Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Accidental Interview With Judge Barry Hyde

One recent busy morning, my phone rang and an unfamiliar number appeared. I answered I my usual business hours manner, but got no response. After a couple of, "hellos", I hung up, only to have the number ring in again. This time, I was greeted by Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde, who explained that he had been guilty of having taken a bite of his breakfast bar as the phone started ringing and was unable to respond when I picked up on the first ring. Such are the hazards of being a busy multi-tasker.
Hyde then went on to explain the he had been trying to call John Burton of the Pulaski County Road and Bridge Department. He realized his error when my contact information popped up, but was polite enough to call me back to explain.
 Not being one to let an opportunity pass me by, I asked Barry if he had time for a few questions. He was quite gracious and we had a nice conversation on a few topics relevant to cycling in Pulaski County. The judge is a cyclist, so his experiences and impressions are mostly first-hand.
Barry Hyde at the start of the 2014 Little Rock Gran Fondo

Pups, Poop, and Parties
First, I asked about his intent to close the bike-pedestrian bridges to dogs due to the continued problems with poop going uncollected by dog owners. He reiterated that this is a near certainty. Regular trail users and visitors complain, the situation is unsightly and unsanitary, and the regular cleanup required is expensive.  Threats and efforts at educating the offenders have not produced results, so a dog ban is likely to occur.
We also discussed nighttime closure of the BDB. I mentioned some of my trifling complaints about the weekend evening crowds- large groups blocking the bridge, cigarette and cigar smoke, and the litter left behind. The judge seemed to correctly consider these to be minor problems. The bad stuff happens long after most of our evening rides are done. When the area clubs close, party crowds move to the BDB to carry on. While drinking and smoking in public are both technically illegal, Hyde's bigger concern was the subsequent behavior that includes vandalism and throwing objects off of the bridge.This got some coverage in the mainstream media several weeks ago. It seems that a late-night closure is likely at some point, but Hyde noted that a 5:00AM opening time would accommodate commuters and early morning recreational users.

Smile, you're on camera
When the LED lights on the BDB were upgraded near the end of Judge Buddy Villines' administration, the project included the installation of surveillance cameras. After Hyde took the reins, it was pointed out that the cameras relied on memory cards and were not connected to the Internet. In order to retrieve data, somebody had to go climb a ladder and pull the cards. Needless to say, that was not an elegant situation, but there was no data service available at the bridge.
Hyde found that the City of North Little Rock was installing a high capacity data line for the Murray Dam hydroelectric plant, and worked with the City to tie in 16 live web cameras to that service. As a result, both the Little Rock and North Little Rock police departments can monitor the bridge cameras, some of which have IR capability. That is not to say that the PDs are monitoring the bridge with regularity, but they have the capability to do so as the need arises, and can also retrieve footage of specific times in the event of an incident. Response times of the police to the bridge have been somewhat slow, but the time of a 911 call can be used to seek evidence from the cameras.If you see suspicious activity that may not warrant a call, note the time. It may be useful later if suspicions turn out to be warranted.

I appreciated the judge took a few moments to visit and share a little insight. I consider Judge Buddy Villines to have been a visionary and his accomplishments are many, but on thing that Buddy lacked was a "wheels on the road" perspective. I perceive Judge Hyde to be an able manager with an eye to the broad interests of the county as a whole, but some of his view is from the saddle. That can't be a bad thing for our cycling community.
Looking forward
Pulaski County has applied for grant money with the goal of extending the River Trail to Pinnacle Mountain State Park. I have no idea what shape that will take, as the park itself is expansive and just getting to the park boundary would not get us very far. There have been discussions over the last several years of trying to develop a route through the park with cooperation from Arkansas State Parks, but that was beyond the scope of my short conversation with Judge Hyde.
Not quite a bike path.
We were all excited a few years ago when it was announced that Pulaski County would build off-the-road bike paths to Maumelle Park. We were equally disappointed when we saw what was built. I'm confident that any future trail construction will be to a higher standard and actually give riders the option of getting off of the road. That would be good for us and for the local drivers.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Vuelta a Espana Minileague 21151213

The Tour de France JBarCycling Minileague was quite successful, with 47 teams, some nice prizes, and a lot of BS trash talk. The Vuelta starts tomorrow and I've been asked by a couple of team managers if we were going to do another minileague. The answer is, "yes, barely."

 Tour Minileague prize winner David Gambill, aka "Spank", picking up his Yeti mug at sponsor Ozark Outdoor Supply

The scale of the Tour games created a lot of clerical work for me. It was absolutely worth it, but I can't do it again. If you've already picked a Vuelta team, I invite you to join the JBarCycling Minilague. It's not too late to get on board. Log into Velogames and pick your team. The Vuelta is going to be some great racing this year with most of the world's top riders vying for a coveted Grand Tour win.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

NLR River Trail Segment Closure Ahead- Thursday

This from Jeff Caplinger of North Little Rock Parks:

The Arkansas River Trail in NLR will be closed Thursday, August 20 from 7:00-AM until early afternoon between the Big Rock Quarry and Burns Park.

