A quick tour of Albuquerque reveals that Route 66 runs through the heart of the city. It’s now called Central Avenue, but its history is still evident.
One afternoon before sunset, we took the Sandia Peak Aerial Tram to the top of Sandia Peak. The gentleman in the entry booth told us that this was the perfect time of day to ride up the mountain since we would get to see “the Milky Way” – the lights of Albuquerque – light up. It’s 2.7 miles to the top of the 10,378 foot mountain, with beautiful views along the way.
And lo and behold we discovered a ski area on the other side of the mountain with lots of snow on the ground at the top. Fortunately, we bundled up before taking the tram, since we certainly know how weather can change as you gain altitude.
The visitor center provides information on the flora and fauna on the mountain, hiking trails, and conservation efforts. With canyons, forests, bear, bobcats, mule deer, eagles, hawks, ravens and lots of other wildlife, this mountain is worth exploring. But that is for another much warmer time.
There’s a restaurant at the top, and appetizers and wine while watching the sparkle of the city lights against the sunset was much more our speed. The food was good too, although expensive. But the view is stunning. It was getting colder so it was time to get off the mountain. And the ride down was just as scenic.
The next day we visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Today, the Pueblo people are located primarily in New Mexico, although at one time their homeland extended in to Colorado and Arizona. There are 19 Pueblos, with three distinct language groups, five separate languages and many discrete dialects.
The museum exhibits contain historical information about each Pueblo, objects of different mediums including jewelry, textiles, baskets, photographs, prints, paintings, murals and archaeological objects, and an extensive collection of pottery, both contemporary and historical.
There’s an exhibition that reflects upon the human experience behind enacted policies and laws on Pueblo communities by other governments and how they have dealt with all of those challenges.
Another exhibit shows the history of the Albuquerque Indian School, a boarding school which gave Native students a place to integrate cultural diversity while learning trades and skills that could be used in their home communities or within surrounding towns.
And yet another exhibit displays retablos – small folk art paintings depicting religious, historical or everyday events. These were on wood and were created by renowned santero (carver and painter of images of saints) Charles M. Carrillo. The Franciscan fathers who missionized New Mexico in the late 16th and 17th centuries named each Pueblo for a different Catholic saint. It’s believed that each of the patron saints was likely chosen for any of several reasons, including proximity to a specific date, the patron or devotion of the founder of the mission or the Franciscan friar, or the usurpation of a Pueblo ceremony.
These retablos depicted the patron saint of each Pueblo and each was bordered by a design from pottery made in that specific Indian Pueblo. The art is an interesting mix of the Pueblo’s traditions and the imposed Spanish religious traditions. And they were lovely.
Dances are also important traditions in the various Pueblos and the museum has a different dance every weekend. We saw three dances: a corn, buffalo and eagle dance all performed by members of the Laguna Pueblo. The nephew of the drummer/singer/narrator, a tiny dancer, was just beginning to learn these traditions but was out there for every dance. Cute!
The city has become more well known since the show “Breaking Bad” (which we’ve not watched) aired on TV. But we heard about the show because it has been a big deal in Albuquerque and tours of the city now include where the show was filmed. Breaking Bad is about a science teacher who’s been diagnosed with cancer, and in desperation and to support his family starts a meth lab.
Definitely the dark side of the city, but Albuquerque has much more to offer, as we discovered.
Our timing, we also discovered, left much to be desired as the temperature dipped to five degrees one night, very unusual for Albuquerque at this time of year. Fortunately, we were in a park that has full hookups and were able to run the heat at max. We also have a propane heater that we use while we’re in the coach, with a window cracked open of course. And we run a small electric heater in our bathroom, since it never seems to get warm enough because it has a skylight and a fan which let in cold air.
After this extreme cold we had a bit of a scare when we realized that our fresh water tank was frozen, and, according to Hector, “water was sprouting from places where it shouldn’t sprout from”. Oops. A heater vent goes to the tank compartment, but apparently did not generate enough heat for this level of cold. And the fresh water tank was near empty, as we’d been drawing our water from it rather than the hose (not sure if it would have helped if the tank had been full or near full).
In any case, Hector placed our little electric heater in the wet bay that next morning. The temperature was rose to (just) above freezing, so several hours later the tank thawed out and there was no sprouting water. We were lucky, things froze but nothing broke.
We checked the RV forums (love the forums) and found out that placing a work light in the wet bay helps keep the area warmer, so we bought one and placed it there the rest of our stay. And continued to enjoy the city.
On to the more fun stuff; we visited the Albuquerque Art Museum. It’s a small museum, but very enjoyable. Collections include “Albuquerque along the Rio Grande”, “Common Ground: Art in New Mexico” and “African American Art”.
One of my favorites was a photographic exhibition “Bob Christensen: Vernacular Architecture of New Mexico 1973-2013″; about 50 black and white photographs that of a variety of buildings such as garages, barns, gas stations and bars.
Last but not least we met some friends from Taos and Albuquerque, Sharon and Norman, for dinner at a great sushi restaurant in town. I would not have thought that you could find good sushi in Albuquerque, another nice surprise and a really fun evening.
We just loved Albuquerque and hope to return for the Balloon Fiesta next year.