I’ll admit I’d never even heard of Chaco Culture National Historic Park until I visited Mesa Verde National Park in 2015 when a Ranger on one of the guided tours said “If you think this is something, you should visit Chaco Canyon!” So to learn that it was once considered the center of all ancestral Puebloan culture came as quite a surprise. How could this ancient hub of civilization, just one state over from my childhood home, be a complete unknown to me? After all the road trips of my youth across the great southwest, Continue reading
I have been feeling a bit “ordinary” lately. After being on the road full time for over a year, I can honestly say this is the first time that I have felt somewhat unsettled in my conviction to this lifestyle. I have even had a couple of those little pangs of “ugh, is this nomadic lifestyle too much for me while trying to hold down a full time job? And if I can’t get up the nerve to quit the job, well then….” Continue reading
After spending my longest stretch ever with no hookups, including three national parks, a couple of Walmarts, and a road side rest area, I am really ready to get back to “the pole.” Continue reading
It occurs to me, of all the states I have lived in, Texas, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, and Georgia, none have been “land locked.” I have always had access to the ocean. Maybe it required a drive for five hours, but I could still get there in a weekend. So as I sit at the picnic table at White Sands Monument observing the different families, I realize this “monument” is not just a tourist attraction for nomads and bucket listers. Continue reading
My brother Don is three years older than me. We have mutual childhood friends our respective ages, George and his younger brother Fred. We had a lot in common as kids. We all grew up on a farm, and Fred and I shared a mutual love of music since “the early years.” Still to this day, Fred is the only person to whom I can say “They just don’t make music like they used to,” and know he feels my same pain.
It’s the autumn of 1966. Football season is winding down, while basketball season is in full swing in Small Town Texas. Camaraderie is fierce during this time of year, with parades, floats, band practice, and giant homecoming mums. So it doesn’t take long for word to spread among the small town community that there has been an “accident.” Continue reading
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is just thirty miles up the road from Guadalupe Mountain National Park, so it seems like a “no brainer” to make the detour. Though I have to admit, my heart wasn’t really in it. Maybe it was because I had already been there as a child on one of my parents many road trips out west. Or maybe it was because Continue reading
As if a hot air balloon ride wasn’t enough of a birthday indulgence, I decided to treat myself to a spa day. After all, the balloon ride was on Sunday, which enabled me to rationalize a special treat for my “official birthday” on Tuesday. I had a tough time deciding between Ten Thousand Waves spa just 3 miles outside of Santa Fe, or Ojo Caliente, an hours drive away. Both had come highly recommended with adjectives “zen-like” used to describe Ten Thousand Waves, and “magical” waters of Ojo Calliente. How does one decide between “zen” and “magic?” Continue reading
1.) Make sure you plan your stay to include enough days to overcome any weather obstacles. I was quite shocked to see the fiesta cancelled on my first day when it was such a gorgeous, clear blue sky morning. But if the wind is higher than 8mph, the event gets called. Watch the many small flags on the field to get a sense of flight probability.
2.) You can buy your tickets online, or at the gate. If you buy them online and the event gets cancelled, you must deal with them to get a rain check or refund. If you buy your ticket at the gate and the event gets cancelled, just show your ticket stub at the next event to be admitted. Same for parking.
3.) Be sure to “friend” the Fiesta if you are on Facebook. That is how I found out the status of events. I knew the Saturday morning Mass Ascension was cancelled long
before it was announced over the loud speaker, because of their Facebook status updates.
4.) Don’t waste the extra money ($150 surcharge!) on Rainbow Ryders who advertise that they depart from the balloon field! According to what I witnessed, only about 10% of them actually leave from there. Mine didn’t, though hundreds of other private balloons were able to depart the field that day without any problems. Plus they crammed 14 of us into one basket…for a scenic ride over ABQ Industrial park! Book a ride in town during the fiesta, but just don’t pay the extra Rainbow Ryders surcharge. It’s a rip off!!
5.) If you think there is a chance that the event may cancel, consider driving. Or bring a book. The lines to get back on the Park and Ride buses are murderous when everyone is trying to leave at once.
6.) The green chile breakfast burritos from the “Sadie’s” stand are the best on the field!
7.) Try your very best to see the “Special Shapes Rodeo.” It is on Thursday morning. Every balloon is unique, and quite clever. It was my favorite part…the joy was palpable. I would say the same goes for the “Twilight Glow,” but the special shapes were just…well, very special!
8.) Dress in layers. It is freezing on the field at dawn when you arrive, and toasty when you leave. The grass is damp. The ground is cold. Wear comfortable water resistant shoes and warm socks.
9.) Get your souvenirs early, as they do run out. If they are out at the shop there on the field “Main Street,” they have many of the same items at their Headquarters gift shop just up the hill on Alameda Blvd, just the other side of the balloon museum. (They won’t readily tell you about this in the field shop.)
10.) During the week when events are sparse, I recommend a drive toward Santa Fe along the scenic “Turquoise Trail.” Be sure to stop at “Burger Boy” in Cedar Crest, just outside of ABQ. BEST Green Chile Cheeseburger hole-in-the-wall I have experienced! (And nice people there too!)
Have fun! It is an experience not to be missed!
For the last twenty years or so, I have a personal tradition to always try to cross something off my “bucket list” on or as close to my birthday as possible. Past examples were jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, taking a rock climbing class, racing in a sailboat regatta (and winning!) This year, with the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta falling on my birthday weekend, it seemed like the perfect year to cross off……the hot air balloon ride! Continue reading