 The bollards supporting the safety cables along the river in this area washed out in the recent flooding and must be replaced. There is not an easy detour around this area so plan your ride accordingly. You don't want to be caught on the wrong side of things if you ride early.

 This means us. Depending on the set up for the task, riders have been known to ride through work zones. Please let the crews get their jobs done.

The summer flooding left behind a wide range of challenges. The sand and mud is mostly gone, and it looks like the potholes are getting attention as well.

Jeff also said the Ranger Ian Hope has work day scheduled for Pfeifer Loop for Thursday, and the Loop should be open by the weekend. From the tracks I've seen from the trail, it looks like some riders and work teams have already been in the area. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Saturday Report: More Tacks on Barrett Road; Down Dog Rescue Effort: Chainwheel Good Citizeneship

Tack Attack On Barrett

Riders report that tacks were once again strewn along Barrett Road, this time in the area of the hill just north of Highway 10. I had been through the area a half hour before with no problem. I was lucky in that I passed before the tacks were dumped or simply had an opportune path.
I can only imagine what would motivate someone to do something so chickenshit. I imagine some 17-year old punk, awakening on a Saturday morning, agonizing over the fact that he is cursed with a tiny penis and that his acne is only getting worse. After watching some cartoons and eating his breakfast of Cap'n Crunch, he borrows his mother's car and picks up his buddy, who likely only hangs out with punk because he can borrow mom's car. Together, they plot the best gag ever, which is to go throw some carpet tacks on the road where good folks, with better lives and more ambition than these guys will ever have, ride their bikes. "Har, har, I gave somebody a flat tire....but I still have a tiny penis. I thought it would be better than this."

Good Deeds Along The Trail
Service Stop
In front of the Pinnacle Valley Restaurant, I noticed the Chainwheel tent set up and a cooler of ice water set out for riders. I stopped in and found Bill at his work stand busily going over a child's bike as a road rider waiting to have his over-shifting front derailleur looked at.
In spite of the heat, Bill was having a good time being out of the shop and among the people.

Bill said this is the second time they have set up to provide complimentary roadside service at this location, and Chainwheel will likely try to do it monthly. I consider things like this to be gifts to our community and to be a sign that out local shops are interested in doing more than just selling a bike. Thanks, folks!

Dog Rescue

Riding just a few miles up the trail, I came across a cluster of people huddle alongside the trail in Two Rivers Park. It didn't look good, and I at first assumed that it was a rider down. What I found was that a group of riders being led by Dan Lysk had encountered a couple whose Lab was suffering from an apparent heat stroke. Gino the dog, was a large, older retriever, and in obvious distress.They were about halfway between the bridge and the bathrooms on the trail with no easy way to get a vehicle in or Gino out, as he weighed about 90-100 pounds. Someone was on the phone to a vet as we tried to cool his paws and get him to take some water. I rode up to see if we could remove the bollard near the restrooms to drive in, and called some of my contacts to see about getting a key after finding it locked.
By then, a plan had been hatched. Lisa Bush's car was at the park and she had a sheet, which was put into service as a makeshift stretcher.
Gino was already doing a little better by this point. This were not looking good for him a few moments earlier.

As we cleared the way for the litter bearers, we ran into another long-time Chainwheel mechanic, Eric Blaty, who was riding with his boys, pulling a tag-along and a trailer. Dan had mentioned that perhaps we could find somebody with a trailer, and when Eric heard the situation he said, "I've got a baby in there, but we can take the dog." His youngest, Easton, was soon bouncing down the trail on the shoulders of a good Samaritan and Gino was getting a smoother ride. Those Chainwheel guys were earning good deed points today!

The doggie ambulance in action.

Easton heroically gave up his ride in the luxury coach to Gino, and then was shy about getting his photo taken in his very apropos "Hot Dog" t-shirt.

Dog days are not good days for dogs to be out for exercise.
People who know us know that we are dog lovers, as are Dan Lysk, Addie Teo, and most likely all the other folks who stopped to help, so we were very disturbed by the sight of a dog in such dire straits. It has been reported on local news that at least 3 dogs have died due to heat while hiking with their owners at Pinnacle Mountain State Park this summer. Gino's owners said that he lived outside and was well acclimated to the heat, but dogs have very limited capacity to dissipate heat. Once overheated, they are in trouble. The temperature was already near 90, which is not terribly hot, but the dewpoint was 77, which is brutal. Our dogs always want to go wherever we go, so it is up to us to exercise judgement. On days like today, dogs are better off snoozing in the house.
Gino was sitting up and looking much better by the time the rescuers got him to his owners' vehicle, but I believe that he had a near miss this morning.
Trailwise Willie sez, "I'll sleep in today, thank you."

