Acoma Pueblo’s ‘Sky City’ is the Oldest Continuously Inhabited Community in North America

In the American Southwest you won’t find a more breathtaking backdrop than Acoma Pueblo’s “Sky City.” Built atop a sheer-walled, sandstone mesa in a valley studded with sacred, towering monoliths it is the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America and known for its rich culture, pottery and bucket list worthy Tour De Acoma.

Offering ride lengths of 100, 50 and 25 miles with male, female and tandem categories the Tour De Acoma offers every rider a chance to win prized Acoma pottery. Plus, with all proceeds going to the Haak’u Museum Foundation the event helps preserve New Mexico pueblo history and art. That’s a good thing.

Whether your goal is winning or taking a leisurely ride through legendary landscapes here are a few pro bucket rider tips:

  • Don’t stand out like a tourist in a Hawaiian shirt, pronounce Acoma as ACK-uh-muh.
  • Photos are forbidden on pueblo land so leave your phone and just enjoy the views.
  • Competitive riders gravitate towards the 100 or 50-mile events with the 25-miler reserved for recreational riders, no sandbagging racers allowed.
  • The 50 and 100-mile routes start off fast on a rolling downhill warm up beforehand.
  • The 100-mile group doesn’t stop, they never do.

You never know who will show up at the Tour de Acoma. Southwest racing legends John Frey and Jim Warsaw were in the 100-mile event this year. Decades ago I raced against both (well, at least I started with them) when they were at their peak and set the US National 40K Tandem Time Trial record.

At 10-miles Kadzima (Enchanted Mesa) towers in front with the morning sun illuminating its sheer walls while shadows cling to the backside. It’s one of the most beautiful monoliths in the region. Down the road a few miles, Sky city’s adobe buildings cling to the mesa tabletop above. Don’t stare too long or you’ll put a crook in your neck and miss the turn to Kuumi, the only significant climb. On the long downhill to McCartys check out the 11,000 foot Kaweshtima (Mt. Taylor) to the north. In the winter it will be snowcapped. At I40, the 50-mile route turns east towards the finish while the 100-mile route continues into El Mapais National Monument.

The El Mapais out-and-back section starts with a gentle uphill, but into a not-so-gentle headwind. Don’t work too hard, it’s 20-miles til the turn around. Eventually you’ll be rewarded with a downhill tailwind return to McCartys, offering a chance to catch riders up the road, which is what we do – even with Warsaw’s textbook blocking for teammates.

Rolling back through McCartys village, make note of the cool lava flow on either side of the road. At only 3000 years old it is one of the youngest volcanic features in the lower 48. I, on the other hand, were one of the oldest features in the group – and feeling it. With only a few flat-is miles remaining focus on turning those pedals over. You are almost there! Stay vigilant at the finish admidst potholes, cattle guards and a wee bit of gravel about.

In the 100-mile event, the Too-Young-To-Be-A-Legend Fortunato Ferrara easily won the solo male category with his team sweeping the podium. Legend John Frey with stoker Blue Soroos won the tandem category, while Jim Warsaw and I finish swapping tall tales about racing “back in the day” – when we had hair.

Ride:Tour de Acoma
Location:Acoma, New Mexico
Next Event: September 16, 2018
Distance:35, 50, or 100 miles
Difficulty:Novice/Intermediate/Pro
Start:Sky City Casino
Hosts:High Desert Bicycles
Info: Tour de Acoma