White Sands NM, VLA, Petrified Forest NP.
10.10.2017 - 15.10.2017 80 °F
The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has been on my bucket list for years and this was the year to see it. I called my friend Gregg in Santa Fe and made sure he was going to be there on Wed. the 11th. I got on booking.com and looked for rooms for the 10th. I found one at Rodeway Inn for $45. I thought because of the Balloon Fiesta everything would be booked or expensive. Not true. Tuesday Oct. 10th I got up early and hit the road. I stopped in Kingman AZ for fuel. AZ has lower taxes than Vegas is about .20 a gallon cheaper. I had apples, bananas, granola bars, pop tarts with me and did not plan on stopping for a meal until I got to Albuquerque. I got into town around 5 pm and followed my GPS to the Rodeway Inn. The first room was not acceptable due to the smoke detector chirping plus the phone did not work. I walked back to the office and they put me in 205. Much better. Less noise from the I-40 freeway and everything worked. I drove to a nearby Wendy's for dinner, back to the room, exercise, TV, read and lights out about 10 pm. I was up at 5:30 am and down to the BF room. They have a waffle maker, hot & cold cereal, yogurt, fruit. I had a waffle but made a mistake. I did not use the Pam and the waffle was difficult to extract in one piece. Back to the room, pack and off about 6 am. I followed directions to the balloon park, paid the $15 to park, $10 to enter the balloon grounds. I spent a few hours taking photos of the balloons being inflated and taking off. It was a perfect day: sunny, light wind and would warm up nicely later on. I got plenty of shots I was happy with and by 9:30 am I was ready to leave. Gassed up by the Sandia Casino and headed for Santa Fe. The gas station off exit 234, Tramway Blvd. is a good place to see the balloons once there are airborne. You have an unobstructed view of the entire balloon park and it is free!
I followed my GPS to Gregg's house, called and told him I was outside. He was at the door and I came in to say hello to his wife Christine, daughter Hope, and granddaughter Lilly. We all chatted a bit and then we decided to drive up to the nearby ski resort for some fall foliage shots. Perfect day. Warm, blue skies and not many other leaf peepers out. We got some good photos, took a hike to loosen up the legs and back down the hill to the main plaza area.
Parking is always a challenge in Santa Fe, but Gregg knew the best spot to look and we got lucky. I used my credit card as we did not have enough quarters for 2 hours. We walked the Cathedral, oldest church, shopping area then drove over to the Capitol. There is plenty of art displayed inside and worth walking around IMO. Of course, NM artists are displayed throughout. Gregg does not have any of his photos in the Capital but a few of his are displayed at the Governor's Mansion.
We stopped so Gregg could pick up a pizza plus Walmart so I could buy a few things. Christine overdid the gardening and was not up to fixing dinner. She did make a salad for everyone and they had pizza while I had pasta. We chatted until about 10 pm and time for bed. I thought I was going to sleep in my van as all the bedrooms are being used. But, Gregg offered the couch and I accepted. I was up at 7 am, got dressed and waited until everyone else got up. They had eggs but I had my oatmeal in the van and fixed that. I said goodbye around 9 am and headed for Albuquerque. I had planned and leaving at 7 am and taking some photos from the Sandia Casino area. It is on a hill and overlooks the balloon park. But the balloons were all on the ground by the time I was at the casino. Gregg had told me that the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History was worth a visit so I decided to see that. $10 for seniors and I spent the next few hours walking the museum. There are replicas of 'the gadget', Little Boy' 'Fat Man, and other early weapons developed at the White Sands Missile Range. After enough walking and photos, I left and drove to a Wendy's for lunch.
