Last October, my girlfriend Bambi and myself spent twenty-three days inline skating and exploring the state of New Mexico. Here are a few stories, thoughts and things we learned along the way.
First off, why New Mexico?
Earlier in the year I spent a week in Los Angeles skating with Cletus Kuhn, Caitlin Krause, and Al Romero, all natives of New Mexico and all really awesome people. We talked a little about New Mexico and the few stories and descriptions they gave me bounced around my head as the year passed. With fall fast approaching I wanted to spend a month skating across a state, any state, with warm weather, decent nighttime temperatures for camping and a semi reasonable route. So why not New Mexico?!
I started by googling New Mexico Cycling Laws. This is often a good rule of thumb if you want to plan a distance skate. Figure out how the local areas respond to cycling and you can likely get a good grasp on how it will be to skate there, highway shoulders, traffic, road conditions etc.. New Mexico fit perfectly so I put my trust into it and bought one-way tickets for Bambi and myself to El Paso, Texas right on the southeastern border of New Mexico.
Tip number one! Pack light!
Tip number Two! Pack even lighter!
Experience is the best way to learn what you need to survive on trips like this. Here is a short list of what we decided to carry.
- 2x 50 liter internal frame backpack
- 2 adult combination cold weather sleeping bags
- 2 ultralight sleeping pads
- 1 pair of pants/shorts each
- 3 tees each
- 6 pair of socks each
- ultralight tent
- ultralight cook set w/ alcohol stove
- reusable water bottles
- camera, phone, chargers
- first aid kit
- small bag of spare bolts/skate parts
We also had to take into account the extra weight from water and food we would be carrying. To lighten our backpacks by 10 lbs, we mailed our aggressive skate setups to locals we reached out to online. If you go this route in planning journey, make sure to mail packages early. We mailed out our skates over 10 days before arriving, to be sure our packages would be there.
Day 2 // El Paso TX – Las Cruces NM (48.26 miles)
We started off with coffee and a semi-hectic skate leaving the El Paso, including a nasty gash on my arm from a razor sharp cactus hanging over the edge of the path. Once out of the city we were swept away with the gorgeous farmland of Southern New Mexico. The highlight of this skate was definitely the 12-mile stretch of Pecan tree orchards we passed through. Perfectly planted rows starting as saplings all the way through to gigantic trees towering over us, forming a tunnel of branches for our path to cut through.
Arriving in Las Cruces immediately we were greeted by a local man named Cody Smith, who invited us into his art gallery Four Points Perspective. We talked about Las Cruces for a bit and ate some hot vegan burritos he sold us for two dollars, then he invited us back over for a party later that night. After hitting up a local brewery we made our way back to the gallery.
Day two definitely ended as magically as you would expect. We drank locally made beers with the locals while listening to the best live blues performance I’ve experienced in my life. Los Dientes was the artist’s name, and I won’t forget it. His music lulled Bambi and myself into a magical trance, that surely set the tone for our entire journey through the land of enchantment. We ended our night camping behind the art gallery on the edge of town shrouded by the neighboring pecan trees.
Days 4-6 // White Sands
After camping for a night in the beautiful wilderness of Aguirre Springs we made our way to White Sands. What can I say about our time in White Sands? The worlds largest white gypsum sand dune and active military missile range. Two hundred and seventy five square miles of white sand and only ten first come first serve camping sites.
We spent two nights and days wandering around the desolate dunes sun up to sun down and then under the glow of the moon. Watching little lizards run across the sand, kids sledding down the massive dunes, and people from every part of the world, all here to see this incredible work of nature. Blanketed by mountain ranges on each side of us, nowhere to go, nothing to do, we made sure to take in every beautiful detail of our day making time really feel like it was standing still.
Days 7-11 // Roswell – Bottomless Lakes State Park
On day seven, we were faced with looming storms for the next two days of skating, so we decided to re-route our trip and catch a local bus to Roswell. This strange little city, with a population of 47,000 people, almost mirrors every small American town I’ve ever been to, except for two things. It’s historic and sometimes outlandish affection for UFO’s and its incredibly tight knit, women led skate crew. We immediately linked up with Danica Tempero, a local roller skater we had reached out to on Instagram.
