Wan Tah-BO

Juan Tabo Boulevard is a major thoroughfare in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It runs North to South from Academy Hills Park through Tijeras Canyon to the Juan Tabo Hills neighborhood at the extreme southeastern portion of the city.

Like many streets, it is named after… somebody. Nobody really knows, but I have heard that Juan Tabo used to be a shepherd along the Canyon and eventually lent his name to the road. But that’s hearsay. I’ve also heard that he was a Toboso Indian, a Spanish priest, and one girl I know swears that Tabo was a fellow who had a small stand where travelers could get water.

What I do know is that the road was unpaved until at least 1975, because my mother remembers driving down it at the time. As the city expanded many dirt roads were covered up by houses (this is why Osuna Road starts and stops periodically appearing almost out of nowhere throughout the city, it at one time was a dirt road that was completely connected), but Juan Tabo grew larger. Before the late 1990s, it ended at Tijeras Canyon in a cul-de-sac. The Cul-de-sac looked over the Canyon, but only a few warning signs and a chain-link fence separated drivers from a steep fall. Every once in awhile a drunk or somebody who just wasn’t paying attention would go through the fence. There were never any fatalities that I know of, which is surprising given that any car that went off was likely to be airborne for several seconds of fall. Now the road extends down into the Canyon, steep but not unmanageable unless there’s ice. In snowy weather this section of the road is an impasse and folks coming from the Hills are advised to take Stagecoach Road into the city.

Notable places along Juan Tabo:

Academy Hills Park: The park is a long arrowhead-shaped stretch of Kentucky Bluegrass with a shallow concrete arroyo running through it (Juan Tabo literally begins in a ditch.)

Mountain Run Shopping Center: A large strip mall squares off against the park. It’s notable for a rather large clock on the south end of the mall. The shopping center holds a liquor store, sports bar, gym, H&R Block, Mykono's (a Greek Restaurant), a gas station, and a supermarket.

Eisenhower Middle School: This is where I went to middle school. The school color is teal and boy do they use it a lot. The school also has a track around a vernal pool that no doubt contributed to many of the small desert mosquitoes that I remember fighting as a child during the summer months.

John B. Roberts Dam: Blocking off Bear Canyon, the Juan Tabo Dam is a striking dam notable for the teeth-like or tombstone-like concrete structures on the west side of the dam. It has been featured in several movies, the most famous being Terminator: Salvation.

Bear Canyon: A large canyon leading up to the Sandia Mountains. Before the arroyo system was put in place, all the water from this section of the mountains would flow down this canyon creating flash floods every time it rained. The dam is an early effort to protect the houses below. The area used to be owned by the Albuquerque Academy, but is now operated by the City of Albuquerque as a public open space for hikers and nature enthuses. It is possible to take its trails right up to the mountains. Depending on how fast you walk this can take from an hour to an hour and a half.

El Oso Grande Park: Just below the dam is Big Bear Park. Once this park used to be part of Bear Canyon, in fact I can remember tractors creating the park when I was very young. These memories are hazy, but the point I wish to illustrate that when I was a kid in the early ’90s this was my stomping-ground. The park itself is divided into the park portion, bluegrass, trees, playground on the lower portion, and high plateau desert fauna above. The upper part also houses a large underground non-potable water tank maintained by the Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.

Central New Mexico Community College (Montoya Campus): A small campus for the Community College’s northeastern students, it is very open and very “deserty”. The campus is entirely new and its architecture is for the most part done in the hypermodern style of architecture favored by such as Antoine Predock. CNM used to be TVI (Technical-Vocational Institute) but it was changed around 2007.

Page One: New Mexico’s largest independent bookstore. At the corner of Juan Tabo and Montgomery, this bookshop was opened in 1981. Though it has gone through many renovations since then, it still remains a great place to find rare or out of print books. What they don’t have on stock they can order.

Eldorado High School: A high school built in the 1970s. Its mascot is the eagle and its colors are Texas orange and yellow. This is where I went to high school and I have nothing to say about it but that it is a fairly open campus so at least the students get some sun during the passing periods.

O'Niell's Irish Pub: A large bar/restaurant with an extensive patio. The patio is dog-friendly. I give the food a four out of five, but the beer selection is enormous. If you can think of it, they have it. I recommend something dark to go with their “Ma O’Niell’s Black and Bleu Burger”.

Juan Tabo Public Library: Part of the Rio Grande Public Library System, this small and modest branch is tucked away from the road and isn’t very noticeable from a car. It doesn’t have the largest collection, but it does have soft chairs for an afternoon of reading.

Dagmar's Restaurant & Strudel Haus: As far as I know, this is the only German restaurant in Albuquerque. Prepare for extremely heavy food. The restaurant is generally empty for dinner (but very busy for breakfast), food is prepared by Dagmar, the lady who owns the restaurant. Because there is typically only her in the kitchen, food can take awhile to get out, but is generally very good.

Moon’s Coffee and Tea: Located in the shopping arcade on Juan Tabo and Haines Ave., Moon’s is a northern Albuquerquean’s one stop shop for all things coffee and tea related. It sells many loose-leaf teas as well as pots, strainers, vacuum boilers, and whatever else you happen to want for your serious tea cravings.

Juan Tabo Hills Bridge: After the bridge through Tijeras Canyon, Juan Tabo shrinks down into a small residential road. There is nothing notable other than houses and wide-open desert spaces.

UPDATE: 3/14/2013: As Juan Tabo crosses Central, it has now been directed west to connect with Southern Boulevard supposedly to ease traffic coming to and from Kirtland Airforce base. It doesn't do this. Eubank Boulevard is still the main road for that sort of traffic. All it has done is create a weird situation where if you wish to drive down Juan Tabo, you now have to turn onto Southern and hitch a left. It's also killing a few businesses and has denied access to Central for some of the residences along southern Juan Tabo.

Juan Tabo is the road Myrkabah keeps calling Jesus Toledo in the Green chili write-up. In fact, I even know which payphone was being used. It's still there...

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