Trip Log – Day 375 – N Little Rock AR to Little Rock AR

to-little-rockNovember 28, 2016 – Rain, 55 degrees

Miles Today: 32

Miles to Date: 19,386

States to Date: 47

 img_8512The sky was heavy, the forecast dark, so I slid through downtown Little Rock before the showers began. When they arrived, they came in torrents. Despite refuge under an Interstate bridge, I was soaked when I reached the Arkansas Food Bank for my first conversation of the day. More pedaling in the rain. My feet squeaked with each step as I entered Loco Luna for lunch and my meeting with Matt from Sheriff’s Ranch. At my afternoon tour of Heifer International the accommodating receptionist let me drape my sopping jacket, gloves and hat over the floor grates. It was the kind of day when people were either empathetic or dismayed by a guy on a bike.

img_8539By the time I completed my three conversations, the rain stopped and bits of sun peaked between the clouds. I rode over the pedestrian bridge and along the north side of the Arkansas River Trail all the way to Big Dam Bridge to my hosts west of town.

imgres imgres-1Terrie and Dean Turner elevate hosting cyclists to a whole new level. Terrie served an array of hors d’oeuvres while I washed my clothes. Then they treated me to dinner at Doe’s, a Little Rock institution where tamales with chili, gargantuan steaks, tasty salads, and heaps of fries, potatoes and toast are served up family style. Our conversation was rich and satisfying as our meal.

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Trip Log – Day 374 – Conway AR to N Little Rock AR

to-little-rockNovember 27, 2016 – Overcast, 50 degrees

Miles Today: 46

Miles to Date: 19,354

States to Date: 47

‘We the People.’ What does that mean? The first display of the Visitor’s Center at Little Rock Central High School, site of the 1957 violence and eventual admittance of nine African-American students to the previously all-white school, explains how the first three words of our constitution were not written to encompass all the people living in our country, just white men of property.

img_8501The exhibits go on to describe events in Little Rock surrounding school desegregation as well as other civil rights issues in our nation.

I pedaled over to the Clinton Library, the eleventh and last Presidential Library I will visit on this journey, where the staff is extremely friendly to odd looking cyclists and the message of inclusiveness rings loud; testaments from Nelson Mandela, Jordan’s King Hussein and Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin.

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The Constitution goes on to declare, ‘in order to from a more perfect union.’ Interesting that it does not declare a perfect union. It acknowledges that we are striving for perfection, which will likely never be obtained.

img_8510We recently elected a new President, a man who did not receive the most votes and whose support varied wildly across demographics of race, income and education. Our rules of election are clear, if illogical, and so Donald Trump is our President-elect. He represents a profile of ‘we the people’ that more closely resembles our forefathers. Whether you think that is good or ill depends on how strictly you interpret the Constitution versus how much you value the struggle for civil rights over the past 200 years by those left out of the original ‘we.’

Here in Arkansas, where people either loathe or love his opponent, Hillary Clinton, so strongly, the constitutional ‘we’ gets drowned out by personality. Too bad, because I believe how we define ‘we’ is important. If it doesn’t include all of us yet, we’ll just have to keep striving for that more perfect union.

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Trip Log – Day 373 – Russellville AR to Conway AR

to-conwayNovember 26, 2016 – Overcast, 45 degrees

Miles Today: 48

Miles to Date: 19,308

States to Date: 47

The straight grey line of US 64 east parallels the railroad track from Little Rock to Fort Smith. The trains roll past, long lines of flat beds and box cars and oil cars. Without fanfare, the last one whooshes past and the landscape turns still again.

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I long for a caboose. I have not seen a single one linked to a train my entire journey. Today, cabooses are artifacts; stationary, decorative anchors in self-conscious towns whose depots are ice cream parlors; or rusting hulks left to the elements. The trains they used to terminate now flail along the tracks without any punctuation, let alone the exclamation point produced by a vintage red caboose.

We are a nation of busyness and business. We’ve stripped our landscape of serendipitous delight. I’m sure it’s an inefficient hassle to hitch a useless car to the end of a snake of money. But every meal deserves dessert, and every train deserves a caboose. img_7908Not because the train needs it, not because the economy needs it, because humans need it. The caboose satisfies our craving for romance and whimsy of travel. Cabooses balance all the purpose that precedes them. We don’t need cabooses; we just like them. Our enjoyments are what elevate us above mere machines. And there’s no price tag on the joy a caboose could produce on a day grey as today.

