Bentonville/Eclipse Vacation

Abby and I went on a kid-free vacation to Bentonville, Arkansas to see the 2024 total solar eclipse and do some biking.

No kids?: If leaving the kids behind seems mean, I did invite them and they shrugged. They’ve seen a solar eclipse before—meh.

Why Arkansas?: There were closer locations to see totality, but Indiana isn’t a very exciting place to visit. I wouldn’t think Arkansas is either, but Bentonville is billed as the mountain biking capital of the world. I’ve been thinking about taking a trip there anyway. The eclipse being two and a half hours away made it a perfect location.

The Biking Vacation

The plan: While I was planning to bike Bentonville the entire time, this truly became a biking vacation when Abby got an ebike the week before we left. She’d been considering it for a while, feeling kind of silly for driving the two miles to her environmental school when she could easily bike. The timing was perfect.

Bike town: Bentonville is truly a bike-friendly town. Our Airbnb had bike racks and a bike wash station. There was a bike trail 30 feet from where we stayed. The Crystal Bridges Art Museum had an art/bike trail. I was able to go mountain biking from our Airbnb without loading up the car. We biked to restaurants and shopping. The only times we drove were trips to the grocery store and going out of town. It’s a great way to get around town. Cooperating weather certainly helps, but I’ve been trying to bike to meetings and whatnot as much as I can since coming home.

Mountain biking: And yes, the mountain biking is incredible.

  • I biked Slaughter Pen and Coler Mountain Bike Preserve, getting a sampler of both but not riding everything. And I just scratched the surface. There were plenty of other trails slightly farther out (like six miles instead of two, never mind what’s accessible within 30 miles) that I didn’t get to.
  • The trails seemed to be a mix of machine-built flow trails and jump lines with huge berms, drops, and jumps (I mostly did the beginner and easy intermediate and laughed at the crazy stuff) and cross country trails that were rocky as hell.
  • So much has been added so quickly that it’s not always easy to figure out where you’re going. I literally found a map in my research, but on the ground realized the map was outdated and missing an entire section of new jump lines.
  • At Slaughter Pen I enjoyed the simple All-American and Black Apple Creek trails, plus the downhill Catapult and Leopard Loop runs.
  • At Coler, Thunder Dome and Fire Line were fun downhill runs, and the bits of Good Vibrations I did were fun, but I spent too much time on Esther’s Loop, which was crazy rocky.

Solar Eclipse

Solar selfie (really doesn’t do it justice, this looks sunny and it was dark).

The eclipse was a a whole day in itself, trying to get to a good viewing spot early and then trying to get home in traffic.

  • The plan: We left early enough (6:30?) that traffic wasn’t an issue. We initially planned to go to Petit Jean State Park, but we expected it to fill up and even if we could get a parking spot, it meant we were stuck there with little mobility. We had the bikes, but the options there were limited.
  • The reality: So instead we opted to find a spot in Russellville, the town NASA chose as their HQ for the eclipse. The town seemed to have mixed messaging with the eclipse—they had an incredible festival downtown with NASA, vendors, food trucks, and more, but then they closed off a couple roads leading out of town and while schools were out for the day, every school had their parking lots blocked off. Seems odd to not allow people to simply park there, and it was totally unnecessary—the town just wasn’t that full.
  • Our day: We found a small park and were one of the first people there. We hung out for a bit, then biked downtown to check out a bookstore and then saw the festival.
  • The eclipse: The event itself was as wild and bizarre as ever. If anything, this experience felt a bit muted for me since I’d seen it before. I knew what to expect, so the build up wasn’t quite as exciting. But when it happened, it’s still crazy. Totality lasted more than four minutes, almost twice as long as 2017. It’s really an event you have to experience for yourself—videos and photos don’t capture the moment.
  • The ride home: We left almost immediately after totality and ended up sitting in traffic for 45 minutes to get to the freeway. At that point the freeway was backing up, so we took the backroads route. It added a good hour to our trip without traffic, but it mostly kept us moving. We slowed down in a couple spots, but it was fine (the weird one-way, wood bridge Google Maps directed us to was kind of a trip though). The drive home took four to five hours, compared to two and a half on the way there.


Bentonville also had lots of art. The free Crystal Bridges Museum was great, but there was also art scattered throughout town.

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