me believe that the old girl deserves to rest in a place of honor. While the Arkansas River may seem like an unlikely spot, it is far better than a scuttling or the scrap yard.

Where has the Bike Boy gone?
I have a fondness for the Bike Boy statute sited near the north foot of the Clinton Park Bridge. I noticed the the boy was not present on recent rides so I made in inquiry of alderman Debi Ross. Debi made a quick inquiry and discovered that the work had been moved to accommodate some recent work by the North Little Rock Street Department. It is safely in storage and will be restored to its rightful place.
The Bike Boy statue shown behind former mayor Pat Hays is safe and sound.

What heck is falsework?

I've stumbled all over reporting about the jungle of yellow painted steel that is being staged on the riverbank adjacent to the Clinton Park Bridge. I won't review my various incorrect assumptions and blathering thereof, but will proceed to report what I currently believe to be correct.

The structures make up the falsework to be used in construction of the Broadway Bridge.
From Wikipedia:
Falsework consists of temporary structures used in construction to support spanning or arched structures in order to hold the component in place until its construction is sufficiently advanced to support itself.

Construction scenes, particularly bridge construction, can make for some striking images. 

Much bridge construction requires that work be done with cranes on barges

An engineering feat is set to unfold.

I had an opportunity to speak to John Ruddell of Garver Engineers, and their project manager for the Broadway Bridge. I asked John how the falsework was going to be deployed. In a discussion several months ago with Cooper Khyl of Massman Construction, I had been told that much of the construction would take place on barges lined up between the Main Street and Broadway Bridges. John was able to add some detail. 
We haven't seen anything, yet!

Most folks have seen the many barges lined up along the river at present. That array will be expanded. The falsework will be assembled on the barges and the structure will be built over it. John had been told that the maximum height of the bridge's baskethandle arches and towers arches would rise 170-feet above the river. I found that to be incredibly exciting as I compared it to the heights of downtown buildings,. When the spans have been assembled, tugs will move the barges into position so that the structures are in place over their respective piers. The barges will then be flooded to lower them into place. This is going to be an amazing process, and I hope to be on hand when the moves takes place. 

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has historically turned back federal dollars that are designated for alternative transportation. 
This appears to be changing. This from the AHTD:

INFORMATION RELEASE  AHTD (98)color 10''.jpg

Office of the Director

P. O. Box 2261 – Little Rock, Arkansas                             ArkansasHighways.com
Telephone (501) 569-2227                                                         Twitter: @AHTD

Contact:                                                                                                                       NR 15-406
Danny Straessle/Krista Sides                                                               December 4, 2015

Arkansas State Highway Commission Approves
Funding for Local Federal-aid Projects

STATEWIDE (12-4) – The Arkansas State Highway Commission has approved more than $20 million in funding to applicants for Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program, and Recreational Trails Program (RTP) projects in Arkansas.

The TAP is a Federal-aid program established in 2013 that allows eligible sponsors to apply for funding to construct sidewalks and trails for pedestrians, bicyclists and other non-motorized forms of transportation, create systems that will provide safe routes for non-drivers (children, older adults and individuals with disabilities) or other similar activities.  This year, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) received 93 applications requesting more than $21 million. Seventy-one projects were selected to receive approximately $16 million in available funding.

The SRTS Program was established in 2005 and is used to enable and encourage children to safely walk and bicycle to school. These projects can include construction of infrastructure to improve the safety for pedestrians in the vicinity of schools or non-construction activities such as public awareness campaigns, traffic education, outreach programs and student bicycle safety training.  This year, the AHTD received 39 applications requesting more than $6 million. Eight projects were selected to receive approximately $1.2 million in available funding.

The RTP is a very competitive Federal-aid program established in 1993 allowing cities, counties, state or federal government agencies, and non-profit groups to apply for funding for the construction or maintenance of recreational trails or trail facilities throughout the state.  This year, the AHTD received 48 applications requesting almost $9 million.  Twenty-eight projects were selected to receive approximately $3.2 million in available funding.

