Day 50 – Bicycling the Turquoise highway

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Sunday, July 1, 1984
Santa Fe to Albuquerque, NM
80 miles
Locator map

I’m reprinting the day-to-day journal entries of a cross-country bike tour my friend and I took in 1984. More about the TransAmerica Tour 1984

Bis’ Journal

We spent much of today riding on the Turquoise Highway. It looked like plain old blacktop to me.

We left Santa Fe in a light drizzle, which quickly burned off. It was such a mellow Sunday morning that Bruce wore his headphones as he pedaled along. He was spacing out near the center of the road when a car came up from behind and couldn’t pass. I expect the driver was afraid of honking and scaring Bruce to death. I stopped and yelled and waved my arms. Bruce must have caught the vibes as he looked back and swerved out of the way. He packed up those headphones for the rest of the trip.

Route 14 through this area is called the Turquoise Highway because so much of the ornamental stone has been mined around here, especially at Los Cerrillos. We didn’t see any mines, but we’ve seen plenty of turquoise jewelry sold in stores and at roadside rest stops.

The flat started sloping downhill and we sped along to Galisteo Creek, where strange formations of limestone or sandstone border the road. We climbed out of the valley to Madrid, which appeared to be mostly uninhabited. There were a couple of tourist shops and a deli, but most of the homes were boarded up and a few were leaning to the side. Coal from the closed mine was piled at one end of town.

Following the road, we could look down on Madrid and further out to the Sangre de Cristo segment of the Rockies. We’re leaving these snow-covered mountains behind. I had feared the Rockies would be the hardest challenge of the trip, yet they were kind and inspiring.

We met a group of day-cyclists out from Albuquerque when we stopped a store in Golden. After riding along together for awhile, they expressed amazement that two fully loaded tourists could keep up with their slim road machines.

They turned off and Bruce and I headed down to the old Route 66, which more or less ran parallel to I-40. We saw the remains of old roadside attractions, and stopped in a clearing shared by an abandoned, adobe filling station decorated with the faded painting of a Kachina doll. I could imagine generations of cars pulling into that gas station over the years — from Model T’s carrying Steinbeck’s Joads to the promised land of California, to the 1960 Chevrolet carrying the vacationing Bisbees to the Grand Canyon.

The breathtaking scenery along the Tijeras Canyon was replaced with shopping strip squalor as we reached Albuquerque. We finally located a Youth Hostel, haggled with the manager of the price, and finally opted for the Pan-Am Motel closer to downtown. For an extra $3 each, we got a pool, TV, private bathroom, and didn’t have to do chores before leaving the next morning.

After dinner, I called Becky from a phone booth. Looking out one side I could see the brown Sandia Peak rising above the back of town, and looking the other way I could see way out into the darkening desert.

Headline: July 1, 1984
John N. Turner was sworn in as the Prime Minister
of Canada, ending a 16-year-long political era
dominated by Pierre Elliott Trudeau …

Bruce’s Journal

Today is the first of July and marks our 7th week on the road. We came from Santa Fe to Albuquerque and had another fine ride today through the foothills and sandstone rock formations of the New Mexico desert. It is truly beautiful here.

Madrid, NM

We met several day riders in Golden, not far from Madrid, and we left several in the dust, so I guess we really are in good shape now.

Avoiding rain

Again, we avoided thundershowers today, but I don’t think we will stay so lucky in the next few days–forecasters are calling for rain every afternoon this week. Rain by itself, while bothersome, isn’t that great a disaster. Once you are wet, you just ride and that’s that. The real problem is that all the gear gets wet, even with the water-proofing material we used, and takes a long time to dry out. And, of course, the bikes need more maintenance.

We tried the hostel when we got to town, but it was $9.20 per person so we just got a hotel room instead. We came into Albuquerque on the famous Route 66 and the outskirts of town were filled with RV lots, peep shows and “Family Dinner” restaurants next to places called “Club Pussycat.” [It looked like George Bailey from “It’s A Wonderful Life” really had died.]


Day 51 — Freelance camping in the desert

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