We realized we made the right decision coming to Roswell, because from the moment we met her, she was a super rad. Our first full day there was chill, accompanied with overcast skies, Danica took us to Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge featured a beautiful spread of lakes and rocky dirt marshes hosting masses of birds, that seemed to be flying right out of a nature documentary. We hit up the local skatepark afterwards, which was surprisingly cool. It was a mix between metal ramps and a wonky old concrete bowl, that at first felt almost impossible to skate, but ended up being a blast to launch out of. I took this opportunity to practice my 720s.
Once day eight came around, we were already two days ahead of schedule, so Bambi and I decided to skate out to the nearby Bottomless Lakes State Park. A 22-mile skate should be a breeze for us right? WRONG. The first 3 miles were on the worst gravel covered road and we kept telling ourselves it would get better. I was ready to be done 20-miles in, the road conditions no better then before, my legs felt dead, my spirit was dwindling and ahead of us was a giant hill. As I felt my body screaming, I watched as Bambi was overcome with an incredible burst of strength. She started skating at full sprint with nothing to hold her down (except her 25 lb. backpack). This forced me to to rise up and follow her charge up the giant hill.
At the top we took a moment to laugh and celebrate our craziness, I was in awe of this powerful woman. And just like that, the 20-miles of brutal rough roads we had skated, turned into a perfectly smooth 2-mile cliff side downhill stretch into Bottomless Lakes State Park. We cruised in awe of this magical place, dancing around each other, fully enjoying the reward of our hard work. We came to a stop right in front the ranger station where we celebrated and cheered with so much hype, that the ranger came out to see what all the commotion was. We then spent our evening exploring the different lakes before taking a swim and camping alone under a full moon.
On our ninth day, we were scooped up by another local skater, Lauren Dillard and her boyfriend Thomas. Both of them were incredibly kind to us, letting us shower at their place and feeding us homemade enchiladas. Later in the evening we ventured out to Jeneva Jewel Martinez’s private halfpipe. Jeneva is truly an inspiring woman, you can feel a passion for life radiating from her. As a mother of 6 boys and a breast cancer survivor, she fell in love with roller skating as a form of exercise and expression, then truly took it to extreme levels. Her husband Matthew, a carpenter and home-brewer, built her a giant technicolored halfpipe in their backyard, where all the local girls can shred whenever they want. Jeneva and her family were truly welcoming, meeting individuals like this is always a true blessing.
Day ten was highlighted with sunshine and street skating. Danica showed us her local trail and some rad spots for us to shred. We ended our time in Roswell visiting the local roller rink, which was by far the smallest rink I’ve ever been to. That didn’t matter to us though, because we ended up having the whole rink to just the three of us. The DJ announced over the microphone that we could skate in any direction we wanted and asked us what we would like to listen to. So we skated and danced like mad hooligans, with no cares in the world. This was definitely a roller rink experience we will never forget.
Days 14-15 // Sante Fe – Esponola – Taos
We spent our last day with Danica and Lissa doing a good old fashioned skate trip to Sante Fe. They drove us across some pretty barren desert in between Roswell and Sante Fe, which would have been a long, dry, cumbersome skate, so we were grateful for being able to skip it. We spent the afternoon at Meow Wolf and went to the local Spohn Ranch Skatepark for a chill session before saying goodbye to our incredible new friends. From there Bambi and I spent a night in a motel in Sante Fe to recharge & prepare for our venture into the unknown of northern New Mexico.
Leaving Sante Fe was all uphill until we reached the end of town, then downhill for the remaining twenty something miles. We spent the majority of the day skating on the frontage roads, just off of the interstate, following along the Rio Grande River. At this point we were in Northern New Mexico, so the scenery made a dramatic shift transforming from dry flatland deserts to lush forest of bright yellow cottonwood trees. At one point we even had the chance to skate through a closed off construction lane with fresh pavement for miles.
Even with our heavy packs we were still passing the cars caught in traffic. Arriving in Esponola, we grabbed a quick lunch at Lot-a-Burger, which for a fast food place was pretty delicious. We discovered that every successful restaurant in New Mexico put green chiles in their food, which changed our lives by the end of this trip. After lunch we hopped aboard a free transit bus that took us the remaining 30-miles to Taos.
Taos is a beautiful culturally packed town at the base of a mountain in the northern most part of New Mexico. We spent the day exploring Taos Pueblo (the nations oldest pueblo), the historic Taos Art Museum at Fechin House, checking out the Taos Earth Ships and having our minds blown by the insane work of nature that is the Rio Grande River gorge. Our time in Taos was only made more magical, when our incredible Airbnb host Paul, offered to cook us a three course New Mexican dinner complete with a Mezcal tasting and a midnight snowy dip in the hot tub. Taos was the vacation from the vacation we didn’t even know we needed!
