Nuclear Spamway

Albuquerque is famous for its history with nuclear power. Sandia Labs, home to the National Nuclear Security Administration, sits adjacent to Kirtland AFB. It makes a beautiful backdrop to our panoramic view from the Fam Camp.

Los Alamos, home to the first nuclear bomb, is just 80 miles north. With all of that nuclear energy in the air, we had to drop in on the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, which is conveniently located directly out the back gate from Fam Camp.

For less than a Jackson for both of us, we got our history on following the development of nuclear power. Most of that power came in the form of bombs, delivery aircraft, missiles, artillery, and other cool stuff that got one of us stoked and the other politely nodding their head.

Eric found the nuclear bomb he was trained to deliver from the A-6 Intruder back in the good old days of the Cold War when battles were contemplated in airspace and not cyber-space. Halfway through his fascinating and surprisingly un-requested tutorial on Uranium 235 processing, Sheri ducked in to the gift shop which was super geeky, original and totally cool, unlike the lecture.

After a stroll through the yard to read every placard about every plane, bomb and missile used in the early days of nuclear warfare, we wrapped up the tour with a retired nuclear docent who gave us the lowdown on where to go for Albuquerque’s famous Green Chile cheeseburger.

With our geek on, we fired up our nuclear powered Como’s (jk) and weaved our way over to Tramway Blvd. Tramway Blvd runs 7 miles out of Albuquerque toward the Sandia Peak Tramway, a gondola that takes you to the top of Sandia Mountain. This bike trail parallels the boulevard and climbs some 1,500 feet out of the city and to the foot of the mountain and is part of a 50 mile ‘activity loop’ that circles Albuquerque. We think the major activity might be staying awake as the pathway is straight as an arrow with a clear view of the six lane highway it follows.

The 18 mile incredibly monotonous trek out to the tram is broken up in the final mile by a road West Virginia coal mining country steep. It was the perfect way to make us really glad to get off the Como’s. We had purchased our deep discount tickets back at Kirtland’s Activities Office, so we headed right for the gondola. Packed in like sardines, the operator entertained us with interesting factoids like ‘everything looks smaller from up high in the gondola.’ Well, you couldn’t argue with that.

Rising 4,500 feet, the gondola transported us to Sandia Peak, some 10,500 feet high. We exited the tram gasping for air and looking for a place to hike. Dressed for the hot temperatures below, the cold air drove us in to the observation room. With all thoughts of hiking gone with our breath, we hoped that the gift shop sold portable oxygen containers. They don’t. The pounding in our ears was not just from a lack of oxygen, the peak-top restaurant was under heavy construction. The sound of jack hammers and pnuematic nailers really carry in that thin clear mountain air.

Huddled on a bench, we gulped down our water and fruit lunch. Feeling a little rejuvenated, like we could move again, we pushed our way to the front of the line for the down-gondola. A totally different operator with totally the same factoids gave us de ja vu. One thing you can say about the amazing view from the top of the 10,368 feet mountain was that everything in Albuquerque looked really small – they weren’t kidding. The entire boring bike way looked like a tiny little stretch of straight road. You’d have to had ridden it to know that it actually takes over an hour to get up that long hill.

The good news is that what goes up, must come down. So, our return to Fam Camp was much faster. While we liked being back in the saddle, we had to admit that the Tramway was terrific if you had some reason you needed to get to the top of a mountain, like to ski down, but this was just tourist spam hyped up to look like an exciting ‘event.’ We felt sorry for the family of six who dropped more than a C-note for the pleasure. They should have gone to the Nuclear Museum to see the GADGET – the first test of a nuclear bomb that was blown up in the desert of New Mexico in the 1940s.

We were far happier the previous day when we discovered the base indoor pool. Sucking in the relatively thick air at 4,00 feet, Eric turned a mile worth of laps and Sheri caught a water aerobics class at the expertly hidden facility. We are always huge fans of a good lap pool when we can find it.