The AHTD will work with the successful applicants to develop their projects and see them through to completion.  See attached lists detailing the projects selected for funding.


Funding Program
Number of Projects
Total Awarded

Transportation Alternatives Program
$ 15,970,981

Safe Routes to School Program
$ 1,207,262

Recreational Trails Program
$ 3,186,694
All Programs Total
$ 20,364,937

The City of Little Rock received grants to fund 3 projects, Riverdale, MacPark, and the Safe Routes to School - Dunbar. Pulaski County was awarded a grant for improvements on Pinnacle valley Road, though how that will be deployed is as of yet unclear.
Bauxite received $500,000 to begin preservation of  the Old River Bridge s part of the Saline Crossing Park and Recreation Area. The bridge will be a key river crossing for the developing Southwest Trail project.

North Little Rock received funding for phase 3 of the Levy Spur Trail.

In spite of noise-making by some conservative congressmen, the recent national transportation bill is set to increase funding for trails. Those same congressmen will line up for the ribbon cuttings as projects come to life, but that is politics. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Back To Camp Robinson- Epic Trail Quality In Town.

Each fall, I air up the near-flat tires of my Niner and start learning how to ride my mountain bike once again. Other than a couple of rides in Colorado in June, my fat tire season typically runs from November until March, and is usually limited to those days that are just on damn harsh to enjoy the road. That said, I really enjoy my days riding on dirt, and Camp Robinson is my " go to" choice for local riding. Access is a slight hassle, but it is made worthwhile by the many miles of single track and the fact that it is only 10-15 minutes from my house to wheels-down.
I took a couple of days of the Thanksgiving week vacation to exercise my freshly renewed $25.00* annual sportsman pass and to give our newest mutt Ivy a shot at being a trail dog. Willie is an old pro who consistently paces me for 8-9 miles at a time with occasional forays to remind squirrels that their rightful place is up a tree. Ivy, an athletic whip of a 20-pound Arkansas brown dog, caught on quickly and is remarkably fast and nimble.
I ran into Basil Hicks at the parking lot. Basil is a retired attorney who has spent many years building and improving the trails at Camp Robinson. Since his retirement a couple of years ago, it seems to have taken then place of his full time job, and his efforts are obvious. Basil isn't alone, and his son Basil III, Sharon Saunders, Brian and Melissa Shipman, and others   have spent many hours making Camp Robinson a remarkably complete resource for Central Arkansas mountain bikers.
The CARP trails, as they are known, are located in Camp Robinson's TA(training area)2. The Guard has recently added this shelter at the parking lot. There is also a changing area (the wood structure behind the shelter), along with port-o-potties.

As has been the case on all of my visits in the last couple of years, the trails are in amazing shape. The most frequently used trails have had leaves blown, and many of the areas that suffered from water damage or consistent mud have been hardened, bridged, or rerouted to more suitable terrain.

 Typical trail surfaces at Camp are hard packed and clear, though you can find plenty of more technical, rocky loops if you want to test your skills.

My early days at Camp 8 or 9 years ago were often mud-fests. Though Willie and Ivy still like to cool their paws and drink from the creek crossings, riders can now mostly avoid mud and wet feet while preserving the integrity of the trails.

For many years, much of the trail work was done under the auspices of Central Arkansas recreational Pedalers, or CARP. I won't explore the history of CARP here, but dues collected over the years paid for many of the tools and materials that are still in use at Camp Robinson. More recently, the Central Arkansas Trail Alliance   has brought resources to bear in improving and maintaining the trails. 
You will run across tools and materials caches along the TA2 trails. Keep in mind that all of the trail work done by volunteers.
 The maze of trails at Camp could be baffling to the uninitiated, but over the last few years, signage has been improved and some color-coded loops have been designated to help folks sort out their choices.
If you are new to Camp, or just haven't been in a while, stop and check out the sign board at the entry point. You'll find a lot of information that can make your exploration more rewarding. 

I was pleased to see quite a few weekday riders in the parking lot, but the trails are never crowded, and even on the highest use days the many miles and the diversity of the trail system allows you as much solitude as you could want. 

