For the past two years in a row, three years total, team Arkansas Outside has hosted a local International Mountain Bicycling Association Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day (TAKMBD). IMBA has set aside the first Saturday in October as Take a Kid Mountain biking day. Autumn weather is unpredictable, but we had great conditions the first year. The second attempt brought on rains just as we were finishing up and resulted in a mad dash to break down and load up. This year however, we had rain from the very beginning.
This year we created a trail specifically for TAKMBD at Two Rivers Park. Arkansas Outside Friends Cliff Li, Chad Cragle and Denny Hess showed up one morning in August to cut a flat, rock and root free one mile trail in a field near the restrooms at the park. We worked for a couple of hours mowing and weed-eating, trimming and clearing brush from around the few trees in the field. We rode it a couple of times and were happy with our work. I returned to ride it a few more times and brought the weed eater out about a week before the event to give it another trim. The trail was there but the grass around it had grown so tall that it would be tough for kids to get through. Pulaski County manages the park and they were willing to mow the field once more before we brought the kids out. The county has been very supportive and we appreciate the effort they’ve given to this little project.
On the morning of the event we woke to an overcast sky and loaded the truck with all the stuff we would need to entertain up to 50 kids on the trail including our set of kid sized obstacles: bike limbo, teeter-totter, skinny, and other contraptions. The weather forecast said to expect rain around 1 pm. This would be perfect as we planned to be finished by then. After stopping to take photos and cheer runners at the Fighting Red 5K, we headed over to Two Rivers Park. The forecast was off, it had been misting on and off since early morning. By the time we reached Two Rivers, it was no longer misting, it was a downpour.
In spite of the rain, Aaron Roberts came out to help us. Together we watched Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s Angel One helicopter take off from the lot, lashing us with the rain. It was in place for the Angel One 5K earlier in the morning. Recycled Bikes for Kids donated a couple of knobby tired kid’s bikes that could be given away to a kid who needed one. Extra helmets and blinkys were donated by Willa at North Little Rock Fit2Live, we had water bottles from the Capital Hotel and Clif Zbars and stickers from International Mountain Bicycling Association. Spokes Little Rock gave us some bags to put all the swag in. Thanks also to Chris Koenig of Chainwheel for offering to come out.
We got our bikes off the truck and took a quick spin on the trail. The trail had been mowed the night before but the short, wet grass still grabbed at the tires, killing all momentum and slowing tires down.
The rain let up a bit as we set up the obstacles in part of the parking lot. Aaron helped test a few of the challenges. We waited hoping someone would come to ride despite the weather. Luckily it wasn’t long before a cyclist I’d met after the Big Dam Bridge 100 showed up with his two kids. They were immediately drawn to the parking lot obstacle course. Dad took his son out on the trail while the daughter stayed back and rode through the obstacles again and again after swapping stories about riding Pfieffer and LOViT with Lisa. Having exhausted all the variation of teeter totter and bike limbo maneuvers, they left to ride the paved trails in the park. The rain was coming and going, sometimes heavy, sometimes not at all. The kids seemed to really enjoy riding around in the rain. I was reminded of doing the same in my youth. Another family showed up, again willing to play in the sporadic showers. Mom and dad were more than willing to stand out in the rain while the kids enjoyed the limbo and teeter-totter.
We had one more father and son show up. They took a stab at the trail but it wasn’t going to happen with training wheels. The boy did enjoy the limbo a lot but he was most keen to ride through a large puddle that had formed. He was practically giddy as he rode through again and again. It didn’t take long before Aaron, Lisa and the young man’s dad were taking turns riding through the water, all laughing and smiling. The little one is learning early, he took a few shots at mountain biker trash talkin’ about how he was beating us all and taking shortcuts. Dad and son soon left to ride some of the paved trails. While out they got caught in one of the heavier downpours, but seemed happy when they got back despite the drenching. Because stomping in and riding through puddles is one of the singular joys of childhood and a great reminder for adults.
After about 2 hours we decided to pack it in. I hope more kids got out and played in the rain even if they didn’t make it to our event. Every wet kid we saw playing in the rain and puddles had a huge grin on their face, and I didn’t see any grown-ups complaining either.