|Sabine enjoys some shade in 100-degree temperatures|
|Keebler LOVES beer, and Carl loves to grill|
|Sabine trying to impress the crowd with her radish-slicing skills|
Albuquerque, where we spent two nights, was its usual self: A tidy city (mostly) with great restaurants and microbreweries that offers outdoor entertainment opportunities. Why can't Lubbock have a place like, for example, Marble Brewery where not only outstanding beer is on offer but an eclectic collage of locals can enjoy free music? Sabine very quickly picked up on the different vibe here. While in New Mexico's largest city (which isn't exactly huge!) we had dinner at Il Vicino's (one of my longtime favorites) and El Pinto, as suggested by Liz as one of the best Mexican food places. I have to say, the ambiance was second to none, but their red chile was several levels inferior to what was served up for breakfast in the Hilton.
|Sabine could not believe that we were carded at Marble Brewery!|
|Albuquerque's aerial tramway is one of the longest in the world|
|The view from above|
|Native Americans performing at the IPCC|
|Red sandstone in the Jemez valley|
By the time we entered the Valles Caldera National Preserve, both landscape and sky had changed significantly. The mountains become almost alpine in nature, and we had watched the blackness of a huge thunderstorm over those mountains. Thank goodness we had stopped to eat some Indian fried bread and had just been slow-going, and thus we missed the violent hail and torrential rain that had torn through the area just half an hour earlier. The wildfires that had raged in this area just to the west of Los Alamos and the national labs back in May have reduced the hillside forest to black, dead stalks, and the erosion that this one thunderstorm caused was a reminder about how a wildfire has tremendous aftereffects as well. We encountered even a snowplow that cleared the mud and rocks off the road!
|After the wildfires and after the rain|
|The German hop-head shows off a perfectly poured IPA at Second Street|
While sitting on the patio, the Rail Runner, the new light-rail service connecting SF and Albuquerque, drove by. And when we checked in at the Hilton, we were welcomed with a magnificent upgrade to the best accommodations in the house, the two-bedroom casita which is almost as big as my house and is located in the historic stables of the Ortiz family compound. Thick adobe walls, wooden beams, a luscious south-west-themed interior—it was reminiscent of the upgrade in Versailles earlier this year, and it was for a freebie (points stay) as well. Sabine and I ate it up! I mean, how often does one stay in such digs in a 400-year-old mansion and doesn't have to pay a penny? Life, indeed, is good.
|Saint Francis of Assisi keeps watch over Santa Fe|
So, after a wonderful evening on the town and a final stroll around the plaza in the morning (after another red chile breakfast) we loaded the Miata for a final time with our few things and headed back to Lubbock. It was like a movie being played backward now: First the mountains recede, then there are fewer and fewer junipers, the skies become even bigger, the ground cover changes from green to brown, and then arrive the windmills and the cotton fields and the vast heat of West Texas. Lubbock had us back at 6:15 p.m., after a five-hour drive—just in time for a wonderful meal with Alan and Martha after their trip to Peru.
And now we have a day in Lubbock before flying out to Jamaica tomorrow for a week of R&R. No, you don't hear anybody complaining here.