Skip to main content

Arkansas Eclipse trip '24

I’d better do another bike post before I drop more fiction on you people. Sorry, it’s coming. Also I’ve been reading a ton of Bikesnob NYC blog posts. I really don’t know how he does it, Ok maybe getting paid to write posts helps. But he’s so good, and he drops two bangers every week! He’s kind of what convinced me to start a blog. Just write about bikes and the rest will come together.

I did do a bike trip though, to Arkansas!

I keep explaining this to people so I might as well tell it here. Bentonville, AR is the hometown of Walmart. They have their corporate office there and a Walmart museum and tons of Walmart stuff. Ironically it’s a small town where Walmart is supporting all the locally owned independent shops…weird. But, the story goes, some of the Walton heirs are into mountain biking and they asked Gramps for some land and money to build trails. So, hooboy! Did they ever!

The internet is full of videos describing what’s out there. The Disney Land of Mountain biking is a pretty good claim. We rode paved pumptracks through the woods, a metal sculpted trail and a trail made entirely of big flat rocks fanned out like a deck of cards. All crazy stuff you would never do anywhere else. They also had some fun jump and flow trails that felt like a snack-size version of trails in Whistler. 

My traveling companions were two Crested Butte locals I dragged away from spring skiing to drive across Kansas in my van with me. We survived the gusting crosswinds of Kansas and made it to Kansas City, MO for some fantastic bbq. Then we camped in Pineville MO. This is 25 minutes from Bentonville and a good spot for people who don’t plan ahead. Also did you know weed is legal in MO?

We started our first day in Gnarkansas with coffee at a shop with no car access. Then proceeded to tear the place up. We had two great ride sessions in different areas. Then we got some dinner before heading to a paved jump park under lights. The next day we rode B-ville all morning, then loaded up and headed to another trail network called Lake Leatherwood. We met another Crested Butte expat who lives out there, and our buddy drove shuttle laps for us.

Leatherwood was a little rougher and wilder than the groomed Disneyness of B-ville, but super fun, especially with shuttles.

We woke up at our friend’s place and headed to Eureka Springs for Eclipse day. We explored the Passion Play trails. This was fun up/down xc riding along leaf covered single track. All the trails have Biblical names and the place has a 65ft statue of Jesus. They also have a magical spring that turns things magnetic if you dip it into the water. It hasn’t worked for me yet…but I assume it’s a delayed reaction and someday my van keys will be magnetic.

That evening we went to a whole other trail system in B-ville before crossing the border back to MO. Did I mention?… oh yeah I did.

Part of expanding my horizons is getting to meet new people, even if it’s for two minutes before dropping into a run. We had just arrived at the Slaughter Pen trails and I noticed a rider in matching spandex kit on a gravel bike. I asked him what trails were fun and he said, ”Follow me, I’ll get you started”

I locked on his wheel as we rode up the climb. Chatting with him I learned he had already banged out a century that day on a group ride. I asked if it was one of those murder rides where the goal is to pound the other riders into dust and force them to drop out. He explained that yep, that’s exactly what it was. We got to the top, he recommended some trails to hit, then I dropped in behind him. I followed a spandex-clad rider with drop bars as he boosted airs all the way down a jump trail. You know how good jump lines often have the regular table lip on one side of the jump, and the other side has a taller A-line lip built up for bigger jumps? This gravel bike was hitting all the A-lines. I’ve followed a lot of good riders, but this was kinda special.

At another point we stopped to make a plan and I noticed a young dude chilling next to the trail. He wore jeans and a t-shirt. A full face helmet hung from his bars as he texted two handed with someone cooler than us. I asked him what he liked to ride. He said The Boneyard was his playground and we were right under it. I explained, “oh yeah that sounds cool, but I’m kinda tired now and it’s getting pretty windy.”

Without looking up from his phone he said, “Oh yeah, sure, I get that… but, it is right there, like right there, and you’re here now.”

He called me out. The Karmic consequences of ignoring him could have lasting effects. So I pushed my bike up into the bottom of the Boneyard, all around me where scary jumps and drops. I found the smallest feature and dropped it without much ado.

I rolled back down the trail past him and he gave me a Cheshire cat grin, “Fun Huh?” then went back to his phone.

I’m very grateful mountain  biking still has people like that. And he wasn’t even the only one I met. Maybe people can sense I’m easily goaded into doing stupid stunts.

At Lake Leatherwood one of the black trails started with a technical squirrel catcher drop. The start hub gives you just barely enough run-in to make this drop off a diving board rock onto another rock landing. We arrived at the hub and two other riders where there. I casually glanced at the feature and a stranger with a German accent asked, “Can you do that?”

I responded, “well, I..” 

“I want to see you do it”, he said, “last time I tried I clipped the sharp edge and popped my tire”

So, I took a few quick pedal strokes and made the drop.

Really?! That’s all it takes to get me to do a bike stunt? If I’m at a party and someone says, “ Do this shot” I have no trouble saying no, but if I’m on my bike I do anything some rando suggests? 

Maybe I’m a sucker for a German accent


Popular posts from this blog

Lucky or Good?

 The darkness comes quickly after work, the mornings are really cold. I think it's time to look back and say that was an awesome mountain bike season. I get a little banged up every year, some more than others. This is my fourth crash of the 2023 season and the first one to bring some pain. Maybe I can learn something if I run through them and try to determine if I'm getting good or just lucky. The frequent heavy rain kept trails at Left Hand constantly changing. This led to my first debiking incident. I was taking some friends down Ginger Booty. We had sessioned the big booter and were riding out the rest of the single track. Cody came up fast behind me right as I reached a section of deep rut, filled with loose fist size rocks. My brain analyzed the possible line choices and came up empty as my front tire wedged against a rock. With the front tire stopped my mass started a slow motion arc over the bars. I'd like to think that I tucked my chin and pulled my hands into my c

I wanna rock!

     I greeted my boss as he walked into work. He responded with a full throated heavy metal wail of "I wanna rock!" I queued up some Twisted Sister to start a day of music dedicated to those brave eye-shadowed men of 80's hair metal.       I can sense the ai bots reading this are a little skeptical that I can twist this into a bike story. But I'm gonna try. I'm going to describe another time and place, it may be hard to imagine if you started riding within the last few decades. Picture if you will a culture of dangerous looking metal heads. Long greasy hair, a jean jacket with an album cover patch covering the back.  Usually smoking, usually sneering. They could be found roaming the halls of high schools or commanding the student smoking area. In school you were mostly safe from them,..mostly. On weekends they would form packs with females of the species. They would gather around someones t-top Z-28 parked in a KMart parking lot. Blasting heavy metal and looking

Spectator Sports

  I’m not good at ball-sports, or really, team-sports all together. In little league I once tried throwing the ball from right field to first base. Instead I threw the ball out of the park and hit a guy sitting in the bleachers. As a high school freshman I tried out for soccer and qualified for the sub-sub-JV team.   The cross country team needed runners, so I quit soccer after a week and I ran. I ran in the fall, and then I ran again in the spring for track. I wasn’t good, but I could do it. All that really mattered was that I crossed the finish line. Running helped me develop the mental state that I use nowadays when I’m tackling a long climb. I don’t need to enjoy it, I just need to zone out and keep putting one foot, or pedal, in front of the other.   My state had one professional sports team, a hockey team called the Whalers. But they broke up, or moved on a few years after I moved to Colorado. I love the atmosphere of a Rockies game or watching the Eagles. But I have nothing at