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Sunday, August 7, 2016

New Mexico

We entered the "Land of Enchantment" and arrived here in Albuquerque, NM Monday after another windy and uphill climb on I-40 from Amarillo. This is our first west bound trip on I-40 through this part of the country and don't know if the wind blows like this all the time or not, but it sure has been blowing on our trips. Albuquerque sits in a valley at the base of the Sandia Mountain Range and is shielded from the winds, so it's not been so bad here. The weather here this week, could not have been much better with highs in the upper 80's and low 90's with low humidity. In fact, I've had a problem with my contacs drying out and lips chapping due to the lower humidity. I did want to mention the elevation change here. The elevation in Amarillo is 3600 feet and is 5300 feet above sea level here in Albuquerque.  We actually saw elevations of over 7,000 feet on I-40 before crossing the Sandia Mountains! I have been totally impressed with Amarillo. It's a clean well designed city in that the streets are laid out in north/west grids and is not difficult to navigate. There is a lot of traffic, but it's well managed and flows well, unlike some other large cities we've been in.  The people here are very cordial and friendly and the cost of living is reasonable. If someone were looking for a place to relocate, this would be a good option. The summers here are rather hot, but are not unbearable. I have noticed the majority of the structures are stucco with either tile or flat roofs to protect from the heat. There is a large Hispanic and Native American influence here, which is part of the charm.  I will have to say this has been one of our more enjoyable destinations.

Our first excursion was to ride the tramway up to Sandia Peak, over 3,000 feet higher than the valley floor. The experience and view was awesome. I had to do a little coaxing to convince Crickett the ride  wasn't too bad and she didn't seem to mind once underway. The tramway has two large cars that can carry about fifty passengers at a time or up to a maximum of 10,000 pounds. There was a twenty degree temperature differential from bottom to top, and you know who didn't bring a jacket. It was about sixty degrees at the top with a good breeze, and was a mite chilly! Crickett was smart and took her jacket.

Our next excursion was to ride the Railrunner Express train from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. The train is mostly used by commuters since the state capitol is in Santa Fe, but is enjoyed by others as well. Our cost to ride the train was $7.00 apiece for the round trip, quite a bargain! On the return trip, we boarded a "quiet car" where no talking, cell phone noise or other racket is allowed. Really seemed strange in that all you could hear was the occasional locomotive horn at road crossings. You could have heard a pin drop in there! The train does go beyond those two stops. The namesake of the train is the roadrunner bird, the state bird of New Mexico, of which there are many in the area.  Some of the local folks refer to the train as "The Thunder Chicken"! Our visit to Santa Fe was to visit the historical section where there are many historical churches, buildings, and all kind of shopping.  This venture  made a great day trip even though we were intimidated by unfamiliar events and surroundings. We also toured the historical section of Albuquerque that was similar, but different from Santa Fe.

We're pulling out Monday morning headed for Monument Valley, Utah for three days and then on to Moab, Ut for five days, and from there to Salt Lake City for three days. I do have the rest of the trip planned out through Labor Day, but won't bore you with those details. The biggest challenge of this trip  from our others has been finding accommodations at RV Parks. There are many more RVer's on the road due to their increasing popularity and lower fuel prices. I have to make reservations well in advance now, whereas in the past, it was make them a day ahead.  I'm hoping it will not be as big an issue after Labor Day when all the kiddies return to school. We're planning to meet our Cajun buddies, Terry and Kathy Derouen, in Montana and hope to travel some with them. We met Terry and Kathy in Michigan last summer. Those of you who followed our blog on that trip will remember them.

I-40 east of Albuquerque and the Sandia Mountain range.
New Mexico State Line. The time changed to Mountain Standard Time here, and we're now 2 hours behind  EST.

New Mexico has gone to a lot of effort to have their infrastructure pleasing to the eye. The bridges, highways, and barrier walls all have a finished look that are in a western theme. 
Our RV park, Enchanted Trails, on the west side of Albuquerque. The park is about a seven on a ten scale. and not bad for the price. We stayed here a week for $191.25.

Our Site, A-1. Only problem we had was with big black flying ants. I sprayed the site down good with Black Flag and seemed to take care of them.

There's a hummingbird feeder on the back of the campground office where there's a lot of activity including this male Rufous. We don't see this variety hummingbird on the east coast but they are common in the western states. This guy was the boss bird.

I enjoy watching these guys!

