The Spoked household took a spring break road trip to see the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas–a mere four and a half hours car drive from our home in Topeka. As we headed south into a progressively greener landscape, we hoped for a long weekend filled with fine art and sunshine. The week’s rainy weather began breaking up by the time we crossed into Arkansas. Blooming redbud and dogwood trees decorated the woods, and light green leaves unfurled on the tips of branches. The clouds parted like theater curtains for the sunset as we pulled into the hotel parking lot.
Faced with a long weekend filled with too much food, most of it bad for me, I decided to shoehorn cycling into the schedule. Early Saturday morning, while Mr. Spoked still slept, I rolled the Specialized Rockhopper out of the hotel into the misty morning. It can be difficult to find practical information on a town’s bicycling trails online, and trailheads often aren’t marked well on either maps or streets. To make matters worse, Bentonville and its neighbor, Rogers, blend together indistinguishably. They might as well be the same town, but each has a separate trails map on its website. I gave up trying to figure out how (or if) the trail systems connected and decided to risk getting lost.
By a stroke of luck, we ended up staying literally around the corner from the South Bentonville trailhead. I rolled north on that trail, weaving between residential streets and wetlands as the sun began to rise. But I didn’t get far before the trail ended in a high school parking lot. The city’s website claims it connects to another trail, but I couldn’t find any directional markings. Why don’t municipalities mark their trails better? After all, streets don’t remain unmarked for long.
Thwarted from cycling further north, I backtracked south and picked up what I later discovered was the Horsebarn Trail in Rogers (heck, I didn’t even know I was in Rogers at that point). The surroundings were even prettier on this (again) unmarked trail, although it eventually dumped onto a sidewalk along an arterial. There I coasted beside a jogger who suggested detouring onto a spur next to a beautiful creek. Steam rose from its water as I pedaled alone on the wide, beautiful trail.
Later I learned the trail system in Bentonville is actually quite extensive, and well-marked in the downtown areas. Many of those trail signs credit Walmart for sponsorship (Bentonville is Walmart’s corporate home and birthplace). Regardless of how you feel about the company’s business practices, its favorable influence is obvious in the community’s wealthy suburbs and corporate offices. Affluence was evident everywhere, including the trails system. I thought of Topeka’s bikeways master plan, approved by the city but not funded, and wished we had a corporate benefactor. I’m not defending Walmart by any means, just stating that money has its privileges and responsibilities. It appears Walmart has accepted the latter, at least in its home community.
Here are some photos of the great trails I rode on in Bentonville and Rogers. The next couple of posts will deal with other rides from the same weekend.