Jemez Dam Ride

Jemez river just above the dam site, a few miles west of confluence with the Rio Grande

Jemez river just above the dam site, a few miles west of the confluence with the Rio Grande

There’s a beautiful ride on the far side of Rio Ranch heading north towards the Jemez Mountains.  A six mile road winds north from Hwy 550 past the Santa Ana Star, the Tanaya Resort and the soccer fields complex all the way out through the wilderness to the Jemez Dam.  You get a great overlook of the river canyon and opposite chalk and mauve colored mesa bluffs after a quiet ride across vast open country sprinkled with juniper, cholla and sandy arroyos.

the road

the road

Here’s a map of the ride on Strava.  From my neighborhood in Albuquerque I utilized some bike routes on residential streets and linked in the very important Diversion Trail, which is a great north south running spine for bicyclists that goes underneath most of the busy arterial cross streets using a technique called notching, which involves routing the trail underneath the busy streets by carving it out of the cement sides of the huge drainage structure–the North Diversion Channel–the trail runs along.  It gets bikes across town with a high level of service and smooth flow.  The Diversion Trail is a super positive asset for cycling in Albuquerque.

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I meandered through Corrales.  The riding is so good there one of these days I want to just take my time and explore more.  But for today the goal was to check out a more distant place.  So I passed through Corrales to Hwy 528.  528 is a busy road serving varied purposes from moving through traffic, providing access to businesses and shopping, and linking to collector streets that go to important places like UNM Rio Rancho and the city government center.  Because of the many intersections and busier higher speed traffic I use extra caution with lots of shoulder checks to maintain a strong reference to traffic around me and plenty of scanning up the road to anticipate positioning needs in advance.  This road reminds me a lot of Tramway Road.  Both are important arterials for bicyclists but also have some freeway type features and big intersections that call for every road user’s full attention and cooperation.   There is either a big shoulder or bike lane the entire way.  I thought the stressful parts came when there were long right hand turn lanes, such as the one southbound for Idalia Rd., with no bike lane and limited shoulder.  It seems to work best if there is a bike lane in this situation to clarify optimal positioning and if the turn lanes are shortened to reduce speeds and the length of exposure for bicyclists between lanes of traffic.  It worked OK and I think the NMDOT has made a fine start in better integrating bicycle flow into the developing models for balancing different modes of traffic empowering all users.  I see they have an ongoing project for improvements on 528.  These roads are as important for bike travel for all the same reasons they are important for car travel.

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Once you cross 550 it is a quick transition to rural splendor.  There seem to be a few gravel mining operations out on Jemez Dam road but they are low key and I saw only one truck.  Car traffic is next to nothing and as often happens in rural New Mexico the first driver I saw extended a greeting with his hand motioning up with an easy wave from the steering wheel.  You could also sense the ease and contentment in the driver’s relaxed body posture.  These brief moments of acknowledgment convey so much including a mutual recognition of how lucky we are to be here in the landscape on this unfolding day.  The land is part of the Santa Ana Pueblo and is one of many growth boundaries that ring the city.  I see these limitations acting like periods punctuate a sentence.  There is nothing more depressing or discombobulating than a run on city with no end.  Here in Albuquerque we have much to focus in on including redevelopment, reinvesting in schools, improving the quality of the economy, doing the developments we’ve got going right including Mesa del Sol, and plus everyone I know enjoys the berth of open space surrounding the city, even if we sometimes take it for granted.  It is great to get out of town on a bicycle and take in the fresh air and vibrant scenes of landscape and culture.  Take in a string of great places like beads on a necklace–Albuquerque, Corrales, Rio Rancho, Santa Ana–on the Jemez Dam ride.  New Mexico is a great place with many distinctions.  I love to ride here.

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