Thursday, May 15, 2014

Our first visit to Albuquirky

Last year when we came through this area, we bypassed Albuquerque in favor of making Santa Fe and Taos our main area of exploration. This year, I learned that an old friend from high school and her husband had moved to Albuquerque. We reconnected via Facebook and made plans to get together before they went on an eighteen day trip to Europe. Since we were in the area, we decided to stay a few days and get to know this city a little bit.

Thanks to recommendations from bloggers Joe and Gay of Good Times-Rollin, we chose to stay at American RV Resort just a few miles west of town off I-40. We liked the relatively spacious sites which are a combination of blacktop and gravel in the standard area. The park is immaculately clean and has free hotel-style breakfasts every day (yogurt, bagels, hard-boiled eggs, etc.) Not something we normally enjoy, but it was a welcome break from our everyday choices.

The park also has premium sites that are all blacktop and larger on the other side, but there are no trees filled with birds by these sites.

Another feature of the park I liked was some of the wildlife nearby, including bunny rabbits and plentiful hummingbirds.

It worked out best to visit my friend Katie and her husband Steve on our first night here, so off we went to their adobe-style home for wine and snacks, then somewhere for dinner afterwards. 

What a beautiful home they have, especially the lovely gardens. I didn't realize that Albuquerque had a growing season that includes spring bulbs, lilacs, and stone fruit trees. Aside from all of these on their property, it was Katy’s roses, planted in honor of loved ones, that stood out the most.

It was almost surreal to be with Katie after nearly four decades! I had met her husband Steve before they were married, but not seen them since. Steve and Vic had much to talk about as they were both school principals for most of their career. While Vic and Steve got to know each other, Katie and I had plenty to reminisce about the our days in Crystal Lake, Illinois, and the time I spent in Gunnison,Colorado when we she was attending Western Colorado University.

After a little wine and cheese, we piled in one car for dinner with a view at Sandiago’s Mexican Grill, a restaurant at Sandia Peak Tramway. The view was really lovely and something we were happy to see as it was not likely we would be returning to ride the 2.7 mile high tram during the daytime. (Vic is not keen on heights, plus the wind was forecast to be blowing 30-40 knots the next couple days.)  I was able to get a sunset view right from our table.

alb sunset3

The next day was Mother’s Day, which found me feeling especially nostalgic about memories of my own Mom and of days spent in my younger years as a single mom to my two boys. We decided to spend a good part of the day wandering around Old Town as it was way too windy to venture out for a hiking or biking adventure. We also had plans to hit the local Trader Joe’s for Vic’s favorite cookies: cranberry oatmeal dunkers with white chocolate drizzle.

Old Town on a Sunday turned out to be pretty quiet with many of the retail shops closed. We didn't mind as it was fun wandering around the square to see the church (convent) and get a flavor of the local crafts.

We also took a ride to check out the Nob Hill District near the University district which also happens to be the old Route 66. Katy and Steve recommended a high end taco place there, Zacateca's, and it did not disappoint.

Monday morning, the weather turned darn chilly with morning temps in the 30s and snow in the forecast for the surrounding mountain areas. Our plans had been to leave for Taos the next day, but the weather changed our minds. With two weeks left to plan before arriving in the LA area to visit grandkids, we made a big decision to cut out Taos and the Four Corners attractions and split our time between Durango and Moab. While making reservations, we discovered we made a big ROOKIE mistake and had not booked any campground for the Memorial Day weekend. After phone calls to four parks in Moab, we started to worry about finding a place, then we lucked out with a second call to our first choice: Portal RV Resort, where we scored a cancellation for the entire time we wanted to be there. We both breathed a sigh of relief after getting a confirmed reservation for that week. The only thing I don’t like is that long weekend means crowds in the national parks. Can’t win ‘em all.

On to our Monday, with cold and windy weather, we decided to visit the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, only to discover it was closed Mondays. Plan B turned out to be following an on-line map of Breaking Bad filming locations even though neither of us really got into the series. It was a little too dark for us as former teachers, but we knew enough about some of these more well-known settings to get a kick out of visiting them.

We woke up to another very chilly morning with temps in the 40s inside the motorhome. Brrrr. It must have been a cold night as both dogs slept next to each other in our bed—something they never do. Because of snow in the mountains on our planned route to Durango, we chose to stay another day and visit the Balloon Museum that was now open.

The Balloon Museum impressed us more than we expected. When we walked into the reasonably priced museum, we were greeted by a volunteer who took us on a tour of the first three historical displays explaining the origin of ballooning which took place in France in the late 1700s. The most surprising thing I learned was that the history of parachuting goes back to this time as men and women jumped out of the balloons only holding onto to a metal ring attached to a parachute. We also enjoyed getting to see the area where they hold the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta along with films of the actual event as it is not likely we will ever be in this area in October.

Another new learning was the name gondola for balloons came from literally building a boat to attach to the balloon for crossing the English Channel.

I took too many photos of the colorful display of balloons, but many were so large it was often hard to capture the whole thing in one photo, except for my favorite: Miss Carmen Miranda.

Sadly, due to chilly temps and unusually windy weather, we had no hikes to write about during our few days here, but we left feeling like we had a pretty good taste of the area.


  1. Thank you Pam for the mention...we really liked Albuquirky. American RV Reaort is a little out of the way, but we really liked it too. Like you, we didn't choose the deluxe site either.

    We missed the Balloon Museum. Might have to make a return trip and for sure will check out Zacatecas.

    Safe travels.....

    1. Pam, when will you be in Moab? We have reservations at Portal for May 18 thru June 23. Any chance we might see you there?

  2. How nice to reconnect with a friend after so many years!

    We need to visit this area in the MH. We've only visited briefly on the motorcycle. Good you got a park recommendation. By the way, we followed Sue and Dave to Portal and Gay and Joe followed us. All three of us stayed on the same site!!!

  3. Cool header photo.
    I love your friends' garden!
    We volunteered to work the Balloon Fiesta a few years back. What an amazing experience. If you get a chance, do it. We met so many nice people and had the best time working with the crews.

  4. I'm going to have to make note of the campground ... still hoping to get up to NM, but it looks like it will have to wait another year. That balloon museum sounds very interesting. I've been ballooning twice now ... it's an out-of-this-world experience.


Don't be shy. We would love to hear your comments!