I always enjoy a good bike tour, whether I’m kicking up dust along a picturesque rural trail or seeking out urban wonders among inner-city concrete canyons. I’ve seen some fabulous sights from atop my bike seat; it’s deeply satisfying to enjoy doing something that’s actually good for you. I recently did some biking around Albuquerque, NM and had a terrific time. Here are some highlights from my visit to the “Duke City,” as it’s also known.
The city is divided into four quadrants – northeast (NE), northwest (NW), southeast (SE) and southwest (SW). These designations are part of the mailing address and make it easier to find your way around. I started off in the NW quad to experience vintage Albuquerque in the historic Old Town section. Dating back to 1706 when the city was founded by the Spanish, Old Town consists of about ten blocks of adobe buildings surrounding a central plaza. Restaurants, art galleries and souvenir shops reside in what used to be houses; the San Felipe Neri church, built in 1793, dominates the north side of the plaza. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is also in Old Town, and traces the history and accomplishments of the Pueblo Indians and other tribes of the American Southwest. Exhibits showcase jewelry, baskets, prints, weavings, archaeological objects and pottery in a multitude of shapes, sizes and colors.
If you ever wondered what would happen if you crossed Art Deco architecture with Pueblo styling, look no further than the KiMo (meaning “mountain lion” in the Tewa language) theater. This awesome example of the short-lived Pueblo Deco trend is located at 423 Central NW. And like any unusual historic building, it’s rumored to be haunted.
Interesting note about Central Avenue – prior to 1937, Route 66 passed through Albuquerque from north to south on what is now 4th Street. In 1937 the Highway was realigned east to west along Central Avenue. I guess you could say I got my kicks on Route 66 (apologies to Nat King Cole!)
So, having experienced adobes, Pueblo culture and a bit of Route 66, I checked out another thing this area is famous for – dinosaurs! The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is just east of Old Town, and is celebrating dinosaurs all year long in a special exhibit, Dinosaur Century: 100 Years of Discovery in New Mexico. It’s amazing to think that this dry, arid region was once the swampy home to a plethora of these enormous creatures. Skeletons on display include Seismosaurus, Saurophaganax and my favorite, the Stegosaurus. In addition to the dinos, the museum houses a planetarium and two floors of galleries dedicated to astronomy and space exploration.
Now it was time to hit some open space trails. There are over 400 miles of them to explore, earning Albuquerque numerous spots on various best-biking lists over the years. One of the most celebrated is the 16 mile Paseo del Bosque Bike Trail, hailed by Sunset magazine as one of the best trails in the Western US. This flat, paved path in the SW quad is uninterrupted by roadways and is a popular destination with cyclists, in-line skaters, walkers, joggers and others; start early on weekends. The trail runs from the north to the south edges of the metro area, through the Rio Grande bosque, or forest, and passes the Rio Grande Zoo and the Rio Grande Botanical Garden. Being a nature lover, I took some time to explore the Botanical Garden’s 36 acres of plants, flowers and other exhibits. It was a great way to recharge. The Zoo and Garden are two parts of Albuquerque’s BioPark, which also includes Tingley Beach and the Aquarium.
More challenging rides can be found at Petroglyph National MonumentVolcanoes Park on the city’s west mesa, where trails offer views of eroding volcanoes and boulder-strewn plateaus. Many of these boulders are decorated with symbols, or petroglyphs, by ancients who once lived here. Keep in mind that native peoples consider this area sacred – stay on the trail and don’t take home any souvenir rocks, but do bring a camera to capture these unique images.
Food in Albuquerque is a unique blend of Spanish and Native American cuisines and features chile peppers on everything imaginable. “Red or green?” is the automatic question, as in which type of chile I wanted on my dish. If I wanted both, I answered “Christmas.” If you like surprises, don’t ask which variety is the hotter that particular day. I’m just sayin…
With weather that is perfect for biking most days of the year, public buses that feature bike racks, and a fantastic system of bike paths that will take you all over the city and beyond, Albuquerque makes it easy to see the sights on two wheels.
Tim Eyre is Albuquerque Innsight’s first guest blogger.
An avid cyclist, Tim works for Extra Space Self Storage , where his job gives him the opportunity to travel all over the US, and to great biking locations like Albuquerque, New Mexico, voted in the top ten bicycle cities in the US by Bicycling Magazine. Mucho gracias, Tim!