Tuesday, October 14, 2008

albuquerque, new mexico, usa

My first vacation in very nearly a year took me to Albuquerque, NM, primarily for Balloon Fiesta, but also to visit with Becca's friend Janelle and her boyfriend Jordan. They graciously opened up their home to us for five days and saved us the hassle and expense of finding a hotel in Albuquerque during Balloon Fiesta.

Before our flight, Becca and I agreed to use only sign language with each other on the plane. Becca is trying to learn it and I have been negligent with my practice. I want to be able to talk with Heather in her own language. I love her; she makes my best friend the happiest he’s ever been, and I feel awful that I can’t communicate with her as well as I should. I’ve known her for years and my (lame) excuse was that I didn’t see them very often when they lived in California and Colorado, but they’ve been back here for 2 years and I still can’t understand her as well as I should. I struggle to have basic conversation and it’s embarrassing to me. Becca and I knew that it would be difficult, but we want to get better. Practice is the only way that happens. We did pretty well, but instead of using only sign language, we soon found ourselves talking while signing. We ended up studying more than actually conversing. I think the only way I’m going to get better is to 1: spend more time with Heather one-on-one, and 2: take a sign class. But, I digress.


We landed Wednesday in Albuquerque at 9pm MT after 10 hours of travel time, 2 stops and 2 planes. At our layover in Chicago (Mid-Way…wah-waaaaah), we grabbed some Potbelly to eat on the plane. Janelle and Jordan picked us up at Albuquerque Sunport (it’s not an airport…it’s a sunport) and we headed back to their place. Becca and Janelle caught up and the four of us shared wine and cheese and some awesome spicy Thai flavored Kettle Chips while we talked. The night ended at 1:00am MT, which for those of you who aren’t well versed in time zones, is 3:00am ET. Tired!

puffed bagwine and catching up

Thursday, we decided to skip Balloon Fiesta and slept in. Or at least I did, waking up around 11:00am or so. It was a lazy day. I read on the balcony, Becca and Janelle made delicious pancakes with an outstanding blackberry syrup. Janelle – I need the recipe. Blackberry is my favorite. Breakfast was delicious and filling. Janelle had a test, so we headed over to UNM around 2:00. She headed off to class and we headed over to Frontier for some good New Mexican food. Green chile, all the way baby! After having our fill of burritos and enchiladas, we wandered around campus a bit before settling in by a pond and reading while we waited for Janelle to finish her test. We met up again and headed over to Old Town to find some Flaming Two Arrows hot sauce for Jared and hominy for posole. We headed back home and the girls went to Jordan’s yoga class while I relaxed on the sofa and watched the Phils beat the Dodgers in game 1 of the NLCS. The three of them got home and Brad Lidge recorded the final out, with perfect timing, and we rushed out to get sushi before the restaurant closed.

Friday, we headed up to Bandelier National Park for a hike and to explore the ruins. I had been to Bandelier in the summer after 7th grade and I really wanted to get back and experience it as an adult, with the hope that I would have a greater appreciation for it. Even as a precocious 12 year old I was in awe of it, but I wanted to see it with eyes 18 years older. It was incredible. It is fascinating to consider how people lived in the rock face as recently as 500 years ago. We took the main loop up to Alcove House, the remnants of what was home to approximately 35 people. It’s 140 feet above the canyon floor and you climb 4 wooden ladders to get to it. Once up in the Alcove House, there is a Kiva you can climb into and an area you can sit and relax while you take in the view 12 stories above the canyon floor. I took my one and only Bronica photo up here. Can’t wait to see how it turns out; fingers are crossed.


