Greetings and welcome to Dinosaur Bear,
This post is both a substantive and chronological sequel to the first ABQ Adventure – and, on a larger scale – the culmination of what has been a very, very long process. Whereas the first ABQ Adventure was about taking the bar exam (itself the end of a long process) and – more importantly – Breaking Bad, the second ABQ Adventure was for the purpose of officially becoming a lawyer – and also Breaking Bad. Now I’ve been doing lawyerly things for a while, but up until recently was not an actual lawyer in a legal sense (and you know, the legal sense is kind of important insofar as lawyerdom is concerned).
However, while I could easily write an entire post about that, I’m instead going to mostly focus on the Adventure part of the ABQ adventure, as said adventure was not only SB and I’s first road-trip as residents of New Mexico (though not technically our first NM road-trip in general), but was also my first time seeing Meem after she left on her own adventure. So, rather than boring legal stuff – which, lets be real, is boring – I’m going to focus on the more exciting aspects of The ABQ Adventure – Part II.
At that time we hadn’t yet purchased Felicia, so we were still in Felipe (Rental 1 of 2), so it was with Felipe that we headed for ABQ on a fine Saturday morning. Our plan was to meet Meem at the Sunport and we also wanted to have as much time with her as possible, so we headed out earlier than slowpokes like SB and I might have otherwise been. The good news is that the weather was fantastic!
This road-trip was a big contributor to SB’s enjoyment of the Ford Foci/Focuses/Fuckuses and ultimately our later purchase of Felicia, so that was another important aspect of the trip. It was also our first time seeing the “interior” of New Mexico, with famous places such as Truth or Consequences and Hatch (as well as less-famous-but-fun-to-say places such as Radium Springs and Elephant Butte).
All-in-all the interior drive was scenically about what we were expecting, which was fine by me, as stuff like this is what I live for:
On a more logistical note, Meem’s flight was delayed – and since we’d had a delay getting out ourselves we ended up timing our arrival at the airport almost perfectly with Meem being ready to get picked up. As in, she had just walked outside when we arrived. We probably couldn’t do that again.
After a nice lunch at El Patio De Albuquerque we settled into our hotel, made the “plebs” carry us up a mini-fridge, and discussed some very important matters such as when we would be returning to the Standard Diner and it’s A-maze-zing Vodka Gimlets. The answer was that night, of course.
After a year of building them up in our heads, Meem and I were not disappointed, the Gimlet was as good as we remembered. So good in fact that I (yes me) drank no beer and instead just Gimlets. SB, who was not with us for Part I, opted for a Mojito which was also awesome. Thus, its the bartender, the Standard Diner has a godly bartender. Best drinks of our trip, by far.
I was also pleased that the decorations of the Standard have kept to the theme, and SB even appreciated some of the same signs that I had 14 months prior:
The next day we continued revisiting some of Meem and I’s favorite ABQ places by returning to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. This time we didn’t watch the dancing, but we did have more of their really good food (and also bought more things from the gift shop). For our lunch we tried “Kool Aid Friend Pickles” which really didn’t have much Kool Aid flavor (aside from a few bites) but which had a really nice balance to them – odd but worth trying!
Meem inadvertently (or not 😛 ) had the same thing she had last time: the Tewa Taco – an “Indian Taco” which was FREAKING MASSIVE, while I had some salmon prepared with only pre-contact ingredients, and SB opted for the chicken and waffles (blue corn and chile syrup style!) – much to Tristen’s (and Pigsten’s) delight!
After getting full bellies and lighter wallets (SB and Meem got jewelry while I got nothing because I am unloved 😛 ) we headed out to the Petroglyph National Monument for some exploration (and also NPS Passport Stamps, always stamps – though I failed miserably and my stamp got screwed up, but I still have it). In order to understand why there’s a national monument named after petroglyphs, you first must know what a petroglyph is. Per the ever knowledgeable and generally reliable (sorry Professors, you know its true) Wikipedia: “Petroglyphs are images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art.” The more you know. After the visitor center we went to the Boca Negra (“Black Mouth”) Canyon area where we started hiking upward in search of petroglyphs.
There are lots and lots (I’m talking hundreds) of petroglyphs in the area, most dating to between 1300 and 1600. The petroglyphs range from “easily identifiable” to something which only the creator and their friends/descendants would know the meaning of – which is half the magic in my opinion. Animals are a frequent sighting:
Of the animals one of my personal favorites was El Pato, can you spot him?
Some of the petroglyphs appeared to tell stories, though interpreting them after the fact is quite difficult, even for experts!
Many of the petroglyphs were a mixture of animals and symbols, which makes a lot of sense in the context of the culture.
Not all of them were easy to see (and indeed we missed the vast majority of them I do believe), not only because of physical location, but also because some of them only “reveal” themselves under certain lighting (e.g. sun phase) conditions. Per an informative sign, elders even claim that many petroglyphs “choose” who they reveal themselves to, way cool! Of course the physical side of things is also a factor, namely that – especially in that NM sun – the rocky and uneven climb up makes it easy to miss smaller details.
Pigsten and Broli surveying the surrounding landscape.
