Big Dam Bridge

Walking the Line: Little Rock

I jolted awake (sort of) at 6am as my bus pulled in at the North Little Rock Greyhound station. Still cold and dark out so I wasn't brave enough to venture over the bridge quite yet into Little Rock proper. It was the Arkansas River again appearing and here it drew a line between cities. The major line of tension though ended up being a few miles south. Interstate 630 cuts Little Rock in half with wealth concentrated above and poverty spread out below. The highway is a classic 1960's style urban renewal racial dividing line.

I needed food, coffee and then sleep in a bad way. Unfortunately nothing was open yet for several blocks. My level of delirium became obvious when I flagged down a city bus clearly going the opposite direction from civilization. The driver was not amused.

Bad timing for a workout

Delusional at dawn in North Little Rock

Fascinating store front; thought I was hallucinating

In order to stay warm I kept circling the block around a cafe due to open at 7. I tried to hide my extreme relief when it came time for it to open. I feared being judged a homeless person with my greasy hair and tired eyes. On the cusp of turning 40 at this point so it really shows when I'm not rested.

Most satisfying breakfast ever Mugs Cafe

Essentially reborn, I stepped out to explore before the energy from the food wore off. North Little Rock had some well preserved buildings along its Main Street:

Argenta Drug Co. opened in 1882

It was time to cross over the river into Little Rock. I had read about a pedestrian bridge spanning across and sure enough I found Junction Bridge:

Junction Bridge built in 1899, repurposed 2008

Downtown Little Rock view from Junction Bridge

Just off the bridge in Riverfront Park was a notable wooden sculpture:

Indian Head carved by Peter Toth

And then I suddenly had to pee really really bad. The endurance challenge of the last 24 hours was catching up to me in weird ways. Not many businesses around and/or open, but thankfully discovered an unlocked door at The Butler Center which turned into a great local art experience:

Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

My fatigue lent an urgency to my morning walking. I had gotten the go ahead to check in early at the Air BnB I booked, but I still had 5 miles to cover. I went due west towards the capital building and found some quieter older roads to walk on:

Train crossing over West 7th Street

Most vehicle traffic in that area of town was on the infamous interstate running parallel to 7th. I was due to cross over the highway at some point and soon found another less grand but still highly effective pedestrian crossing:

Crossing Interstate 630 in the heart of Little Rock

That damn highway

Just across the highway the wealth drop off was evident right away:

Vacant lot south of I-630

Long abandoned gas station West 12th Street

Once well to the west and south of downtown the poverty and abandonment began to cease:

West 12th just shy of University Ave.

I was now arriving at a clustering of small tidy houses and one was my resting place. A quick hello and thank you to my host before collapsing at just past noon. The last 2 miles had felt like 8. All told I had walked 80 miles total over the course of 8 days.

Nothing remarkable that night just early into my final slumber after finding restaurants nearby. I set my sights on waking up early enough to catch the bus and go 3.5 miles to Arkansas Yoga Collective for 9am class with Wesley Pilcher.

Up on time the next morning and out on the street, I waited 20 endless minutes for a bus:

Desperate staring into the distance for a bus

I cut and ran from my bus plan at the point when I had waited just up to the time needed to depart to walk the route. Dang it, was trying to have it be an easy day. Had to climb up and down a few steep hills as well to add to the despair. I made it in plenty of time though and it is was a dynamite experience. Wesley had heard from the studio in Fort Smith that I was coming. He led a really interesting class with lots of floor twist variations I had never done before.  We had time to talk afterwards too. The camaraderie was a big lift for me on a gray cold morning.

Former bank building?

Studio space at Arkansas Yoga Collective

A big breakfast was in order. Plus it was still not very warm out with temps in the 40's with a cold breeze. I filled up and then plotted my way to yet another grand pedestrian structure across the Arkansas River. It was a winding downhill route switching back and forth among wooded suburban housing:

Note the ironic clashing street names British "Tallyho" running into Indian Trail. Gross

It was a very serene walk downhill. Fragrant bushes in some yards, lots of trees, little traffic and soon views down to the water:

Jealous of this backyard view

Another mile on as small raindrops fell I had made it to The Big Dam Bridge. The longest purpose built cycle/pedestrian span in the US:

That's a Big Dam Bridge

Big Dam facts and figures

The rain came down steady shortly after I walked out to the middle of the bridge. I sheltered briefly in the woods nearby and enjoyed the quiet nature.

View from the bridge

Happy to be in the woods with no bugs for a bit

Having come far downhill I had set myself up for a climb back up. I enjoyed a few miles of easy walking along the river before turning up thru a park racing daylight to get back up into the town. Gets creepy real quick in the dark in unfamiliar settings.

Allsopp Park

Once I had mounted the incline I stopped for a snack before the last few miles of the day:

To be fair it was Halloween

A short way down the road later I was nearly plowed over in a crosswalk. I needed to get in for the night and this time the bus came thru for me.

Scored a ride this time around

The next day November 1 wasn't too pretty. Foggy, rainy and 40 degrees as I set out in the morning to the nearest grocery store for breakfast provisions. The downfall of Air BnB stays is often the lack of kitchen access and this morning was no exception. There was a Kroger less than a mile away, but it was stupidly hard to get to on foot:

Thanks for fencing off the parking lot from a residential street

Just bleak

Circling around enough I finally made my way in to buy some yogurt to go with the granola I had stashed in my pack. I sat at a solitary table in the front corner of Kroger to eat with the rain still falling outside. I was treated to the sight of several folks coyly strolling the candy aisle blatantly in search of post Halloween markdowns.

One last historic site to take in before catching the bus north to my last stop in Arkansas. I just had to see Little Rock Central High School which was famously integrated in 1957 by the brave Little Rock Nine.

Commanding Central High School

Passed by an ancient cemetery full of local dignitaries as I aimed myself back at the Greyhound station. I'm sure it was a letdown that the interstate couldn't quite be plotted to its south. As it stands the highway goes right alongside to the north.

Noteworthy bones

Finally relented to sharing a bridge with cars to get back over to North Little Rock:

Rare bridge share

I joined a happy crowd lounging at the station. Perhaps we were getting high from the potent bleach fumes wafting off the freshly mopped floor.

Typical Greyhound lobby

I was done walking the sharply divided city of Little Rock. Onto the bus up to Harrison, AR.