Day 16 // Los Alamos – La Cueva (26.83 miles)
After catching a bus from Taos to Los Alamos “The Atomic City” (it’s where the atomic bomb was developed), we were ready for our next big skate. We planned to do about 40-miles along what was known as the Jemez Mountain Trail, and camp just outside the small town of Jemez Springs. We left Los Alamos at an elevation of 6,000 feet, going up and down for a few miles until we came to the base of Jemez Mountain. Immediately we found ourselves skating almost vertically 3,000 feet up the mountain road, with hairpin turns, blind curves, and breathtaking drops.
It took us three hours to make it to the top, which seems like it wouldn’t be worth it, but hard work always pays off. At the top we faced one of the most beautiful views of our entire lives. We skated downhill for the next 20 miles. Just smiling and taking in the scenery as we hit speeds around 33 miles per hour. We stopped only to take in the view of Valles Caldera National Preserve, a 13-mile wide circular depression known for its massive mountain meadows, wildlife, and streams
Eventually it started to get dark, we were still too high in elevation to camp, so we really started to work our bodies to push faster. We were about 10-miles shy of our campsite and I was starting to worry. Skating through a mountain range is hard enough, we didn’t need to be doing it in the dark. So as we rounded a corner to the first little village we had seen all day, I hollered for Bambi to pull off the road, she was some 100-yards in front of me cruising at full speed. We managed to get off the road in time and pulled into what, I first thought was a small bar, but ended up being a gourmet pizza place out in the middle of nowhere.
We hit it off right away with the owner of the place, Michael Vallen, talking about what it was like to live there, in a town with less than 100 people all of whom were spread out over a decent distance along the mountainside. We talked about the strange people who traveled through, he said we were the very first skaters he’d ever seen. We told him we were looking for safe camping and asked if it would be warm enough to camp there. Without hesitation Michael offered us a place in one of his many beautifully remodeled Airstream trailers. We didn’t know it at the time but on top of owning and running Nomad Mountain Pizza, he also had a business remodeling and renting vintage Airstream trailers. We graciously said yes before sitting down to pizza and pecan pie.
After sitting and relaxed for awhile, drinking cups of delicious french press, we eventually caught a ride from a local kid down the half mile road to the Airstream that Michael was letting us stay in. It had a welcoming retro vibe on the inside, with plenty of heat and blankets to help us through the chilly mountain night. Just outside the door was a small deck overlooking the creek that cut right across our entire horizon.
We spent a few hours sitting next to the fire we built ourselves surrounded by complete darkness and total silence (except for the nearby stream). It’s not very often that you can be made to feel so small against the world yet so comfortable. That night was the clearest most spectacular view of the stars I’ve ever seen.
Day 17 // La Queva – Jemez Springs
In the morning we made coffee and oats on the kitchenette. We had a relaxing breakfast sitting on the deck watching the stream now shimmer in the early afternoon sun. Oats at this point had become a staple of ours, being light-weight and easy to cook, we just add a scoop of peanut butter and dried fruit (also light-weight) and you have a pretty delicious and filling breakfast. After eating, we left our gear in the Airstream and hiked to the local San Antonio Hot Springs.
The 5-mile hike through crowded woods and an abandoned Boy Scout Camp, led us to the base of a steep winding path that brought you up to a small collection of hot springs, over-looking the entire valley we had just hiked through. The handful of locals there instantly welcomed us as friends. After a few hours of relaxing and conversing about the universe, we had been invited to a birthday party later that night in Jemez Springs by John the “Honey Man” (obviously he has an apiary and sells honey locally). Another local, Devon, offered to drive our packs the 10-miles to Jemez Springs so we could skate freely. We said “heck yeah”. So we hitched a ride with Devon and his son Oliver back into La Queva to grab our gear.
One thing I’ve learned in all my travels is that you keep your pack safe at all times. It’s your home, it’s your temple, it carries you and the gear you need to survive. So throwing both of our packs in the back of a strangers jeep sounds crazy right. But we did it. I feel like Bambi and I both had been opening up and trusting the universe more and more with each new mile we pushed ourselves.