In addition to animals and symbols, some of the petroglyphs feature humans/humanoids – notably the well known Kokopelli.
It’s really very impressive that most of the glyphs are even visible at all. Not only are there centuries of exposure to the elements to consider, but also the most dangerous thing of all: idiot humans. Because people suck, a lot of the petrogylphs had been vandalized by outright destruction or by the addition of (crappy) modern carvings, such as some moron’s cliché “Moron Loves Moroness” inside a heart with an arrow in it.
A petroglyph showing signs of vandalism.
However, a lot of them were thankfully still in (comparatively) good shape and at the top of the Boca Negra trail there was even the remnants of a small hunters’ or herders’ camp.
Pigsten, Broli, and Little Man at the top of Boca Negra!
The Petroglyph National Monument itself is a large area (7,532 acres) but we only explored one small part of it due to time constraints – and also heat, I can’t lie. 🙂 However, the one area we did explore was still really neat. In this next photo you can see the “mound” all these photos came from, there are some people on there for scale. It might not look like much, but its more of a climb than you would think!
If climbing isn’t your thing, there are also some flat (insofar as “flat” counts when ABQ is already at 5,312′) trails where you can still enjoy the area, and if you are lucky you may even see some desert critters (I did!).
Pigsten and Broli on the dusty trail!
Petroglyph National Monument was not something Meem and I had done during Part I, so we followed up to something new for all of us with another thing that was new to all of us: heading up the Sandia Mountains! Now, we did not climb the mountains – at least not in the traditional sense. We instead opted for the way mo’ lazy-people-friendly Sandia Peak Tramway. This Tram, which holds the title of longest aerial tramway in the entire U.S., gains you 3,819 feet in about 15 minutes (way, way faster than hiking).
What was nice about the tram is that it’s a trip that just keeps on giving. The ride is divided between three spans (one of which is the third longest in the world) and each time you think you’re getting the best views, they just keep getting better.
In fact these were easily the best views of the Sandia Mountains I’ve ever been fortunate enough to have! Though I guess in fairness I’ve only seen them three times. 🙂
I guess this is a good time to explain the “Sandia” part of the Sandia Mountains. Sandía means “watermelon” in Spanish, and it’s said that during sunset the red/pink color of the mountains make them look like the color of watermelon! I definitely agree, having now had the chance to see them during sunset on more than a few occasions. We had also chosen our tram time based on sunset, so we got to see the “watermelon” up close and personal! The Sandia Mountains are also quite “green” – especially compared to some other ranges in New Mexico, and by that I mean they have quite a few trees.
All in all they make for a wonderfully picturesque ride up to the crestline on the tram.
As a side note, if you were alive in 1955 and remember the crash of TWA Flight 260 – or are just an aviation enthusiast – the tram goes over the “TWA Canyon” area where you can still see some of the wreckage on a bright/clear day.
Once at the top platform and off your tram, you can turn around and take in a magnificent view of the mountains and Albuquerque beyond them.
The upper platform of Sandia Peak sits at 10,378′ a full 5066′ higher than the baseline ABQ altitude (like I said, we weren’t up for the hike 😛 ). On the back side of the tram area are some ski-slopes – though the snow hadn’t quite arrived just yet.
Pigsten and Broli were big fans of the multi-colored ski lift chairs!
After some time at the top, the temperature started quickly dropping and we knew it was almost sunset time!
Pretty much any spot at the top offered up wonderful views, but me being me I bopped around constantly trying to find the best spot.
While I was meandering around I got a couple of really nice shots with both the sunset and the most recently departed tram.
Eventually I settled on a spot and before too long the sun was setting behind some quite distant mountains.
Then it started getting quite chilly (it was already much colder on the crestline even when the sun was up) but on the plus side the moon started to show itself as well.
A photo from the “back” side of the crestline – with the moon visible (for reference Santa Fe is located a bit to the left – and about 45 miles away from this photo point).
After we had descended the mountain – via a “flight” as the tram company called it, we went to dinner where I got another kind of “flight” – the beer kind. 😛
The next day we explored parts of Old Town ABQ, where we had lunch at the Church Street Cafe, where the service was pretty bad but the food was good, plus they had giant cacti out front, so props for that.
SB got to check out the San Felipe de Neri Church she wanted to see – and which was a new site for Meem and I as well.
We also explored some of ABQ’s art scene – from the insanely priced galleries where you’d need to mortgage your home, to the more subtle and reasonable galleries were we actually made a few purchases.
We also had dinner in old town, where we tried some watermelon-flavored drinks and also beer (big surprise on that second one).
Broli trying ever-so-valiantly to get the greens.
