Smooth as glass

This section of Tramway didn’t get the upgrade.

I was out dicking around on the bike this morning when I thought I’d ride the recently resurfaced Tramway Boulevard, just for the hell of it.*

Nothing stays shiny and new for long around here, whether it’s bottles or boulevards.

There are other ways to get north and/or south on this side of town, and I normally use them.

But when a reader wrote to the Albuquerque Journal‘s “Road Warrior” column to praise the work that had been done on this death march of a high-speed, multilane, median-divided thoroughfare, well, shit, I figured I owed it to journalism to give it a look-see.

So I rode Tramway north from El Rancho Pendejo to just past the climb to Juan Tabo Picnic Grounds, then turned around and scoped out the southbound leg down to Cloudview before reversing course yet again for the trek back to the rancheroo.

And I’m with the Journal‘s happy reader. Well done, fellas. The new blacktop really makes the broken glass stand out.

* “Just for the hell of it.” In case you’ve never ridden Tramway, that’s a joke, son!


23 Responses to “Smooth as glass”

  1. asgelle Says:

    I rode it a few times when the pavement was brand new and lane and fog lines hadn’t been painted yet. I think it made drivers and cyclists much more aware, and it seemed safer than with the lines.

    How do you like the striping for a bike lane alongside the right turn lanes?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It’s been an interesting exercise in fear management.

      If we’d had a tourist season the lack of a shoulder line would’ve worried me. Townies know Tramway has that great big shoulder, but elderly visitors piloting Dodge turbo diesel duallies pulling fifth wheels, boats, and motorcycles might not.

      Approaching an intersection, the bike lane got painted right where I tend to ride anyway, depending upon traffic levels and my own sense of personal invulnerability. This lets cagers use the right-turn cutout at full speed, so they can terrify pedestrians.

      Once through the intersection, though, I don’t like hanging my ass that far out in the automotive breeze. Drivers trying to merge onto Tramway from Spain or Academy aren’t looking for bicyclists there — they’re too busy spilling beer into their laps, lighting a smoke, and wondering if they can get across all 72 lanes of traffic before executing an illegal U-turn across the median.

      My practice is to glance right while in the intersection, checking for psychos, then head for the far right shoulder to give them wagon room.

      Also, those bike lanes should be marked as such. Right now they’re just white lines. And if memory serves, there isn’t one as you pass Tramway and Montgomery headed south. This intersection — Taco Hell, Mickey D’s., Smith’s, Speedway, etc. — gets my vote as Worst Intersection Ever.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Intersections are where bike lane designs go to die, especially on big, high speed roads where motorists should not be encouraged to behave as though they are at Watkins Glen.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Albuquerque is the first place I’ve ever ridden where you encounter “BIKE LANE ENDS” signs at intersections.

        I took them at their word … until I realized they mostly just “ended” at the right-turn lane and then resumed after the intersection.

        In Bibleburg they weren’t kidding when they said “BIKE LANE ENDS.” The bike lane (and the shoulder) usually ended smack dab in the middle of some high-speed, double-lane hellscape.

        • khal spencer Says:

          Intersections are just such fun for bikeway designers. You can do it the old fashioned way and make the classic right hook design by having people turn across a continuous bike lane. You can end the bike lane and have cyclists merge into the thru lane and try not to get hit from behind. Or you can put a right turn bay to the right of the bike lane and have people sideswipe bicyclists by passing them and merging to the right. Such fun.

          Sign should say “bike lane ends at intersection. You are on your own.”

      • asgelle Says:

        “And if memory serves, there isn’t one as you pass Tramway and Montgomery headed south. This intersection — Taco Hell, Mickey D’s., Smith’s, Speedway, etc. — gets my vote as Worst Intersection Ever.”
        I just did a special recon. The lane is there on the southbound side at Montgomery. I’ve never had much trouble at that one myself. For me southbound Tramway to Rt 66 at Central is the worst. Cars zooming right to get on the freeway while bikes have to cross four lanes of traffic to turn left.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          Oh, yeah. I always forget about that one, because I never, ever use it. I pick up the bike path on the east side of Tramway at Cloudview/Encantado and access Old 66 that way.

          Herself got clipped in her car there once, making a left, on the green arrow, from the I-40 off-ramp onto Tramway. This eejit headed south on Tramway runs the red light, boom, etc., and then has the unmitigated gall to claim that she had the green. Um, no.

          By the way, don’t expect the cops to show up to one of those unless both parties to the crash come out shooting. Ain’t gonna happen.

  2. Pat O’Brien Says:

    “Smooth as glass”. I like it. Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires will get you through it.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’m rocking the Schwalbe Little Big Bens, which are stout fellas. I run ’em at 60 psi front and 65 rear.

      And that stretch of broken glass in the photo? That was one of the smaller ones. You should see some of the big’uns.

  3. khal spencer Says:

    The nice thing about being hit from behind at fifty to sixty miles per hour is that its likely quick and painless if done right. Kinda like that executioner’s sword across the neck. But if done wrong, man, it sucks.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The last thing to go through your mind? Your ass.

      • khal spencer Says:

        A work buddy of mine, an engineer from TA-55, was hit from behind on West Jemez Road, which is posted 55 mph and runs to the west along the perimeter of LANL. He was airlifted to an Albuquerque ICU and was in a coma for weeks and then in rehab for months. Broke all sorts of bones. Eventually he was back on a bike.

