Monday, November 14, 2011

Possum Grape, Arkansas

Friends: As I closed to within ten miles of downtown Little Rock approaching from the west on thickly forested route ten, neither my map nor anyone I asked could tell me how to link up with the bicycle path along the Arkansas River that went straight to the Clinton Library. I knew it was to my left, but there didn't seem to be any main thoroughfares bisecting the road I was on.

Then I caught a glimpse of a cyclist in Lyra a block over. It took me several blocks to catch up to him. He was headed to the bike path himself. He said I'd have to follow him, as it was too complicated to explain how to reach it riding through the small affluent suburb of Cammack Village up on a high bluff overlooking the river to reach the lone road heading down to the river.

He warned me that if I ever drove through Cammack Village to strictly observe the 25 mile per hour speed limit, as the cops ticket drivers if they exceed the speed limit by even one mile per hour. When we reached the river, we came out right at the bicycle bridge that crosses the Arkansas River. It is the longest pedestrian/bicycle bridge ever built, 4,226 feet long. A commemorative plaque from its dedication in September of 2006, also stated it was the only bridge ever built into a dam, and listed numerous awards this engineering marvel had won. It was a magnificent structure with supports jutting out of a dam lofting it ninety feet over the river.

My riding partner said he was continuing on to Pinnacle Mountain, a pyramid shaped mountain we could see in the distance. Just a little over a mile away was another recently completely bicycle bridge, one of three on this bike route. "If you come along with me you can bike over all three of them," he said. "The third was just completed this summer and it will take you out right at the Clinton Library."

I had told him I was meeting a friend at the library at noon. It wasn't even ten o'clock, so I had plenty of time. He wasn't all that impressed that I wanted to visit the library. "Not everyone here likes Clinton all that much. When he decided to put his library in Little Rock, it caused quite a stink, but they built it anyway."

He wasn't the only person I'd met in these travels to echo such a sentiment. A former Arkansan who was tending the desk at the Wagon Wheel Motel in Missouri on Historic Route 66 told Don Jaime and me that many people in Arkansas had voted for Clinton for President to get him out of the state.

As we bicycled along the bicycle path my fellow cyclist commented, "If you'd been here yesterday this trail would have been mobbed with cyclists. But you're in the Bible Belt, and this being Sunday, most people are in church this morning." About the only others out enjoying the path were a few woman joggers and a few Asians taking a stroll.

The bridge over the dam was seven-and-a-half miles from downtown Little Rock. I thought I might be able to see the handful of its 40-story tall skyscrapers as I crossed over it, but the bluffs and winding river blocked the view. It was still very rural, even that close to the heart of this capital city of 200,000 people. The path took me through farmlands with recently harvested huge rolls of hay and past several soccer fields and more forest. After four miles I at last came upon residences and could begin to see the Little Rock skyline on the other side of the river.

A most pleasing sculpture of a young boy on a BMX bike wearing a broad grin and a backward baseball hat stood at the foot of the bicycle/pedestrian bridge leading to the Clinton Library. The bridge had been a former train bridge, still retaining its towering grid of metal camouflaging that it was a bicycle bridge. Like the dam bridge it was a nifty piece of engineering and not without a few aesthetic touches--flower pots on its railing and pull-outs to gaze upon the river.

The Clinton Library too was a magnificent structure with the look of a battle ship perched on stanchions along the river just east of downtown Little Rock. It was part of a mile long Riverfront Park, including an open door pavilion for concerts and an array of sculptures and monuments. One of the sculptures was of a giant hog or razorback, the mascot of the state University in Fayetteville. Many message boards of businesses from banks to beauty salons shouted out "Go Hogs." More than a few companies had taken on hog-related names, none more apt than the car wash calling itself "Hog Wash."

The Riverfront Park had exhibits celebrating the town's past and its role in the Civil War as part of the Confederacy. A Wellness Walkway had placards proclaiming "It's Good to be a Loser" and "Be a Quitter," encouraging people to lose weight by eating sensibly and engaging in regular physical activity and also to quit smoking--"one of the most important things you'll ever do."

Paralleling the Riverfront Park was Clinton Avenue with a Clinton Museum store packed with Clinton books and posters and memorabilia and t-shirts. The most prominent was "I Miss Bill."
I did all the exploring on my own, as Don Jaime didn't make our appointed rendezvous time. He must have been slowed by the continuing strong winds from the south. I was able to head north from Little Rock and take full advantage of the winds, nearly doing 100 miles for the day.

And those strong winds persist today. Rather than angling against them eastward to Memphis I'm letting them blow me directly north. Chicago is now just 600 miles away. If I'm not careful I'll be home well before Thanksgiving. I had been looking forward to making Turkey Day the final leg of my trip home. The winds are due to start blowing from the north any time, and if so, I can reduce my pace and spend more time lingering, but while I have such a wind as I do now, I want to take full advantage of it. I've already spent more time in this library than I wished to. As is my motto, I'd rather be on my bike.

Later, George

1 comment:

dworker said...

Good stuff George. I might need to stay in the US for some of the winter to finish a few projects. So I am now looking into riding south, from perhaps New Orleans east. I will study the maps again for it.