On my second recent day at Camp, I encountered a group of riders who were gracious enough to wait while I rode ahead to get some photos of them for use in this article. Due to a complete camera fumble, I blew the shots. If any of you are reading this, thanks for trying. 


- TA2 will be closed to riders December 12-14 for a special hunt. These events are usually scheduled a couple of times per year.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Camp Robinson Sportsman Passes-Current Procedure

With fall weather upon us, many of us chronic road riders are ready to get out in the woods, and there is no better place in central Arkansas than the CARP trails at Camp Robinson. Unfortunately, access to Camp does require dealing with a little bureaucracy, but it is well worth it. A sportsman's pass is required to enter Camp Robinson, and the procedure for obtaining the pass has changed once again.

Thanks to David Wonn for passing this information along to me
I spoke to SFC Lacy this morning to get some detail on the process.

If you don't have a current pass, you will be required to stop at the Visitor Center at the main gate, where you will be issued a pass to allow you entry. From the main gate, proceed to the top of the hill and stay to the right to get to the headquarters building. Upon entering the building, signs will direct you SFC Lacy's office. He is there from 8:00-11:00AM, and 120:00-2:00PM, Monday through Friday.
You will need $25.00 in cash (correct change), a photo ID, you auto registration and proof-of-insurance.
I haven't been to Camp since early spring, but there parking area has been improved, portable toilets are in place, and a pavilion and change shelter are under construction. In a meeting last winter, the commander asked how the sportsman pass dollars from mountain bikers was being used, and I believe that our dollars are funding these improvements.
Trail building and maintenance continues to be done by volunteers, and all reports indicate that the trails are in fantastic shape.


Monday, November 2, 2015

'DIA DE LOST MUERTOS' Ride And Festivities, Along With Great Prospects For The East Side

Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of The Dead, is a Mexican holiday which recognizes and remembers friends and family members who have died over the course of the year. The cycling community in Little Rock gathered at Lost Forty Brewery on Sunday for "Dia De Lost Muertos", a slightly more festive event than tradition might dictate, as I don't remember the deceased being remembered with a trike toss.
Here's a description of the event from its Facebook page:

Join us for the Lost Forty Brewing 'Dia de Lost Muertos' End of Season Procession & Pints Ride on Nov. 1st at 2pm.

We'll lay the cycling season to rest with a Dia de los Muertos inspired costume fun ride, a lowrider bike styling competition, tacos, Mexican brunch items, cash prizes for best dressed riders, lots of free swag, a Trike Toss to benefit Recycle Bikes for Kids of Arkan
sas and of course... beer.

Chainwheel Bikes, Arkansas Outside, BikeAR Magazine, Arkansas Times, and El Latino have teamed up with Lost Forty Brewing to bring you the best last ride of the season. Take advantage of the Halloween season, and get those sugar skull costumes ready! We'll see you Sunday Nov. 1st at 2pm - Cheers!

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of enthusiastic participants who went to great lengths to get into the spirit. Sunday was a suitably gray and dreary day, but temperatures were comfortably in the mid-sixties and spirits were bright.

Pictures tell this story far better than I can, so, here we go:

 Addie Teo trying not to crack a smile.
It is really hard to remain solemn when you're having so much fun.

I'm reasonably sure that Chainwheel's Pat Barron is somewhere in this photo.