After Bandelier, we stopped home for a hot minute before heading over to a local winery, Casa Rondeña, for a wine tasting. We bought a bottle of the 2005 Founder’s Reserve. My senses were working and I caught strong cherry flavors. After tasting all of the wines they had on hand, we all bought a glass of wine to enjoy on the back patio as the sun set. I had the 2005 Meritage Red, Becca and Janelle had the 2007 Serenade and Jordan had the delicious 2004 Animante port. The back patio resembled a Mexican villa and as it turned out, there was no reason to rush to the Balloon Fiesta’s Evening Glow. After the wine, we headed over to the Balloon Fiesta, but were diverted away from the parking lot because the Glow was cancelled due to high wind. Instead we went to El Pinto, quite possibly the most massive restaurant I have ever been in and enjoyed a fantastic New Mexican meal and margaritas. I had my first sopapilla of the trip and it was great. On the way home, we were passing a casino and suddenly I was inside losing money. Jordan made out the best, winning $30 at the blackjack table. Once home, we played a couple games of Cranium while starting and finishing a bottle of wine and each of us a bottle of beer. We headed off to bed around 11:30pm with the plan to roll out of the house at 5:00am to get to the Balloon Fiesta Mass Ascension.

We did indeed manage to wake up and get ourselves to the Balloon Fiesta, the girls chipper and awake, while Jordan and I grumbled and moaned. We were hanging out, eating mini sticky buns in a cone and drinking hot chocolate when we found out that they cancelled the Mass Ascension, again due to high winds. Frustrated and disappointed, we headed back to the house and napped for a few hours, before waking up to Becca’s parents calling at 9:45am and letting us know that they’d be there to pick us up in 15 minutes. Her parents were on a separate vacation and were coming to Albuquerque for dinner with friends and we decided to take the Turquoise trail up to Santa Fe for the day. Becca’s father was a park ranger for the Sandia district while they lived in Albuquerque, so on the way we stopped at the ranger station and went up to Sandia Crest. In spite of the stormy weather, we made it to the top took in the view of dense fog and then drove back down. Becca’s father was responsible for many of the improvements to the Sandia district and on the way down we stopped at different points he explained some of the work they had done while he was the district manager. It was a great way to learn about the mountain.

becca's dad at sandiasandia crestsandia mountains 2

At the base, we stopped at the Tinkertown museum and explored Ross Ward’s hand carved creations. The museum is a testament to hard work and living a full and honest life. Sadly, Ross Ward passed away in November of 2002 due to complications related to Alzheimer’s. His legacy lives on at Tinkertown.

One of our goals for the day was to eat at Tecolote Café in Santa Fe. It had been featured on the Food Network’s Diners Drive-Ins and Dives and I wanted to check it out. Unfortunately, we had taken too long getting to Santa Fe and we arrived half an hour after they closed. As we drove around looking for a place to eat we were hit by a sudden downpour and hail storm. Seeking shelter under a gas station canopy, we decided on Harry’s Roadhouse while we waited out the hail. At Harry’s we learned of the Chocolate Maven, which apparently is the best bakery in all of Santa Fe, which was perfect since we were looking for dessert to bring to that night’s dinner. Again, unfortunately, we arrived a few minutes too late at 4:15pm. It closed at 4:00pm. Frustrated, but laughing at the hilarity of everything being closed, we picked up dessert at a supermarket and headed back to Albuquerque for dinner with Becca’s parents and their friends. They call it the Round Robin and for the past 25 years, they’ve been getting together for dinner once a month.

After dinner, we headed home and lamented that our vacation was coming to an end. But, there was still one more Mass Ascension at the Balloon Fiesta to go to. This time, however, we decided to wait until they confirmed the balloons would go up. Around 7:00am, they confirmed that they would not fly. The lower, ground level winds were calm enough, but the higher level winds were borderline too strong and blowing towards downtown, which presented (very) limited landing spots for the balloons. Amazingly, all of the Balloon Fiesta events we tried to go to were cancelled due to the weather and we were leaving Albuquerque with seeing a single balloon up close. (We did see one lone balloon from a distance on Thursday.) There’s always next year, although I suggested we combine the Balloon Fiesta with the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. We’ll see.

All in all, while we were disappointed that we didn’t get to experience Balloon Fiesta, the vacation was great. It was wonderful getting to meet Janelle and Jordan and I can’t wait until the next time we can see them. I also headed to work Monday morning with the thought that I hadn’t taken long enough off and wondering when my next vacation would be.

The entire Albuquerque trip in pictures: On Flickr

1 comment:

BeccaT said...

You updated! I love your re-cap of the trip...it made me miss being there all over again.