Friday, December 2, 2016

All the way to Albuquerque

The fact that the Angel Glamp Retreat was held at the Enchanted Trails RV Park in
Top L to R: Sunrise bracelet, Tessellation Lariat
Bottom: Crystal Fidget pendent
Albuquerque was quirky enough to tempt me, and when my friend, Teri, said she was going, I packed my bags and jumped on a plane. I was also attracted to this retreat because of the instructors. While bead embroidery isn’t difficult, it takes a special vision to design these pieces and a lot of patience to complete the work. Having taken a class previously from Kinga Nichols, I knew that we’d get to make something that was unusual and reflective of her artistic insight; I wasn’t disappointed with the Sunrise and Sunset Shores bracelets (I chose Sunrise). Nikia Angel, our other instructor, has been one of my inspirations for quite a while and I was delighted to finally get to spend some time with this creative lady. She gave us a choice of constructing either her Crystal Fidget or the Tessellation Lariat. Of course, I chose both and they are both wonderful! She introduced us to her Sparkly Wheel component and invited us to use it in our own designs. A lovely bonus came from Judith Bertoglio-Giffin; she volunteered to teach a group of us bead crochet. That was exciting to learn, too! These three ladies are exceptionally generous with their talents, helping beaders take what they learned and incorporate it into their own designs. This retreat was fun and I’m glad that I made the journey to Albuquerque! And although I’d been here twice before for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, I’d never really taken the time to explore the old section of the city, nor had I realized that one of my cousins lives in the area. Besides the hot air balloons, the city has a rich cultural history, extensive petroglyphs from the Ancestral Pueblo peoples, and an interesting geologic landscape.

For at least 500 years before the arrival of colonial settlers, the Ancestral Pueblo peoples
occupied this land, leaving pictorial images of their lives. From these images it is known that these people traveled from North to South America, trading with tribes there and bringing back animals and goods. Thankfully, the petroglyphs are now protected as a National Monument. The Petroglyph National Monument stretches for 17 miles (27 km) along the West Mesa volcanic basalt escarpment. Within these protected lands are five volcanic cones, hundreds of archaeological sites and an estimated 24,000 images carved by Ancestral Pueblo peoples and early Spanish settlers. The images are concentrated in three areas and are open to the public. We chose to explore the Piedras Marcadas Canyon after visiting the Visitors’ Center just off Unser Boulevard. At the center we learned that the building had been the home of the Measuring Woman, Dr. Sophie Aberle, whose research into the lives of Pueblo women from pregnancy through child rearing, including diet and health practices, helped establish education and medical programs that made life better in the pueblos. And while the film about the petroglyphs was very interesting, I couldn’t wait to get out to the site we’d chosen to explore. As we walked this relatively short trail, I realized that the time we’d been told it would take was vastly under estimated for folks who want to see all the drawings, pay attention to the geology and ecology of the area, and look for whatever critters might be hiding in the rocks. What was suggested as about an hour and a half turned into three. In some ways this place reminded me of Uluru (see All around the Rock) in that the hike was through deep sand and while many of the images are recognizable as animals, people, brands and crosses, others were understood only by the carver (or the Aboriginal painter in the Australian culture). During this walk three critters made the presence known. The first was a very curious Road Runner who seemed to be following Dave from one place to another. Although there might have been at least three of these birds, it appeared that the same one was eyeing Dave from the crest of hills, from
Top L to R: Cottontail, Road runner
Bottom L to R: Jack rabbit. Cynthia climbing rocks
behind bushes and from the top of a fence; we had an escort through the entire monument and back to our car. We also enjoyed glimpsing two very healthy Cottontails at our last petroglyph stop. This area was near a small waterhole and had grasses as well as many hiding spots for these fuzzy denizens. I was delighted they made an appearance. I was also thrilled that as we made our way back through the flat lands of the monument, a supposedly shorter route than the trail along the cliffs, two Jack Rabbits froze in their travels to look us over. These long-eared residents of the plains run rather than hop and dissipate heat through their ears, which I’m also sure help them to catch more sounds than the rather smaller ears of their distant relatives, the Cottontails.

Back down in town we found that we liked the old square and its lovely San Felipe de Neri Church quite a bit. The Spanish colonial outpost of Villa de Albuquerque was founded in
Top L to R: San Felipe de Neri church, Gazebo
Bottom L to R: Settler statues, Vendors on sidewalk
1706, serving as a farming and sheep-herding center as well as a military outpost on the Camino Real. In the mid-1800s the governing of this area changed from Mexican to American, bringing a federal garrison and quartermaster depot; and for a short time Confederate troops also were quartered here. A couple of miles to the east, New Albuquerque (founded in 1891) began to grow due to the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad in 1880. This mercantile center quickly overshadowed Old Town. However, the real burst of population and tourism came in 1926 when Route 66 ran through the center of town. This increase in tourism demanded that there be motels, restaurants, and gift shops to serve them and provided jobs for folks to run these businesses. In 1937 Route 66 was re-routed but the old buildings and road signs still attest to its effect on downtown Albuquerque. When Kirtland Air Force Base arrived in 1939, Sandia Base in the 1940s, and Sandia National Laboratories in 1949, Albuquerque’s business base changed, again. The city is still regarded as a center for military research and testing with many community signs championing the atomic nature of the research. One of the fire stations had a rocket ship in front of it proclaiming Albuquerque as the ‘Atomic City’.

