The Northwest Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway (the Greenway) is now complete and celebrates its grand opening in May 2015. The 36-mile trail connects six communities—from south Fayetteville to north Bentonville—making it perfect for a two-day cycling adventure. Bike Arkansas’ publisher, Rebekah Hardin, and a team of cyclists—myself included—embarked on a pre-grand opening ride of the Greenway to give it the proverbial once-over. Wanting to experience all that the trail and the connecting communities had to offer, we sought all things local—eat, play and stay—along the way.

PRE-RIDE: LET’S GET READY TO ROLL

After checking into our overnight accommodations, the Bike Arkansas team met for lunch at Arsaga’s at The Depot in Fayetteville to meet our hosts and group-ride guides for the next two days: Dane Eifling, bicycle coordinator for Fayetteville, and Misty Murphy, regional trails coordinator for the Northwest Arkansas Council. Over Arsaga’s famous crepes, the pair shared a little about the Greenway and the northwest Arkansas trails system. Regional and city planners, residents of northwest Arkansas and the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission worked together for more than a decade on the $38 million project. A team defined the route for an off-road greenway trail that would link the communities of Fayetteville, Johnson, Springdale, Lowell, Rogers and Bentonville. The majority of funds came from a federal transportation grant and a matching gift from the Walton Family Foundation. The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission and northwest Arkansas cities dedicated significant resources to bring the project to fruition as well. The 36-mile, primarily off-road, shared-use trail extends from the Bella Vista Lake in north Bentonville to Walker Park in south Fayetteville. The trail links together dozens of popular community destinations including

6 CITIES•3 HOSPITALS•23 SCHOOLS•THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS CAMPUS•CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS OF WALMART, JB HUNT TRANSPORT SERVICES AND TYSON FOODS•ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT VENUES•HISTORIC SITES•PARKS•PLAYGROUNDS•RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITIES•SHOPPING AREAS


WHERE WE STAYED IN FAYETTEVILLE

THE CHANCELLOR HOTEL

The Chancellor Hotel is just off the Fayetteville square and is perfectly located for accessing the Greenway. The hotel staff was very helpful checking my bikes and bringing them to me during the stay. Located on the University of Arkansas Campus, the Inn at Carnall Hall is in close proximity to the Greenway. The historic property has a boutique hotel-feel and features a fantastic brunch at Ella’s Restaurant. After a day in the saddle, settle in at the Lambeth Lounge and enjoy a taste of their stellar scotches.

www.hotelchancellor.com

INN AT CARNALL HALL

Located on the University of Arkansas Campus, the Inn at Carnall Hall is in close proximity to the Greenway. The historic property has a boutique hotel-feel and features a fantastic brunch at Ella’s Restaurant. After a day in the saddle, settle in at the Lambeth Lounge and enjoy a taste of their stellar scotches.

www.innatcarnallhall.com


KIT & FIT

As a beginner, it’s wise to rent a bike a couple of times before making the big purchase. With that in mind, and since this would be Rebekah’s first ride, she decided to rent a bike. After lunch at Arsaga’s, the Bike Arkansas team walked over to The Highroller Cyclery for her official bike kit and fit. Shop manager Jared Hintergardt recommended a hybrid bike, and then provided her the correct fit. Shop staff guided Rebekah through the steps of selecting her basic bike kit, including a helmet, jersey, chamois, shoes and water bottle. Later, Jared took Rebekah on a short ride through the city to go over shifting, bike handling and safety. The Bike Arkansas team invited Jared to ride with the group the next morning.


arsagas.jpg

ARSAGA’S AT THE DEPOT

Located directly on the Greenway, Arsaga’s at The Depot has fresh salads and tasty crepes, and is the perfect pit stop to fuel up on your ride. They have bike racks, a bike stand with attached tools, and a tire pump. Plus, they offer discounts to folks who ride in and who have Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks stickers on their helmets. Be sure to try a hydrating SporTea while you’re there.


SIDETRACKED

While Rebekah was enjoying the local scene on Dickson Street, Dane invited me on a mountain bike ride at Mt. Kessler in Fayetteville. Chuck Maxwell, president of Ozark Off Road Cyclists and Steve Schneider, south central regional director of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, joined us for the ride. I was amazed that this challenging singletrack was so close to the city. That evening, the team all met back on Dickson Street for a little carb-loading and pub-crawling at Puritan Brew Co., Dickson Street Pub, Smoke & Barrel and Hog Haus Brewing Company. Sushi sounded like the perfect way to end the evening so we headed to Wasabi. A “Sam’s Roll” paired with an ice-cold Fayettechill Farmhouse Ale from Saddlebock Brewery had me calling “Uncle!” for the night.

“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride...” — JOHN F. KENNEDY


THE RIDE: DAY ONE

We kitted-up the next morning for what ended up being a socially dynamic day on the Greenway. Everyone met at The Farmer’s Table Café in Fayetteville to fuel up for the ride. Farm-fresh eggs and homemade biscuits hit the spot as we discussed strategy. Ben Jones, owner of Dogwood Junction Bike Shop in Siloam Springs and his friend, John Gray, joined us. They both planned to ride head-turning trikestyle bikes. Gray, a dedicated cyclist in his ’70s, entertained us with stories about his state-to-state adventures on the trike. Last year, he cycled from Minnesota to Arkansas!

