NOB HILL--Looking for a little adventure? This is one of the best short bike rides in New Mexico. It would have to be, or we wouldn't have driven all the way to Alamogordo just to do it. Actually, it is more than just a 16 mile bike ride. It is adventure itself calling.

To be a great ride for both MaryAnn and me it has to look like this:
• less than 20 miles
• little or no traffic
• fairly flat
• good riding surface
• highly interesting features or scenery
• end up back at the car

Those kinds of rides are not that easy to find. This is one--so is ABQ's bosque trail. But wait, there's more to this story...

White Sands Full Moon Bike Ride
The White Sands National Monument opens for three hours after dark just for bicycles during the full moon. The catch is it only happens twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. But read on...and tell your smart phone to give you a buzz next spring.

White Sands National Monument
There is no place like this in the world. It consists of about 275 square miles of glistening white gypsum dunes. It is by far the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Dune Drive is the name of the road that enters the park. One can bicycle it at any time, but twice a year they open Dune Drive up to only bicycles, no cars allowed. The real beauty of it is that these bike rides happen at night during the full moon.

This has to be one of the most magical rides you will ever do. It is simply otherworldly. Imagine cruising down a road with no cars and the dunes of white sands surrounding you illuminated only by the full moon. There are other cyclists there, but the event is limited to 200 people.

16 Miles of Moonlight
The last Full Moon Bike Ride was held this past weekend on Saturday night. MaryAnn and I drove down to Alamogordo late Saturday morning. We got there in the early afternoon and checked into the White Sands Motel. Ride registration started at 7:00; the ride started at 8:00. Heavy rains the day before delayed the start time a little. Well, we had bought some coffee on the way to the park and sat down and sipped that for a while. The only bad thing about the delay was that all 200 riders started off at the same the beginning of the 16 mile ride was a bit crowded until everybody got spread out.

The road is paved for the first 4.5 miles...after that the road gets even better! The last 3.5 miles are packed gypsum, the same material the dunes are made of. So in the moonlight you ride in white surrounded by white, all of which is bathed in the glory of an incredible moon.

The Eerie Wonder
There are a couple of parking areas and restrooms near the far end of the route. We leaned our bikes up against a sand berm and marveled at the quiet spendor, the muted palette, the glowing landscape. We lingered and lingered. Finally it was time to go. The ride back to the car went quickly and seemingly with few other riders near us. Back at the parking lot we packed up our bikes and went back to the motel for the night. Now that's a short and exciting adventure with cycling at the heart of it!

Registration for the Next One
The next Full Moon Bike Ride is scheduled for April. Since it will be on a Saturday night near the full moon, that would probably mean it will be April 16. But here is the deal: you can't register for the ride now, but the registration form is posted on-line before the event. I talked to a person at the WSNM and she said it is posted about 1 minute past midnight exactly 30 days before the ride is to occur. The ride this last Saturday, she said, filled up in two days.

I do know that there is an on-line announcement of when that form is going to be posted. So I would check the White Sands National Monument website around March 1 for the exact day of the posting. Mark your calendar to do so...and follow through. Everybody ought to do this ride at least once in his or her life.


• Dress in layers and carry more warm clothes with you on the bike. It can get cold in the desert at night.
• Don't forget water...and stuff for a picnic.
• All riders must have a helmet. All bikes must have front and rear lights.
• Tires don't have to be real wide, but I think one would want something other than racing tires.
• Cost of our locally owned motel...$50. National chains about twice that.
• Other points of interest dot the routes to and from Albuquerque, including White Oaks, Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, Aguirre Springs, Old Mesilla, Hatch, Fort Craig, and Bosque del Apache.
• Cost for the ride (payable at the park) is $5/person.
• The Alamogordo Denny's is open 24/7, for a late night breakfast after you finish.

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Comment by Benny the Icepick on October 26, 2010 at 10:35am
I've wanted to do this ride for years. I did the White Sands Century back in '06, and it was my first time in that part of the state. I was under the impression that we'd actually be riding through White Sands, so you can imagine my disappointment having ridden 108 miles without seeing a single dune.

The full moon in Burque this weekend was intense and gorgeous. I can't imagine what it was like amongst the white sands. Here's a shot I took on Saturday night. I didn't have a tripod, so my apologies for the handheldness of it:

Comment by chantal on October 26, 2010 at 12:57pm
Looks like an otherworldly adventure. I'm in for next time!
Comment by Another Mike on October 26, 2010 at 3:29pm
That seems pretty cool. The only drawback I see is this: Alamogordo. Maybe I'll pack some Red Bull and make the trip back home.
Comment by Richard Malcolm on October 27, 2010 at 12:36am
I haven't done the ride, but I've done White Sands many times, and the full moon there a few (including this last Friday night--not Saturday). I prefer Las Cruces to Alamogordo . . . many better options for food and lodging, though of course possibilities are limited late at night. It's about 40 miles west of White Sands, across the Organ Mountains. It's also good to do a loop, no matter where you stay. There's lots to see on the way down and/or the way back, including Three Rivers, Valley of Fires, Qarai, Bosque del Apache, the Mesilla Valley, Elephant Butte/Caballo Lake, . . .

I haven't finished going through my photos from this year, but here's one from last year's expedition: one of the biggest, orangest moons I've seen.

Comment by Johnny_Mango on October 27, 2010 at 4:15am
Simply beautiful, Richard. We did the loop as well.


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