A Tale of Two Cities

66 Diner on Old Route 66 in Albuquerque
66 Diner on Old Route 66 in Albuquerque

Albuquerque

Albuquerque is the southernmost of the two cities and with a population of nearly half-a-million, it is the largest city in New Mexico. The University of New Mexico is located here along with Sandia Labs, Kirtland Air Force Base and Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute. The city is noted for its location on the original Camino Real (Royal Road) that ran all the way into Mexico and old Route 66, which passed through the city on its East-to-West path. Even today, some of the Art Deco highway architecture can still found within the city limits. Currently the new NM Railrunner passes through the city on route from Santa Fe to the southernmost point.

Poster of ongoing art show on display on the exterior of the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.

Santa Fe

About 50 miles to the north of Albuquerque at an elevation of 5,000 feet, sits the state  capitol of New Mexico, Santa Fe. Once this frontier outpost was the western terminus of the Santa Fe Trail start began in Independence, Missouri and crossed the Kansas prairie to northern New Mexico. Once trade routes were established with the US, merchants here were able to do business with both the US and Mexico and as a result the town flourished. Much of that heritage can be seen today among the numerous trading posts, restaurants, stores and inns that abound in this high altitude city of only 70,000 residents. Despite its small size, Santa Fe is a busy business hub that sees much commerce and trade.

Nm Railrunner Emblem
A bold image of the roadrunner marks the NM Railrunner train.

The Rail Runner 

Linking Santa Fe and Albuquerque by cheap rail has done many things for both cities. The rail cost between 300 and 400 million dollars and was first opened in 2006 with a run between Albuquerque and Belem to the south. In 2008 the train began servicing Santa Fe, so nowadays almost 300,000 one way passes are used every month. Price of a roundtrip same-day ticket are just under $10 dollars, while a one way is only a little bit less.

The railrunner has a been boon to tourism because of the ease of access between the two cities. Also it has created work commuters, who can ride the rails and save fuel and wear and tear on the vehicles. The number of daily riders has risen each year, yet the rail still falls 10 million short on being self-sufficient every year. Considering the rail line between Albuquerque and Santa Fe is less than five-years old, the overall outlook of the rail service is bright and encouraging for other places that might want to consider setting up rail connections between closely located cities. It should be noted that this is not a high-speed service as maximum speed is somewhere around highway speed.

How It Works 

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Bus Trip To Las Vegas

Restored Neon sign on Central Ave. (Route 66) in Albuquerque

Leaving New Mexico

Since my winter employment at a popular New Mexico ski resort has no come to an end, I have decided on a road trip to the West Coast to find employment until next winter. First stop on my journey was Albuquerque, where I spent a night in a motel on old Route 66. This is not the motel, but it is located right next to the El Don, where I spent the night. Both places have classic neon signs, which have been restored with the aid of federal funds. El Don rents rooms to smokers and is considerably cheaper than the recently renovated Monterey Motel.

Route 66 in Albuquerque
Route 66 in Albuquerque (daytime)

April Snowstorm

My real journey began with a bus ride west from Albuquerque to Las Vegas, NM another western locale that excels in its lighted night time roadside displays. However, the big story was the mid-April snowstorm that descended on Flagstaff and the nearby Four Corners region. As my bus ride traversed the beautiful mesa of western NM, temperatures plummeted and snow filled the skies. It did not stick to the road, but quickly covered the desert landscape making for a very unusual April landscape. And once the bus arrived in Flagstaff, AZ just short of midnight, everyone was in for a bigger surprise – more snow. For here, it had been snowing all day with the white stuff covering the roads (and everything else) with a good six inches of wet snow.

View of Nevada from a Greyhound  bus
View of Nevada from a Greyhound bus

Down from Flagstaff

I fell right to sleep as the bus left, the high altitude mountain town. At that point in time it was still snowing, but when I awoke at sunrise in Bullhead City, the temperatures were quite warm and there was not a snowflake in sight. Not until the end of my journey in Las Vegas did I see any signs of snow and that was only on a few mountain tops visible in the far distance. Today, I walked around Las Vegas with temperatures being in the 60s and 70s and quite pleasant. Such is life for travelers in the western mountains.

View of the Las Vegas Strip on a busy April Sunday.
View (from a walkway) of the Las Vegas Strip on a busy April Sunday.