The day opened at 68 degrees with a bluebird sky, establishing a seriously positive vibe. We set off like neighborhood kids, each rider on a different style of bike, talking and laughing. I couldn’t help but notice the smiles on everyone’s faces. And, despite what some might say, you can feel your hair blowing in the breeze even when you are wearing a helmet. We raced—ok—rolled (the maximum speed on the Greenway is 15 mph) past businesses, down city streets, through neighborhoods, parks and bustling downtowns until we were alone on the paved trail that links the half-dozen communities.

FAYETTEVILLE

PLAY

  • Botanic Garden of the Ozarks
  • Dickson Street
  • Downtown Square
  • Fayettechill
  • Farmers Market (Saturdays, April-November)
  • The University of Arkansas Campus
  • Walton Arts Center

BIKE PIT STOPS

  • The Highroller Cyclery
  • Phat Tire Bike Shop
  • The Handlebar

EAT & DRINK

  • Apple Blossom Brewing 
  • Bordinos
  • Dickson Street Pub
  • The Farmer’s Table Café
  • Hog Haus Brewing Company
  • Greenhouse Grill
  • Puritan Brew Co.
  • Wood Stone Craft Pizza + Bar
  • Wasabi

STAY

  • The Chancellor Hotel
  • Dickson Street Inn
  • Inn at Carnall Hall
Biff/CrashBonk: When you lose all energy in the midst of a ride.

Biff/CrashBonk: When you lose all energy in the midst of a ride.

In the early part of the ride, we stopped often to take photos and listen to Dane and Misty identify sculpture and landmarks along the trail. Misty also explained the history of and future plans for the Greenway. By noon, the group arrived in downtown Springdale for a lunch break at Express Coffee and More. I skipped the coffee and went for the more—chicken enchiladas and iced tea. Departing downtown Springdale and picking up the pace, the team made our way through some of the most scenic sections of the trail. Beautiful pink and white blossoms lined the path. We pedaled over bridges, through tunnels, over streams and through fields connected by busy commercial areas. I wasn’t biking alone, I was biking independently—lost in the beauty—and I wondered if there was a better way to spend an afternoon.

JOHNSON/SPRINGDALE

EAT & DRINK

  • Core Brewing & Distilling Co. Tap Room
  • Express Coffee and More
  • Grateful Bread Sandwich Shop
  • James at the Mill
  • Noble Crossing Cider House (opening summer 2015)
  • Spring Street Grill
  • The Steam 101

STAY

  • Inn at the Mill

PLAY

  • A & M Railroad
  • Arts Center of the Ozarks
  • Cellar Door Antiques
  • Downtown Springdale
  • Northwest Arkansas Naturals
  • Shiloh Museum of Ozark History

BIKE PIT STOP

  • Lewis & Clark Outfitters

Cruising through the paths, we soaked in the scenery and the quietness of the trail. Oftentimes, riding through busy urban areas, the trail was quiet. At one point, I was surprised to find that I was climbing the steep sidewalk past the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP) by the Pinnacle Hills Promenade in Rogers.

NEARBY PAVED AND NATURAL-SURFACE TRAILS TO CHECK OUT IN THE NWA TRAIL SYSTEM

Slaughter Pen, Mt. Sequoyah Woods, Mt. Kessler, Lake Fayetteville, Lake Atalanta,Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area, Devil’s Den State Park, Blowing Springs.

Forkplant: When you hit a bump and suddenly realize you forgot to tighten your front skewer (see also: healthcare deductible).

Forkplant: When you hit a bump and suddenly realize you forgot to tighten your front skewer (see also: healthcare deductible).

LOWELL/ROGERS

EAT & DRINK

  • Core Brewing & Distilling Co. Pub/Taproom
  • Mellow Mushroom
  • Crabby’s Seafood Bar & Grill

PLAY

  • Gearhead Outfitters
  • Pinnacle Hills Promenade
  • University of Arkansas Razorback Shop
  • Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP)
  • STAY

  • Aloft
  • Embassy Suites

BIKE PIT STOP

  • The Highroller Cyclery
  • Lewis & Clark Outfitters

BEING BIKE FRIENDLY

The League of American Bicyclists has designated the cities of Bentonville and Fayetteville as bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Communities. The designation recognizes cities for providing safe cycling and encouraging people to bike for transportation and recreation. Additionally, the region is home to 10 businesses recognized as Bicycle Friendly. The designation applies to businesses that create a bike-friendly environment for employees, customers and the community. Fayetteville honorees include the City of Fayetteville, Bike City Recyclery, Viridian, Garver, Crown Barbershop, Maurice Jennings + Walter Jennings Architects, Fayetteville Public Library and The Highroller Cyclery. Walmart in Bentonville and The Highroller Cyclery in Rogers round out the list.

