My destination is Old Town Farm’s Bike In Coffee, located off the bike path about a block and a half east of the I-40 Rio Grande bridge, where clear signage on the south side of I-40 directs cyclists to Old Town Farm. Owned for forty-six years by Lanny Tonning and Linda Thorne, Old Town Farm preserves the agricultural character of the West Old Town neighborhood’s roots and offers cyclists a fantastic menu of food and thirst-quenching beverages.
I’m fortunate today to sit down with Thorne and learn about the story of the couple’s time on the acreage along the Duranes acequia madre (a three-hundred-plus-year-old irrigation ditch). The acequia is flowing and full, and Thorne explains that for the first thirty years they lived there, they raised and trained horses. “It’s nearly impossible to make a living raising horses,” she says, and so one by one, some of the horse pens were repurposed for growing vegetables and the couple began taking some of that produce to sell at farmers markets, where Tonning one day remarked, “Hey, everyone here is on a bike!” That realization spurred the genesis of a produce stand, which grew to include a food truck, which eventually became what now exists as a permanent kitchen and events space, catering specifically to cyclists. This evolution developed in part from their realization that, as they got away from raising horses and after their daughter left home, they missed having people around. Both Thorne and Tonning have backgrounds in journalism and they love hearing people’s stories. Most of the times I’ve ridden by, I’ve spotted them deep in conversation with guests.
“I must be the luckiest person on the planet!” Thorne tells me emphatically as she explains how time and time again, the right people at the right time serendipitously stepped in to help them build the bike-in business. In the first iteration of the kitchen, Thorne admits plainly, “we didn’t know anything about running a kitchen.” Then, one day as they intuited their way through construction, Nicholas and Lill, a young WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) couple from Alaska wistfully pedaled onto the property. The couple had prior experience in food service, and firmly took the reins to the kitchen for the season. No sooner had they gone their WWOOFing way than another young couple appeared to take their place.
Today the bike-in kitchen is a big bunny hop from its fledgling produce-stand roots. The facility is spacious and hugged by a covered, wraparound porch. “The great thing about this kitchen” she explains, “is that it has windows on three sides.” Not only can the staff spot groups rolling in from the bike path and ready themselves, but the undeniably warm chemistry of the staff is on full display for the public to witness. Currently, Chef David Reyes heads the newly constructed kitchen. His menu includes staples such as wrapped to-go breakfast burritos, a variety of tacos, salads, baked goods, and rotating specials. The bike-in chef has big plans for the coming summer too—the south face of the wraparound porch is slated to expand to become a ceviche bar.
Perhaps the most elusive thing to convey about Bike In Coffee is the sense of place you feel when you’re there. And perhaps the best words to describe that genius loci are Thorne’s own: “People at Bike In Coffee are their best selves. People don’t feel threatened; they lose their insecurities.” It’s true. From my perch on the deck, my prospect is of all manner of smiling people on bikes filtering into this oasis. And so I put my helmet back on and clop around in my cleated shoes and lycra bib shorts, making new friends and losing track of time. I’m not sure I feel completely comfortable, but it’s in the sense that someone’s about to pinch me and wake me from a dream—a cyclist’s dream where I’m not hypervigilant of traffic or the hurried crisscrossing of day-to-day life. Somehow this place just doesn’t seem real, and yet it is. As I lazily pedal out the east side of the property, my bike computer chirps at me and lets me know I’m back on the road.
Bike In Coffee is one of several great food options along a roughly twenty-five-mile loop that connects the North Diversion Channel bike path with the bosque path. I took this route starting and ending at Bachechi Open Space, and for those interested in following my route on Strava, follow this link. From Bike In Coffee, the route follows Mountain, passing Golden Crown Panaderia, Rumor Pizza, and Slow Burn Coffee before heading uphill to the University of New Mexico campus, where it turns north to connect to the North Diversion Channel bike path. The next destination is Canteen Brewhouse, followed by Vara Winery & Distillery on Alameda, near the path’s northernmost end. Last but not least, backtracking on the diversion trail to El Pueblo and heading west to Edith, is Eldora Chocolate. From there, the route circles back to the bike path parking lot at the Bachechi Open Space.
From Bike In Coffee, this ride shares about five miles with cars, so if you aren’t comfortable riding on city streets, it’s advisable to return to the parking lot at the Bachechi Open Space along the bosque path.
I recommend a bike with sealant in the tires for this ride (punctures from goathead seeds are common) and a bell for alerting others of your approach. I also recommend packing a spare inner tube or two, a bike pump, tire levers, a tool kit, a patch kit, a snack, and water.
Joshua Johnson is a landscape designer and an avid cyclist who has fabricated transport bicycles in the Netherlands. Having lived and ridden in several other states and countries, the roads of New Mexico are still his favorite.