The Observer rides an 18-year-old mountain bike with a plastic basket on the front. Nevertheless, we signed up to ride in the Big Dam Bridge 100, also known as the Big Dam Bridge 1,000, since that was how many people showed up. We signed up because we think the Big Dam Bridge represents a huge step forward in giving Little Rock an identity and wanted to be part of its historic opening. We think people who live here will get up on that bridge and be wowed by the views up and down the river, and will make sure their friends get up on the bridge, too. We think kids will ride up that bridge on their little gear-less bikes and down it again and onto the River Trail and be healthier for it. We think the bridge was worth every penny of the $12.5 million that went into building it, and then some.

We signed up for the 12-mile ride, which is nada for the young and buff but Himalayan for the old and fat. Pre-ride, we confess to being tempted by new bike models, bikes that weigh less, shift gears more easily, have better brakes and softer seats, etc. But who’s got the money? And should you have to have money to ride over the Big Dam Bridge? No!

Must you weigh 90 pounds and dress in skin-tight pants and colorful wet-look jerseys and wear reflective sunglasses? No! Must you have fat-free arms? No!

The bridge is not to the swift! The Observer, on her 18-year-old bike with the plastic flowers and original wheels and truck tires and thighs like dough, on Sunday claimed the Big Dam Bridge for the young, the old, slowpokes and sprinters.

The route took everything we had — the ramp up the bridge from the North Little Rock side never ends, basically — but it was well worth it.

We can recommend biking the BDB just at sun-up, when it’s still cool outside and the lights of the bridge are still on. This part of the Arkansas River is mostly undeveloped; instead of a skyline you see the volcanic silhouette of Pinnacle Mountain, wetlands, huge turtles and fish, osprey diving from above you to the water, straight down, to get a fish. Cormorants, and gulls coming in for winter. Boats from above, going through the lock.

The River Trail also has its charms. The North Little Rock side winds through wet woods, over wooden bridges, up and down and in full view of Big Rock, by meadows and by sloughs. On the downtown end is a small clapboard house with two of the biggest magnolia trees you will see anywhere in Arkansas. The flatter trail along the river in Little Rock passes Murray Park and old trees and Rebsamen Golf Course. Riding Sunday in the middle of Rebsamen and up Cantrell and over the Broadway Bridge unmolested by car traffic was heaven.

If 1,000 this year, it will be 5,000 next year, if the Dam authorities allow it. Little Rock won’t need to contrive an identity, strain to use its new nickname (the Rock) as if it were on the tip of all our tongues. We’ll be the town with the Big Dam Bridge. It was a damn big idea, Mr. Villines, and a good one.

A caller to the Times was confused. She’d just seen a campaign sign for a candidate for lieutenant governor. Jim Holt’s sign. It said “For Guns” and “For Life.”

“That just makes no sense to me,” she said. We see her point. Things haven’t made sense for a while.

Then there’s the e-mail we got.

“I was surprised to find the attached posted to my door a few days ago and thought you might find it interesting. Apparently our new apartment manager at the Waterford is trying to bring communism to our WLR complex. Page 4 of the attached states in no uncertain terms that residents “shall not” vacuum, do laundry, use dishwashers, listen to the radio, or watch television between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. any day of the week.

“So much for ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘Colbert Report.”



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