The next day was my “Become a Lawyer” (or technically, “Swearing-in”) event, which involved getting up earlier than I would have liked and spending a lot of time waiting in line to do ceremonial things. There really wasn’t anything wrong with the ceremony, I mean yeah, it was long – but I don’t think it was unusually long or tedious, it was just the nature of the beast. I just.. wasn’t really feeling too excited about it, I guess? It’s kind of weird to consider just how much freaking effort and time had gone into that moment (a process which began in 2012) and yet I was just sort of “I dunno lol” about it. Perhaps that is my incessant ability to not appreciate my achievements or, perhaps, it was a disillusionment with that career pathway, or, perhaps even more abstractly, a growing sense of uncertainty about my life in general. It could be many things, but what is – for most people – the pinnacle of that pathway, the day of jubilation, was for me a day of “whew, is this over yet?” Mayhaps I’m ungrateful? Though that seems like a stretch considering the borderline ludicrous amount of effort I’d put into getting there (not to mention how much I’ve whined on this very blog – oh the humanity – so much QQ in vain if that is true!). Whatever the case was, I was far more excited to get back to spending time with Meem and SB than I was to mark-off ceremonial check-boxes. Plus Pigsten was in my suit (as usual) and he was getting hungry and starting to nibble on me.
Fortunately, SB had decided the night before that she wanted to go to Twisters (more commonly – despite the later’s fictional status – known as Los Pollos Hermanos, from the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul Universe).
Meem and I had been to Twisters during our Breaking Bad Tour (during Part I) but we were more than happy to return with SB as their food was actually pretty good for what it is. We hit it at a good time as we were essentially the only people in the place aside from some locals who left shortly after us and another couple of BB/BCS fans who came in while we were there (I guess all the other new lawyers didn’t want to go to a fast food place to celebrate?). Of course Pigsten and Broli also made an appearance.
After our lunch (where SB also got an “Indian Taco” – once again huge) we headed off in search of a few other BB/BCS-related places. Some of which, such as “A1 Car Wash” (real life: Mister Car Wash) Meem and I had already seen on our previous tour. However, after SB got to see Walter White’s House (real life: a house) we headed up into the Sandia foothills to find Hank & Marie’s house (real life: also a house) which Meem and I did not see last time as the RV (a 1968 Fleetwood Bounder) couldn’t easily get up into the hills where it is located. After some confusion with Google maps we made it up to the house – which is located in a very nice neighborhood!
We weren’t even the only one there to take a photo, which was kind of surprising considering we were the only ones at the far more popular White House (of Walter White, not Cheeto). After that we headed back to the hotel so Meem could take a nap and Tristen and I could continue to obsess over whether to buy a Playstation 4 Pro after Tristen’s myriad attempts to get Grandma Reem to buy it for him had failed. Rain also rolled in, and it was really a storm! I think it ended up raining for pretty much the rest of the night so we ended up just eating at the hotel in a place called Forque (which is featured in BCS per Meem, as SB and I are a season behind).
The next day the sun came back out, but it was also our last morning together.
View from our 19th floor hotel room + more BB/BCS trivia: the parking garage in the center of the photo was featured heavily in a BB episode which I won’t discuss here lest I spoil anything for any reader who has yet to see the series!
Since we had to get Meem to the airport and ourselves home we opted to go for room service – MUCH to ole’ Tristen’s pleasure. The boy LOVES him some room service, even if the food sucks, it’s the experience he enjoys.
The food ended up being pretty good, or at least I thought so. Valentino stole half my lox bagel, which was the one downside.
After breakfast we all got around and took Meem back to the Sunport so she could venture back to LA. For our part we hit the road again to head back home. On the way we did stop at a really neat rest area called “Walking Sands” (we’d actually stopped at this same spot when going the opposite direction but I didn’t take photos) which featured some neat wooden picnic… hut things.
It also featured some great views of the area, which would lead me to agree with the rest area’s comparatively good 4.3/5.0 rating on Google (most rest areas don’t fare so well – if they have a Google page at all).
Since the area was plastered with “DANGER: BEWARE OF RATTLESNAKES” signs I opted to stick to the boardwalks, but I did find a neat sign with all sorts of distances from that spot.
I thought the L.A. one was especially neat – considering Meem’s destination!
After our “Walking Sands” pit stop we continued back to our own home and returned to all sorts of far less exciting things related to our recent move and upcoming endeavors (such as going to Texas to buy Felicia, which was exciting, we just didn’t know that yet).
In the end, it was a great trip to ABQ to see Meem. The lawyer part of it, was, in my mind, quite secondary to getting to explore the area with two of my most favoritest-est peoples, bear, pig, and dinosaurs. While the legal ceremony probably marked the highlight of most people’s week, for me it was just a backdrop to a fun adventure in a really cool city. While I don’t see us needing to return to ABQ any time soon, we were constantly taunted by the fact that the massively popular and internationally renowned Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was only a 10 days away as of the day we all left.
The mini-balloon-filled lobby of our hotel – while neat, it was a constant reminder of “No loons’ for you!”
So, given our enthusiasm for the fiesta, and Meem’s enthusiasm for the fiesta, and the Boys’ enthusiasm for the fiesta, and also the fact that it happens every year – I bet we’ll end up going to it at some point. No idea when, but if I were I a betting man (I am not, mostly) I bet it happens. 🙂
In the meantime, I’ll appreciate the fact that I got have not one, but two parts to my ABQ Adventure and that both times I had people there to share the fun with. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Meem for largely sponsoring both adventures, and also SB for driving us around. Now, I’m off to sue someone or something.. I think that’s what lawyers do?
Until next time,