Outstanding costumes and cool bikes were the order of the day
Dan Lysk and Addie Teo led the not-quite-solemn procession.
Of course, I always love seeing a woman ride in a skirt and heels. The handlebar mounted alter was a nice touch.
I'm not sure the second rider  on this tandem arrangement was much help. Too skinny.
This young rider was getting a lot of encouragement as she negotiated rail tracks, a little traffic, and a large group of costumed riders on the route to the Clinton Presidential Library.
I'm sure that the organizers were please with the large turnout and the enthusiasm for Dia De 'Lost' Muertos. From the response, I would guess that we will see it held again next year. The success of the event says much about Central Arkansas' embrace of cycling, good craft beer, and a vibrant downtown community.
 Only a few years ago, this area of east Little Rock could not have been imagined as a flourishing and rapidly growing entertainment and business scene. The Cromwell architectural firm recently announced that they would be renovating and moving into the Stebbins and Roberts properties at 6th and Shall, and new projects seem to be announced almost weekly that will bring more life to the neighborhood. The success of the River Market District and South Main have helped provide the impetus for more central city growth and, hopefully, the slowing of the urban sprawl that has helped to kill the heart of many cities, Little Rock included.
As discussion heats up on the widening of I-30, it is heartening to see some civic leaders question the wisdom of allowing the growth of the barriers that interstate highways represent to cities. The highway and transportation lobbies are powerful, but the recently raised voices give hope that we might begin to be more focused on infrastructure that supports living in our cities rather than simply speeding through them.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Roadblocks Ahead: Overlook Road and Frazier Pike

In this case, I'm being quite literal.

Overlook Road
Drainage work by the city of Little Rock will require trenching across the road at several points in order to install new culverts. City officials advise that there will be some road closures, and I will advise that there will there will surely be all sorts of sand, gravel, and debris during the course of the work.

 Pipe is staged and some work has begun at the intersection of Overlook and Rebsamen Park Road.
Unless Overlook is blocked below its intersection with Overlook Circle, riders should be able to detour around the construction.

Overlook Road is slated for resurfacing and restriping by the city of Little Rock, with that project likely take place in early 2016. The new pavement will include welcome a bike lane going uphill, and sharrows for the downhill lane.

Frazier Pike- Closed For Business
As part of the land acquisition deal for Wulspun Corporation, the company bought the right-of-way for a portion of Frazier Pike near the port of Little Rock, and has now gated the road, and has placed pipe on the surface.

Frazier Pike is easily bypassed by following the Southeast Trail route along Thibeault Road.
Frazier Pike has long been used by cyclists riding a version of the "Airport" ride to the Terry Park area, but the Southeast Trail takes riders along the parallel Thibeault Road. The closure is not a big inconvenience, but it does reduce the options for travel in the area.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Along The Trail-Driving, Parking, and Bike Demo

Driving and parking
Considering the number trail users and the diversity of their purposes, there is very little real conflict along the Arkansas River Trail.  Most of the conflict that does occur is more likely the result of  inattention than of any sort of malice ( see: The Blissfully Oblivious. People largely learn and observe  the written and unwritten "rules of the road". As a result, riders, runners, walkers, skaters, and even extendo-leash dog walkers, get along just fine. I am aware of a couple of recent conflicts that involved people driving and/ or parking on the trail, and I was a party to one of them.
From conflict to conversation
I was riding near the fishing pier at Burns Park when I noticed that a young man had pulled his pickup down the trail and parked near the pier. I mentioned to him that his actions were illegal and that I was likely to notify authorities. Admittedly, I was in a foul mood, and my tone was likely less than convivial. He responded by suggesting that I do something anatomically impossible and made mention of my mother. I responded with an appropriate rebuke, and was only a little surprised when he jumped in his truck and met me a little further up the trail. I will note that he took the road rather than continuing down the trail. He was a self-describe law-abiding citizen and a nice guy. I explained that driving and parking on the trail was a hot button issue for me, and he explained that he was taking his disabled uncle fishing and had no idea that he had done anything wrong. We shook hands and went on our respective ways. The next day, I rode back up to where he had entered to trail in order to see things from his point of view.
Until this summer, there had been wheel stops where the parking lot meets the River Trail at this location. I have observed several people parking at the pier over the summer, so I got in touch with a NLR Parks employee at that time. I was told that park officials decided that it was too much trouble to deal with the stops when trail maintenance was required so they would not be replaced.

At Burns Park, this signage could read to be directing drivers on to the trail to access handicapped parking and the fishing pier, as had been the case with my new acquaintance. In the absence of a physical barrier here, some clear signage is called for.

Entitled Yachtsmen?? Is It Possible?

