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Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Journey


Packing up from Flagstaff was a breeze. The snow had melted, and the wind had died down. The water pressure was excellent, so we were able to flush the tanks, get on the road before 10:00 am, and head on down the highway to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to the High Desert RV Park. I enjoy this part of the journey almost more than the stops. The trees are green and lush as you travel through the Coconino National Park region. The biggest perils are often other drivers who are either camped in the left lane or so busy being first that they make some rather severe driving moves.


Picture of a highway driving toward mountain ranges.
Road to Albuquerque, New Mexico

We narrowly escaped one such driver in an SUV who was busy going a whole lot of nowhere, quickly sped up, rode the tail of the person in front of them, and proceeded to get a flat tire (alligators everywhere) and pull into the shoulder of the LEFT lane, coming to an abrupt stop. We almost collided with them due to needing more shoulder for them to pull over, but thankfully, Jamie is quick on his reflexes and not inclined to pay attention to every device while driving.


Other than this wild moment, the rest of the ride was largely quiet. The road signs and billboards increased with the frequency of “Indian Moccasins” and stern religious reminders of how to conduct oneself and where you might be headed if you don’t heed the warning. We passed by beautiful bluffs and dusty open spaces, followed by truck stops filled with tourist-driven tchotchkes with a southwestern influence. We stopped to fuel up at the same gas station across from a LOVE’s that was full, past the same unhoused person who waived at us the last time we came through town, only to jump right back on the road and get to where we were going.


Our pattern is to break up the drive about halfway through for fuel, restrooms, and a leg stretch. Lunch on drive days is also a bit ordinary: Jamie has his tried-and-true ham and cheese sandwich with yellow mustard on rye, and I have a peanut butter sandwich on Ezekiel sprouted bread. Ordinary on drive days is a good thing. No one wants a surprise, whether on the road or in constitution, so simplicity and routine are preferred.


Leading up to High Desert RV Park, there’s a lot of flat land, so it doesn’t look like much until you arrive at the gate. There, you’ll be greeted with giant metal statues throughout the park. It’s nice—they add some character to an otherwise bland backdrop on the outskirts of Albuquerque.


 

I’m giving Albuquerque another chance altogether. I like desert towns, and Jamie was here once many years ago for work. My singular experience was picking up/dropping off relatives at the airport en route to Santa Fe, so to say I’ve “been” to Albuquerque isn’t entirely accurate.

 

Loading in was fairly easy. We grabbed our sheet with a map and Wi-Fi information and pulled into a site about halfway down the park, just before you hit the long-term tenants. The map indicates what amenities are available, as well as how many sites are in the park. It also provides extra details like special load-in/load-out instructions and the code to the restrooms.


Settling into our site, it’s a far cry from Flagstaff. Seventy-three degrees, dusty, sunny, and wind that is soothing but not overwhelming. We are able to pull out our astroturf and the smokey joe tonight and return to our usual way of evening preparation. Usually, shortly after arrival, I take Benny and Vito on a short walk around the camp to get our bearings and give Jamie a break while he unhitches the trailer. There are three dog parks throughout, sandy but well-maintained: a car care station (read: vacuums), laundry, and a washroom. These are pretty much expected at most campgrounds but are appreciated when they are clean and kept up. The outer fencing of the park near the very back includes the round razor wire that I’ve only seen at power plants and prison yards, but the gates also lock after dusk, so I’m assuming it’s there for everyone’s safety, and I appreciate it.


The Evening Wind Down


Dinner was spinach and feta chicken sausage, corn on the cob, and a green bell pepper dressed with light olive oil and black pepper. Easy dinner with easy-to-repurpose leftovers – nothing too fancy. We wanted to keep things light so we could go out during the day and try out some of the local nearby cuisine. Jamie found a newer hall in town that had a curated collection of restaurants called The Sawmill that we could order from – a perfect way to test drive, leaving Benny and Vito at the trailer for a quick bite to eat for lunch the next day.


The available local television stations come in rather well. I’m not big on sitcoms anymore, and I have zero interest in reality television. The drama doesn’t pull me in, and I feel like I wasted my energy listening to manufactured problems. What we did find were more classic shows such as The Andy Griffith Show and, to my joy, Svengoolie. Nestled into the blankets, I fell asleep with a grin on my face and a bit of a chuckle.


