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Tramway Memories


So last time I had us just exiting a breakfast place where we got surly service and soggy bagels.


After that, for a little while, things didn’t get a whole lot better. It wasn’t a bad day. Just not much happened.


We drove up to see my parents’ old house. It was pretty much unchanged (at least from what we could see outside). When we’d sold it, we’d gotten lucky with buyers. They were a couple with a teenage son and they’d liked the place pretty much as they’d found it. We noted as we drove past that the yard was the same -- a low maintenance, low water affair of rocks and Xeriscaping(1) --and they’d made no noticeable changes to the exterior. It was nice to know that they seemed to be happy with the old place.


Then, we drove past our own old house. Here there had been changes. The exterior had been re-stuccoed and repainted. It was now a sort of bluish-cream color where it had been adobe tan before. And the lawn was different. We hadn’t had much grass, but the new owners had replaced what there was of it with gravel and rock, again following the Xeriscape pattern.


Well...I guess I preferred it our way. But, the house belongs to someone else now. They can do what they like with it. And, truth be told, it didn’t look bad.


After that, we headed up to Tramway Road, which is kind of the big street on the northeastern side of the city, and, at one time, had been the edge of civilization. Beyond it, there had only been mesa and mountains. Now, at least for part of the way,  there are homes and strip malls that go all the way to the edge of the Sandia Mountains.


But, there are still some excellent views on Tramway, and once you pass the road up to the Tramway, everything opens up and you can see for miles and miles.


What’s “The Tramway?” you ask. Well, now. There’s a long story, and a long cable. But, the short version is that Albuquerque is home to one of the longest aerial tramways in the world.(2)  It runs from the base of the mountains all the way up to Sandia Peak, where there is also a ski area.




About the photos: I was startled to discover that I don’t have many photos of the Tramway on my hard drive. I know I’ve taken a bunch but somehow they didn’t get transferred. But here’s a snap of the Tram station at the top of the Sandia Crest.


I have a surprisingly large number of stories about the Tramway. That’s partly because they built it while I was still in grade school in Albuquerque, and so there was a lot of constant activity going on around me while it was happening. And, partly, it’s because my father and mother decided to take up skiing about that time, and so I had to take lessons, too. Let’s just say that it wasn’t the most successful of my athletic endeavors. It is not true that I reduced my instructors to tears. However, at least one of them moved to Miami and used to run screaming at the sight of snow cone stands. But that’s a story for another day.


Finally, it’s because I also knew, or at least knew of, the Abruzzo family, who were one of the major driving forces behind the construction of the Tram and the modernization of the ski area. Several of the Abruzzo kids went to the same schools I did. Again, I didn’t know them, but now and then I’d meet them.


 And I was saddened when the patriarch of the clan, Ben Abruzzo, and his wife, Patricia, and four others, were killed in a small plane crash in 1985.(3) Then, in 2010, I was equally saddened to learn that one of their children, the adventurous Richard Abruzzo, had died in a ballooning accident.(4)


As I say, I didn’t know them. I met them once or twice, that was it. Yet...they had helped shape important parts of the world that I inhabited as a young person. And, as such, particularly as my youth fades increasingly into the distance, I can and do regret their passing.


Anyway...


We drove along Tramway, then we drifted along 4th Street, and found our way back to Old Town. We did a little more shopping--in particular, we wanted to visit the Albuquerque Photo Gallery, a co-op photographers’ gallery that we like to visit each time we’re in Old Town. I think I mentioned it a few times before, particularly in “Shirley’s Last Gift.” Last time, we bought a print there. Today, however, we just looked around.


Then, it was to the Casita for a quick rest and wash up.


Because, you see, the best part of the day was yet to come...


Dinner at the Cocina Azul, with our friends John and Michael, who had helped us once...and then twice...enormously.


More to come.



Second, here’s a picture of Martha at the top of Sandia Crest. The Peak is where the Tram runs, but the Crest is the actual highest point of the Sandias. You can drive to it. Or, you can hike to it...which I’ve done. A long time ago. And it isn’t happening again soon. Sigh.






Footnotes:


1. Xeriscaping is the art of landscaping and gardening with little or no water. For obvious reasons, New Mexicans tend to be very good at it. There is a Xeriscaping Wikipedia page here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xeriscaping. Or, if you’re more interested in xeriscaping in a purely New Mexican context, the Office of the State Engineer offers an excellent pdf on the subject here: https://www.ose.state.nm.us/WUC/LearningXeriscape/XeriscapeGuide_ScreenResolution.pdf


2. The tramway has its own Wikipedia page, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandia_Peak_Tramway


3. Mr. Abruzzo has his own Wikipedia page here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Abruzzo



The Abruzzo family was very big into ballooning. Ben Abruzzo was part of the team that made the first successful trans-Atlantic balloon crossing in 1978. Richard Abruzzo, meanwhile, broke his father’s distance record with a balloon flight from North America to Africa in 1992. Richard, along with ballooning partner Carol Rymer Davis, were killed when their balloon crashed in the Adriatic Sea.



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About the photos: I was startled to discover that I don’t have many photos of the Tramway on my hard drive. I know I’ve taken a bunch but somehow they didn’t get transferred. But here’s a snap of the Tram station at the top of the Sandia Crest.


Second, here’s a picture of Martha at the top of Sandia Crest. The Peak is where the Tram runs, but the Crest is the actual highest point of the Sandias. You can drive to it. Or, you can hike to it...which I’ve done. A long time ago. And it isn’t happening again soon. Sigh.







Copyright©2024 Michael Jay Tucker


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