After 761 miles, 12 hours, and 1 satiating stop at In-N-Out Burger, I made it home from Albuquerque over a week ago.
Although New Mexico may have a mess of cons (see my first post on Albuquerque), it’s selection of outdoor wonders is a definite plus. There are a total of 13 different national parks and 58 national landmarks or monuments. By comparison, the last state I lived in (Illinois) had only one national park and two historic sites, both of which are historic homes of presidents (so not very thrilling unless you are a history buff).
Most of these parks are in the far corners of the state, so I was only able to visit three officially during my time here. I’ve included a description, a review, and visit tips for each one below:
Yesterday I wrote about the city of Albuquerque in all its idiosyncratic glory. Today, I want to share my favorite part of the city: it’s outdoor landscape and activities.
Two main highways create a cross section of Albuquerque’s four quadrants. It oddly mirrors New Mexico’s state flag–a red circle with four groups of four rays that represent the four cardinal directions, four seasons, stages of the day, and stages of life itself.
According to my brilliant doctor sister-in-law, my anxiety over the future is what the medical community might call “subacute.” Besides the fact that I love having a new term to label it by, I also thought it was an apt description.
- Monday 8/18 – The City of Albuquerque: Restaurants, Activities, and the Unexplained
- Tuesday 8/19 – Albuquerque’s Landscape: The Sandias, the desert, and monsoons
- Thursday 8/21 – National Parks and Monuments: Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, The Petroglyphs
- Friday 8/22 – Concluding Thanks and Goodbyes
Hi everyone! The last month has been a wild ride of graduating from college, driving home from Chicago to San Diego, spending a week in Yosemite, a week redoing an entire room in my parent’s house, a week spent at Disney World (more on that in my next post), and then moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico to live with my brother and sister-in-law. I still forget what time zone I’m in, but after three weeks I’m starting to feel a little more settled.
Albuquerque, and New Mexico in general, is full of quirks. At least that’s the best way I’ve found to describe it so far. Here are a couple of the things I’ve learned about this mysterious place in the last few weeks:
- The official state nickname is “The Land of Enchantment” but it is more often known as the land of “would you like green or red chile on that?” You can also choose both, which they call “Christmas” style. Seriously, they put chiles on everything here.
- On that note, there is a difference between the Mexican food you get in Southern California and “New Mexican” food. Mostly it means you are safe ordering enchiladas, but a taco will look like it came from Taco Bell. They make up for it with sopapillas and honey at the end of every meal though.
- Hot air ballooning is not just a fun tourist outing, in Albuquerque it has long been a serious business. The International Hot Air Balloon Museum boasts treasures such as the gondola used to make the first flight across the Atlantic Ocean, a Japanese bomb that actually used unmanned hot air balloons during WWII to float incendiary bombs across the Pacific (which were surprisingly successful but the government kept it a secret to prevent panic about mainland attacks), and one of the first parachutes was invented by, what’s that?– a woman! Apparently this woman had more guts than most men of her day and invented the parachute to use for stunt jumps out of hot air balloons. You go girl.
- The police will fight back. I was enjoying a pleasant ride up the Sandia Tramway (the longest tramway in the world by the way) when I overheard a man talking about how the police killed an old homeless man they found camping out in the mountains because he was apparently “dangerous.” Sad story, but true. The upside is that I just moved here from Chicago, so the crime and police activity here still seems mild. That’s right I’m tough, or at least I pretend to be.
- Instead of air conditioning, many places use something called a “swamp cooler.” It can only be used in places with less than 30% humidity because of the magical way it uses water to cool the air (don’t ask me how, my engineer brother explained it and that is all I got out of it). One way or another, you have to flip three light switches to turn it on and it makes me feel like some kind of pilot flipping switches and making the world a better, cooler place.
- They are vigilant about checking your i.d. if you want a drink – so vigilant that my vertical California license might not pass in most places, at least according to the nice bartender who almost wouldn’t sell me a beer. According to Mr. Bartender, Albuquerque has such a significant problem with alcoholism that he even has to ask 80-yr old grandmas for their i.d. before selling them alcohol.
- Roadrunners are not mythical creatures that can survive coyote pursuits or anvil attacks, they are real life birds and yes, they run across the road.
- The Acoma Indians, located west of Albuquerque, are matriarchal and pass the family name through the mother’s line. We took a tour of their pueblo, and although it was sadly touristy the guide was authentic in his portrayal of the tribe’s daily life. They also make really good fry bread, which is different from Alaskan fry bread (at least that I’ve tried). Still delicious though.
- Albuquerque is also a great place for biking, with extensive trails along the canal and bike lanes across the city. However, there are these awful prickers called “goat’s heads” that seem perfectly designed to poke holes in bicycle tires, almost guaranteeing a flat tire on or after any bike ride in the area. The other anomaly to the great biking town reputation is when you see a white bicycle statue (aka “Ghost Bikes”) on the side of the road, which indicates a place where a cyclist was killed.
- New Mexico likes to be unique with what the rest of the country considers standard acronyms. For example, instead of getting a DUI for driving under the influence, New Mexico law designates such acts as DWI, or driving while intoxicated. Also, you would never have to deal with a long line at a DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), instead you can wait in a long line at the New Mexico MVD (Motor Vehicle Division). Why these changes? Well why not?! “Why not” should also be part of New Mexico’s state motto, it does fit well with the current motto: Crescit Eundo (“It Grows as it Goes”). Supposedly this motto is supposed to represent prosperity and progress, but its nonsensical wording does make you feel like you are falling down the rabbit hole, and the city of Albuquerque has plenty of characters to support that feeling.
Along with all of these I’m also learning a lot about the challenges of post-grad life and how to structure my life outside of a school calendar. It is mostly weird, sometimes panicky and stressful, but also calming when I realize I can still breathe, in and out, in and out. So I will continue to float with the flow, enjoying days of rest in this weird, weird land.
What have your experiences been in moving to a new place?
What are some of the weird things you’ve learned about where you live?
Hello! In honor of the last day of National Poetry month (and since I missed posting the entire month), I thought I would post a poem I wrote last semester for a class. I don’t consider myself much of a poet, but its still something I like to try my hand at now and then.
Is this the seat I’m strapped into
Sometimes passenger sometimes driver
constant watcher, waiting.
In a highway-freeway world
stowaways still exist.
I can cross borders and climb mountains
in this tin can tour machine.
But I remember at age 2
I pulled a sideways Houdini
escaped the carseat,
opened the locked door,
I wrote this poem as part of a final project where we had to create a collection of seven related poems. Mine focused on car rides, specifically across the South West, and was titled The States of Borders. This poem was the final one in the collection, and since I am a week and a half away from graduating college it resonated with me.
There are so many things I could say about these last few months, but I will save that for another post, probably once I’ve actually finished all my assignments and have free time again. I know I said I was going to try and post more this semester since I would be reading and writing a lot for all my classes, but unfortunately because that was more than true I didn’t have any time to post those writings. This semester has been a tornado where the pages flew by and papers fluttered off and now I’ve been spit out on the other side somewhat dazed about where it all went. Thankfully my summer should be more relaxing and I am hoping to devote that time to writing and posting more.
Speaking of summer, the other reason why I thought one of my poems based on the South West would be appropriate is because I am moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico! It will only be for a few months, but my wonderful older brother John and his wife Kari (who also has a great blog on veganism and being a resident here) offered to let me crash in their spare room while I recuperate and look for a full time position elsewhere. I am especially excited to spend time with them and in a completely new place. For now, I have to go get myself ready to graduate… gulp…
Adventure is out there! Run!