I've long expressed my concerns about the potential for conflict in the area of the Rockwater Marina, that happened during a recent event there. Several cars were parked on the River Trail at the intersection with Rockwater Blvd, and cyclists reportedly were forced to dismount and walk their bikes around the parked cars. This is a situation that I only expect to get worse as residents move into the homes being built and as the marina fills more slips. There are many more slips than there are parking places, and folks are going to naturally want to park right at the top of the ramp, which happens to be on the River Trail. This needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Rockwater Marina has 64 slips, 32 for long-term rental and 34 for transient boaters. I doubt that their small parking lot will accommodate their needs on a busy weekend or for events, but parking is allowed on the "designated shoulder", aka "the bike lanes", on Rockwater Blvd.  These were purposely not designated as bike lanes so that parking could be allowed; however, people will go to great lengths to avoid walking 50 yards to their car. Observe any Walmart parking lot.

This is a frequent parking spot for people accessing the Rockwater Marina, but it is usually one vehicle on the concrete sidewalk. A couple of Saturdays ago, vehicles were parked across the width of the trail.  There is nothing but good judgement to tell them that the practice is prohibited.

Give peace a chance.
While I tend to be very protective of the ART and the safety of trail users, I feel compelled to give a pass to the offenders described above. In both areas, that of the Fishing Pier and at Rockwater Marina, there is nothing telling visitors not to park on the trail and, near the pier, there is signage that could be read to be directing people to use the trail to access illegal parking. Off to the left side of the area in the photo top photo is a small sign prohibiting motorized vehicles, but it is not in the line-of-sight of folks approaching the trail from the lot.

The NLR Bike Friendly Community Committee, of which I am a member, has been a good conduit for getting things like this corrected, but we have not met in months. And, as a few of you have noticed, my rabble rousing in this space has slowed. That said, I'll see if we can spur some action before spring rolls back around.

Looking good
I will compliment the good taste of seemingly all of the new homes being built at Rockwater. I've enjoyed watching them take shape and hope that the resulting community is as cool and funky as the architecture.

Santa Cruz Bike Demo

Angry Dave's is now carrying the Santa Cruz line and hosted a bike demo on a recent Saturday. Diane wanted to try out a couple bikes in their women's-specific Juliana line, and I checked out a new 5010. Diane rides a 26" Cannondale and was trying to decide on whether she wanted to replace it with a 27.5 or a 29er. I liked the 5010 29er, but I couldn't push it hard enough to appreciate its longer travel over that of my Niner Jet 9, but appreciated the opportunity to rode something different. If nothing else, it sold me on dropper seat posts. Diane liked something about both of the bikes she rode, so couldn't decide on either.
Dave and the Santa Cruz rep stayed busy all day with a steady stream of riders eager to try out bikes.

Chad Cradle was having a load of fun riding some new Santa Cruz mountain  bikes.

Unlike me, Chad could really appreciate the merits of the Santa Cruz 5010. The fact is that he's a real mountain biker and I'm a roadie who sometimes hides in the woods in the winter months. My single track skills go from beginner to novice each fall. I think that, so far, I've had one year of mountain bike experience eight times.

Bike demos are held along the trail fairly often, and some are better publicized than others. They are always a great opportunity to get a hands-on feel for current technology or to try out a bike that you may have been lusting for. Remember these simple truths:
1) You always need another bike.
2) Your next bike will likely be more expensive than your last one.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pedestal Rock 40- Buffalo River Country in the Fall

Interesting road rides just keep appearing here in the Natural State. While at the BDB100 Expo, I took the opportunity to visit with Dirk Merle (merl-ee) who was manning table to promote the November 7 Pedestal  Rock 40 and 20 Bike Ride at Witts Springs.

Follow the link above for ride details and registration. They are also seeking volunteers to help with the ride.
WE ARE SEEKING MORE VOLUNTEERS!! To volunteer, email Janis at j7h22sp@yahoo.com. 

