story info from the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
Mena is the site of a new cycling event: The Wheel A’ Mena. The event is a tour of the Ouachita Mountains via the Talimena Scenic Drive.
The tour is staged out of Mena, which is at the foothills of Rich Mountain; at 2,681 feet, it’s the second tallest mountain in the state. Two tour distances (70 and 30 miles) are offered. The event is September 22 and is being billed as a tune-up ride for the popular Big Dam Bridge 100 mile race in Little Rock September 29.
“This is a challenging mountain climbing course,” said Linda Rowe, who works on the event. “There will be beautiful views, several vistas worthy of a photo, great views of the Kiamichi Mountains and the Kiamichi Valley, Lake Wilhelmina, and Queen Wilhelmina State Park. The route in Oklahoma is on top of the mountain range and presents views second to none."
Both tours start and end at Janssen Park and include multiple ascents and descents.
Mike Kelsey, an avid cyclist who lives in Mena, and his wife are planning to do the 30-mile course on a tandem bike.
As for details of the 30 mile tour, Kelsey says, "the first 13 miles are very flat but the four mile ascent to the top of Rich Mountain is a pretty steep climb. And we will for sure be in our ‘Granny Gear’ for that climb. Once you are at the top of Rich Mountain and you start your descent to Mena there are four more ascents, but the eventual reward is six miles of non-stop descent. We will make sure not to miss any of the many scenic turnouts on the way. Those that choose the 70 mile route will be presented with even steeper and longer climbs while on their route from Arkansas to Oklahoma and returning by way of the Talimena Scenic Drive."
The event is a project of the Rotary Club of Polk County. David Head is vice president of the club and the man behind the race.
“He researched similar races and has been the driving force behind our tour,” Rowe said. “He is most definitely our race director, even though he takes no credit for it.”
Rowe said she hopes the new event will help spread the word of the cycling available in the area.
“The only organized cycling activity in our area is the Ouachita Cycling Club,” she said. “They have been organized for several years and have a hugely successful race every year. We hope to reach other cyclists in the area and give them an opportunity to meet and visit with each other.”
Mena was founded in 1896 as a railroad town at the eastern foot of Rich Mountain. It is the eastern terminus of the Talimena Scenic Drive, a 54-mile byway that travels the crest of Rich and Winding Stair mountains between Mena and Talihina, Okla. Thirteen miles northwest of town is Queen Wilhelmina State Park. The byway and park provide expansive views of the Ouachita Mountains.
Registration for Wheel A’ Mena is now open at this page on BikeReg.com. On-line registration closes on Sept. 12. Participants may register in person the morning of the tour starting at 8 a.m. at the log cabin in the center of Janssen Park.