The Greenway

Bike trails are a big deal around here.

For the first time, an unbroken thread of paths and trails connects all of the Northwest Arkansas metro, from Bella Vista in the north to Fayetteville at the south end. The cities marked the project’s completion Saturday with a festival of biking, train riding, history walks and food that drew at least a thousand people by my reckoning. A few dozen of them told me the best way to celebrate was riding all 37 miles.

I started the day in Fayetteville, where a couple hundred people gathered in the morning for a bike and train ride to the main event up in Springdale.

But before that, something I didn’t expect: a march, about 40 strong, for Freddie Gray, whose death after being severely injured in police custody sparked protests across the country and has led to criminal charges for six Baltimore officers.

_C1_8877It was a blink-and-you-miss-it deal; I had time for the one photo and they were gone. The cyclists, meanwhile, kept gathering, cheering the train from Springdale when it sounded its horn.

_C1_8908

_C1_9002

_C1_8945The bunch arrived in Springdale by train or bike half an hour later. More bikers and others flocked in by the hundreds.

_C1_9012

_C1_9054

_C1_9021

_C1_9005

_C1_9050Several mayors and other officials gave speeches and thanks to everyone involved; this is a project planned for a decade, under construction for three years and built for $1 million a mile. The speakers touted the trail’s economic impact as well — a topic my co-worker Joel dug into in today’s paper — before leading the crowd in a spirited round of “Woo Pig Sooie.”

_C1_9079

_C1_9066

_C1_9075Finally, bikers cut the ribbon for the trail at noon.

_C1_9118

_C1_9088

_C1_9162

_C1_9164Not a bad party. Thanks for looking, and take a look at some more photos here, if you like.

Geometry

IMG_8099Fuzzy tendrils reach out from a blossom’s golden innards in a Strawberry Hill Farms potted plant in Columbia, Missouri. The farm might be the biggest plant nursery I’ve seen.

IMG_8101Columbia’s where my grandparents live, at least when they’re not out at the farm. Until a little more than a week ago, it had been maybe a decade since I was there. Their house is almost exactly how I remember — the carpet, the board games on the shelves, the crowded kitchen bar my grandma always apologizes for. The place felt a little smaller than I remembered.

It was an extended weekend of driving, first to Columbia, then up to St. Joe, where my friend Mike makes cookies and hangs out with his shy cat named Henderson.

IMG_8157

IMG_8169From there it was up to Lincoln, Nebraska, of course. It’s been too long for each of these places.

IMG_8318

IMG_8280

IMG_8288

IMG_8205

IMG_8328

IMG_8324I’ve known each of these places for years, but they aren’t the same as before. Their shapes always change. It’s the same for people and their stories, I suppose.

IMG_8172For example, take this sister and her two students, running through a big, empty field toward a Science Olympiad event just because that’s what you do in big, empty fields. Science Olympiad is a competition with a couple dozen different topics and challenges, and back in my middle-school and high-school days, I was a massive Science Olympiad nerd.

You can clearly see I’m not a nerd anymore. But the point is new nerds and new coaches have come in. Now one of my old teammates is an event supervisor, and my old coach comes mostly for old times’ sake, and they’re both working on bigger things. The state competition still happens in Lincoln, but the town has changed, too, especially downtown. Time and other forces have nudged and stretched everything’s shape.

IMG_8207The university’s new features include a rock-climbing building and a roving skateboard gang. At least some of the same trombone players are still around to climb with.

IMG_8379

IMG_8357

IMG_8365

IMG_8374

IMG_8377I’m sorry it’s taken so long for this post, and to make it up to you, I plan to have another up today or tomorrow from yesterday’s Razorback Greenway opening here in Northwest Arkansas. Take a look, if you like.

Thanks for looking!