Day 3: Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Alamogordo
In April, Anthony and I decided to spend a few days road tripping through part of the American southwest. We visited several cities in New Mexico and west Texas.
For us couple of geeks, our trip seemed to be themed around science, technology, history, and, of course, food.
If you haven’t read our previous posts, I recommend you go back and read those (Intro, Day 1, Day 2) to get the feel of our whole trip. We will continue posting about our trip here, so check back soon to see what we did on Day 4.
On Sunday morning, we woke to find a light dusting of snow but nothing close to what we had experienced the day before. The sun was starting to peek out behind the clouds and the roads were clear again.
We checked out of the motel and headed south to Albuquerque via the Turquoise Trail. This is a scenic byway along Highway 14 through the Sandia Mountains. The Pueblo people use to mine turquoise from these mountains, hence the name of this byway. Today, you drive through old mining towns that are now full of artists.
We decided to get a bit off the “trial” and check out one of these old mining villages, Los Cerrillos. It was like we were driving back in time to the days of the old west. Since it was Sunday, the town seemed deserted. One town, Madrid, is a place I would like to come back to and spend a bit more time in. It looked like something right out of a storybook.
The views through this mountain road a breathtaking. If you ever have the opportunity to make this drive, take it!
At the end of the Turquoise Trail, we rejoined Route 66/I-40. Near this junction is a unique experience, the Musical Highway. This is a remarkable bit of highway engineering and interesting social experiment.
We all know what the rumble strips in the roads are. You know? Those cuts made in the side of the road that when you get too close to the edge, make a loud rumbling sound. The department of transportation was presented with a clever idea to space these strips at different lengths in order play a tune. There are only a few places in the United States that have these and this spot on Route 66 is one of them. In this particular spot, if you slow your car down to 45 mph and drive along the edge of the road, you will hear the road sing “America the Beautiful.” To hear the recording we made, be sure to watch the video at the end of this article.
The National Museum of Science and History
The first thing we did in Albuquerque was to visit The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. Now, if you read about our trip to Los Alamos on Day 2, you know how fascinated I am by radiation and nuclear science and history, so I was very excited to visit this museum. I was not disappointed. This is a fantastic museum. We spent about two hours in this museum but I could have spent another two hours there, easily.
This museum covers every aspect of nuclear and radiation science and history. They start with the history of the discovery of the atom and then progress to the early days of experimenting with radiation. They discussed how radiation was used in various ways before we realized how dangerous it can be. There was a display of lamp pulls that were painted with radioactive properties so they would glow in the dark, jewelry that would glow, face cream for women to give them a “youthful glow,” there was radioactive water that was supposed to invigorate you, and various other frightening ways radioactive materials have been used in ignorance.
The next area presented the advancements and improvements of nuclear science in the health care field. As I mentioned in the last post, I got my degree in radiologic technology. I worked over ten years as an X-ray and CT technologist. This area of the museum displayed several generations of radiographic technology that I am very familiar with.
There was a hands-on kids area that taught about nuclear science and energy alternatives. Another area discussed how the scientific advancements in nuclear energy influenced pop culture. They also had an area devoted to explaining how we use nuclear energy today and how they properly build nuclear power plants and dispose of the nuclear waste safely.
Moving along, we reached the area devoted to the military side of the area of science. There was, of course, an entire section devoted to the Cold War and World War II. While this is an area I am very interested in, it is the darker side of this technology and can be a bit emotional at times.
This impressive museum also has an outdoor area that has several planes and larger displays. We decided to bypass that on this trip but maybe we will come back one day and check it out.
The Guava Tree Cafe
After the museum, we headed to the Guava Tree Cafe for lunch. This is a tiny hole in the wall place but it was so worth it.
Anthony had the Cubano. This is their “house-roasted pork, sweet ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and yellow mustard, warm-pressed on 8.5″ Cuban bread.” I had the Guava Pollito which was “shredded Chicken Breast, provolone, caramelized onions, home roasted mushrooms, tomatoes and our signature garlic sauce on wheat.” We also ordered a side of their yucca fries to share.
They cut their sandwiches in a very interesting way. They cut them lengthwise rather than perpendicularly. You end up with two long and skinny sandwiches. I found this very quirky but fun.
I cannot express how delicious everything was. My chicken was so moist, the onions were perfectly caramelized (more difficult to find than you would think), the mushrooms were excellent, and the garlic sauce…oh, that garlic sauce was amazing!
Since I don’t care for pickles too much, I didn’t try Anthony’s sandwich but he said it was a great, traditional Cuban.
We both agree, however, the yucca fries were the star of the meal. They came with the same garlic sauce as my sandwich but with chimmichuri drizzled on top. We were not sure what to expect with yucca. Neither of us had ever eaten yucca but we included the word “adventure” in our trip title so we decided to be a bit adventurous. Sometimes you regret it and sometimes it’s a win. These are definitely a win.
We will be doing some research soon figure out how to make these fries. We already have an excellent chimichuri sauce so now we just need to perfect this extraordinary side.
Old Town Albuquerque
After lunch, we drove across town to Old Town Albuquerque to do some shopping and just walk around. We got an awesome Mexican blanket for a super good deal. I love this blanket. It stays on my chair at home and I use it every evening while we watch TV or read.