        I was, oddly enough, the LANL Traffic Safety Chair at that time and went out to the site like a bat out of hell and worked with the cops on the reconstruction. We pretty much saw how and where he was hit from tiny tire marks on the front of the minivan and a gouge on the road where the bike was dragged. Man, that was awful. One of the cops I was working with was a cyclist, too.

        The cyclist said afterwards that what saved his life was the fact that it was a long hot ride and he had a big Camelbak full of water on his back. When he was slammed into the front of the minivan (and I knew the driver from Chemistry Division; the driver and cyclist were co-Boy Scout leaders, too. Talk about knowing the guy you crush in a small town…) the Camelbak acted like a big, soggy air bag and shattered, taking up a lot of the shock. As did his helmet. Or what was left of it.

        Gave me a whole new respect for Camelbaks.

        I know cyclists hate them, but I’m a fan of rumble strips on high speed roads if done right. They wake up drivers (probably the cause of the crash above) and give me a split second to say the rosary when I am about to have my ass rammed up between my shoulder blades.

  4. Shawn Says:

    A road without lines seems to equalize the use of that road. My area recently had a couple of roads resurfaced (if you believe chipseal is actually a resurfacing and not just a bunch of gravel and some tar that cars will eventually smooth out into the consistency of a smooth dirt road.) Before the lines were repainted onto the roadways, cars would pass me with more space. Apparently not having a centerline gives drivers the feeling that it’s ok to actually move over to the left when passing a slower vehicle.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Man, I hate that coarse chipseal. In Colorado, Custer County and the state highway boyos basically croaked the fabled Hardscrabble Century — one of my all-time faves — when they turned most of Highway 96 into a cheese grater. That and the clinically insane traffic on Highway 50 pretty much raised the threat level to DEFCON 1.

    • khal spencer Says:


      A few years back the New Mexico Dept. of Transportation milled NM-4 between White Rock and LaCueva and chipsealed it. For a couple years, until traffic beat it down into just plain lousy, it was virtually unrideable. That ruined the two best rides in Los Alamos County in sequence. First, the Jemez mountain ride to La Cueva and then the Grand Loop.

      Eventually it was quite rideable again but many of us were stocking up on pins and voodoo dolls that looked remarkably like the NMDoT secretary.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      That shit up to Custer County was the worstest. Still is. It traps sharp objects the way flypaper does bugs. My man Hal found himself with two flats the other day — one on his wife’s SUV, the other on his burro trailer. Repairs meant a 30-mile round trip from his rancheroo to Weirdcliffe and back.

    • JD Says:

      It’s always easier to color outside the lines if there are no lines. Somebody once said: “Even a dead fish can go with the flow”.

      ‘Tis chipseal season here in the Bibleburg area. Nothing quite as good for the lungs and eyes as the elegant yet provincial fragrance of hot melted tar, wildfire smoke, and haze. I’m personally off the roads when cycling for the rest of my life. Too many close calls and too many friends badly hurt by inattentive vehicle drivers.

      In a different vein, I read this AM, courtesy of Catherine Rampell at the WashPo, that the RNC has no new platform this year. It’s a one-pager resolution that says “RESOLVED, That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America First agenda. The Republican Committee National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention.” Any attempt to adopt a new platform will be “ruled out of order.”

      Just out of curiosity, I wonder what percentage of the US electorate even reads a party platform?

      Stay safe, healthy, and sane!! 🙂

      • khal spencer Says:

        The RNC could use the Sermon on the Mount as its platform and I would not vote for Orange Hitler. And the GOP candidates for state office in New Mexico are by and large absurd. Ronchetti may not be too bad but suspect he will get hammered anyway.

      • Shawn Says:

        I believe that trump could stand at the dais and talk about cheeseburgers the entire time during the convention and his base would still vote for him. He is simply a symbol for a number of people that need something to remind them about what they thought was good in the past and are afraid of changing or adjusting to in the future.

        I sure would rather hear him talk about cheeseburgers. At least then he wouldn’t be making something up that he didn’t know anything about.

    • B Lester Says:

      Yeah here is Wi, the chipseal is the budget friendly go-to for most low traffic county roads. Problem is, those same low traffic roads are the best riding. When it happens, they are off the menu for our group until next year.

      Speaking of country roads, I used to ride with a guy who was a councilman in Brodhead Township to the west- where it starts to get damn hilly. Once in a while we’d come upon a recently re-paved section that was pock-marked. He’d get real sour about those “damn Amish”. They put titanium studs in the horseshoes to run their horse-and-buggy rigs in the wintertime. Problem was that they often didn’t take ’em out until months after the snow was gone. Or sometimes never.

      Same guy kinda liked the idea of dirt roads- thought there aren’t any around here. He equated paved roads to heroin addiction. Once you’re in, you’re hooked and you can never go back. You’re in for endless fixing and repaving. Funny stuff…

    • Shawn Says:

      At one time I heard a rumor that one of my old Engineering professors was instrumental in developing chip seal to save road repair cost in Alaska. I don’t know about the truth of the rumor (I never did go back and ask my professor), but as a cyclist I liked the frost heaves on an older paved road a lot more than a recently chip sealed road. Besides, chip sealing a road didn’t stop frost heaves from returning.

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