Along The Trail -Southeast signage up, Isabella Jo Trail cleared, CARVE BDB rides getting under way

Things have seemed fairly slow in the trail news department, but there are always some developments.

Southeast Trail 
Signs have been erected along the Southeast Trail from the rear of the Clinton Presidential Park to the Terry Park. Follow the Arkansas River Trail east along the river below the Clinton Library to follow the newly marked Southeast Trail. From there you begin the flat 13 mile ride to the park at David D.Terry Dam. Credit for this effort goes primarily to Rob Stephens of the ART Task Force. Rob has worked to gain the support of area businesses and other entities, including the Clinton National Airport, Dassault Falcon, and the Port of Little Rock, among others.

Southeast Trail signs have appeared, along with some generic "Bike Route" signs and sharrows. Most of the route was already part of Little Rock's bike plan, and there were no construction costs, other than for signage. Versions of this ride have been enjoyed by cyclists for many years, so is is nice to have a prescribed route. It is similar to the Scott area with some industrial areas thrown in and the traffic greatly diminished.
Since my ride last Sunday, wayfinding signs have been erected and bike racks have been installed at the
Clinton National Airport.

Airport/Temple Street Sign
This sign is near the Terry Dam

The Clinton National Airport welcomes cyclists with high speed WiFi, a Starbucks location, restrooms and a fountain with a bottle fill feature. The restrooms and fountain are under the escalator on the entry level.

The Southeast Trail adds another facet to our still-growing trail system. Thanks got out to Rob, Metroplan, and the various  entities along the route that supported the project.

Burns Park Isabella Jo Trail

The Arkansas River Trail on north side of the river suffered from the recent minor flooding, even as efforts were still underway to clean up from the larger previous flood.  Though the logs, navigation buoys, dead carp, and much of the sediment had been cleared from the most recently flooded area, a hard pack of dried mud remained. The folks at NLR Parks have had their hands full the last couple of months, but Jeff Caplinger and  ranger Ian Hope report that the trail is near ready to ride.

Almost cleared and ready for action. 

On the subject of Pfeifer Loop, Jeff says, "We are also keeping an eye on the Pfeifer Loop Trail for it to dry out enough to hold a work day to get the debris and trash removed.
  Pfeifer Loop as seen from the paved trail is virtually surrounded by a wall of large logs, driftwood, and trash. I'm curious to see how the interior has fared. I'm sure that it is a mess. 

E-cort Service
( I did not want to use the words 'escort' in conjunction with the word 'service" above because the last time I did so in reference to LR Marathon support duty, the article got spammed by  hookers, Indian "models", Russian bride services, etc, for a couple of years.)

I ran into George Rhode  and a group of riders on Thursday preparing to set out on a training ride for the  upcoming CARVE sponsored BDB training rides. Yes, the preceding makes sense. Read it again if you need to.

Preparing to pace a five-hour BDB 100. George Rhode outlining the plan for a training ride.

Many recreational riders aspire to ride a five-hour century. CARVE and the Big Dam Bridge Foundation are teaming to help riders succeed in that ambition by providing pace riders and domestique support for the upcoming Big Dam Bridge 100. This is a fund raiser, so there is a fee, and you still have to ride your bike 100 miles in five hours. That said, it is much easier to do so in a protected group where you do not feel obligated to pull, have rolling support, and you know that the people around you are committed to the shared goal. Training rides will be taking place over the next few weeks, and my understanding is that those rides are open to all.

Now, go ride your bike, and take care. it's hot out there.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Breaking Down A Ride -Wampoo Roadeo

Wampoo Roadeo

The Wampoo Roadeo a couple of weeks ago was simply a whole lot of fun. The course is dead flat and covers familiar, yet interesting, terrain.It was hot, but not unbearably so. The rest stops were well spaced and quite adequate. I didn't see as much SAG as in some past versions, nor did I see anybody needing it, so that is no complaint. We did run across the aftermath of one crash that warranted an ambulance ride, and heard of another, but the groups that we were involved with were spared any such incidents.
At the sign-in. There were a mess of Mello Velos and Rev Rock riders visible on the road and helping out, along with Major Taylor Rock City Riders and other groups.