 The locale grabbed my attention because I have a long love affair with the area that is rooted in 30 years of kayaking Richland Creek, a tributary of the Buffalo, and other nearby Ozark creeks. Witts Springs lies along highway 16, and is best known to the boaters, hikers, and horse riders who know the wonders to be found just off of the pavement. I won't say that it is remote, but when I started boating in the area in the early 80's,  long stretches of state Highway 16 were not paved, and washouts and downed trees blocked the road fairly frequently. I remember reading in the newspaper when telephone service was brought to Ben Hur, really more of a bend in the road with a place name than a community, west of Witts Springs. Of course, that was more than a few years ago, when most people actually read a newspaper.

For many serious boaters, Richland Creek defines Ozarks paddling. This high waterfall marks the approach to Richland Falls, a river wide drop of 10-12 feet. The creek is most frequently runnable in winter and early spring, though 2015 saw a rare July 4 rise.

The terrain is hilly, but the route is mostly rolling hills, without the many miles-long climbs that you'll encounter on the drive up.

Donation, lunch, and camping.
The  ride organizers call for a $40.00 dollar donation to benefit the Witts Springs Community Center. The donation will get you a T-shirt, post-ride lunch, and free camping at the community center. Showers and restrooms are available at the Community Center, as well. 

 Some lodging and camping options are listed on the ride website, and there is also camping at the Richland  Creek Campground a few miles away at the confluence of Richland and Falling Water Creeks. If you go for the weekend, take your hiking boots and plan a hike to Pedestal Rocks or from the Richland campground up to Twin Devils Falls. That hike requires a couple of creek crossings in order to reach the twin water falls formed at the confluence of Big Devil and Long Devil Creeks. In high water, those creek crossings are sketchy.  Here is a link to a video of some friends running those falls at high water.

This Richland Creek crossing at the confluence with the Twin Devils Creek might be a little chilly in November, though at current water conditions, it would be more of a shallow wade than a swim. 

I can't help but veer off into boating, as that is the heart of my romance with the area, but every time I am there, I think about just how cool it would be to ride those roads. The pavement is good, the scenery is spectacular, and roads are lightly traveled. This is a ride worth checking out.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Big Dam Bridge 100- Can This Be The 10th BDB100?

Time flies when you're having fun, and I guess that I've been having a blast over the nine years that have passed since the Big Dam Bridge opened. The bridge opening was on Saturday, September 30, 2006 and the inaugural BDB100 took place the next day on Sunday, October 1.

This was the first "official" ride over the new Big Dam Bridge in 2006. 

Diane and I were invited to be among the Garver folks to join the VIP crowd at the ribbon cutting and the first ride across the new bridge. Having watched the construction on a near-daily basis, it was an thrilling moment to actually ride across the BDB with its sweeping views and dizzying height, while pondering the possibilities of the many routes that it opened for cyclists. 
I don't think the BDB was yet open when this photo was taken by a Garver photographer, and the Two Rivers Park Bridge was not yet even a twinkle in Judge Buddy Villines' eye.
2006 marked the beginning of Arkansas's biggest cycling event.

With no Two Rivers Bridge to safely funnel riders to the roads west of the city, it made sense to keep most of the 2006 route north of the river. There was enthusiastic buy-in on the parts of Maumelle, Mayflower, Conway, and other communities along the route, so one of the biggest challenges to organizers was how to incorporate the Big Dam Bridge itself into the route. 
The solution was to start and finish near the Burns Park soccer fields, where around 1000 enthusiastic riders lined up for a mass start and then immediately took a hard right turn onto the River Trail in order to head the the BDB. It was a thrill to cross the bridge en masse and then head back toward downtown Little Rock on closed roads. After crossing back to downtown North Little Rock, we headed up the trail toward Maumelle Blvd., to Mayflower and beyond for a circuit around Lake Conway. Along the way out, the ride crossed the old tooth-rattling wooden bridge near Burns Park. There had been a lot of conversation among riders as to how that would go, but it went well as local riders were aware of the danger, and by then the ride had spread out quite a bit.
The 2006 BDB course would likely be considered far too sketchy for this year's bigger crowd, though the 2015 NLR start is somewhat reminiscent to part of the original. Staggered start times and trail improvements should serve to help spread the peloton out early on. 
The thought of 1000 riders crossing the old wooden bridge over Shillcut Bayou was a concern for many of us in 2006. The 2015 route will benefit from a wider, smoother bridge surface and a better approach.

