tacos in the time of pandemic

Westward Ho

In retrospect, the red taco truck represents the moment it all changed.

a red taco truck

Taco truck, Albuquerque, New Mexico, March 2020

It was parked along Central, old Route 66, on Albuquerque’s west side. My friend Scot and I, out for our Sunday bike ride, had been debating the wisdom of our usual bike ride brunch – tacos from one of our local market food counters.

We discussed best risk reduction practices. Maybe one of us should go in and get the tacos, to eat outside? Maybe we should skip the tacos entirely?

From the vantage point of our world circa March 15, 2020, skipping tacos was inconceivable.

And then, like an apparition, the fire engine red La Pichorrita appeared by the side of the road, a clump of cars pulled over helter skelter around it.

Our Sunday ride is always the high point of my week – hours of often aimless rambling, both in route, and conversation. There is time to double back to be sure we’ve covered everything – again, both in route, and conversation. On this particular Sunday it seemed desperately important to engage in idle conversation and idle wandering.

a poor substitute for tacos

This stretch of West Central is not exactly scenic in conventional terms – old Route 66 motels (the “French Quarter” across the street from where we got our tacos, and the wonderfully named “Westward Ho” just down the way). But it’s Albuquerque in a way that we love.

Our discussion after pulling over to the taco truck seems, from today’s vantage point, a vast ten days later, quaint. One of us would order, while the other stayed back, away from the other people also waiting for their tacos. All stood awkwardly, or waited in their cars, as the first responders of barbacoa made our brunch. We took our tacos and sat on a concrete curb in front of a Penske truck rental place. They were delicious.

The ride that day went on forever, down South Valley ditchbanks until we could ride south no more. We didn’t want to turn around.

I’m still riding every day. It remains a mental health anchor. But that was the last ride with Scot for a while, and the last ride with tacos.

On my desperate trip to the supermarket to stock up (we all did that in those early days, didn’t we?) I stood impatiently in the breakfast bar aisle, hurriedly looking at labels to see which bars could serve as a pocketable caloric substitute for tacos.

I am now the owner of several months’ supply of peanut butter and dark chocolate chewy protein bars. They’ll do, but I refuse to learn to enjoy them.