Day 5 – I arrive in Albuquerque

Another day, more stunning scenery, some natural oddities, the Interstate, arrival in Albuquerque, and more wind.

The day started in Quemada with a nice big truckers breakfast, then a quick blast east to Pie Town.  Little more than a wide spot in the road, the town is known for its pies and has a pie festival each year.  There’s The Daily Pie and the Pie-O-Neer:

The Pie-O-Neer Cafe, sadly closed on Wednesdays.

Just before Pie Town was Omega.  There were signs on the highway announcing it and a dot on the map, but this is all there was:

The town of Omega. This wasn't the first and I'm sure won't be the last such town I pass.

After that it was my first experience with the bike on a gravel road.  The beginning was heavily rutted and almost made me turn back but I gutted it out and the road smoothed out nicely.  I must have crossed two dozen cattle guards, and had to meander through a herd of cows in the road.  This is also where I met Gary, a Seattle-ite who just finished a 4 year, round the world ride.  You know how I keep saying “Damn wind”?  He kept saying “Damn Africa” as he talked about his BMW needing repairs.  He started riding in 2001 so he could use the HOV lanes during his commute and a few years later it turned into an itch to travel the world.

Gravel, ho!!

The gravel eventually turned to pavement and the land flattened out.  The wind was generally at my back here so I could make some good time.

Look, there's a bend in the road 20 miles ahead.

I passed the El Morro National Monument and didn’t really think about going in.  I should have.  I found out later it’s an ancient pueblo site with lots of petroglyphs and graffiti from the conquistadors and other European travelers.  What I didn’t pass up was the Bandera Volcano and Ice Cave.

This kinda says it all

The cinder cone was very cool (hiking up the trail at 8000 feet was a chore!) but it’s the ice cave that’s freaking amazing.  Here in the desert, with temps over 100, there’s a huge sheet of ice and icicles just 50 feet below the surface.  This must have been a very magical place for the local tribes.  My photos didn’t turn out well but hopefully you get the idea.  You can check out their website here.

The cinder cone, 800 feet deep!

One of many lava tubes in the area.

The entrance to the ice cave. The ice is only another 20 feet down!

This is the best pic of the ice sheet I could get.

My next stop was the Acoma sky pueblo, which I thought was an old pueblo on top of a mesa, but turned out to be their current homes.  There was an interesting museum at the base but the tour buses and tourists turned me off, so I headed back toward ABQ.  There’s no plumbing up there so the main sight from below was all the blue porta-johns lined up.  Appetizing…  I did get this picture from the road in:

You can see the homes along the left top of the mesa.

All that was left for the day was 50 miles on I-40, with heavy traffic, riding on the shoulder through a construction zone, and of course, the ubiquitous strong, gusting winds.  I was one of the slowest vehicles on the road (speed limit 75) and when the trucks passed me it was white knuckle time!  Eventually I exited at the west end of town and followed old Rte. 66 most of the way across the city, witnessing everything from a police take down to the trendy Old Town, downtown, the UNM campus and typical college strip, old motels both run down and restored, and so on.  It was late and I was very tired so I chose the Econo Lodge in Old Town, since that’s where the galleries and museums are.  Not very colorful but it did the trick.

Day 6 will be spent in Albuquerque, a day of rest and sightseeing.

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