Just outside of town is another tribute to the conquering of nature. The Sandia Peak Tramway, the longest aerial tram in the US, stretches from the northeast edge of the
Top L to R: Ski area, Tram car
Bottom L to R: Terminal, Sandia Mountains
Albuquerque to the top of the Sandia Mountains. It is a ‘double reversible jigback aerial tramway’; ‘jigback’ means that one tram car can be headed to the top of the mountain while another is traveling to the bottom. There are only two support towers and the car can swing a bit as you pass those. However, each car carries at least a hundred gallons of water to give it ballast and to bring fresh water to the top of the mountain. The water is put into holding tanks under the terminal to be used in the plumbing and for drinking water. The longest span is between the second tower and the top terminal and measures just over a mile at 7,720 feet (2,353 m) making it the world's third longest single span. This construction wonder was built by Bell Engineering of Lucerne, Switzerland and put into service in May 1966. There have been upgrades to the system and cars replaced since that time with the latest change in May 2016. The day we went up the 50-passenger car was relatively empty with only about 20 of us on board. The trip from the base elevation of 6,559 feet (1,999 m) to the top at 10,378 feet (3,163 m) takes about 20 minutes; you really have no idea how fast you’re moving until the other car passes. The trips up and down afford spectacular views of the mountains, city and surrounding desert. Had the wind been absent we’d have had a lovely day to walk around the top of the mountain, but it was whipping so we walked briskly around the top then headed toward the back side of the mountain to get a look at the ski lifts. The restaurant was undergoing reconstruction, postponing our plans for a nice glass of wine at the top. From inside the terminal we did have good views of the area and could read about how the tramway played an important role in the development of the skiing industry in this part of New Mexico. Watch our trip part way down from the top of Sandia Peak:

And speaking of the desert, Albuquerque is just within the northern, upper boarder of the
Desert around Albuquerque
Chihuahuan Desert, but the climate is also influenced by the nearby Colorado Plateau semi-desert, the Arizona–New Mexico Mountains, and the Southwest plateaus and plains steppe ecoregions. This is the reason for hot, dry summers, mild winters and air that is just the right density for flying hot-air balloons. Albuquerque has one of the highest elevations of any major city in the US with a range of 4,900 feet (1,490 m) at the Rio Grande River to over 6,700 feet (1,950 m) in the foothills. Even with these elevations, Albuquerque sits in the Albuquerque Basin, a portion of the Rio Grande rift. This Rift Valley is bordered by a system of faults, some of which lift up the Sandia and Manzano Mountains with others lowering the area through which the Rio Grande runs. In this area the river is classified as ‘exotic’ because if flows through a desert. There are lots of areas in and just outside of town for hikes and one day we’ll be back to wander through those areas.

After a couple of days exploring Albuquerque, we were off down the Turquoise Trail…but more about that in the next blog. There are plenty of places to eat in Albuquerque and we sampled a few; for information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.

Where we stayed:
Four Carrots
Sleep Inn Airport (2300 International Avenue SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106, 505-244-3325) 
Left: Bedroom
Right: Bath
is a very nice place to stay and at a good price. The room was very comfortable with plenty of amenities, trash cans, and an excellent internet connection. The sink was in a small alcove with the toilet and shower in a separate room with was pretty small. There was a free breakfast that had all the normal foods but there was a young lady who was cooking omelets to order and doing an excellent job. They also had an evening offering that was cookies and hot chocolate one night, and chips and salsa another evening. We’d like to stay there again.

Three carrots
Enchanted Trails RV Park and Trading Post (14305 Central Avenue NW, Albuquerque, NM 87121, 505-831-6317) is a funky place with vintage travel trailers that can be rented like
Top L to R: Vintage car and camper, Kitchen
Bottom L to R: Bedroom, Teri and Julie in trailer
hotel rooms. The trailer we were in had its own bathroom, but we couldn’t use the shower because of the age of the plumbing, so we trundled to the park bath house which was nice enough. The trailer was clean and furnished with period furniture that was comfortable. The trailer was heated and cooled, but at night we preferred to open the windows and let in the cool breezes. The people in our group who brought their own trailers really liked the camping spots, especially since pets were allowed. The folks running this place are very nice and were flexible with our group and all of our beading needs.

What we did:
Four carrots
Albuquerque Museum of Art and History (2000 Mountain Road NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104, 505-242-4600) wasn’t open when we could spend time there but the exterior sculpture garden is quite extraordinary. We particularly liked the set of sculptures that commemorated the exploration and settlement of the area.

