Betty Sprocket, professor emeritus of the Skinny Tires Department of the University of New Bikexico, is here to lecture you about Albuquerque's many magnificent bike trails.
There's a U.S. Air Force Base in the middle of Seoul, South Korea. If the myths of the American expatriate community are to be believed, they've got a Taco Bell in there. After three or four months of nothing but gim, bap and gimbap, I’ve witnessed otherwise-reasonable American civilians so thirsty for Fire Sauce they start to plan insurrections and armed raids. While I was in Seoul, my craving for Enchiritos never reached such a fever pitch, but I finally understood that urge to overthrow the government this morning when I went to ride my bike out by Kirtland Air Force Base.
Jeez, you guys, I’m runnin’ out of trails. For this, my penultimate week on the bike path beat, I had to search the map and my soul to find one I haven’t already written about. I couldn't remember ever having been on Paseo de las Montañas, and I couldn't exactly figure out why. The map showed it intersecting Tramway just south of Candelaria, a stretch of road I've traversed too many times to count. How could it be that I'd repeatedly ridden past an inviting bike-only turnoff without ever even noticing it? The answer is that there is no inviting bike-only turnoff. I made a couple of increasingly bewildered circuits on Tramway's western shoulder before giving up and hauling my bike through the grass until I found the trail.
"Dammit, Sprocket," panted my buddy Drew as I mushed him down Rio Bravo like a sled dog. "Why do I always get more than I bargained for when I hang out with you?" Our leisurely Saturday ride on the Paseo del Bosque turned into a militaristic crusade after a conversation with another cyclist at a rest stop about our mutual loathing for backtracking. "If you don't want to turn around here," he advised us, "go down Rio Bravo. You can get all the way out to Paseo del Volcan. It's great out there."
"Gross," quoth my boyfriend when I told him I'd be riding and writing on Tramway Boulevard this week. "That road is home to the most aggro asshole cyclists in the whole city. I'll never understand why they insist on riding on the shoulder when a dedicated bike path is just 50 feet away."
Mmm, how about those gravid gray rain clouds lately? August, our wettest month, is nigh. When that musty creosote tang is in the air, a low sun shining under the numinous pillar of a classic anvil-shaped thunderhead, I always feel inspired to buy a blank canvas and demonstrate my searing love for the desert monsoon season by painting an extremely trite watercolor landscape. Alas, nothing that springs from the brush of Sprocket will ever be worthy of even the shittiest Old Town gallery, so I choose to express myself through the medium of bike rides.
Dudes, I'm serious when I say "skinny tires." The velocipede between my legs is a single-speed street bike, so when someone suggested I get off the asphalt, I was like, ew. But then I was all, hmm. I've never been mountain biking ever. Why? It’s scary. I'm not x-treem enough. I could fall into a cholla or succumb to derailleur angst. And dirt and granite just tend to clash with my cute spandex threads.
"May 7, 1990. Dear diary, today we (me Dad Li'l Bro) went on a huge huge bike ride 14 miles it was so so fun. We went on one of those bridges across the highway. When we were done we went to this place called ‘20 Carrots’ and got a milkshake! PS All the waitresses wear earrings in their nose. Hoop and diamond."
Ah, Grandaddy Paseo del Bosque, that 16-mile behemoth that stretches all the way from Alameda in the north to Rio Bravo in the south. The best, most perfectly car-free artery in the entire city. The trail so epic that we're only going to talk about half of it this week.
Now here's a random one for you. Surf over to easytomiss.org/trail_map and find the Double Eagle Trail. It’s that isolated green stretch on the northwest edge of the map. This trail is hard to find and not conveniently linked to any major bike thoroughfares. But, if you're packing a reasonably sized set of huevos and a soupçon of wherewithal, there's a great ride to be ridden out there. You can approach the trail on westbound Montaño or via my preferred route, northbound Unser. The Unser trail gets pretty awkward near the end, merging with the asphalt of the autobahn and narrowing perilously just as it launches into a punishing uphill slope. You can handle it. Huevos.
The Paseo del Norte trail has an awkward dead-end terminus just east of the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute on Coors. If you have to haul your bike out to the trail with your car, this would be a convenient place to park. If you'll be arriving on two wheels, join the Paseo del Norte trail at its intersection with the Paseo del Bosque trail.
Don't forget your water bottles, you guys. It's getting hot out there. Betty Sprocket has been sweating so profusely she feels like she was baked in a salt crust after getting home from a ride. Today we're riding the South Diversion Channel trail in a big loop that circumscribes some South Valley neighborhoods and industrial yards, a short portion of Rio Bravo, and the dry, open throat of the South Diversion Channel itself. Get on at the southernmost tip of the Paseo del Bosque trail (near Rio Bravo and the river) and keep going south. Paseo del Bosque becomes the South Diversion Channel. I guess you could ride east on Rio Bravo and do the loop clockwise, but it's better to start out going south. The views are typical South Valley tableaux: junkyards, panels of endearingly bad graffiti, those dirt-bike-trail-covered hills rising up in the east. O, the many faces of Albuquerque. I love them all so much! Finish your ride coasting downhill on Rio Bravo, being sure to check out all the sweet South Valley rims you'll see rollin' by. Does anyone know where to get chrome dubs specially made for the velocipede? I'm ... asking for a friend.
So you stuck your bike on the Rapid Ride* and went up to the Northeast Heights to visit Grandma? The utilitarian Paseo del Nordeste will get you back home. The trail begins at Pennsylvania, where your enjoyment of the wide, well-marked bike lane will undoubtedly be mitigated by at least one jerkface parking a car on it. Cars! Fuck ’em! Heading west means heading downhill. Since you won't be occupied with pedaling, amuse yourself by admiring the Hahn arroyo on the north side of the trail or peering into the backyards that line the south side. (Confidential to homeowners whose properties abut the trail: Could you guys do more nude sunbathing, please? Betty Sprocket craves trailside titillation.) Be smart and slow way down at the low-visibility road crossings, and you'll have a quick and easy ride to the junction of the North Diversion Channel trail.
If m’lady is hankering to pedal her penny-farthing down a bucolic country lane, I'd advise her to stay away from the North Diversion Channel. This trail runs alongside the enormous eponymous arroyo, and the views are all concrete and desert sky. The trail starts at Balloon Fiesta Park, but you can pick it up at Paseo del Norte and head south, looking out over that mysterious industrial area around Jefferson where you've never had any reason to go in your car. (Has anyone?) After you cross Menaul, the urban terrain gets really interesting when the North Diversion Channel converges with another massive arroyo. You'll negotiate a swoop, twirl and dive through an underpass on your bike. I like to pretend that cars were never invented and all roads look like this miniature version of a mountain highway. You'll start to gain altitude and crest near the Big I. Gaze down upon all the pollutey motorists and enjoy a surge of smug cyclist's superiority. The trail ends at UNM's North Campus, but you'll be so close to the Frontier, it'd be foolish not to go get some huevos. You have to fortify yourself for the ride home, don't you?
O, fair Albuquerque! While you were nestled all snug in your bed this winter, your Auntie Betty was out patrolling the trails on bikeback, coming home with perpetually chapped cheeks from the cold. Spring has since sprung, summer is nigh on high, and our city's Bosque and bikeways are teeming with life. It's a rich taxonomy: Cyclists can spy roadrunners and rattlesnakes and rollerblading trophy wives. Almost everyone is welcome in the benevolent eyes of Betty Sprocket, but there is one species that must be stamped out. A type of rider more pernicious than the salt cedar, more insidious than the Russian thistle. The most despicable cyclist of all: the bike punk.