The Sawmill


Since neither of us works full time out of the house, Benny and Vito don’t get much downtime without us present. There’s limited “crate time” at home, and Vito gets separation anxiety if left in the RV for too long. Leaving the boys alone in the RV is a struggle because you don’t want to annoy the neighbors or risk getting expelled from a campground due to nuisance barking. It’s a challenge. We had some success with our visit to Tombstone, but the wind was in our favor there, and we took the boys on a very long walk before attempting to do that. Our mistake here was not doing a long walk first before trying to pop them in the crates. Benny probably would have been fine, but Vito was not having it. Vito is our resident crybaby. Without going into detail about all the things we tried, I’m going to leave it as “it didn’t work,” and we will try again at another stop. On to The Sawmill.


The Sawmill is in a moderately busy area across from a hotel, an apartment complex, and seemingly a number of business offices. It’s very pretty and clean and has the appearance of what I would expect to find in Southern California for a layout. It is very similar to The UnCommons in Las Vegas across from The Durango Casino: a modern, minimalist exterior and simple interior, with each business accenting their areas to create the ambiance through fake flowers, neon lights, and pop art. We were excited to try a few items from Flora, but we discovered quickly that a number of items were not offered during lunch hours, including the snapper ceviche (we heard it is phenomenal), so we settled on what we could round up quickly through a divide and conquer method of shopping. I went over to HAWT Pizza and picked up a couple of Little Italy Salads with burrata and balsamic glaze on the side while Jamie grabbed a couple of mochas from a nearby coffee shop so we could high tail it back to the truck to rescue our neighbors from Vito’s antics. I would like to think that the wind covered some of his noise, but that’s wishful thinking. Thankfully, The Sawmill was only 10 minutes from the RV park, so we could get back to him quickly. I think the whole runaround took maybe 40 minutes, including shopping.


Lunch, on the other hand, was delicious. Our salads included a bed of arugula, marinated artichoke hearts, olives, prosciutto, hard salami, and, of course, a huge round of burrata cheese with olive oil and balsamic glaze. I would definitely order this again should we ever get back to Albuquerque.


Photo of a salad, red and white placemat, eating utensils.
Little Italy Salad - HAWT Pizza, Albuquerque, New Mexico

An Afternoon Stroll


After a nap and gathering our strength to deal with Vito, we piled them into the truck and drove to Coors Bosque Trails, a nature preserve that runs near the Rio Grande with winding paths and deconstructed Jetty Jacks from the 1950s (thank you, Reddit, for that explanation). The trails are mostly clear but a bit dead at the moment as we transition from winter to spring. We did not see much wildlife, save for a number of anthills and scat piles in the middle of the walkways, but the trees were pretty, and I believe that autumn must be absolutely gorgeous there. Winding our way through the trees and the brush took about an hour of our time and thoroughly wore out the boys, so by the time we got them back to the truck, they were ready to nap almost as soon as we got the motor running.


View of a trail with trees over the path
Coors Bosque Trail, Albuquerque, New Mexico
 

If you happen to venture to Coors Bosque Trails, I will make the solid suggestion that you do a complete burr check after you finish. In total, I found about 10 of them on the boys. Jamie and I were unscathed due to jeans and boots.

 

About ten more minutes drive from the trails through an older part of Albuquerque is a restaurant that has been around since 1929, boasting famous tamales: Modelo’s. Oh, my goodness, this was the right choice. I stayed in the truck with the boys while Jamie ran inside to place an order so we could bring them home for dinner. From the report, he said there were about twenty-five people inside waiting for their orders, but the staff worked quickly. It was clear to him that we made the right choice from the moment he stepped inside.


Delicious masa wrapped around a perfect sauce of charred guajillo peppers and shredded pork made with lard. Lard, my friends, is the key. I could taste it on my tongue the moment I popped it in my mouth, and it resonated with me for quite some time after we finished. If it isn’t lard, and someone wants to share the recipe with me, send it over. WOW. Save for when I lived in Los Angeles and would go to the tamale stand at the farmer’s market on 7th and Pico, I don’t think I have ever had a tamale so good. It had the right amount of heat balanced with the pork and the masa so that everything was velvety and broke gently with the side of a fork. That is what a good tamale should taste like. It should never be a fight; it should never be soggy. As I write this now, I’m still thinking about it.


Our drive to Amarillo would be lengthy, and after reviewing the weather report, we knew to expect wind gusts and lots of dust rolling into town. It’s time to unhitch, unplug and unwind. Albuquerque, I look forward to meeting you again one day, with hopes of a bit more adventure next time.

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I’m glad you’re liking ABQ more. The food is one of the things I enjoy the most there, second only to the Sandia Mountains. 😁

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