Growing Community-Growing Event
Like the BDB100, our cycling community has grown and matured over the years. The course changed  most dramatically when the opening of the Two Rivers Bridge made possible a grand loop crossing the Arkansas River at Toad Suck and added a notable climb in the form of Wye Mountain. Traffic control on Maumelle Blvd. had always been a problem, particularly in the afternoon of the ride, as stragglers came in for hours. Now the course been has moved yet again to the more rural south side of the river valley, making for a less disruptive, safer, and more scenic ride. The ride has grown to around 3000 cyclists, and the activities surrounding the event have evolved in quality and increased in number.
When the BDB100 was introduced, there was an idea to model it after the hugely successful Hotter'nHell100 in Wichita Falls, TX, which was already drawing over 12,000 riders. We haven't achieved that magnitude, nor is Central Arkansas situated in the wide open terrain of the Texas-Oklahoma border region, and thank goodness for that! While HnH is undeniably successful, the event also has the reputation of limited facilities and price-gouging hotels the go along with having a big event in a small city.

My 2006 bike log shows that my 100.11 mile ride took 5 hours and 17 minutes. The finish "festivities" consisted mainly of food and Gatorade returned from the rest and perhaps a beer vendor. The organizers ran out of finishers pins long before the last riders came in. As I recall, I snagged a beer from somebody, and may have gotten a burger or a hot dog as I waited for Diane to come in from her first century. We had no expectations, so that was a fine afternoon. Compare that to this year's Expo and post ride party.
I've only missed one year of the BDB100, but I had a good excuse. In 2009, Diane and I were spending 18 days kayaking the Grand Canyon. I'll give up a ride for that experience every time.
Riders were already filling downtown hotels Thursday evening, bringing tourism dollars with them.

On Saturday, a revived Main Street Argenta will be the scene of live music, including a Big Dam Blues Party that stretches until midnight, multiple local craft beers, and many food opportunities as thousands of cyclists, spectators, and locals in search of a party crowd the street. With the guidance of the Big Dam Bridge Foundation and the good organization that continues under the hand of Fred Phillips' DLT Events Management, the Big Dam Bridge100 has enjoyed steady growth and and  has developed a solid reputation as a quality event that attracts cyclists from around our region.

When we all ride out on Saturday morning, keep in mind how cycling has helped change the shape of our community for the better, and we are all a very dynamic part of it.

Be safe.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New Rider Clinics At Spokes-Ignorance Is Bliss But It Won't Fix A Flat