I took my time and then headed over to the Rodeway Inn. I had booked another night when I was there on the 10th. The room they had for me was not cleaned so I walked back to the office and told them. They gave me a suite with 2 beds, kitchen, a much nicer room. Cleaned up, exercise, then I drove to the balloon park again. I saw a lady waving a sign for $5 parking as I approached the balloon park and pulled in. Paid and started walking. A couple with their kids were walking with their chairs so I asked them if they were going for the 'night glow'. They were and had been there many times. I just followed them until we got to the entrance, paid my $10 and started taking photos. I found out the balloons were not going to launch, just turn on the burners to inflate their balloons. After about 2 hours of walking, I decided I had enough decent shots of the 'special shapes glowdeo' and walked to my van. I fought the heavy traffic getting out of the area and back to my room. Shower, TV, read, bed.
I was up at 7 am and down to the BF room. I had learned my lesson and used the Pam this time on the waffle maker. Clean up, pack and on the road. My goal was Alamogordo where I had booked a room at the Classic Inn. Gregg had told me about the National Radio Astronomy Observatory or the Very Large Array (VLA) West of Socorro. It was out of the way but I had the time and decided to drive over. There is a small charge but you don't really have to pay. Park, walk through the entrance and outside. There is a self-guided tour that explains the VLA as you walk to the nearest radio telescope. After getting all the photos I wanted, I headed back to Socorro.
Gassed up and headed for Alamogordo via Carrizozo. I stopped at the Valley of Fires to pick up some lava rocks. My neighbor Jean likes different rocks for her backyard and knew she would appreciate some black lava.
My GPS took me right to the Classic Inn where I had booked a room. It was very basic but acceptable. As long as it has a bed, bathroom, TV I am OK with that. I moved my stuff in, did my exercises and headed for the nearest Wendy's for dinner. Back to my room, some TV, shower, lights out. I was up at 7 am and decided to have my oatmeal in my room. The room has a microwave and I fixed my BF. Cleaned up and headed for White Sands National Monument (WSNM). I was there before the VC opened but did not have to wait very long. Into the VC I saw that the movie would start in 5 minutes. It is a nice introduction to WSNM and worth your time IMO. My Senior Pass got me into Monument for free and I started driving the loop. First stop was Dunes and decided to change into shorts. It was going to be in the high 80s (30c) and was not going to need long pants. I took the Dunes hike and got some nice photos. Drove to the end of the loop and saw some kids sliding down the dunes. WSNM is the largest gypsum dunes in the world and a very special place. After enough photos, I headed for the exit. I decided to stop at the boardwalk and walk that before leaving. I heard two guys chatting in Japanese and said I said 'konnichiwa' to them. That got them to stop and we had a very nice conversation. Both were studying at UCLA and spoke very good English. I told them about my trip to Japan last April as we walked the boardwalk. It was a good encounter for me and I think them as well. Of course we discussed the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, Trump and living in the US vs Japan. We said goodbye and I headed back to the VC. I bought a WSNM water bottle, hit the bathroom and headed for my room.
I had a PB&J sandwich, some fruit and headed to the NM Museum of Space History. It is the second most popular sightseeing in Alamogordo after WSNM. $6 for seniors and I walked the museum both inside and out. I did not take many photos as it was not that interesting. I think families with small children will enjoy it but not sure I would recommend it to anyone else. I filled my tank and then stopped at a neighborhood Walmart for some fruit on the way to my room. I did my exercises, shower then watched some college football. At 7 pm I drove back to Wendy's for dinner, room. TV, read, bed.
I was up at 6 am, packed and started the long drive back. I decided to go back via Socorro to Springerville to Holbrooke. I had my apples, banana pop tarts on my back. I stopped at the Petrified Forest NP to walk a bit and take a few photos. I had been there with Chris a few years ago but thought it was worth stopping again. Back on 180 to Holbrook then onto I-40.
I have seen the signs for the Geronimo Gift Shop on the way to NM and decided to stop. They claim they have the largest petrified log in the world. I got a photo of it just in case it is true! Took a look at their gift shop and was on my way in 10 minutes. I stopped in Williams for fuel and made it to Vegas about 7 pm. A long day behind the wheel but manageable. My trip to NM was over.