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Thread: Moving to Taos?

  1. #1
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    Moving to Taos?

    Hi everyone,

    I'm considering taking a job in Taos and was curious about the cycling options when you ride from town. I ride road, MTB and gravel (prefer MTB>gravel>road) and most of my rides will likely be from my door as I will probably only have 1 - 2 hours to ride. I've done some online research but was hoping to hear from a local or someone with knowledge of the area.

    Are there many riding options for 1 - 2 hours from town or do I have to drive? Is it mostly road, gravel or MTB?

    How many of the months of the year will I be able to ride? I know some areas won't be accessible in winter but I wonder if lower elevation closer to town is rideable.

    Also, it's OT but any info you have on local schools, the local hospital or anything else you think is relevant/important would be much appreciated.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    These are my own thoughts based on my own experiences, certainly there are others who have varying opinions.

    I've been in Taos for most of a couple decades, riding to and from work for several years and can say it's sketch. Riding from town the roads are narrow and most aren't in great shape, riddled with potholes and there aren't any reasonable shoulders (the exception being the section of Highway between El Prado and Arroyo Hondo), the few bike lanes in town seem to be considered passing lanes to drive around a vehicle that's slowing down to turn left off of the road. Many drivers in this town aren't the most educated, or considerate when it comes to sharing roads with bikers, a good percentage of the locals who drive are generally angry and aggressive and would rather risk a head on collision with oncoming traffic at 40+mph than slow down for ten seconds to properly pass a cyclist - I've had to ride off the road to avoid being hit dozens of times, from traffic oncoming and behind. Always on edge, trying to look every direction at once and always listening. I once heard someone say they stopped riding here cause they felt like a target, which is understandable. Most Taosenos who are driving are probably insured, and have a legitimate driver's license, and might not be drinking if it's before 10am. Over the years I've learned which routes are "safer" and which roads to avoid completely, unfortunately there aren't very many options - to cross town from El Prado in the north to the south side or going the other way there's only 3 possible routes using public highways. The main highway, I'd avoid completely. Millicent Roger's road is alright, even though people drive 50+mph despite the 25mph posted speed limit most of that route has a decent unobstructed view. Riding on Blueberry Hill is like roulette, no shoulders and some blind turns, while driving on that road I've slowed down to wait to pass a cyclist and been passed by another driver - an act which I consider to be evidence of literal insanity - causing oncoming traffic to have to slow down and almost drive off their side of the road to avoid a collision with the vehicle that passed me and the cyclist. I could list several dozens of alternate experiences on that road but that would fill a few pages of text, I'll go with point made here. When driving I always yield right-of-way to cyclists and pedestrians, definitely in the minority in this town in that regard. Then there's the bad cyclists - riding on the wrong side of the road, ripping through red lights and stop signs, crossing roads through traffic, riding drunk or high, lacking proper gear such as helmets or lights/reflectors at night, and general disregard for and lack of common sense. I even met someone who grew up here who said in school as a kid the teachers told them to ride their bike on the wrong side of the road so they could see oncoming traffic.

    There's a lot of awesome stuff here, the trails are great and we're surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands that can be easily accessed. Riding from town, the South Boundary, Devisadero and North Boundary trails are within range, Kit Carson Road is narrow with no shoulders and lots of turns, I wouldn't ride on that road though quite a few people do, same goes for Highway 64 between Taos and Angel Fire. Better (less risk) to drive to the trailheads. The Rift Valley trail system on CR110 is accessible via riding through the south side of town, Ranchos or LLano to get there, read a few weeks' worth of police blotter in the Taos News to learn up on what these neighborhoods and Taos in general is like. Be prepared (I was going to say + know the law, but the law doesn't hold much ground in many real-time situations), I'm a supporter of New Mexico's open carry status and would advocate for anyone obtaining their CHL, without one you can carry concealed while on a bicycle the same as within any motor vehicle. While crime is an occurrence everywhere, and northern New Mexico towns have many nice and attractive regards, realistically Taos is not the happy-go-lucky artsy-eco-enviro-fantasy world many people want to think it is. There's a lot of sketchy neighborhoods, and mixed in across the county are a lot of seemingly upscale, gentrified neighborhoods that if you pay attention to and look around you'll notice there's a lot of vacant homes and real estate signs all over the place, some properties have been on the market for years as if the owners really don't want to sell - and some interesting theories within our community about what's going on here which I'll leave out of this post. Another thing about Taos - do you like illicit drugs, or want to buy some food stamps to support someone's drug needs? Just hang out by the "picnic" tables in front of Smith's for a few minutes and opportunity will present itself (one recent police blotter was someone found a hat with a bag of needles by one of the tables). Or if you feel the desire to support any of the career panhandlers try Albertsons, Cid's (Taos dumpster-diver central, and yeah there have been fights amongst the dumpster-diving subculture about who held senior rights to the goods), the 64/150 traffic light intersection, or one of several gas stations or stores along the Paseo del Pueblo.

    Schools - good luck. Most of my friends who grew up here either finished school on their own and left town for better things, or stayed and are working hourly-wage jobs alongside those of us who moved here to live a mountain lifestyle away from the interstate Summit Counties of the west and the crowds those communities attract. I know several highly skilled and educated people who grew up in Taos, they didn't gain their knowledge and wisdom from the school system.

