Posh Arkansas Graveler tour to cross state in 2024
"Arkansas Traveler" lyric: "Hey farmer! Where does this road go?"
- The updated answer: "Don't know, but I'm fixin' to find out on this here bicycle."
What's happening: A group of cyclists, event organizers, politicians and Arkansas tourism staff announced the route of the inaugural Arkansas Graveler off-road cycling tour Thursday.
Why it matters: The 336-mile, fully supported event will be the first of its kind in the U.S. Catering to a crowd who want to grind all day but enjoy craft beer and chef-curated meals in camp, it has the potential to draw new visitors to the state.
- And growing the economy through tourism is a priority for Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who appointed first gentleman Bryan Sanders to head the Natural State Advisory Council earlier this year.
- Bryan Sanders wants to double the economic impact of the state's tourism within 10 years. Ways to measure the impact vary, but visitors spent $8 billion in Arkansas during 2021, according to the state tourism agency.
- And riding a bike across a state is a thing. RAGBRAI, the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, celebrated its 50th anniversary this year with thousands of participants, and similar events — Bike Across Kansas and Oklahoma FreeWheel — have been moderately successful.
Details: The inaugural Arkansas Graveler will start at the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville next June 23 and end at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro on June 29.
- Daily rides are 40-70 miles with camp spots in Oark, Jasper, Marshall, Mountain View and Cave City.
- Terrain flattens out as riders travel east, but there's roughly a 24,000-foot elevation change throughout.
- Riders' bags will be carried forward to each site by the event; a shuttle back to Fayetteville will be available in Jonesboro.
- Medical and mechanical support will be available.
- The event is touted as a gravel ride, but it'll be about a 50/50 split of paved surfaces on mostly rural roads, event director Scotti Lechuga told Axios.
The cool stuff: Breakfast and coffee will be served each morning, as well as dinner each evening using locally sourced fare. A shower station and live music also are on tap.
- Details are still forthcoming, but planned rest stops have built-in chances to enjoy fishing or try your hand at archery.
The event is produced by the Ozark Foundation, a nonprofit focused on outdoor recreation in the state.
The bottom line: The six-day tour will cost $950; a one-day "mini graveler" is $245.
What's next: Registration opens Jan. 1.
- Lechuga thinks the 400 available spots will go fast.
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