Yesterday was Halloween — the first I’ve spent not trick-or-treating with my kids in 13 years. I started off by calling home and discovering that my kids had no plans to wear the costumes I’d made! Here I am on the road, surrounded with testosterone, and meanwhile, they’re home with Daddy, also surrounded with testosterone! So much for carving pumpkins and roasting the seeds! But Emilio is doing a great job with them and as is often the case when only one parent is around, the boys are really being good.

We had a a whole free day to ourselves, so in the morning I flipped through a New Mexico tourism magazine and saw an ad for bike rentals. I called up and reserved a bike, then ran 3.5 miles with a backpack on to the bike shop. I went down Indian School Road, and it took much longer than I thought. I passed a disheveled old man with a gnarled stick and a tiny dog on a roap. I knelt to pet her and he said, “I had a pacemaker put in, and when I came out of the hospital, there she was, waiting for me.” I told him I could see she had the same sweet mellow personality my chihuahua has. I said goodbye and started running toward Rio Grande Avenue.

Once I’d arrived, dripping with sweat, at the bike store, Ross, the owner, outfitted me perfectly. The lightweight Fuji hybrid bike was just my size, and it came with two locks and a patch kit and a helmt. He showed me a small jar with little thorns in it and explained how to let the self-sealing tires patch up any holes they caused. I’m glad he showed them to me because I did encounter them several times and had to pick scores of them off the wheels, but never got a flat.

He suggested I start with the Bosque trail, which runs along the Rio Grande. “You won’t know you’re in the city,” he said. It was beautiful, with vibrant fall leaves of yellow and gold everywhere. I came to some municipal fishing ponds. In the middle of one of them, an island was studded with these same yellow trees. The trunks had been painted what I call Frida Kahlo blue. I’ve painted that very shade of indigo all over my yard.

I met a guy there named Will, who wanted to be a “good-Will” (my joke) ambassador for Albuquerque. I told him I hadn’t heard anything bad. “Not even about mutants, or white sands?” He asked. I said it must be like Oakland. “Oh yeah,” he said, “I’ve never heard anything good about Oakland.” Indeed he was shocked to hear that San Francisco had bad neighborhoods and Oakland had good ones! He told me the city was ringed by pueblos so it couldn’t get any bigger. He said he’d already biked 35 miles. This gave me a false sense of scale of the city, for which I was to pay the price later! When I told him I’d run from the hotel to the Rio Grande he said, “Wow, you’re a real soldier!” He asked to take a picture and said he might come to tonight’s show.

I continued for about 45 minutes along the paved trail until it basically ended. I saw giant gray birds and asked someone. Turns out they are Sandhill cranes. I also saw a roadrunner!

At the trails end, over a cement diversion channel for the Rio Grande, I decided to call Grandma’s Pro Audio and see if they had the in-ear monitor I was looking to buy. They did, and put one on hold for me. I checked my phone, which told me that the place was 18 miles away as the crow flies. I turned around and retraced my path along the Bosque trail.

An Indian man on a bike came up and asked me my name. “What’s yours?” I replied. He told me, and I replied with a fake name. “Ride here often?” he asked. I said no, but I was on my way to Old Town.

Eventually, I got there, and found some beautiful but expensive jewelry sold by Navajos, and a taco shop. I got some fabulous pork tacos with pepitas and quesito fresco. From there, I decided to take Central across the Rio, connect to Coors and ride it all the way to the 9000 block, where Grandma’s was. When I hit Coors, the addresses were in the 3000s. Great, just 6 blocks, I figured. I began riding. Though I admire the many bike paths in Albuquerque, I will say they are overwhelmed with freeways. Coors was practically a freeway. I rode along. Another Indian guy, young, pulled up and complimented me on the bike and asked if I was having a nice Halloween. I said yes and asked if he knew where the store was. He had no idea.

I pedaled hard for an hour along Coors, past housing developments, mini malls, and multiple freeways or bridges across the Rio Grande. Finally, I saw it.

When I came in, they couldn’t believe I’d come from Old Town on bike. We tested out two systems. One was missing a body pack, but the other was complete and pretty cheap, so I bought it and strapped it on the back of my bike. I set out. It was now evening. I found the right bridge across the river, and managed to catch the Rio Grande trail on the other side. It was beautiful, and incredibly long. Dusk was dimming quickly. The wind blew cold and the yellow leaves rustled. Giant cracker-jack-shaped pieces of iron that were scattered along the banks of the river turned out to be a kind of fencing that catches debris if the river should overflow. Though my butt hurt, just not hearing cars was glorious.

Eventually I got to the end of the trail, and started along city streets. Though I’d planned to hit some more isolated bike paths along the diversion canals, I didn’t know if they were safe in the dark.

Suddenly, at a busy intersection, a man stumbled toward me. He was groaning, wearing an orange prison suit and a zombie mask and carrying a sign for a haunted house. I took a video with his permission.

Then I continued on. After miles along empty industrial streets, crossing railroad tracks, passing a truck stop and riding precariously on bike over one freeway on-ramp/overpass, I made it to my destination, our freeway-frontage hotel. I looked up the relative size of Albuquerque. Turns out this city sprawls across 185 square miles, compared to Oakland’s 78 square miles. I haven’t measured it out but I was on the bike for 7 hours, and think I rode at least 50 miles.

This morning to my amazement and to my bottom’s chagrin I got back on the bike for two hours and rode all the way up through Albuquerque to Tramway Blvd, at the base of the Sandia foothills. The closer you get to the cerro, the more it looks like Mexico. I didn’t cross Tramway to get to the base of the cerro where there are hiking trails, because Tramway is also a freeway.

Now I’m sitting in my room, quite exhausted, utterly sick of eating bananas (they are free in the hotel), too lazy to get protein from two miles away (given that a block here is roughly that long). In the next room I hear Pete playing scales and riffs on his sax. Which reminds me that everyone laughed this morning because at midnight (which didn’t feel that late), I practiced maracas in my hotel room. They are LOUD.

Tonight we play Popejoy Hall. All I can really think about is food right now. But so far this trip is not making me fat, that’s for sure!