The campground has many vintage RV's and autos spread throughout the park.
Beautiful flag at Camping World, next door to Enchanted Trails.
 We photographed this roadrunner in the parking lot at Wendy's. He was looking up at the drive through window as if to say hey "how about throwing me some fries out here"!  We talked to one of the employees there who told us they regularly feed them. He was pretty much oblivious to me.

View of front of Sandia Peak Tramway.

Panaromic shot from the front of building. If you look closely, you can see our Chevy in the middle of the parking lot.
Our tram coming in for a landing. We were on "Flight # 3"

Shot out the tram window about half way up the mountain.

At the top! Crickett got a picture of the elevation sign. It was over 3000 ft higher and 20 degrees cooler than where we boarded the tram.
Panoramic shot from the top of Sandia Peak.

Shot of Albuquerque from top of the mountain at full zoom. This little cheap camera continues to impress me.

Nice observation deck on top of mountain. There's a restaurant nearby that allows your meals to be eaten outside. 

These youngsters were looking through pieces of pipe aimed at different objects in the valley below.

Tram with a full load approaching the top.

Crickett on the observation deck.

Now, I'm not a squirrel fan at all, but have never seen one with a coat this thick. I guess he's getting ready for winter.

Inside Tram getting ready to head back down the mountain. 

My favorite photo from Sandia Peak.

This looks kind of scary, but actually was a smooth ride except for a slight bump at the towers.
Getting ready to board the Railrunner Express in Albuquerque.

Very nice passenger train with cars that have two levels. We rode the upstairs level going and coming. We arrived in Santa Fe about 10:30 and caught the 5:30 Express coming back.  The trip took about 1 1/2 hours. A large part of the trip was through several Indian Reservations with the rest being through desert with very scenic views of the mountains.
Inside view of the upper level of the "Thunder Chicken"

Pretty flags in Santa Fe.

Santuario de Guadalupe. The oldest Extant Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in the US.

Thought this was way cool with the pooch sporting sunglasses and his leash across his back. He was right behind his master who was crossing traffic at a red light.

The Lensic Santa Fe Performing Arts Center on San Francisco St.

This gentleman is a street performer who was excellent playing his harp.

The Cathederal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. First church was built in 1610 with present church built in 1886 and was rededicated in 1986.
Sanctuary of the Cathederal Basilica. The photo doesn't do it justice.
Statue of Kateri Tekakwitha in front of church. She was the first Indian of North America to be promoted a saint. She died in 1680 at the age of 24.

The famous Loretto Chapel opened in 1878 and  is the home of the Miraculous Staircase, built, some say, by St. Joseph himself.

Closeup of statue on roof of Loretto Chapel.

 The chapel is now privately owned and charges $4.00 to enter and is also rented out for wedding ceremonies.

View of the miracle staircase. It has two 360 degree turns with no center support and was built with wooden pegs with no nails or glue used in it's construction. There have been many stories, theories, and shows about the construction of the staircase,  including Unsolved Mysteries and the movie entitled "The Staircase".  Google Loretto Chapel for some interesting reading. 
Sanctuary of Loretto Chapel.

Statue of Don Francisco Cuervo Y Valdes, founderof Old Albuquerque.

Crickett was seeing how she looked under a sombrero.


  1. Well, I am going to enjoy this blog of yours, Joe. I really appreciate your helping me find it. It is safely tucked into my reader now, and I won't miss any posts. You might want to go to my blog and search for my posts on Monument Valley, Moab, Salt Lake City and perhaps some other recent spots we've been on your route. You and Crickett are going into my favorite part of the country, and we are just a bit jealous. We're going to keep up with you and see if we can't do a meetup--perhaps during the Texas legs of your trip. That's where we'll be around the time you go through there. Happy and safe travels, guys!

  2. From Betty: Very interesting. We've never spent time there - only passed through. We also enjoyed seeing painted overpasses in SW.
    Now you're heading to places we've been twice! We'd advise taking the all-day tour in Monument Valley on the back of a truck with an Indian guide, who prepares lunch in the Valley for y'all. We've done it twice.
    In Moab, we did an all day tour in a vehicle on beautiful roads that we couldn't drive on. Then they met us at the Colorado River for lunch & then a jet boat trip on the river. Loved it!

  3. Loved the cool pup, and I see Mimi is sporting her Life is Good jacket! I'm glad ya'll are enjoying yourselves!