Tag Archives: bicycling

Seize These Fall Opportunities for Bicycle Rides

A few years ago the only cycling I did was the occasional trip down one of the bicycle paths along the Red River in Shreveport-Bossier City.

Until something caught my eye about the Heart of Hope LifeCycle in the countryside around Keithville. Perhaps it was the tug of helping a faith-based maternity home while riding my bike or perhaps it was the challenge of riding 26 miles.

For whatever reason, I forced myself out of my comfort zone and onto that 26-mile ride, one of the milder rides in the tour.

I finished. Surprisingly I was not pooped but invigorated.

So if you have ever considered one of those bicycle tours, but have been afraid to try, there are two good opportunities coming up in Bossier Parish in October. Notice, they are called tours, not races!

– Oct. 7 Seize the Road benefiting the Epilepsy Foundation of Louisiana. The tour starts at the Bossier Parish Courthouse in Benton and goes north along several roads, including Old Plain Dealing Road. You’ll ride along rolling hills, horse farms, rural churches, the town of Plain Dealing (some routes).

A few pictures from last year’s Seize the Road

  • Oct 21 Miracle Tour (formerly Run With the Nuns) benefitting Children’s Miracle Network and Christus Health Shreveport-Bossier. This ride starts in Haughton and follows rural roads of Bossier and Webster parishes, scenic areas near Lake Bistineau.

A couple of things you might see on the Miracle Tour

Barn along Highway 527 near Doyline
A home and a man with an interesting history–Harold Montgomery Road

Before I did my first ride, I drove the route first in my car so I could become a bit familiar with the terrain, especially any hills. I’ve signed up for these events alone and with a group. (I highly recommend a buddy, although both times I’ve started solo, I’ve found someone to ride with along the way).

As for the Heart of Hope, mark your calendar for the first Saturday in June. For even more tours covering a bigger geographic area and time frame, wheelbrothers.com is a great resource for Texas (and beyond) rides. Another October ride nearby: The Tour de Fire Ant Oct. 14 in Marshall.

The nice thing about these rides is that you can ride on some rural highways with a bit more security. Law enforcement is usually monitoring the ride and controls traffic at those first busy intersections. Routes are well-marked, and there are refreshments to pick you up so you can continue the ride. SAG wagons are available to literally pick you up if you can’t finish (which happened to me a few years ago when I was unprepared for the Tour de Fire Ant).

Next month, the air likely will be crisp — ideal cycling weather. And there’s something for everyone – milder routes of 12 and 26 miles for Seize the Road and 27 for Miracle Tour. Miracle Tour even has a five-mile Family Fun Ride. And, you can opt for a longer rides ranging from 41 to 70 miles.

In either case, there’s a post-ride celebration, which means plenty of good food. With all of that exercise you’ll have a good excuse to plop down in front of the TV for an afternoon of college football.

Here are links for each event. You can also access the routes to find the one best for you.

Seize the Road 2017

Miracle Tour 2017

 

 

 

Berries & Dairies: U Pick While U Can

 

I just went berry picking at Shuqualak (pronounced “sugar lock” Farms in Frierson.

There’s usually plenty of berry options at local farmers markets, but there’s something about donning the straw hat and watching the sun rise as you head to a rural berry patch to pick your own.

Broox and Judy Burris run the blueberry and blackberry operation started by Broox’s father in  1986. The land has been in Broox’s family since 1916. He’s the fourth generation owner.

Shqualak Farms
Judy Burris outside the Shuqualak Farms berry barn.

During berry season, the farm is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. There are about four acres each of blueberry and blackberry bushes. Check out the Shuqualak Farms Facebook page for up-to-date status.

Since I did get up before dawn, I was the first customer that day. I got a chance to chat with Judy, a fun person and a great source of  information on how to get the best berries. “A gentle touch and they fall in your hands. If you have to tug, they’re not ripe enough yet.”

Shuqualak is a town in Mississippi. Broox’s father came across the town while traveling and felt it would be a good name for the farm since he called his wife “Sug” and the Choctaw Indian name meant “hog heaven.” He asked the mayor of Shuqualak if it was OK to use it.

So it’s Shuqualak Farms, but you won’t find any hogs there, no sugar cane — just blackberries and blueberries bursting with flavor as well as antioxidants, fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, manganese and a host of other nutrients that put them on many “super food” lists.

Shuqualak Farms is off Highway 175 and a 20-minute drive from the edge of Shreveport.  I have ridden this route several times with bicycle groups. Just before you get to the Shuqualak Farms turn, you’ll pass Bit’s Country Store, our bicycle group’s stop for breakfast.

