written Monday, November 24, 2008
Maumelle COE Park near Little Rock, AR.
Monday, Dar and I loaded our bikes onto the Toad and drove about 10 miles to a trailhead for the famous Arkansas River Trail. The good citizens of the Little Rock area have built this extensive trail system over the last few years and we were itching to "give it a go". There's something liberating and free about riding a good trail through a natural landscape, along a river, through woods or forest, or even a good desert. We do it whenever we can.
Throughout the country local and state governments have converted old abandoned railroad rights-of-way into these marvelous trails where one can walk, run, or bike through the countryside without fear of being run down by some old vision-impaired guy driving a 45 foot motorhome. Of course, before you send me hate mail, it's also possible to be run down by young mindless texting teenagers, or middle aged depressed drunk guys. I just don't believe bikes and trucks/cars/campers belong on the same road, and that's why we almost always ride on trails specifically for bikes and pedestrians.
This trail is about 20 miles in total length. It forms a loop that starts in downtown Little Rock, crosses the Arkansas River on a recycled railroad bridge to North Little Rock, proceeds upstream along the north bank through parts of town, an old abandoned rock quarry, a couple of large parks, and eventually to the site of the Corps of Engineers Murray Lock & Dam about 8 miles upstream from downtown Little Rock.
At the dam, a new bridge, opened in 2006, was built on top of the dam expressly to carry the trail over the river. Referred to as the Big Dam Bridge, it's the longest pedestrian/bike only bridge built for that purpose in the United States. At over 4200 feet long, it rises 65 feet above the river and 30 feet above the dam and lock. When we crossed over, which we did twice -- once each way, the wind was steady at 20 mph and gusting higher. Being that high in the middle of the river in those kinds of winds was a hoot. I enjoyed it thoroughly, I think Dar did too.
As the trail winds it's way back to downtown Little Rock it shares space on city streets in some areas. We didn't do that part, choosing instead to make a U-turn and head back over the Big Dam Bridge and back to our car downstream.
The Big Dam Bridge and the Arkansas River Trail... highly recommended! Some pictures from our day should be online in a day or so.
After more than two weeks in the Little Rock area I'm feeling like I belong here. I know my way around town, the airport, the big shopping centers. I have a local car mechanic. I know people at a car rental agency. We have friends here. I can get my way around downtown. Isn't it amazing how much you can learn in just two weeks?
We've enjoyed our stay in LR (we locals refer to Little Rock this way). I think we'll be back soon.