Albuquerque Old Town (303 Romero Street NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104, 505-243-6393) includes the old square and the San Felipe de Neri Church. There are several old buildings around the square that were there when Route 66 went through. These hold shops, galleries, and restaurants; some are rather touristy while others reflect the local culture. There are also people on the square selling their hand-made goods; some are quite remarkable.

Top: View of the sign
Bottom: Inside the store
Dragonfly (324 San Felipe Street NW Suite A, Albuquerque, NM, 87104, 505-322-2896) is a dress shop specializing in goods from Nepal. Prices range from really good to really expensive, but the items are of higher quality and the young lady running the store knows her merchandise and gives good advice.

Petroglyph National Monument (6510 Western Trail NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120, 505-899-0205) is amazing. The time you spend depends on how into hiking, climbing and exploring you are. Since it’s free you can spend as much or as little time as you’d like without feeling as if you should or should not move along.

Yarn Store at Nob Hill (120 Amherst Drive NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106, 505-717-1535)
Knitting needle sizer
has some interesting items that are knitting related but not yarn. The yarn selection is good and the people running the shop are knowledgeable.

Three and one-half carrots

Hand painted bookmark
Amapola Gallery (205 Romero Street NW D, Albuquerque, NM 87104, 505-242-4311) is an artist cooperative with lots of interesting items. I particularly liked the paper products and had to have one of the rabbit bookmarks.

Sandia Peak Tramway (30 Tramway Road NE, Albuquerque, NM 87122, 505-856-6419) is a great way to get a good look at the Albuquerque area. However if you’re not into hiking there’s nothing much to do at the top and it’s an expensive ride up and down - $20 per person if you’re a senior.

Three carrots
Hip Stitch (7001 San Antonio Drive NE # P, Albuquerque, NM 87109, 505-821-2739) is a 
View of the store
cute, but rather limited fabric store. They do, however, have fabric that reflects the local culture and can be ordered online.

New Mexico Ski Museum (10 Tramway Loop NE, Albuquerque, NM 87122) is located at the base of the tramway. If you’re really into skiing you may spend an hour looking at the pictures and reading the information. We spent about 20 minutes looking at the old skis and the pictures.

What we ate:
Four carrots

Top L to R: Menu, Tacos
Bottom: Disaster Burrito Quarter
Hurricane’s Café (4330 Lomas Boulevard NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110, 505-255-4248) is a funky old drive in that has some really good food. It’s on the edge of Nob Hill and reflects the old Albuquerque. We probably wouldn't have given it a try had it not been recommended by my cousin, Linda Starr. She said they had good food and she was right. Dave had a ¼ Disaster Burrito. It was filled with Carne Adobada, fried potatoes and other goodness then covered with a spicy sauce. I had some very good crispy tacos. Table service was very good as were the prices.

Top L to R: Menu, Soup
Bottom L to R: Pepper steak,
Cashew chicken
Rising Star Chinese Eatery (7001 San Antonio Drive NE S, Albuquerque, NM 87109, 505-821-6595) generally serves only the locals, but should be on travelers’ radar. It's a bit of a drive from either Old Town or Nob Hill, but it's well worth the travel time. Their prices are excellent and the food is really good. We both had a very nice hot and sour soup then Dave had pepper steak with sweet and sour chicken; I had cashew chicken with fried shrimp that was very good. The service is good, too.

Three and one-half carrots
El Pan De Cada Dia is in El Mezquite Market (100 98th St NW, Albuquerque, NM 87121, 
Top: Eatery sign
Bottom: Torta
505-839-8377) was an interesting adventure. This is a food bar in a grocery store. The lady preparing our food spoke no English and our really bad Spanish didn’t make communication any easier. However, we did make a connection and all got what we ordered. I had a torta that was filled with roasted pork, lettuce, tomatoes and avocado. It was wonderful, as was the Coco Cola from Mexico made with cane sugar.

YAY Yogurt (205 Romero St NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104, 505-750-7624) was a nice treat
Left: Restaurant
Right: Yogurt
after wandering around Old Town. The yogurt comes with any topping you’d like and is well worth the price. The folks running the place are pleasant and helpful.

Three carrots
Rio Grande Brew Pub and Grill (Albuquerque International Sunport, 2200 Sunport 
Top L to R: Menu, Biscuits/gravy
Bottom: Pancakes
Boulevard, Albuquerque, NM 87106, 505-842-4280) is at the airport and was a good place for breakfast. The pancakes were okay, but Dave said that the biscuits and gravy were surprisingly good. The prices were what you’d expect at an airport, but the service was good.

Tio Chava’s (303 Romero St NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104, 505-842-7365) is in Old Town, back in a corner just off of the square. Dave had what was basically crispy tortilla cups filled
Top L to R: Menu, Bean nachos
Bottom: BLT and fries
with beans, cheese, lettuce and tomato; and I had a BLT with fries. Both plates of food were good but not outstanding. The service was good and the prices were relatively reasonable.

Dave holding up the entrance to Old Town
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