The Annual Shopping Trip to Searcy County

The Annual Shopping Trip to Searcy County

Arkansas Cycling & Fitness.

Driving up Highway 65 from Little Rock on a brisk December morning, a light fog is slowly lifting as we enter the foothills of the Ozark Mountains the modernized version of “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day” poem playing in my head.

“Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow…”

Okay, so we don’t have snow this time of year and the temperature would warm to the mid-50s within a couple of hours, but this trip still felt like an end-of-the-year holiday season event. Leaving the city and heading into Searcy County is a trip into a different world.

Driving through Clinton, Arkansas on a cool December morning.
Driving through Clinton, Arkansas on a cool December morning.

Last year we attended our first Chocolate Roll Bike Ride in Leslie, Arkansas. Leslie is the Chocolate Roll Capitol of the World. A Chocolate Roll is a flaky pastry with chocolate rolled up in it. We’ve decided the thing that makes it so good is not so much the chocolate but the butter. Resident and distance gravel cyclist, Dirk Merle hosts a ride every December starting in Leslie and riding north into Searcy County with a choice of 14, 19, and 41-mile distances. The ride is free but collects donations to support local rides, participants also get free hot chocolate and all the chocolate rolls they can stuff in a jersey. This year was the 5th Annual Chocolate Roll. Some of our readers may remember the Umpteen Rides of December that Paul and Melanie Norris organized, this ride got its start as part of that series of rides around the state.

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Getting ready to ride from downtown Leslie, AR.
Getting ready to ride from downtown Leslie, AR.

The 2023 year brought one of the largest groups of riders to the event, at 15-20 people, it remains a small, personal event. The 14 and 19 mile rides are fairly easy and most riders are just enjoying the countryside and rolling along at conversation speed catching up with old friends and making new ones. Conversations on our 19 mile ride varied from upgrading bike parts to holiday dessert recipes.

One of the ride groups on the 19 mile ride, Chocolate Rolls in hand.
One of the ride groups on the 19 mile ride, Chocolate Rolls in hand.
A single water crossing on the ride. Going hub deep.
A single water crossing on the ride. Going hub deep

A highlight of this year’s ride included a loose cow on the final stretch of gravel that gave us a little extra excitement.

A great ride, no bull...okay, one bull.
A great ride, no bull…okay, one bull.

Once back in town groups were formed that went shopping or eating. We have found that the small craft shops and antique stores are perfect for some Christmas shopping and again picked up some perfect gifts for friends and items for a new dining table centerpiece.

The Skylark Cafe, Leslie, AR.
The Skylark Cafe, Leslie, AR.

Last year we went to the Red River Cafe, a nice country-cooking restaurant that specializes in fried catfish and rural staples. This year we decided to visit the Skylark Cafe and were treated to incredible sandwiches and desserts. (Protip: even if you are full, get something from the dessert counter to take home.) The ride home included the obligatory visit to Serenity Farm Bread for some sourdough loaves to be frozen and brought out throughout the holidays.

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My lunch at the Skylark Cafe.
My lunch at the Skylark Cafe.

We recommend finding some time this holiday season to get out to rural Arkansas and enjoy the shopping and eating they have to offer. You don’t have to ride bicycles on gravel roads to experience these beautiful parts of Arkansas, but it doesn’t hurt.

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For more on things to do in Searcy County, go to their website.

 

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One Response

  1. I enjoyed this article very much! We were there, my husband and I. We were the ones riding the Surly bikes.
    I appreciate all of your articles.

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