Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

Taos and Albuquerque

I'm going to take a page out of Jet's book of plays and just go through time as I'm able.  I came home from the last trip with a cold, a severe lack of sleep, a rather messed up upper body, and a number of issues with the way my vision was working. I also had a teeth cleaning yesterday, which I'm happy to report found nothing that needed to be worked on this time.  That a first for a while, and I'm really grateful, but I've been mostly recovering instead of being able to write and juggle pictures.

After the West Coast trip, John and I had a good few days at home that included going to the amazing wedding of Andrew, the son of Bob, a co-worker of ours who had been with us in Redmond and had done the move to Boulder in 2000. Actually, Bob hadn't done the move then, he'd waited for his daughter to finish high school and then came with Andrew and his wife Mei. Andrew was a part of Jet's growing up, and we've been close friends with them for a very long time before the move and after.  So it was a really special wedding, and it was a real joy to see Andrew married.  Better yet, two nights before the wedding, our neighborhood had a party at our house and invited them all to the party as well.  That was a lot of fun.

The following Thursday (October 4th) we headed down to Albuquerque to go to a party that was being thrown by John's brother Walt and his wife Cathie.  It was on the weekend that begins Balloon Fiesta down there, and given all the time we'd just spent in a car, we decided to make the trip down as easy and pleasant as possible and then book it on the way home.  The party was Saturday night, and I was flying out Monday afternoon for Oakland and my usual Bay Area adventures around BigBadCon.

The way down was beautiful and clear, and while I drove a good chunk of the I-25 route, we headed into the mountains fairly quickly, as we were headed to Taos as our Thursday night stay instead of pushing all the way through, and of course, we ate at our favorite New Mexican restaurant, Orlando's.

We really love the food there. *laughs* John had a combination with a blue corn tortilla taco filled with chicken and a chili relleno, and I had the pork medallions with sides of pozole (lye treated field corn slow cooked with amazing things) and beans and a red chili enchilada with just cheese and onions. They were all amazing.

We stopped at a local grocery store to try and find blue corn pancakes with pine nuts, but, instead, we found Grade B maple syrup on sale and plenty of fresh, locally ground blue corn meal. Not quite the same, but I figured I could make corn pancakes with the blue corn meal, or, for that matter, blue cornbread, which I did later, for our pumpkin carving party with the neighbors. During most of the day, after checking in at the hotel and before dinner, we did wander about town, and one of the things I found were these amazing purses.

The store is called Artemisia, and they have a website where they sell these purses and a whole lot more, including locally handwoven clothing. The purses are under the accessories button and are called Carogi Bags, which are designed by Carson Rogers Design. They're intriguing because they're super configurable, starting as triangular backpacks that can be made square, but the straps are entirely configurable, so that they can become more courier-like or over the body strapped, and the pockets work for all the configurations, which I really liked.  I ended up with the bright red and striped purse on the right. I loved the blues, but I figured that the bright bag couldn't be lost and it would go with anything.

The next morning (October 5th) we headed toward Albuquerque but took the really scenic route through the High Road to Taos (even though we were taking it away from Taos.... it was kind of confusing that way). But we dropped by Chimayo and our favorite rug weavers and their gift shop had the blue corn pancake mix I had been looking for before.  *laughs*  The views were absolutely gorgeous. This is just above Chimayo, and Los Alamos is just visible to the left of the picture and to the right of the road.  Just as we were getting off the two lane highway, Walt sent John a text message about where we should try and eat if we were going the way we were going.

And just a few miles away was El Parasol. This is a New Mexican fast food joint, with all kinds of things with both red and green chili smothering them. There were the usual assortment of burritos, tacos, Indian fry bread, carne asada, al pastor, bean and chicharron, and all the rest.  While we were standing in line, a guy tucking into a plate full of lovely looking food started telling us, matter-of-factly, that this place sold some of the best New Mexican food in the state.  *laughs*  I loved that.

