Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Arkansas, Easter and Lance

I have become very adept at getting in my workouts while on the road for work.  Usually there is a YMCA I can get to for swimming, spinning and lifting.  With the increasing popularity of Crossfit I can usually find a box to attend...but I'm turned off by the drop in fees.  My running shoes are always easy to pack but it's not always easy to find safe places to run.

My recent travels had me in North Little Rock, Arkansas which is across the river from downtown Little Rock.  But for simplicity I will use NLR to mean North Little Rock.

My first visit to NLR was two weeks ago.  Being my first time to NLR I didn't know what to expect.  I had forgot that Little Rock is the state capitol, so much for my American History schooling, and I think there is an ex-President who came from Arkansas....Bill something or other.....oh yeah Clinton.

I was happy to find NLR a very nice place to be.  Ample dining, shopping, entertainment and some seriously nice people.

On my first day in the area I drove around to get a feel for where things were.  I had put the address for my customer and the YMCA into Garmin and had it lead the way.  Driving out to the YMCA I saw a sign for a park.  I exited the highway and found Burns Park.  This massive city park had everything.  Including plenty of trails to safely run on.

After leaving the park I continued on to the YMCA.  Hmmmm....the place looked a little deserted.  In fact it was closed.  When I got back to my hotel room I did some more research and found that the Y had closed 12/31/11.  So I guess there would be no workouts at the Y.  Fortunately the customer I was visiting had passes to a local fitness center I could use.

Fast forward two weeks to Easter weekend when I would be returning to NLR to complete my work at the customer location.  I'm in the middle of a training block and I needed to train.  I would also have quite a bit of time on my hands since Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon would be my "free" time.

I knew I could run on Sunday but I wanted to ride on Saturday.  I did a search for "bike rental" in the area.  The first hit was for River Trail Bicycle Rentals.  They had exactly what I needed in a road bike.  Located on the Arkansas River Trail I at least had a safe option for getting in a ride. I contacted the owner Dave and he said there would be a 25 mile training ride leaving from his front door at 8AM Saturday.

The CARTI Tour de Rock is a fund raiser to help fight cancer.  ALL CANCER.  CARTI is an organization that treats all types of cancer.  So the training ride was for all levels of people.  Dave said I would find a place to fit in.

After I finished work on Friday I drove over to RTBR so I knew where the place was and to talk with Dave.  I'm so glad I did.  Dave and I talked about Saturday and some other options for riding.  He gave me a couple of maps and I was ready for Saturday.

Saturday morning I arrived early to get my rental bike, a GiantTCR3, ready with my pedals and adjusted for me.  I took the bike back to my car and introduced myself to the first person I saw.

Lance was parked next to me getting ready so I asked what his plans were.  Fortunately he was looking to get some additional miles in above the 25 that were planned.  Awesome I asked if I could join in and he said it would cost me....."a smile."  I can handle that kind of cost.

Lance introduced me to some of his friends from the Mello Velo Cycling Club and we chatted before the ride began.  When we rolled out at 8AM there were about 100 people of many levels rolling out.

I had a lot of fun riding with Lance, Charlie, Ken, the Aldridge Brothers (Jeff & John) and many other cyclists.  I was able to pull hard at times and also relax and take in the scenic countryside east of Little Rock.  The route is known as Harper's Trail and is well marked with official signs.

Lance has asthma and needed to start the ride with his bandana on.  I love the smiles on the two riders to the right.

We lost Lance and Ken when we didn't realize Ken had a flat.  So I finished with the Aldridge Brothers back to RTBR.  One of the brothers had this flag on his bike bag.

I waited to see if Lance would be showing up any time soon.  I decided to head out on my own and ride the Arkansas River Trail.  I would be safe and couldn't get lost. 

The River Trail went through Burns Park, over the Big Dam Bridge, and a nice out and back in Two Rivers Park. It was a great day and there were many people on the trail walking, running, and riding bikes.

As I returned to RTBR there was Lance and Charlie sitting on the porch with several friends.  I put my stuff away and joined them on the porch in the sun.  It was just before noon and they were enjoying their post ride beers.  I grabbed a hard cider from the cooler and joined my fellow cyclists.  These people knew how to make a person feel welcome.

Bicycle built for 6.

Me and Lance

Reluctantly I dragged myself away from the fun.  I had to have lunch, get showered and to the office by 2:30PM.  Sucks how work kills a beautiful day.

Work was long but successful.  We finished Sunday morning and I was in my hotel room by 9AM.  I got a solid 4 hour of sleep before I woke up.  Not wanting to waste the day...or be stuck in my room...I got dressed for my trail run.

I studied the map and planned my route starting at the Covered Bridge.  I texted Aimee with my plans so that someone would be able to find my car...or body...should something happen.  I ran the green trail in Burns Park first.  This was a rocky technical trail used primarily by mountain bikes.  It looped by the campground, some pavilions, and a very nice overlook that provided a view of Arkansas River and the buildings from downtown Little Rock.

I completed the loop in one hour and then headed out on the yellow loop.  This section was flatter and almost free of rocks.  I ran this loop twice to get me 1:40 of total running.

Post run I showered and headed to Loca Luna for my Easter dinner.  I had seen a billboard for the restaurant and the on-line menu looked great.  They were showing The Masters golf tournament in the bar so I sat there to watch the conclusion while I ate.  The bartender Mark was great in offering suggestions about what to eat and drink.  The Lobster-Crab Stuffed Rainbow Trout was delicious and reasonably priced.

Looking back at the weekend I smile at the pictures and memories I made in Arkansas.  The state motto of Arkansas is Regnat Populus....The People Rule. I couldn't agree more as everyone I met or talked with was friendly and hospitable.  

Dave, Al and the dogs at River Trail Bike Rental.

Lance, Rhonda, Charlie, Ken, Jeff, John and the many cyclists I rode with.

I'm glad I again stepped outside the comfort zone and believed that one of the communities I belong to, cycling in this case, would open up and accept a new member for a few hours.

Game On Arkansas.....Game On.


Trisaratops said...

Very cool! I've heard great things about the trails in Arkansas. They always have some great ads in Outside Magazine.

Awesome you got to link up with some good peeps!

Lance said...

Great Blog and I was VERY honored to meet you! A very famous man from Oklahoma once said, "I have never met a stranger"..and I have always felt that way, the Melo Velo group here in Little Rock ALWAYS enjoys meeting people and helping out fellow cyclist anywhere and at anytime! You and your wife are most welcome(and all of your cycling buddies) to come join us for rides at any time, just look into Arkansas Bycicling Calender! Hint: Big Dam Bridge ride coming up later in the year on September 29th! As always, it is great to have a new cycling buddy!

Christi said...

What a great weekend!

Jeavon Harp said...

This blog is home. I am a retired pro cyclist and a writer @ pedometer reviews. I love to visit sites like this. Not too many people here in our hood knows this stuff. I have fun here.