Whether you’re on a bicycle or not, I suggest you stop in and grab a sausage egg biscuit. The biscuits are melt-in-your-mouth fluffy.

Bit's Country Store
Taking a Hwy 175 bicycle break at Bit’s Country Store. This was a previous trip. No good way to transport blueberries and blackberries on my road cycle.

Highway 175 intersects Harts Island Road, a popular Shreveport bicycling route. It’s about 11 miles from the LSU Pecan Station to Bit’s Country Store and less than a half mile from the store’s biscuits to Shuqualak’s blueberry and blackberry bushes.

In Louisiana I’ve always thought April was for strawberries, May was for blackberries, June for blueberries and July was the best time for peaches. But that may vary from year to year and by fruit variety.  Like autumn fall color, berry season is short so you want to pick while you can.

“Mother Nature has the final say. This year we didn’t have a winter so the blueberries that normally just begin to get ripe June 1 have been early this year,” Judy said.

Shuqualak Farms blackberries
Blackberries are just now getting ripe.

After you’ve filled your bucket, return to the Blueberry Barn, an old farmhouse built before the turn of the century, and sample a blueberry popsicle. You can buy some to take home or buy the syrup to make your own.

Blueberries and blackberries are $14 for five quarts if  you pick your own. Blueberries also are usually available pre-picked for $20.

There’s also smaller kid’s buckets, picnic tables, harness buckets so you can pick with two hands, even canes to borrow for balance.

I came home with two generous gallons and information from the Ark-La-Tex Blueberry Growers Association, including recipes for pie, muffins and such. But the first thing I made was my go-to blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes from the She Wears Many Hats blog. I doubled the amount of blueberries!

Blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

Shuqualak Farms

 

 

 

 

10 Reasons to Cycle on Harts Island Road This Fall

Harts Island Road, a 6.5-mile straight ribbon of road in South Caddo Parish just south of Shreveport, is a favorite of local cyclists during any season, but it’s particularly scenic during fall when the cotton fields are full and the leaves start falling along the path. Here are 10 reasons why we like it.

1. Cotton

South Caddo Parish cotton
Louisiana cotton acreage is declining, but there’s much to see in late September along this road. But hurry.  I was there yesterday afternoon and a lot had already been harvested, although there was still plenty along Highway 1, which parallels Harts Island.

2. Pretty Sunsets

Valley Gin at sunset
Sunset over Valley Gin. This gin, one of the few remaining in Caddo Parish, is about to get busy.

3. Sunrise Isn’t So Bad Either

Sunrise at Pecan Station
Sunrise at LSU Pecan Research and Extension Station, the only research center of its kind in the country dedicated exclusively to helping pecan growers. There’s 60 or so acres of trees planted for research.

4. Flat and Shady

Hubby embarking on a shady stretch
Hubby embarking on a shady stretch

5. Speed Limit 25 mph

25 mph
The posted speed limit is 25 mph, and there are only a dozen or so houses so there are only a few cars and farm trucks along the route. Yellow crop dusters, like the one overhead, are commonly seen.

6. Fall Color

Goldenrod along Harts Island Road frames an old farm house located across Highway 1. Goldenrod is just starting to bloom and they’ll be more color from the hardwoods along the road soon.

7. Today’s Industry

Bentler Steel Plant
The ride gives you a glimpse of the new Benteler Steel plant, among other industries, at The Port. The German-owned company spent $1 billion and is expected to employ 750 or more.

8. Pretty Pasture Scenes

Pastures, natural gas fields, cotton fields and dense stands of hardwoods make up the landscape
Pastures, natural gas fields and cotton fields make up the landscape.

9. History

C.M. Hutchinson & Sons
The abandoned C.M. Hutchinson & Sons store stands as a reminder of the area’s rich past. The route includes settlements of Robson, Gayles, Caspiana, Frierson plantation, key spots in development of Caddo Parish’s cotton and oil and gas industries. I would love to go back in time and hear some of the stories told in this store.

10. Lovely Live Oaks

Lovely Live Oaks
The live oaks shade some lovely homes too.

A round trip on Harts Island Road makes a nice leisurely ride of 60 to 90 minutes. It’s not the car-free traffic of dedicated paths like the ones on both sides of the Red River, but it’s close. The only motorized transportation is the occasional farm truck or car going to one of the dozen or so houses along the strip. You can lengthen the ride by heading west on one of three roads intersecting with Harts Island–Robson Road, Hwy 175 or Ellerbe Road but expect more traffic and higher speed limits.