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Trip Log – Day 372 – Fort Smith AR to Russellville AR

to-russellvilleNovember 25, 2016 – Overcast, 50 degrees

Miles Today: 81

Miles to Date: 19,260

States to Date: 47

Back on the road again, fueled by Thanksgiving leftovers, including my friend Paul’s sweet potatoes with pecan and maple syrup. Vegetable or dessert? Who cares, it’s delicious.

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Fort Chaffee is mostly decommissioned but still has rows of classic barracks.

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I had not anticipated how much Arkansas feels like the Deep South. Confederate icons abound. But some places celebrate change. Charleston AR was the first city in the South to desegregate their public schools, the first year after Brown vs. Board of Education, apparently with little turmoil.

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Stone buildings abound throughout the Ozarks, in the foothills as well, though many are in poor condition.

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Paris Arkansas, seat of Logan County: more beer than wine; more chicken fried steak than beef Bourgogne; more gun and pawnshops than patisseries.

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The clouds opened up for an hour or so, in time for the sun to sparkle off of Lake Dardenelle.

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Trip Log – Day 371 – Fayetteville AR to Fort Smith AR

to-fort-smithNovember 21, 2016 – Sunny, 70 degrees

Miles Today: 76

Miles to Date: 19,179

States to Date: 47

 img_8428Forecast tomorrow is strong winds from the south and rain. So, I pedaled through the University of Arkansas campus, ducked out of Fayetteville a day ahead of my plan and pedaled to Fort Smith during another Indian summer day. So glad I did as there were enough challenges navigating the Ozarks even with benign nature. By late afternoon the winds had shifted from the east and I could feel the rain coming.

 

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I will be staying with close friends in Fort Smith for three days for the Thanksgiving holiday. I wish everyone a sumptuous Thanksgiving celebration. May we all be grateful for blessings to numerous to count.

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Trip Log – Day 370 – Bentonville AR to Fayetteville AR

to-fayettevilleNovember 20, 2016 – Sunny, 50 degrees

Miles Today: 36

Miles to Date: 19,103

States to Date: 47

 img_8410Happiness is all about underplaying expectations. Thirty-six miles on a gorgeous day along the Razorback Greenway all the way to Fayetteville: what is not to love? Trail detours and construction all over Rogers that sent me spinning through Target and Cabela’s parking lots. By the time I recognized my frustration – and laughed at it – the detours ended. The last twenty miles through Springdale and into Fayetteville were every bit as lovely as my conceptions envisioned.

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img_8414A mini lending library and a bike – two of my favorite things in one!

Once I arrived at the hometown of the University of Arkansas, the day was all talk. I spent a lovely afternoon with Elysse Newman, recently appointed Head of the Department of Architecture at University of Arkansas, and her husband Michael Repovich, an architect working on the new Northwest Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Then I pedaled to my evening’s host, Hayden Sewall, for a fascinating discussion about Christianity that touched upon many of the perspectives of the 83,000 denominations worldwide that follow that religion.

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Hayden toured me through this nifty college town and took me to fountain that espouses peace in over 100 languages. We landed a streetside table at Tiny Tim’s Pizza for in-house brews, a tasty pizza, and a primo panorama of the holiday lights on Fayetteville’s square. Sorry Bentonville, Fayetteville’s lights are way snazzier.

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Trip Log – Day 369 – Rogers AR to Bentonville AR

to-rogersNovember 19, 2016 – Sunny, 50 degrees

Miles Today: 7

Miles to Date: 19,067

States to Date: 47

My day at Crystal Bridges, the Museum of American Art built by the Walton family. It is a lovely place with wonderful art, a great Frank Lloyd Wright House, an inviting cafe and welcoming research library where the staff was happy to let me spend a few hours writing.

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img_8394I don’t love the architecture: Moshe Safdie’s buildings are too idiosyncratic and arbitrarily curvy for my taste. But that matter of preference that does not diminish my admiration of the care instilled in this place. Crystal Bridges is well conceived and thoughtfully executed architecture: Every Day Low Prices transformed into high art.

I stayed with the Templeton family who live within walking distance of downtown Bentonville. We walked to the square to see the holiday light display, a scene straight out of a Frank Capra movie. Kurt joked, “Living in Bentonville is like being in The Truman Show.”

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