We arrive in Albuquerque with mushy stomachs, filled half-way with freeze dried peas, popcorn, and pretzels. Despite it being a Saturday, it was late and we open Google to discover that our vegetarian options are limited at this hour.
We settle on a fast-food-esque restaurant that has seemingly good ratings and guacamole. I was a little delirious – still cold from my dip into the Blue Hole, tired from our early morning start time, and hexed by ominous Gerber baby clouds.
When we reach the restaurant, we see two people waiting in line through the store-front glass. Upon walking in, one of the customers turns around, curses at us, slams a trash can with her fist, and then walks out the door. I’m not sure what I did but I feel on edge for angering her. The man who was standing in front of her glances back at us and asks us how we are, somewhat jokingly.
Though the glance was short, I can see that the man’s eyes are bloodshot and he seems a bit impatient. His hand lay on a holster on his pants. Neon signs began to stare me down. Did he know that woman? Is he angry too? For some reason I am sweating – I think this man is going to shoot me.
I tell David I don’t like anything on the menu and rush back to the car. He squeezes in next to me and asks me what’s wrong.
“That man has a gun.”
“A gun? No he doesn’t. That’s a cell phone holster.”
“Who carries a cell phone holster!?”
“I don’t know? Dads?”
It’s at this point I realize I desperately, desperately need food. My brain is playing tricks on me. That guy had actually been really nice and I had an anxiety attack over it. It turns out I’m the jerk in this situation, but I’m not going to fret over my precaution in a world where women are inherently unsafe.
We walk back in and I receive a plate of nachos and guac bigger than my face.
The next day, we wake up early to hike in the Sandia Foothills. The original plan had been to hike all the way to the peak, like I did last year but, sadly upon this go-around, fire hazards prevent us from exploring the Cibola Forest. While I am disappointed that David can’t experience the transition zones of the desert altitude, I’m happy we are still able to hike. The warm morning weather is dry and we hike along the path of Sandia and her summits, like a friend.
Our path is narrow and overgrown and the atmosphere is yellow.
Every few feet, David stops to listen for rattlesnakes since my ears don’t work as well. We are being overly cautious but I am terrified. I kinda like my feet and don’t want them amputated.
My left hand would be fine if it were gone though, if I had to choose.
Instead of rattlers, we instead hear the loudest blue bugs that emit noises like electricity. One gets scared and flies full-speed, right into my forehead. Clunk. It falls to the ground, dead.
After our hike, we decide it’s time for beer. Honestly, it’s long overdue and well deserved after that long ass drive, after my minor freak out over a non-gun-toting dad, and after I murdered that bug with my skull.
As mentioned, I have been to Albuquerque once before. I drove the 16 hours to finally prove to
absolutely no one the world how committed I am to Breaking Bad.
And I went ham.
Not only did I drive to each filming location (and then write up a detailed list of addresses here) and hike the Sandia Mountains, I also made sure to support the businesses that Breaking Bad recommended. This included eating a Blue Sky donut from Rebel Donut, purchasing crystal meth rock sugar from The Candy Lady, and consuming a breakfast burrito from Twisters (AKA Los Pollos Hermanos). I then washed it all down with beer from Bryan Cranston’s favorite ABQ brewery – Marble Brewery.
While at Marble last year, I met a bartender who thought it was heeeeeeeilarious that I drove all the way to ABQ just to visit Walter White’s house. Since I was sitting at the bar alone, we ended up conversing all night and I added him on social media afterwards. We’ve kept in contact ever since then.
So after our snake free hike, we pop into Marble to have a beer for breakfast. Hunter and I are able to catch up. I remind him he still needs to visit St. Louis. Beer-centric cities are my fave, and I utilize this example as I try to make a compelling argument for STL.
I slurp down their Wildflower Wheat and David tries the more adventurous ales. It’s just as delicious as last year, and I take two cases to bring back to Missouri-land to savor.
Post-beer, we decide to get a quick bite at Los Pollos, naturally. We then drive to each Breaking Bad location once again. David gets his photo with Walt’s house and we visit several other BB stops.
Now, if Albuquerque is known for anything besides Breaking Bad and the hot air balloon festival, it’s their sunsets.
The word “sandia” in Spanish means watermelon. The mountain range is popularly believed to have been named Sandia due to the reddish-pink hue that everything turns during sunset. And it’s true, the sunsets in Albuquerque are spectacular.
As the day comes to a close, David and I decide to ride The Sandia Peak Tramway up to the top to take a gander at the view. Usually, the tram will take you to the peak and give you the opportunity to hike around. Due to the fires though, visitors are confined to the outlook. For the sunset though, it’s still a popular and worthwhile activity.
Though it’s a bit pricey, we decide that since we couldn’t do the hike I’d originally planned, it’d be a nice way to still experience the mountain. As we drive up to the booth to pay the entrance fee, the absolute chattiest man I have ever met appears behind the window.
“Hey there folks, sorry to tell you that the tram is actually not working right now and has been doing a start stop scenario and trust me, I’d rather be up there on the tram too and I feel real bad to tell you this, but it’s for the safety of everyone and come back in the morning and it might be working and…” Etc. Etc.
He was really polite and I thought it was cute. It’s like he thought if he just kept talking, angry people couldn’t have a chance to interject or yell at him for the inconvenience.
So, we drove to the base and, yet again, parked along the foothill path to at least try and view the sunset from some sort of elevation. Despite the bad luck, the sunset was still just as beautiful from below.
I forgot to mention at the beginning of this – our motel was nasty.
I’m not usually one to complain about a dirty room. I get it. I’m cheap. I’m not expecting the Ritz Carlton. I just want somewhere that I can close my eyes for $30 a night. And I’ve had plenty of a-okay experiences in motel rooms.
However, this one was really something special. It was almost like a motel room you see in the movies. The floor was so stained it literally looked like black pools in places. The walls had dirt and other grimey stains smeared on them. The lamp had exposed wires. There was some type of goo on the table by the television.
But the worst of it was when I saw a bug crawling along the floor. I went into full bed bug alert mode and nearly lit the motel on fire – until David pointed out it was a tick. We compared, by iPhone flashlight, a photo of a bed bug next to the tick and I concluded he was right. I sighed in relief. Two more scurried along, next to their dad, meandering the room and wondering if they could snack on us.
Who knew I could be so excited for a bug to be a tick. What a world.
So, after witnessing the spectacular sun dip – NOT from the peak – we have more time than we anticipated and are left wondering what to do. It is a Sunday – but I have zero desire to go back to our reprehensible Super 8.
As we drive, we notice a skating rink that appears to be open. We googled the name and find out it is “adult night” and is open until 11pm. Rather than return to the tick motel, we decide to go and do a little rollerblading.
I envisioned the “adult night roller rink” as being a smoke-filled event space, sticky with beer. Perhaps we’d be the youngest there, with gray-haired rink locals scolding us outsiders.
Instead, we join in on quite possibly the most diverse skating rink in the entire world. People of all ages, all races, all everyone skating everywhere. People are break dancing. People have synchronized dances.
It’s possible I died. A good version of hell for me would be an eternal musical.
The common theme of the night is that everyone seems just a little bit punk. Or hipster. There’s no alcohol in sight, and it’s just people having an actual, honest good night. It is what all of my 15-year-old straightedge dreams are made of.
We end up having an amazing time.
The next day we pack up, shake off everything for the possible tick, and head off for Tucson.
Until next time, Albuquerque. You hold a special place in my heart.