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And Then a Little Beyond Albuquerque

Later that first week, I left the city limits, motoring west and looping briefly through the rural stretches of Bernalillo, Cibola, and Valencia counties.  In the distances I saw Sierra Ladrones and Mt. Taylor.  I plunged into and out of the massive basin of the Rio Puerco; the basin contains a lone, barren hill, Cerro Colorado, its prominence─that is, its height from base to peak─roughly half that of the tallest mountain in my native New Jersey.  (Now that’s big, I thought. Imagine the number of New Jerseys I could fit in this state.)  I skirted the Cañoncito Navajo Indian Reservation (today the re-named To’hajiilee Indian Reservation of Breaking Bad fame) and sliced across the Laguna Indian Reservation, although I don’t believe I saw a single Indian.  I saw countless mesas and massive ramps of broken rock that seemed to have sprung violently from the land like pieces of warped linoleum.  I saw eroded rangelands of dust, destroyed, unbeknownst to me, by overgrazing.  In the extinct settlement of Correo, New Mexico, I passed the ghostly ruin of the Wild Horse Mesa Bar, likely the last stop of many a cowboy and Indian.  I drove Route 6, a remnant of Route 66, to Los Lunas; the highway paralleled the main line of the Santa Fe Railroad, and I kept pace with mile-long freight trains traveling 60 miles per hour.  Returning north to Albuquerque, I shadowed the Rio Grande.

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