The New Year has brought about a somewhat unique opportunity. I was able to travel with my wife on her trip to the Southwest as she interviews at potential residency programs. The idea of me going was two fold, one and probably the most important, was that if we’re going to consider living in these places for the next three plus years, I should probably have been to them at least once before committing to such a life decision. The second reason was purely because I love traveling, especially with my wife.
This trip would take us each to at least one state (it was two by the time we were done) that we’d never been to and at least two cities that we’d never experienced. As dedicated road trippers, this adventure would start out somewhat different, largely for practical reasons, as we would fly into Albuquerque , New Mexico. I’d much rather drive, not because I don’t like flying, but because there is so much to see along the way. I’ve never had any issues with flying, in fact, I enjoy parts of it. Those parts are not, going through the TSA checkpoint or being paranoid about emptying my bags before repacking them, as I want to make sure that my multi-use bags don’t contain some prohibited items that might lead to quite a snag at security. But, I do enjoy the views and yes, even take off. But not the cramped seats. I’m 6’3″ and exit rows aren’t always available.
While our experience had some bumps, about two days later, winter storm Helena was pummeling the East Coast and the Midwest. While we were enjoying the sun in New Mexico, it was nearly single digits back home. We were quite thankful for our good fortunes. We were checking the forecasts for all the cities along our route and for our departure airport in hopes of being spared from the problems so many on the East Coast were experiencing.
But, I digress. We began our adventure in Albuquerque picking up the rental car, I’d opted for the Manager’s Special when booking it, as that was the only option available on a one-way rental that didn’t come with a per mile fee. At 25 cents a mile and knowing we’d be going over a thousand, it as a pretty easy choice. I was initially surprised to see that we’d been given a Dodge Charger to drive a few thousand miles across the Southwest. My in town driving over the next day wasn’t giving me a warm and fuzzy about what the fuel prices were going to look like either. Turns out though, once you get it out on the highway, the eight speed transmission actually does a pretty decent job. According to the onboard computer, we ended up finishing out our trip at around thirty miles per gallon. Even if you consider that these things are usually about ten percent high, it really wasn’t too bad after all.
Now, back to Albuquerque, a city who’s name I will hopefully be able to consistently spell right after writing this. When we first arrived, quite hungry, thanks to the delays, we ended up at Rudy’s Barbeque. We do try to try new things as we travel and this is one that I would highly recommend! Chuck was the guy who helped us out at the counter. The service was excellent! Not sure if he asks everyone he doesn’t recognize or if we just looked like exhausted out-of-towners, but we were offered samples of their different meats and a couple of their most popular sides. We ended up with the turkey, some brisket and some of their delicious cream corn. The Chile Verde was also excellent! Sadly the nearest one for us is in Oklahoma City, nearly 800 miles away…
From there we had some time before we could check in to the hotel, so we went exploring a bit. While we recently finished watching Breaking Bad, no, we didn’t go looking for Walter White’s house. The Sandia mountains really do give the city a nice backdrop and I’m sure the hiking would’ve been great, had there been a bit more time. The next day while my wife was at her interview, I went up into the national forest to see what I could see. While the extent of the wildlife was a chipmunk, the scenery was quite nice. This being January, the lighting wasn’t all that I’d hoped and it wasn’t coming from the best directions, so forgive the somewhat lackluster quality of my photos. One of the things that I think surprised me most, was the traffic in the city, or the lack thereof. It was really quite surprising to be able to turn left on four plus lane roads with relative ease, even during the morning rush hour and lunch time. Nice work Albuquerque!
Once my wife was done with her interview, we set off toward our next destination, Tucson, Arizona. Another unfortunate thing about travelling this time of year is the early sunsets. While they’re great if the clouds cooperate, they’re not so great when you end up spending most of your time traveling in the dark. We’ve missed many a pretty place having to travel in the dark and unfortunately, this trip would not afford us the time to only travel during the daylight hours.
We got into Tucson that evening and fortunately, we would have two nights there. The first day we set out to explore the city together and see if this was a place we’d like to call home. Overall, Tucson was a nice place, the traffic was similar to Albuquerque, which for a city its size, I was surprised. Being the national park junkies that we are, of course we had to head out to Saguaro National Park! We started out in the west section and drove pretty much all that you can drive without four wheel drive. The size of the Saguaro cactus was quite surprising. I knew they were big, but until you stand next to one, you just don’t realize how big. We took the scenic loop out through the west section, while you don’t need four wheel drive to do this section, I would recommend something with a good suspension. The loop in the west section is not paved and can get a little rough in places. Be patient and be gentle with the accelerator.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to spend the evening watching the sunset in the park, which would have been great from some of the other photos I’ve seen. As I did in Albuquerque, when my better half was interviewing, I went exploring. Tucson however, had something I was particularly interested in seeing. The Center for Creative Photography, houses the archives of many renowned photographers, including that of Ansel Adams. While the archives themselves are not on display, there is a wonderful gallery that has rotating exhibits. I had hoped to see more landscapes, but I was still quite pleased to see several of Adams’ original prints, negatives and notes. While the tools of the trade have changed much since his time, beautiful photographs still stir the imagination. I hope some day to visit many of the majestic places that he photographed.
With our time in Tucson drawing to a close, our next ‘destination’ was fabulous Las Vegas, if you’re into that sort of thing. For us, the adventure usually starts where the itinerary gets vague. This trip was no exception! Until next time, thanks for reading!
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