Going south on Highway 1, turn right on Hart’s Island just across from The Port of Shreveport-Bossier water tower. Drive less than a half mile to the Louisiana Pecan Research Station. If you’re interested in growing pecans, stop in and get some information.  Otherwise, park along the side of the road, get on your bicycle and enjoy a beautiful fall ride.

What are your favorite spots along Harts Island Road or scenic bicycling routes you love around Shreveport-Bossier City?

 

Bicycling Trip: Big Bridge, Big Rock in Little Rock

Hubby and I were new to  bicycling when one of the first trips we made was to Little Rock, Arkansas.

I had read that the longest bridge in North America specifically built for bicyclists and pedestrians was the Big Dam Bridge (name explanation to come later). So we loaded up our bikes and headed to Arkansas to check it out.

We made a day trip of it then and just piddled around riding along the Arkansas River Trail on both sides of the Big Dam Bridge. But we’ve been back since for a weekend and will go back again to this bicycling jewel just three hours away from our home in Shreveport, Louisiana.

The Big Dam Bridge, which celebrates its 10th birthday today, spans 4,226 linear feet across the Arkansas River seven miles west of downtown.  As for the name: The story  goes that when funding was an issue, a county judge said “we are going to build the dam bridge” and declared he was talking about its location over the Murray Lock and Dam. Others took it another away.

Whatever the name origin, the Big Dam Bridge has been a beacon of health and fitness activities in a southern state better known for rice and gravy.

Big Dam Bridge
Big Dam Bridge-Photo Courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Big Dam Bridge is a climax of the 16-mile Arkansas River Trail that connects Little Rock and North Little Rock. Most, but not all, of the trail is a dedicated path with no car traffic. There’s two other downtown Little Rock bridges where you can bicycle over the Arkansas River, including one right by the Clinton Presidential Library. Yet another bridge, west of Big Dam Bridge, is at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Maumelle rivers and takes you to the 1,000-acre Two Rivers Park. More on the four bridges here.

Riding over the bridges may be entertainment enough, but we discovered there’s lots to see within a stone’s throw of the bicycle trail.  The trail connects to 38 parks and six museums. On the south bank of the river (or Little Rock side), you have the state capitol, River Market (farmers market, shops and restaurants) and the Clinton Presidential Library. On the North Little Rock side, you pass the USS Razorback WWII-era submarine and get a glimpse of the scenery that earns Arkansas the nickname “the Natural State.”

One North Little Rock natural spot is an area known as Big Rock, where the river Delta meets Ouachita (pronounced Wash-i- taw)Mountains just a bit off the trail. There once was a quarry there that made railway ballast for 100 years. A smaller rock outcropping on the south side was named “Le Petit Rocher” or “the Little Rock” by a French explorer.

Checking out the Big Rock on a 2012 ride
Checking out the Big Rock on a 2012 ride

What impressed me on my visits was the mix of people using the trail — overweight individuals  struggling a bit but pushing forward on the Big Dam Bridge incline; families with children in bicycles with training wheels and one or even two in baby strollers; old folks, couples and singles walking dogs (and availing themselves of the dog waste bags provided); and serious cyclists/runners in mesh jerseys or no shirt at all.

The Big Dam Bridge 100, the largest bicycling event in Arkansas, will draw crowds to Little Rock Sept. 24.  (There are shorter distances in addition to a century ride). I’m not participating that day, but I look forward to enjoying bicycling in Little Rock again soon.

Big Dam Bridge cycling tour attracts thousands
Big Dam Bridge cycling tour attracts thousands. Photo courtesy Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau

Arkansas River Trail website. If you want more than 16 miles, you’ll find extended rides that go out to scenic Pinnacle Mountain State Park or the 88.5-mile Grand Loop traversing  several Arkansas counties on a mix of paved paths, on-road bicycle lanes and rural roads.

Little Rock’s Arkansas River Trail is one of the bicycling spots featured in a new 45-page glossy Arkansas Road Cycle Guide.  It’s a wonderful publication with routes segmented by easy, moderate and difficult. You can download it here or have it mailed to you.(There’s a separate guide for mountain cycling enthusiasts).

Arkansas Road Cycling Guide
Arkansas Road Cycling Guide

Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau

North Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau

Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Bobby’s Bike Hike in the River Market rents bicycles and offers family-friendly bicycle tours around the city.