Next stop Albuquerque, the only thing about which I know is from watching Breaking Bad. Our first stop in town was to visit Petroglyph National Monument just on the edge of town. This park has several sites to visit at which you can get very close to hundreds of symbols carved into the rocks hundreds of years ago. We opted for the shortest walk of the sites having just seen some petroglyphs in Bandelier, and given the super hot sun coming down on us. It seems crazy to me that they let people climb all over the rocks with these symbols close enough to touch, and even crazier that it’s located adjacent to a suburban neighborhood. Weird juxtaposition, but so convenient!
Because I am my crazy self, I next forced a drive all over town hunting down roadside attractions! And as a fitting addition Kevin re-introduced me to Weird Al’s song about the town. Which is like 13 minutes long and hilarious. Please go listen to it. Anyway, we hit up a graffiti wall full of Nintendo scenes, tracked down a giant rattlesnake sculpture decorating a highway median, drove by an impressive home that kind of looks like a spaceship, and snapped a pic of a bar made to look like a library. If only it were open! I love the creativity, and of course the book titles they made up.
Had to go to the White’s house from Breaking Bad but everything I read warned that the current owners hate the visitors so it was just a quick pic from the moving car as they’ve been known to yell at people who park there. Yikes. They also had to put up a fence because too many people were tossing pizzas on the roof, so I give them leeway for the lawn chairs that sat thankfully vacant by the garage the owners normally inhabit. In town is also a (not very new at all spoiler alert) gravesite we could have visited, but Kevin is the last person to have just started watching the show and I didn’t want to ruin anything.
We also attempted to find a fabled spot on the old Route 66 where if you drive a certain stretch at exactly 45 mph it plays America the Beautiful. Unfortunately it seems that the state repaved recently and declined to pay to recreate the wonder on the new pavement. We did get a few notes from a piece of shoulder but alas, it was a let down. We decided to spend the night in town to have shower access and for the added bonus of spending the evening at La Cumbre brewery just a few blocks from our motel. Good food truck fare, nice patio seat, a few drinks, and even got to see an older biker gentleman fall off his bench towards closing time.
We were headed south from the ABQ, and took a detour to stop for lunch in Hatch, home of all things chile. I did some online research that all led to a crazy looking spot offering burgers and BBQ with some veggie options on their online menu. It certainly delivered on the kitschy oddball statues and photo ops. We arrived to discover once we’d waiting in line for a while that they were only offering a limited menu, so all the non-meat choices were a no go aside from a couple of sides. Out of spite I ordered nothing to show them that perhaps keeping one choice would be nice. then proceeded to consume half Kevin’s chili cheese fries. I picked up some green chile salsa since fresh chiles are out of season, but left town very hungry and cranky.
A little down the road in Los Cruces we found the world’s largest chile pepper, so that put me in a better mood, as did a stop by PistachioLand in Alamogordo. I’d actually driven this route before on my way from El Paso to Golden months earlier when everything was majorly abandoned, so this visit gave a fuller experience for sure. We saw the largest pistachio again, but also got to go through the shop for some spicy nut products and happily for my belly also a cone of pistachio ice cream which was so delicious. Edit from previous post- my memory was all off and put together all the weird government stops, but between the chile pepper and pistachio was really where we passed White Sands and near by went through a different checkpoint (I assume immigration related since we were close to Juarez) where a guard tried to get us to say we had drugs but since we didn’t… we didn’t. He seemed very disappointed in us as van hippies.
We camped by Ruidoso, a town which a man at La Cumbre had said was the most beautiful place around. It was pretty nice, and in normal times would be even more booming with multi-season attractions like skiing, ranches, water sports, whatever. Google Maps took us some weird way through a town with goat statues all over town that local artists painted, like the pandas in DC, so that was fun. This area also is home to a bunch of sites related to Billy the Kid, but more interesting to me was the town of Capitan- home of the original Smokey Bear. After a forest fire the fire fighters found an injured bear cub up a tree, rescued him, and made him the face of fire prevention. Smokey lived out his days at the National Zoo and was buried right here, back home in Capitan. I promise to be extra careful with campfires, Smokey! And with that, off we went- in the words of Weird Al, the world is our burrito.