We rolled onto downtown Bentonville's iconic square, our final destination for day one of the ride, around 3:00 p.m. After a victory lap around the square, we parked at the fountain to celebrate, take photos and catch our breath. By now it was a little over 80 degrees and I could feel the burn on my back. After stretching our legs, we cruised over to Tusk & Trotter to enjoy a celebratory “recovery” beverage and their housemade pork rinds. Rebekah was a trooper— she still had a smile on her face. Rebekah stayed at the quaint Victoria Bed & Breakfast and I stayed at the hip 21c Museum Hotel. Conveniently located on the trail, both properties are bike friendly, offering bike and bag storage. My tired body was screaming for a nap, but that never happened. 21c doubles as a contemporary art museum, so after check-in, I found myself downstairs roaming the halls, fascinated by the unique collection. Rejuvenated, I left the lobby and followed the trail through Compton Gardens and onto the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Strolling the trail, I realized how lucky I am to live in a state that offers so many opportunities to experience the beauty of nature and art. Crystal Bridges deserves a day or two on any schedule. This part of northwest Arkansas stimulates mind, body and soul. Rebekah and friends headed over to Bike Rack Brewing, then on to The Pedaler’s Pub for wood-fired pizzas with cycling-savvy names like “singlespeed”, “derailer” and “the fixer." Physically spent, I stayed in and ordered pasta from The Hive. The Bike Arkansas team had one more day of riding to finish the Greenway. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

BENTONVILLE

EAT & DRINK

  • Bike Rack Brewing Co.
  • Crepes Paulette (food truck)
  • The Hive (inside 21c)
  • The Pedaler’s Pub
  • Tavola Trattoria
  • Table Mesa Bistro
  • Tusk & Trotter American Brasserie

PLAY

  • The Walmart Museum
  • Compton Gardens
  • Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
  • Bentonville Square Farmers Market
  • (Saturdays, April-October)

STAY

  • 21c Museum Hotel
  • The Victoria Bed & Breakfast

BIKE PIT STOP

 

  • Phat Tire Bike Shop
Mash (or Grind): This is to pedal a really hard gear for long periods of time (a harder gear with a slower cadence).

Mash (or Grind): This is to pedal a really hard gear for long periods of time (a harder gear with a slower cadence).

THE VICTORIA BED & BREAKFAST

The 5,000-square-foot B&B adjoins the pedestrian entrance to the worldclass Crystal Bridges. It is located two short blocks north of the Bentonville square and is within walking distance of quaint bistros and wonderful shopping. Innkeeper Joana Garrison prepares a to-die-for breakfast that will sustain you through your morning ride.

www.thevictoriabentonville.com

21C MUSEUM HOTEL BENTONVILLE

21c Museum Hotel Bentonville is a 104- room boutique hotel, contemporary art museum, cultural civic center and home to The Hive restaurant. 21c is a bike-friendly hotel. For mountain bikers, there are more than 30 miles of softsurface singletrack trails just outside the front door of 21c, along with a number of hard surface biking biking/running/walking trails, including the Greenway, which runs through downtown Bentonville. 21c offers free bicycle rentals, bike lockers for guests, bike valet and several guided excursion options in partnership with Phat Tire Bike Shop.

www.21cmuseumhotels.com/bentonville


THE RIDE: DAY TWO

The next morning the Bike Arkansas team met for a memorable breakfast at The Victoria Bed & Breakfast to fuel up before continuing our Greenway ride to Lake Bella Vista—the end of the trail. We toured the property and were most impressed by the Royal Suite, which had French door access from the porch—perfect for bringing in a bike. This room also has a Jacuzzi tub for tired muscles after a ride. Leaving from the Bentonville square, we took off, rolling past the Splash Park at Lawrence Plaza and north to Compton Gardens. Descending the hill that I hiked up the night before, we veered left at the Crystal Bridges Trail, just past Nancy Schön's Tortoise and Hare sculpture. We continued north on the Bentonville trail and soaked up the scenery—it’s as beautiful as the first 32 miles of our Greenway ride. From the trail we could see a stone structure of a hiker, locally known as the "rock man." We made our way to the Wishing Springs Trail to Lake Bella Vista. At the bridge, we turned right and headed east to take a peek at the advanced mountain bike trails. I made a mental note to bring my mountain bike back and try those trails out. Rounding the Lake Bella Vista loop, we headed back the way we came and returned to the Bentonville square.

We did it! This was Rebekah’s first bike ride and my first multi-day touring ride. It was a great experience, taking our time to see all that the Greenway has to offer and spending quality time at trail-side establishments that truly cater to cyclists. What impressed me most was the unification of these unique communities in making the collective trail system come true. Separate cities unified as one, linked by the trail. A cyclist will remember the Greenway as a comprehensive cycling system that congeals communities into a greater cycling experience. It’s certain to attract more visitors cooperatively, than if a single city promoted only their piece. Cycling is about connectivity, and cyclists tend to choose areas that offer the most distance and diversity and circle it with a Sharpie on a map. For a detailed map and information on the Greenway, visit www.nwatrails.org.

Bike Bentonville is a great resource for trail information: www.bikebentonville.com