Our intuition was on high frequency and we knew that these people were good people. We just spent time soaking on the side of a mountain, discussing the world with these people. So we trusted the situation and sent our packs down the road. It was just us and our blades. Skating across beautiful landscapes with a pack is definitely a challenging task, so moments like this are a true blessing. We were both 25 pounds lighter and not restricted to our pack frames so we went wild. Skating fast into the late afternoon sun, we savored these 10 miles.
We made it into Jemez Springs with time to grab dinner at a small tap house on the edge of town. Then we crashed this birthday party at “The Stagestop”, a small house that had been turned into a diner, that felt more like a home than any diner I had ever been in. In the middle of the room was a group that consisted of 7-10 people playing instruments and freestyle jamming. Everyone else crowded around in booths or at the few small tables or danced around. John the Honey Man showed up and introduced us to all his friends.
We had somehow become local celebrities, with the story of us skating all the way through the Jemez Mountains from Los Alamos to Jemez Springs, being spread around the town and the party. We had cake and enjoyed the music for a few hours before camping out at a locals house just around the corner. Rick was his name and we surely won’t forget him. He told us the story of his entire epic life and was shocked with disbelieve that we had skated so far. He told us stories about when he was young and traveled around like we were, on foot though he exclaimed.
Rick and all the people of Jemez Springs were truly kind and compassionate humans. Bambi and I camped out on the living room floor in front of a wood burning stove that lulled us to sleep that night. We woke early the next morning, packed up quick, had a farewell breakfast with Rick, John & Connie, then headed to our final destination of the trip, Albuqurque New Mexico.
The skate to Albuquerque flew by so fast. It was almost completely flat if not for a slight downhill in the direction we were headed. The highway system we were on was brand new and ultra smooth with clean shoulders. If that wasn’t enough we had the wind on our backs for a few hours, which is the ultimate blessing when doing distance skates.
The wind was pushing us and our packs to help us achieve 2 minute-miles for 12-miles which is around 20-miles an hour with the weight of our packs. We were definitely so comfortable and feeling so strong at this point. We skated 46-miles then decided to take a Lyft into downtown where we would meet our final Bodhisattva of our journey, Lance.
Day 19 – 23 // Albuquerque
Lance McGoldrick grew up friends with Cletus, Caitlyn and Al and had already made friends with us when we were in Santa Fe. He had met us for lunch and we skated together at the skate park. We quickly realized we were like minded individuals. Lance is an artist and among his many incredible feats are his building of a TedX stage and his very own installation at “Meow Wolf”. Which if you haven’t heard of Meow Wolf just look it up.
Lance not only housed us for the entirety of our stay in Albuquerque, he went above and beyond to host us. He made us coffee every single morning which felt like a true treat. He would go off to work and we would explore the city visiting museums and coffee shops. We ended up getting to skate with the Shred New Mexico Crew at the skate park and had dinner with a few of them. Caitlyn ended up surprising us and showing up and the four of us skated to the Dia De Muertos parade. We got in a few street skate sessions and Lance took a Tuesday off work so we could take a trip to the famous Indian School ditch that has been skated for many years. We made a day of skating down the entire ditch and catching clips here and there. It felt like being a kid again skating the massive 30 foot bank walls.
Albuquerque, Taos, Roswell, all the way back to Las Cruces, for over 300-miles of skating and equally as much busing, hitch-hiking, and walking, we were greeted and treated by the most incredible, humble, kind humans we’ve met in a long time. The landscape was constantly changing, showing so much diversity and beauty we felt lost to the world. We ate amazing food, saw amazing works of art and human achievement. We saw the overpowering incredible force that is nature and how it shapes our planet.
We were truly enchanted by this beautiful place and look forward to returning.
For having never been, I feel Bambi and I both can attest to the truth that is the New Mexico motto – “The Land of Enchantment.”
We want to thank everyone who helped us along the way in providing housing, food, transportation, direction, overall good advice and good vibes and a super special thanks to RollATL for saving our lives with the wheels and parts we needed to make it through this journey.
It’s been almost a year since this journey and we’re finding the stories, characters and memories of this trip constantly popping up in ours thoughts and daily conversations. To any skaters thinking about taking on an adventure like this, we highly recommend it! Bigwheelblading.com is a great source for information and will help if you would like to try and plan your own skate journey and Bambi and myself are always here to answer your questions and offer advice.
Thank you again to everyone who supported us and was a part of this journey. We look forward to the next on.
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