When I pulled my longboard from the trunk of my car, I knew I was going to get some odd looks. While longboards are common on the sidewalks of Fayetteville, the quiet trails of Bella Vista have a different culture with a very different demographic. I walked from my car toward the beginning of the trail, smiled at an elderly couple with their dog, and strapped my helmet on my head. With a dull thud I dropped my longboard wheels down onto the pavement, and pushed off to make my way around the trail.
Northwest Arkansas is absolutely beautiful, and my favorite way to enjoy scenic, natural beauty is to skate right through it as fast as my legs and four urethane wheels will let me. I am a skateboarder. I ride skate parks, parking lots, trails. and anywhere else I can. Each different terrain requires different skills and equipment, and I have made a life out of learning all of them. Riding on trails or highways for hours on end is appropriately (and obviously) called distance skating.
Distance skating has been gaining popularity over the last decade, but has been happening since the early 80’s when Jack Smith decided to skateboard across the country to raise money and awareness for multiple sclerosis. Participants don’t need to learn any special tricks which makes it easily accessible for people that don’t have the desire to spend hours mastering extra fancy footwork or learn to ride up the side of a ramp but still want to roll around. I’ve ridden full and half marathon distances on my skateboard, and I can tell you from firsthand experience, it is some serious cardio.
Lake Bella Vista Trail runs parallel to highway 71 (at the end of Interstate 49) and hosts a 1.7 mile circular paved trail that also connects to the Razorback Regional Greenway, 36 miles of connected paved trails that run from Bella Vista to Fayetteville. It is surrounded on all sides by either trees, grass, or water, and on a weekday afternoon it was sparsely populated with walkers and bikers so I didn't have to weave in and out of traffic.
As I made my way around the course I nodded to the people that I passed and got some interesting looks when they realized that guy was skateboarding around the lake, but none felt judgmental or damning. It was more just a little surprise, and maybe kind of happy to see I was wearing a helmet as I rode. In fact, the people of Bella Vista have been very kind to me, welcoming me to town with smiles, waves, and handshakes.
Also of note at Lake Bella Vista (which, I’m told, is technically in Bentonville) is a disc golf course, playground, and picnic tables. However, nothing here really compares to the Veterans Wall of Honor. This beautiful monument holds the names of over 4,000 soldiers who served our country. The sheer number of plaques in this circular monument coupled with the serene fountain in the center and lush greenery around it makes the monument a sublime place to visit and ponder. This is worth visiting whether you take on the trails or not.
Anyway, back to my skate. I rode the loop, enjoyed the view, and worked up a nice sweat. And it got me thinking. The short skate around the lake was fun, but I’m really starting to think about that 36 mile trail from Bella Vista to Fayetteville. It would be my longest ride to date, and it sounds super fun.
David Thornton is a two time national award winning writer, chef, husband, father, and fitness enthusiast.