We don’t watch the TV show, Breaking Bad, so we don’t know much about the show. However, it is a big deal in this town. There are tours, tee shirts, and other memorabilia everywhere for the show. I do know the show is about a chemistry teacher who makes and deals meth to cover his medical bills. The company that made the “meth” for the show is a candy shop in Old Town Albuquerque, called The Candy Lady. They have the whole shop decked out in the Breaking Bad theme. You can even purchase bags of the “meth” candy. They have other delicious looking chocolates and candies, as well. If you are a fan of the show, they will take you to the back and take your photo dressed as Walter White and holding a tray of the candy “meth.” They are super friendly so if you are a fan of the show, you should totally stop in and have a chat with them.
A few doors down, there is another candy shop called La Choco. This was a super cute shop and they had some amazing looking treats. I really regret not leaving with a bag of their confectioneries. They had giant candy apples, truffles, chocolate coated everything…it just all looked amazing. I think Anthony saw a dangerous look in my eye and quickly shuffled me back out into the warm, sunny, Albuquerque sidewalk.
All along the Old Town streets are little allies to gorgeous little courtyards. Even in the off-season, this area can get pretty crowded, escaping into these little sanctuaries can certainly help keep the sanity of those of us who prefer a quieter atmosphere.
Almost ten years to the day, I had driven through Albuquerque with my sister on a road trip. We stopped that day at the 66 Diner for lunch. Anthony and I couldn’t pass up not stopping in for an afternoon treat. The place looked exactly the same and even though we were there at an off time, the place was still pretty busy.
Anthony ordered a chocolate malt and I had the same treat I had ten years ago, their famous Teeny Weeny Hot Fudge Sundae. I have never cared much for malts but I did taste Anthony’s. That was by far the best malt I have ever tasted. I could easily have helped him finish it but he didn’t think he needed any help.
My Teeny Weeny Sundae is a very small scoop of vanilla ice cream, a coating of hot fudge a dollop of whipped cream, and a cherry on top. The thick hot fudge perfectly coats the rich vanilla ice cream and makes every small spoonful delectable. Although it is small, this is the perfect size for me.
After a few pictures, we decided to look for a car wash to clean off all the spots the snow had left on the car. We drove all over town and could not find a touch-less car wash. We did get to see a bit more of the town, though. We finally settled on a full tank of gas before heading to dinner.
We decided to have dinner at the Range Cafe. They have three locations in Albuquerque and even though we were having an early dinner, the place was fairly crowded so we figured it must be a decent place. Anthony ordered their Field Greens Salad special. This salad was a bed of field greens with roasted beets, orange slices, blue cheese crumbles, candied pecans, and a balsamic vinaigrette. He loved it and after all the rich food we had been eating the last few days, he enjoyed the freshness.
I wasn’t really that hungry so I ordered off the appetizer menu. I figured Anthony could eat anything I didn’t finish. I ordered the Rey’s Nachos. The waiter kind of looked at me with an odd expression and asked, “You do want the regular size and not the large, right?” I assured him I wanted the smallest size they had. I soon realized why he looked at me the way he did. What they brought out to me was a platter of nachos. This would have easily satisfied four people. They were a pile of “house-made corn chips, black beans, shredded chicken, white cheddar, cotija cheese, smoked chile crema, chile con queso, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and salsa.” I will say they were some of the best nachos I have ever had. Every bite was wonderful, unfortunately, by the time I was full, you could barely tell I had eaten any of it. Anthony joined in but even between the two of us, we left what would have been a more than generous amount to start with.
Before we left I made sure to check out their dessert case a little closer. Everything they do at this restaurant is huge! They all looked amazing too. We decided to order some dessert to take with us for the long trip to Alamogordo. Anthony ordered a slice of strawberry-rhubarb pie and I got one of their mini-cinnamon rolls.
We left Albuquerque and headed south on I-25. We turned west onto Hwy 380. This is where Hwy 380 begins in the west so we had to get a photo. Hwy 380 runs through Denton so we almost felt like we were at home.
This road takes you right past the Trinity site. This is where the first atomic bomb was tested. You are not allowed to go to the actual site except for special days but they do have a historical marker.
This is a very long stretch of highway with nothing for very long distances including cell service. If you ever make this drive, make sure you gas up and have plenty of water with you in case you run into trouble. Even seeing another car for several miles may be a rare occasion.
It was beautiful watching the sunset in this desert. It was almost completely dark when we picked up Hwy 54 and headed south to Alamogordo.
We were not sure what to expect at this motel. This was the one accommodation on this trip we were most worried about. It was adorable. It was very clean and the lady running the desk was kind. If we ever go back to Alamogordo (which we hope we do) we will definitely stay here again.
After unloading the car, we decided it was time to enjoy our desserts from the Range Cafe. My cinnamon roll was pretty good but nothing to get too excited about. Anthony’s strawberry-rhubarb pie, however, was delicious. The only thing that could have made it better would be a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
We were relieved to climb into bed that evening and excited for the next day of adventuring.
Check back on Thursday to hear about Day 4 of our Great Southwest Adventure.
Have you been to Albuquerque? What would you recommend doing there? Do you have any interesting stories about radiation or nuclear history?