OK, as many of you know, I'm pretty marginal as a user of social media, so it won't come as much of a surprise that I don't pay as much attention as I could to my own JBarCycling Facebook page. I post links to my articles and have welcomed local shops and clubs to post there as well. This morning, I noticed that Spokes was holding a New Rider Orientation Clinic hosted by Eric Easterly and Leah Thorvilson, so I decided to drop by.
This class covered bike cleaning and lubrication.
I had not seen the previous announcements, but I found out that this was the third class in the series that Eric and Leah had held. The sessions are held more or less monthly and previous topics included fixing flats, proper shifting, and making minor mechanical adjustments.
Eric was thorough and patient in explaining each step of cleaning the bike, adding in bits about the function and features of various components as he went.
I keep my bike pretty clean, but Eric put me to shame with the clean he put on this rig.
This apparently was their smallest class to date, with six students, and most of the riders had attended all three sessions. Eric mentioned that he would do a class on wheel truing, and I'll be first in line for that. I do most of my own work, but have shied away from messing with my wheels. That said, my wheels road have seldom needed to be touched and disk brakes allow me to ignore the minor wobble of my mountain bike wheels.
Most of us start out knowing very little about modern bikes, and we are often hesitant to reveal our ignorance to our presumably more learned friends. I have a near insatiable curiosity about anything that I use, so my first few years on the bike were spent reading, pestering friends, and annoying the shop guys. Simple things like using barrel adjusters to fine tune my shifting totally eluded me until took one off and disassembled it.  Of course, then I had to replace the cable and adjust my derailleur. Using barrel adjusters is very straighforward, but it took me two years to figure out which way to turn it. I blame the shop wrench who gave me the old "lefty loosy-righty tighty" line. He knew what he meant but confused me completely. (Lefty-tighty is more like it to my perception. A counterclockwise turn of the adjuster tightens the cable. )
You can always learn something if you start off ignorant enough....
I will confess that I am not above the arrogance of thinking I know more than I do. My first demo ride on a bike with STI shifters (if you don't know what that is, you're likely riding them. ) was on a Cannondale from Competitive Cyclist, then Bikeseller. I knew that the shifters were the little levers at the brakes and promptly shifted to the small front ring and the smallest rear cog. Hmmm, now what? I called Craig Zediker just before closing time at the shop, who explained between snorts and chuckles that the brake lever was also used to shift gears. Eureka! What will they think of next!?
So, if you're new to riding, accept that you need to learn a few things, many of which you have no idea that you need to learn. Look for opportunities such as what Spokes is offering, pester your friends, ask the guys in the shop where you bought your bike or have it serviced, or even stop somebody on the River Trail if you have an immediate need. Most people who have a bit of knowledge are glad to share. Helping others is a rewarding and empowering thing, so let folks help you. You're doing them a favor.
 Follow local bike shops and clubs on social media or get on their e-mail list.
Other shops in town also offer events to welcome new cyclists and help them learn some skills or just meet like-minded riders. In fact, Chainwheel is hosting a Ladies Night on October 8. This looks like less of a technical event than an opportunity to meet other riders and learn about group rides and clubs around the area. Take advantage. Heck, we can all use some new friends.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Southeast Trail Dedication-Wednesday September 9, 10:00AM

I've posted a couple of articles about the conception and development  of the Southeast Trail segment of the Arkansas River Trail System. Now, it is time to make it official with dedication ceremonies taking place at Dassault Falcon Jet .

Wayfinding sign on the Southeast Trail

This press release from Lynn Bell of Metroplan:

Metroplan Announces the dedication of the southeast trail

Wednesday, September 9, 2015, at 10:00 am
Dassault Falcon Jet
3801 E 10th Street, Little Rock, AR 72202

LITTLE ROCK, AR, September 4, 2015 — Metroplan announces a dedication ceremony to celebrate the completion of
the Southeast Trail. This newly designated bike route extends east and south from the Clinton Presidential Park, past Dassault Falcon Jet, the Clinton National Airport, and the Little Rock Port, to the David D. Terry Lock and Dam and
Dam Site 6 West Park.

The 13-mile bicycle trail is an addition to the Arkansas River Trail System and its 88-mile Grand Loop, bringing the total miles of trails and bike routes in the system to well over 100. The trail offers flat terrain, low vehicular traffic, and diverse landscapes of farmland, industry and the Arkansas River.

Partners and supporters of the project include:

·         Dassault Falcon Jet: Antoine Ajarrista, Senior Vice President and General Manager and Jeff Griffin, Vice President
·         The Little Rock Port Authority: Chris Mathews, Port Authority Board Chairman and Bryan Day, Executive Director
·         Pulaski County: Judge Barry Hyde and Barbara Richard
·         The City of Little Rock: Mayor Mark Stodola and Jon Honeywell
·         The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Titus Hardiman
·         Little Rock Parks and Recreation: Mark Webre
·         Clinton Presidential Center: Debbie Shock
·         The Arkansas River Trail Task Force: Rob Stephens, Chairman
·         Metroplan: Jim McKenzie, Executive Director and Lynn Bell

Maps are available here: http://arkansasrivertrail.org/maps

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.

Much credit for this project goes to Rob Stephens, who chairs the Arkansas River Trail Task Force under the auspices of Metroplan. Rob is an energetic volunteer whose quiet, behind-the-scenes efforts continue to produce results from which our community benefits.