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 

 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.