    Hospitals - there is one, and it has an ER! That's it, that's all. I know a few experienced professional nurses who work hard for little pay, because they genuinely care about what they do and love our community. Some of the older surgeons who are greatly respected here have either retired or moved elsewhere to work in a more suitable environment.

    As far as riding throughout the year - recently we had a few deep snowstorms during December, January and February that kept the bikes inside for weeks at a time, May was pretty wet and cold which kept the snowpack nice and isothermically icy until about two weeks ago. The previous year I was wearing shorts and riding hero dirt singletrack all of December and most of January. Typically the mountain trails are rideable from mid-June through most of October, lower elevation trails along the Rio Grande have about a nine month season.

    There is a hard-cut group of locals who regularly participate in long range gravel riding, based on social media posts I'd say check with Taos Cyclery or the local IMBA group TMBA to link up with these folks. Also MTBProject is reasonably up-to-date with the local trail networks, at least where the areas are, ther's still a lot of forest roads on the Carson we haven't mapped there yet.

    So now, in summary - Moving to Taos? - I'd advise to keep that question mark in place until you've had adequate time to come and check out our lovely area and see what you think, comparatively depending on what you're used to and what you're seeking.
    Last edited by AlienTrees; 06-21-2019 at 09:54 AM.

  3. #3
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    Thanks, AlienTrees, for all of this info and taking so much time to write it, and I apologize for taking so long to reply.

    I live in Oakland, CA and much of what you have described in terms of driving isn't too different from what I have seen in the Bay Area. I'm also not unfamiliar with the type of crime you describe and Oakland has a significant homeless population many of whom suffer from substance addiction.

    I do get the sense that there is limited road riding there. My wife and I rode the Enchanted Circle during our honeymoon in 2017, which was a long ride but fantastic, low on traffic after we left 522 and found most drivers to be courteous and safe. I can see how in-town drivers can be different, however.

    In any case, I'm more interested in mtb and gravel riding. I like other activities such as trail running, hiking, XC skiing so those would probably be my winter sports.

    I'm actually interviewing for a position in the hospital. I hope the hospital is one that the community respects and feels that they receive good care from. I'm aware of its recent financial issues, which is concerning, but it seems like it may be more stable currently. Any further input/opinion on the hospital overall and its financial health would be much appreciated.

    I know that no city or town is a shangri-la and that every place has its issues. I'm looking for a small town or city with a hospital nearby, decent schools for my 8 month old kid in the future (I hear the charter school in Taos is good), a few 1 or 2 hr length riding options close to town (and hopefully something longer for the couple of times a month I will have time for that), lower cost of living than the Bay Area (not hard to achieve), and some decent people as neighbors. Restaurants and culture are nice, but not necessary. Overall, looking for a different pace of life than which can be found in the Bay Area.

  4. #4
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    Oh Taos will be a different pace of life, no worries there.

  5. #5
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    Alien Trees summed it up well, but here's my two cents:
    Depending on where you live, you can ride right from your house for a few really sweet single track rides of 1-3 hours duration. I am fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood just east of the plaza ("downtown") and I can ride right from my house, via some quieter/safer back roads, and be on singletrack in 15 minutes, or on some good gravel grinds in 20-30, again via quieter and safer back roads through town.

    However, if you live just about anywhere else in town other than the outskirts north or south of town proper (and close to the mountains) that is not an option as the haul is too long for the shorter time windows you mention and the routes to the trailheads or dirt roads more treacherous. Simply stated, Taos is a horrible town for road biking or just riding through town to get to the mountains. Not impossible, but dangerous more often than it should be. Not just cars driven by distracted drunks on narrow roads either, but angry dogs charging out of unfenced yards.

    As AT mentioned, there is no end to the public lands available for riding in the area, and one of the best things of all is that there are basically zero crowds, and even the most iconic and epic trails are often empty, or close to it. Gravel grinding potential is truly endless as the old logging roads and jeep roads go on forever in almost all directions, and the elevation diversity (from 7K to 13K) means you can ride most of the year in a variety of terrain, and sometimes all year, especially if you get a fat bike.

    Schools...I've got a 12 year old daughter and there are now a number of charter schools to choose from, some of them very good, although all have a lottery to get into. Most parents to eventually find a slot for their kids with minimal wait time. Straight up public schools can be okay but the crime, poverty, drugs, gangs and negative side of Taos AT mentioned are more apt to manifest themselves in the traditional public schools here.

    As AT mentioned, it's not all roses here, and all the social problems you find in Oakland you'll find in Taos, and anyone who thinks it's all art and organic food and outdoor adventures and quaint architecture on a postcard either haven't spent any real time here or never get out of their bubble. Working at the hospital will be a good way to get the whole picture and quickly...and hopefully the hospital will stay afloat, even if it does end up being mostly just an ER or "critical access" facility.

    All that said...we love Taos and will probably never leave. It's rough at times, unpolished, expensive and also a grind, sometimes violent and full of great people and plenty of crazies, but you might end up loving it. The weather is awesome (not too hot or too cold, with four actual seasons) and the outdoors potential pretty much endless, plus you've got a BUNCH of bonus stuff available within a 2-6 hour drive including Colorado lush or snowy mountains, high plains drifting out east, red rock Utah canyons, and the warmer Chihuahan desert of Southern New Mexico if you get sick of winter.

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