Taking a Ride

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Running around, trying to cover outdoor events in Arkansas often means spending lots of time in the truck driving all over the state. It really eats into time that I need to spend running or riding to stay in shape for those events that I plan to race in. I wish I had been riding more before the Cross Winds Classic Road Race last month. This weekend I planned to cover the Big Rock Mystery Run while Lisa and Mc, youngest team member of Arkansas Outside, were in Hot Springs running and shooting the Spa City Trail Run. All I knew About the Big Rock Mystery was that it would start at the Riverview Skateboard Park in North Little Rock. I did have an idea that it would go to the top of Fort Roots but I didn’t know how or at what point in the race they would head up. I know the area pretty well having done a couple of adventure races through there and lots of mountain bike rides in the area. Like many cyclists in town I use Fort Roots Road as a training climb on my road bike and the Emerald Park Trail on the mountain bike. So I decided that instead of driving all the way to the other side of the river (I live in Little Rock), I would park on the Little Rock side of the Big Dam Bridge and ride to the race. Then I could just use the bike to get to places that I can’t take the truck anyway. Also, I’d get somewhat of a workout in.

The Arkansas River from Fort Roots.
The Arkansas River from Fort Roots.

I stopped at a local fast food joint and picked up a large coffee (we all have our little addictions) and then parked at the base of the bridge. It was still dark out (6:30 am) so I put some lights on the bike, grabbed a windbreaker and mounted up, coffee in hand. I took a nice casual ride, switching coffee hands and just enjoying the brisk morning and possibilities of the day. As I rode across the bridge I notice a flock of pelicans flying to the west of the bridge, caught in the colors of the led display lighting. On the other side, sunrise. Only a few early morning runners were out and I was in no hurry, greeting them as I went by.

I arrived at the park just a little after 7, I should have moved a little faster since I was suppose to meet the race organizer but she was already gone finishing route set up, so I sat down on a bench, finished off my coffee and caught up with some emails until folks started showing up. I had already seen some of the flour arrows showing the way for runners on my way in and I was beginning to get a feel for the race course. When the race organizer showed back up after finishing the course layout, I checked in with her and then decided to head up to the top of Fort Roots to scout some of the route. There is a short, paved trail that heads out above the bluffs just before you reach the gate at the top of the hill and I took that to a small overlook with a couple of benches where the pavement ends. From here I had a great vantage point for the start of the race. I could get some photos of the start of the race from here, looking down on the park, and then ride back to the road to catch them coming up for the first time. While I was waiting, this happened:

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Sunrise at Fort Roots.
Sunrise at Fort Roots.

After watching the start of the race from on high I rode back to Fort Roots Drive to wait for the runners to show up. I figured out that they would be coming up the hill pretty soon and then would turn around to head back down so I’d get a few two way traffic shots. While I waited I enjoyed this scene:

Early morning view on Fort Roots Drive.
Early morning view on Fort Roots Drive.

After the runners came by I left to go back to the top to get photos of them with the city skyline as the backdrop. Once I got in position I suddenly realized that I had lost my phone. PANIC! I rode back quickly to the road, no phone, I scoured the trail back, no phone. All I could do was hope that one of the runners had picked it up and would bring it back to the race organizer. I got back in position to get more photos and contiued to work the course all morning. At one point some of the runners slowed down to negotiate a tunnel they had to climb in and one asked if I had lost a phone. YES! YES! YES! She then described another runner who had picked it up. I thanked her and as I turned around the described runner showed up. He is my new hero. (The photos in this article were all taken with the camera in that phone instead of the big camera) You can read more about the race and see some more photos in the race article. I spent most of the rest of the morning going up and down the mountain finding runners wherever I could. It’s funny how when I first show up at these things no one knows me, wondering who the guy is that showed up for a run with a bike. Then, after popping up all over the course and shouting words of encouragement I slowly become a part of the race for them.

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Once most of the runners had finished I decided to ride back into Burns Park where a Giant Bike Demo, hosted by Arkansas Cycling and Fitness had started. I figured I would try out a new bike just for the fun of it. I hadn’t ridden a 29r in years and wanted to understand the improvements. For those of you who don’t ride, a 29r has larger wheels, 29″ vs the standard 26″ on my bike. I talked with the mechanic there and they set me up on a Giant XTC Composite 29 with pretty much the same set up my current bike has (I think they saw me coming). I had a blast riding it.

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Shiny new bike!
Shiny new bike!

I had a great time riding it around the Burns Park trails, maybe too much fun. When I returned it about 45 minutes later, it had a nice layer of mud on it. I really didn’t try to get it muddy but a test ride is a test ride I had to see what she could do. A 29r is probably in my future but I’m not in the market right now. I’m still having fun on my bike.

As I was leaving the demo, Bike Nerd Friend John Barton (JBar Cycling) showed up and rode with me the rest of the way through Burns Park. We talked about trail usage and nothing at all, just rode. By the time we got to Pfeiffer Loop I was ready to get my bike back in the dirt and dove into the newly cleaned up trails. Friends David and Susan Paoli have adopted these trails and are taking great care of them. Thanks Paoli’s! Then it was back over the bridge and home. I suddenly realized that it was still only noon. I’d had a busy morning and got 25 miles of sometimes intense riding in. I still had all afternoon to go celebrate St. Patrick’s Day….that’s another story.

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