Williams, AZ to Albuquerque, NM - Apr 30 - May 5
We had three primary reasons for visiting Albuquerque - first, it was just the right distance for a day's drive in the RV; second, it's home to the world's longest tram ride; and three, there's a marvelous national monument that's home to several thousand ancient petroglyphs. We expected to find a bunch of other things, too.
Sun 4/30 - Up for breakfast, and on the road for Albuquerque by 8:30. We stopped for fuel in Winslow, AZ before detouring to a couple of those places you hear about in grade school - The Petrified Forest and The Painted Desert. You can cover both on a 60-mile loop that sort of parallels I-40. The Petrified Forest is everything you'd expect it to be - huge chunks of wood-grained stone scattered around the desert. What we didn't expect was learning that these trees lived near the equator, back when Pangea was the only land mass on earth. Took a couple hundred million years for them to migrate to the present position of Arizona as the continents formed. We didn't expect to also find a neat petroglyph site, with a couple hundred well-preserved drawings on rocks. The Painted Desert (you can't say that phrase without thinking of the Sons of the Pioneers) is equally spectacular - a couple hundred square miles of mineral-colored sands that do look like they've been hand-colored. Wish we'd planned more time for that detour - it was worth more than a couple hours. Anyway, we continued east along I-40 into New Mexico through some absolutely spectacular scenery to the RV park on the west side of Albuquerque. Nice park - shade trees, grass, friendly folks. Albuquerque is a good-sized city filled with friendly, helpful people. It is also perpetually under construction, especially the roads we wanted to use. And it has some of the most aggressive drivers we've yet encountered. Compared to Albuquerque drivers, Oregon folks are turn-signal fanatics.
Mon 5/1 - We started by heading to the Petroglyph National Monument, actually inside Albuquerque City, where researchers have documented nearly 20,000 individual drawings on the stone cliffs. The oldest probably date to around 800 or 900 AD, and the newest to the mid 1700's. Most are from the Native Americans who lived in the area, while some of the newer ones are probably from the Spanish explorers, ranchers and sheepherders who passed through or settled in the area. There are three walking trails that are "mildly strenuous", so we did as much as our old legs would handle. Fascinating stuff. On the north side of Albuquerque is the Sandia Pueblo, one of the many Native American Pueblos (a pueblo is a community, rather than a dwelling, we discovered) in the area. This one has what AAA calls "the biggest selection of quality Native jewelry in the state". Naturally, Judy needed to pay a visit. The book didn't lie - a spectacular assortment of jewelry and other arts and crafts from many of the pueblos in the area. Judy added to her collection. Mid-afternoon, as the temps hit the mid-90's, we went back to the RV and crashed and cooled off some.
Tue 5/2 - We started the day by visiting the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, an exceptional Indian heritage museum that's a cooperative venture of 19 pueblos. Photography is something most of the tribes are sensitive about, so photography was not allowed in most of the museum galleries. It's fascinating to walk though the displays and trace the history of human habitation from a perspective not often seen in "conventional" histories. In addition to fascinating displays featuring each of the pueblos, their histories and cultural differences, there was another exceptional shop with exceptional offerings. We added a couple of Native American Flute recordings to our collection, and a little more jewelry. We then headed for Old Town Albuquerque, the touristy area that was the original settlement. We had lunch in a cafe that occupies the oldest residential building in the city - built in 1706 and in the same family until about 15 years ago. Close by was the city Biopark, housing the Botanical Gardens and Aquarium. Both were interesting, and very kid-friendly. We old folks loved it, too. Tuesday night we climbed aboard the Sandia Tramway for a ride to the summit of Sandia Mountain, 10,000+ feet up, for a spectacular ride, an exceptional sunset, a first-class dinner (the restaurant is named "High Finance"), and an impressive view of Albuquerque at night, 7,000 feet below.
Wed 5/3 - Albuquerque is home to the largest hot air balloon festival in the world, held each October. Last fall, they opened a marvelous Balloon Museum, dedicated to the history of the sport in general and how it relates to Albuquerque in particular. It's a first-rate museum, and will be even better when it's finished. It's kind of neat to learn that the Balloon Festival grew out of a radio station promotion - KOB radio got about 15 hot air balloons together to celebrate their 50th anniversary anniversary in 1972. This year, they expect around 1,000 balloons. This was another place that didn't allow photos. Bummer. After lunch, we detoured around a bunch of construction to get to the city Zoo, a surprisingly neat place right in the city. Zoos are always fun.
Thurs 5/4 - Today begins our second month in the Motorhome. In some ways, it seems like we've just begun. In others, it seems like we've been at this forever. It's really very comfortable. We observed the anniversary by visiting the local Camping World for a few supplies. We then headed north, driving the Turquoise Trail from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, the state capitol and another neat old town. The Turquoise Trail (don't know why it's named that, except that it sounds good) goes north on the east side of the Sandia Mountains through several small towns, some of them filled with art galleries and neat places to shop. See the pictures of Tinkertown. There are very few buildings in Santa Fe that don't use pueblo-style architecture - there's a city law - and it's just a neat town. Narrow old streets, lots of art galleries and public sculptures. We wandered a bit, and then headed back home to do laundry and get ready to move on.
Fri 5/5 - After one last free breakfast at the RV park, we pulled out around 8:30 and headed east then south for Carlsbad - and those fabulous caverns.
Al's Highlight - The overwhelming beauty and variety of the scenery is what makes this part of the country so special. It's high desert, so you don't have a lot of foliage, but the rocks and hills and mesas and canyons and mountains are just that much easier to see. And with the humidity in the teens, the air is so clear you actually can see it. I suspect the folks who live here may have gotten used to all this beauty, but it had to take them a while.
Judy's Highlight - Well, this is sort of an anti-highlight. I loved Albuquerque - they like to decorate everything - the pedestrian overpasses, the gorgeous new freeway interchanges with southwest designs on all the retaining walls and wonderful red adobe with turquoise blue trim on the roadways. BUT...... there was construction, snail-paced traffic, and detours everywhere we went! We decided after three days of taking more than an hour to go places that should have taken 15 minutes, and getting lost trying to follow a freeway detour coming home from Sandia Peak, that "someone out there" was keeping an eye on our meanderings. "They" sensed the road we planned to take, and said, "Hurry, the Aslaksons are going to exit I-40at Coors Street..... put up the barriers and detour signs, and make sure they're really hard to follow!" But in spite of "them," we eventually found everything, and had a great time.
Click here to see a slideshow of some of our pictures from this leg of the trip.
Stay tuned . . .