Bentonville bills itself as "Mountain Biking Capital of the World." Spend time on any of our trails, and it's clear the whole region shares that claim to fame.
License plates from around the nation adorn vehicles with bike racks at trailheads from Bella Vista to Devil's Den State Park. It's common for out-of-state tags to outnumber Arkansas plates in these starting spots. More proof comes from talking with these visitors.
Take last Monday. A little group of us were on a morning hike along the Karst Loop of the Monument Trail at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area. Over time we've grown accustomed to asking, "Where y'all from?" when we meet groups of mountain bikers on the paths.
We yielded to the first group of riders we met that morning, four in number. "Alabama! Roll tide," a rider hollered as he pedaled past. One of our hikers couldn't resist a quick "Woo Pig Sooie!" in response.
Bike traffic was fairly heavy for a weekday morning. Farther down the trail when we popped the question later to a couple of approaching riders. We were taken aback by their answer.
"Anchorage," the rider in front told us when they stopped to chat. This man and woman had traveled from Anchorage to northwest Arkansas specifically to ride our trails. "This is our second day here and we are loving it," the woman said. "We love the scenery and the topography."
How did they get their bikes here? Taking off the pedals and another part or two allows their bikes to fit into bicycle travel cases that can be taken on an airplane. "Thank your for sharing your state with us," the happy couple said as they pedaled away.
Then there were the two photos on the front of the Northwest Arkansas section of this newspaper the other day. Kids were flying through the air on their bikes at The Railyard bike park in Rogers. Their family came all the way from New Hampshire for a bike trip here.
I'll never forget a funny little episode along the Razorback Greenway during a freak snow storm last April. I was on news photo duty hoping to grab a shot of some crazy person biking through the snow along the greenway near Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. It was snowing to beat the band, and I'm freezing. Finally here came the crazy person I'd hoped for pedaling my way in the blizzard.
He was kind enough to stop. When I approached to get his name my jaw dropped. I already knew it. "Don!" I hollered. "Flip!" he hollered back, equally surprised.
This particular Don is a good friend who lives in Illinois. He and three friends traveled here from Illinois to mountain bike our trails and float the Buffalo National River. Don and I have kayaked together many times with the same group float trip on the Mississippi River up north.
What are the chances that Don and I would run into each other in the snow that day? About a million to one I'd say. He and his pals also visited Crystal Bridges and sipped craft beers at our area breweries.
I saw Don later in the summer on that same Mississippi River float trip. He couldn't say enough about the great time he and his friends had here, even though it was cold for much of their visit.
They definitely planned to return to the "Mountain Biking Capital of the World," maybe in May when there's less chance of snow. But around here, you never know.
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Flip Putthoff can be reached at [email protected]