Trail-a-Week: Paseo del Volcan
"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."
Just like that, I was on a mission, determined to ignore the exhausted death-daggers Drew was glaring into my retreating back. After a couple of miles, I began to understand the vast distance between us and Paseo del Volcan, acquiesced to Drew's screaming quadriceps, and navigated us home via Isleta. But I'd be back.
Paseo del Volcan is not for everyone, I realized that day. No matter where you're standing, this particular stretch of asphalt is re-e-e-ally far away, and getting out there will require a soupçon of your soul power and a not-inconsequential chunk of your time. But are you a bro with a sink full of dirty dishes, two overdue work projects, a molar that almost certainly has a cavity and the fervent desire to forget about it all by pounding a large quantity of pavement? Are you a sis with a sack of cess, a stack of Stone Roses MP3s and a whole Saturday to spend spinnin' wheels? Are 16 miles of Paseo del Bosque trail not enough to get you high anymore, and you find yourself craving farther, faster, more, more, more? Go take this ride.
At the southern terminus of Paseo del Bosque, hoist your bike onto the shoulder of westbound Rio Bravo. According to the city, Rio Bravo is a velocipede-friendly "Road With Wide Shoulder," but dense traffic and debris make it ever so slightly hairy at first. Hang in there: As you travel west, the signs of civilization will grow sparser and the ride will get tougher as you climb onto the West Mesa. Eventually, Rio Bravo will dead-end into Paseo del Volcan, and you'll head north through a beautiful and deliciously undeveloped expanse of flat, grassy mesa-top. There's traffic on the road, inexplicably, but nary an Arby's or an overflowing Dumpster or a fugly Ron Bell billboard will assault your eyeballs for the next couple of miles. Bliss. You'll see the distant Sandias in the east, but look west across the plateau and there'll be nothing to convince you that you're not in Nebraska. (Aren't you glad you're not in Nebraska, though? Me too.)
I guarantee you'll want to stay out on that remote mesa forever, but, unfortunately, you can't. The best way to effect your grudging return to civilization is to turn east on Central just before you reach I-40. The bike lane is narrow, but it's there, and it's downhill all the way to the river.