This ride, a fundraiser to support the Marilyn Fulper Memorial Fund, has evolved into  a very nice event, and  it seems to be a little different each year depending on who volunteers. Last year, for example, there seemed to be a lot of on-the-road support, but there was not so much as water at the finish. I took note because we had jumped on a fast group, skipped all of the rest stops and came in with empty bottles and bellies. The year before, we had been greeted with cold drinks, snacks, and ice cold watermelon, so our expectations were high.
The finish area support for the recent ride was the best ever, with Loblolly Creamery providing cold chocolate milk and ice cream in addition the the watermelon, ice water and other refreshments.

3 rides in one....
For our little group, the day evolved into what seemed almost like three very different rides.
Part 1- Leaving Scott, we settled into what was likely the second or third group on the road. There were 20-30 riders in a double  line, working well and rolling along pretty smoothly at 20-23 MPH for the most part. That is easy riding on the flats in a group that size. Riding two up like this in a solid group is one of the great pleasures of cycling. Conversations come and go as you find yourself riding beside friends, acquaintances, or strangers, you can relax a bit, and you can pretty much take as little or as much of the workload as you want. As is frequently the case in event rides, our dynamic soon changed. Some of our bunch needed water so we made a stop at about mile 26, which was needed by some of our riders, but which immediately altered the complexion of our experience.

Part 2-We left the stop with eight riders, still in a double line, which meant everyone was in the wind a quarter of the time as opposed to a 10th or less. A couple of riders decided to do 50 miles and dropped off at the next stop, and we were soon a group of 5. We discussed our strategy and decided on a single line, taking 1 minute pulls, and pretty easily maintaining a 20-22 MPH pace. That put only one rider in the wind at a time as everyone took about 20% of the load. We rode like this for what I'd guess was about 15 miles, and the short pulls really helped to keep everyone fresh while maintaining a good pace.
A note on group ride strategy-
It seems that there is a certain machismo associated with going to the front and taking long monster pulls. That is great when there are strong riders in a group who are willing and able to take the responsibility, but what often happens is that other folks, whom I'll call "the rest of us", feel compelled to take an equal share of the load. That often results in weaker riders blowing up and being dropped or simply having an unnecessarily  miserable ride. In larger groups it is pretty easy to simply sit on when you need to or just rotate through. In a smaller group such as our 5, I think it's important to recognize what works best and talk about it. I appreciate that Bill Torrey called for the 1 minute pulls so that we were all clear on the plan. Rather than looking at my computer all the time, I found it easy to count 80 pedal strokes when it was my turn to pull. My cadence was showing about 75 RPM, so that was an effective way for me to keep time.
Also understand that it is OK to say, "I'm done, cooked, toast, bonked, can't take another pull" and just sit in. Your friends would rather have you along as a passenger, as I have been too many times, than not have you along.
It was a hot and brutally humid day, and the conditions took their toll on some riders. I actually felt better as it warmed up enough for the sweat to evaporate.

Part 3- We made a second stop when we sighted a large group of riders at the last support station, pausing briefly to top off bottles and jumping in with a massive bunch. The wind had picked up a bit, so we were glad to have the refuge of the pack, but it was not a time to relax. It was a disparate group with little organization behind the front group of riders, so it became a bit of a defensive ride.It's just a fact that big mixed groups in an event ride are going to be a little sketchy. There were plenty of folks in the pack that I know as experienced riders just sitting in like I was, accepting the accordion effect  and constantly making small adjustments. It is always interesting to hear newer riders asking the same questions I asked not that long ago, "why ...do we keep changing speeds....who's stopping up there...why do they go so fast coming out of corners???....
One rider who had sat in with us for a bit earlier in the day turned to be a said, "Why does everybody keep rubbernecking". I looked up and down the line to see if I noticed heads turning as I considered the question. The guy was strong but had mentioned earlier that this was his third group ride, and I finally caught on that he was referring to the seeming random braking as when freeway traffic passes an incident in the opposite travel lanes and slows down as everyone looks, though the road ahead is clear. I did my best to explain.

Cold finish to a hot ride-peaches and cream ice cream. I assured this rider that the photo was not at all about her, though she was showing pro skills by choosing the shade and post-ride ice cream.

 I had a great teacher and it still took a lot of hours on the bike to start to understand things like how the simple act of a rider at the front standing out of the saddle can result in a rider 5 wheels back having to overlap a wheel or grab a handful of brake a few seconds later. Or, why riders in the back in a turn have to race back on the catch up because the front riders are well clear and are back up to pace.
There were no egregious fouls such as ear bugs or aerobars in this group, and none of my comments are meant as criticism; simply observations of things that occur in almost every group ride. These are not the well-orchestrated movements of a seasoned race team or even of groups of friends who regularly hit the road together. They are simply some of the things that make every big ride different, yet the same in many ways. Riding is about being fit, making friends, some competition, and, hopefully, learning from each new experience.