Thursday, April 30, 2009
Adventures in Albuquerque
Something momentous happened yesterday. Something historic. In fact, I'm not sure if this will ever happen again in the history of the world. My Amtrak train arrived early in Albuquerque, NM. After being plagued by 1-2 hour delays on most of my previous train trips, I was shocked to arrive an entire hour early.
I was greeted by the welcoming committee from BikeABQ, an advocacy organization that works to get more cyclists on the roads and keep them safe.
They lent me a bike, a helmet, and a bright vest and they took me on a tour of the new bike paths and boulevards that have recently been unveiled. You really can't go more than a few feet in downtown Albuquerque without seeing a sign for another bike route. It was the perfect weather for riding through town, and also felt a lot safer than all the riding I'd been doing in LA traffic. And the bike they lent me was no regular bike. Ben Savoca, Vice President of Bike ABQ, let me borrow his XtraCycle.
It connects to the back of most bikes and converts your ride into a cross between a cargo bike and a tandem bike. There's a padded bench and an extra set of handlebars so you can bring a friend along. You can also fold down the sides and strap in everything from camping equipment to lumber to surfboards. You can see it in action here:
I rode to the Rio Grande Zoo next where I was going to ride my 28th mode of transportation- a camel.
I'll be honest- I didn't actually get very far with this mode of transportation but it was a fun ride. I talked to Caterine, the zookeeper in charge of the camels, who said that they can run up to 35 miles per hour! But that's only for very short distances when they're running for their lives. Generally, they stick to a pretty slow pace. And Caterine made sure to clear up the big myth about camels- they don't store water in their humps. Their bodies are incredible when it comes to conserving water, but they use those humps as fat reserves. Although a camel might not be the most practical mode of transportation here, there are a few places where these rides would be more reliable than cars. Especially when moving over sand. I set up my ATC3K helmet cam for the camel ride, and I'm curious to see how that footage worked out.
I rode the Xtracycle around town a bit more before returning it to Ben. Then I was off to my accommodation for the night. Since Albuquerque was a late addition to the Un-Road Trip, I sent out a request for information over twitter and received a few leads. One of them was from my sister who has a friend who grew up here, and whose parents still live here. So I stayed the night with the Buchalters, and enjoyed a night in a real bed, (after my not so restful night on the train, with another one coming up tonight). Harvey Buchalter is an amazing sculptor and even showed me around his studio. He makes incredible sculptures and bowls out of woods and stone.
And now I'm sipping ice tea at the Flying Star Cafe, taking advantage of their free WiFi. I'll be catching a train in two hours, and 25 hours later I should be arriving at Union Station in Chicago.