He recommended a number of things, but the one that really stood out for me was the Frito Pie.

We'd seen Frito Pie before, mostly on the grounds of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, and they were the scant versions with a handful of Fritos covered with half a cup of chili, topped with American cheese, and a few lettuce curls or tomato chunks thrown on top, looking kind of forlorn.

That white box on the right?  That was my Frito Pie, half the box was filled with Fritos and a generous ladling of good red chile on top with a slathering of cheddar grated on that.  The lettuce and tomatoes were fresh and lovely and really contrasted well with all the salt.  John got something smothered in green chile with potatoes and beans on the side, and he was super happy eating it all.  It was all so very good.  I would highly recommend going there if you're ever in the area.

The rest of the trip to Albuquerque was fairly uneventful, until we got to the exit we had to take for Walt and Cathie's.  There, I said something along the lines of  "While I've always seen Sandia from afar, I wonder what it's like on the mountain?"

We were on the side that didn't have paved access to Sandia Peak, but there was a dirt road going up that was seasonally available, and there were all kinds of warning about how rough it might be and that one had to be careful going along the dirt road.  John decided that we could try and get Einstein (our little Ford Focus) through it, if we tried some of the initial road to see just how bad it might be.

It got pretty rough in spots, most notably right by the parking lots for the state park areas created for the trail heads.  The trail heads had paved parking lots with pit toilets and all kinds of signage, but the road right outside the parking lots were deeply furrowed by the infrequent but fast running water.  There were huge dips and valleys by the roads there.

But it was worth going that way when we broke out to see the back side of the mountain, which doesn't face the city.

There were some monster trucks up there, which made little Einstein look like a midget, but he did just fine on the rough roads, and with John's experience from driving Land Rovers we didn't have any problems.  That was really cool.

Eventually we managed to get to the pavement near the Peak, and ended up in the parking lot of the park that's up there.  We got the same pictures most everyone gets of all of Albuquerque spread out below, and it was fun to see things from up there.

From there we headed back down and around to Walt and Cathie's, where we cheerfully met up with Scott and Marissa, who also own and RV like Walt and Cathie's. We'd also met them, long long ago, when we were all crewing the balloon of a friend of theirs.  We caught up, reminisced and told them what was up with "little Jet" in Japan.  That was fun, and over a dinner of amazing blue corn chicken enchiladas and chile rellenos, we talked into the night. Cathie treated me to mint chocolate chip ice cream with a birthday candle in it.  *laughs*  That was fun having everyone sing Happy Birthday to me.

The next morning (October 6th), with our coffee, we got to see the first flights of the Balloon Fiesta!  Or at least John, Scott, and Marissa did, with Cathie seeing them with her morning run.  Walt and I didn't get up until far later. *laughs*  But it was fun to see the pictures and remember what it was like on the ground during the Mass Ascension.

It was nice not to have to fight all the parking, get there at 4 am, and huddle about wondering if anything was going to go up.  We could just sit in Walt and Cathie's backyard and see them flying with the winds that day. It's always kind of amazing thinking about how huge each of those balloons are like when you're close up compared to seeing them all so far away and looking like toys.  Especially the special shapes!

After breakfast, we headed out to help in various ways to prepare for the party that evening.  There was a vast array of foods, including their infamous green chili stew (hot enough to blow my head off), two kinds of salads, lots of chips and salsas, and with a potluck everyone brought plenty of sides and desserts.

It was a great party. A lot of the rather older balloon crew and even Richard and Mary, who had owned the balloon we'd crewed for were all there and it was a wonderful way to get together and just catch up on everything.  That was utterly worth doing.

The drive home on Sunday was pretty much uneventful, but long, as we had to get home that day. I had a 3:20 pm check-in time and with our new smart phones, I was actually able to check-in at a 7-11 by the freeway.  I was so happy. *laughs*  It's the small things with the new technology that really please me.

Tags: adventure, food, travel

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