Sandia Zen in Early Morning

“Great Road.  Elevation’s a killer…almost there…almost there…almost…”  –


The Sandia Crest road carries the melody through the heart of the Wilderness enveloped by this forested mountain range tilting upwards towards the sky.  With this ride within reach from my home in Albuquerque staying home is almost always better.  I love riding from home.

I started a ride before 5am last Wednesday with all my lights (two front, two rear) to get over to the eastern side of the Sandia Mountains for the long climb up the Crest.  So worth it.  I took the preferred approach through Gutierrez Canyon.  The landscape is changing rapidly from repeating monsoon showers and August’s dazzling sun.  Every day is looking better.


early in the morning


Pedaling a bicycling in the early morning restores that youthful feeling.  The measured breathing.  The rhythmic cadence of circling pedals.  Any extemporaneous thought is quickly grounded and dissolved in the moment.  I’ve climbed the Crest 41 times this year.  Sometimes I go really slowly or stop to look and listen.  It is surprising how much more you hear and see when you have the mind and time for watchfulness and ample oxygen to process thoughts.

chaos disorder

morning light


Going up a climb has a way of quieting the mind and dissipating tension.  Sometimes at the top there is a feeling of peace and resolution.  The suffering is not so bad as long as you are eating, drinking and prepare sufficiently.  It is purifying.  The Crest is a beautiful climb for many reasons, one of them being the road takes you all the way to the top.  Might as well take a breather and go up to the observation platform.  Persistent effort pays off.  Look at this beautiful day.

twist two

sunflower on film

On one ride with an ecologist friend I listened to all his skills and words to recognize and describe the life on the mountain.  The bird songs he knew.  The landscape is teaming with plants and animals.  Understanding little we watch to learn more.  We don’t even know how many bears live here.  A bicycle ride is a window to a fuller sense of this place perched atop the eastern shield of the grand circle of the American Southwest.  This poem comes to mind:

Stay Home by Wendell Berry

I will wait here in the fields
to see how well the rain
brings on the grass.
In the labor of the fields
longer than a man’s life
I am at home.  Don’t come with me.
You stay home too.

I will be standing in the woods
where the old trees
move only with the wind
and then with gravity.
In the stillness of the trees
I am at home.  Don’t come with me.
You stay home too.

roots down


I feel at home on the mountain.  I share this property with over 300,000,000 Americans and many foreign guests and I realize it is not property at all but my growing knowledge of it, and respect for it, is all that matters as I cycle onward.  Through movement I am still.

The Crest is ranked the 65th toughest climb in the U.S. by–sandia-crest-hwy–nm.html

Wendell Berry’s poem appears in Literature and the Environment by Anderson, Slovic, O’Grady

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