Road Trip Through the Painted Desert

The End of a Journey

I had the rest of this post written out last night, but how much can change in a few hours! Etta James’ death was unfortunately not the first one I heard about today.  Etta passed away his morning at the age of 73 after battling several health problems.  Even though it sounds like she was kind of the Lindsey Lohan of her day, I believe that At Last is one of the most beautifully sung and most  iconic American standards ever recorded.  That one song alone kept Etta relevant across generations, and based on my facebook feed, her death has affected many people.  So, before anything else, RIP Etta James, and thank you for your contribution to American Music.



The trip from Albuquerque to Phoenix is 6 hours. It is a relatively short distance, but the terrain is so varied along the way.   

To pass the time during the trip, I pulled out the Canon and started snapping away. I still don’t really know how to use my camera, but I did learn that the little runner dude icon is “sports mode” which means I can capture stuff moving fast without it being blurry.  This came in handy when trying to take pictures at 75 mph.  Meanwhile, Aaron was embarrassed about how dirty the windows were. 

I prefer an ocean sunset, but I would be lying if I said that New Mexico sunsets aren’t some of the most amazing.  I only wish I was a good enough photographer to capture them with any sense of justice.

So, here is rural New Mexico and Arizona: desert, mountains, forest, cliffs, Route 66 towns, roadside attractions, Navajo Reservations, and open road.

Happy Birthday, New Mexico!

Today is New Mexico’s 100th Birthday.

{Incidentally, this right here is my 100th blog post…guess which I’m more excited about}

Way back in 1912, President William Howard Taft made New Mexico a state (yes, we ARE a state of this here United States, all of you naysayers). 

New Mexico Magazine

We are the 47th state, so…we were kind of late to the party.  But, hey, we’re here now and we’ve produced such valuable exports as Demi Moore, Neil Patrick Harris, Freddie Prince Jr., Minka Kelly, Brian Urlacher, and Janet Napolitano (who went to my high school!).

In order to celebrate, we’ve been asked to honk our horns for 30 seconds at 11:35 a.m., which apparently is the time that the official statehood confirmation occurred.  I probably won’t participate in this celebratory measure, and in fact I may even hide and cover my ears. But I WILL tip my Green Chile Beer Glass to the effort.

So, Happy Birthday, New Mexico, home of green chile, the World’s largest Balloon Fiesta, White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, Santa Fe, Microsoft (HA! Bet you didn’t know that, did you?), Pueblos, Roswell Aliens, luminarias, Navajo Code Talkers, Gallup (of the Route 66 song fame), “Western” style, Tony Hillerman’s novels, Dennis Hopper’s Grave, Breaking Bad, The Manhattan Project, the first wine in North America, and the miraculous El Santuario de Chimayo Shrine.

You don’t look a day over…well…you’re looking good!

A Lovely Christmas Weekend

December 26th is one of the worst days of the year.

The radio stations have stopped playing Christmas music.  Everywhere, people are (prematurely in my opinion) taking down their lights from their houses.  The presents have been opened.  The cookies have been eaten, and now I just feel fat. 

And the weather is cold.  Around Christmas, it is acceptable.  Now, I’m miserable and so ready for Springtime.

At least I have the memories of this weekend to reminisce on.

Friday night we had our friends over for a small gathering.  Our signature “Poinsettia Cocktail” slightly based off a Martha Stewart recipe was a big hit! (Vodka, cranberry juice, Martinelli’s, and orange zest). 

Saturday night we took Giuseppe and walked around the Ridgecrest neighborhood to see the traditional New Mexico luminarias. Ridgecrest is a very charming old neighboorhood, and the medians are lined with little bags of light.  It was pretty cold, but definitely worth it!

Sunday, Christmas Day, bright and early, we went over to my parents’ house (in our Christmas pajamas) for presents, brunch, and the Disney Christmas Parade.  Then we went to Aaron’s aunt’s house (after changing out of our pajamas of course) for Christmas dinner and board games. 

Instead of buying each other gifts, Aaron and I opted to each put in half toward a fancy Canon Rebel EOS T3i camera.  (Silly Aaron bought me something anyway which was against the rules!). I am amazed at the difference in picture taking between this camera and our little old one.  I suddenly feel like a real photographer!  I am a little intimidated by it though.  So many settings and options that I don’t understand.

We were able to get some pretty good pictures of our Christmas weekend, even if we did stay pretty much on the automatic setting!

Tomorrow, it’s back to work, back to a diet that isn’t completely cookie-based, and back to our half-marathon training regimen.  Today’s 11.1 mile run was a little torturous after all the merriment.

I hope you had a lovely and merry Christmas, that you got to spend time with family and friends, and got everything your heart desired!

Balloons in the Sky


Tomorrow is the start of the second (and final) weekend of the 40th Balloon Fiesta.  I guess all good things must come to an end.

Despite perfect conditions last weekend, overall, the weather has been less than cooperative this year with unusual rain storms and high winds.  Today is the 2nd day in a row of event cancellations. 

Luckily, Aaron and I got out to the field last Sunday to experience firsthand the thrill of being surrounded by massive, vibrantly colorful hot air balloons (and sleepy people).  Last weekend had record-breaking crowds (and record-breaking balloon take-offs), so we were not the only Crazies up at the crack of dawn to look at balloons.

Pictures obviously speak so much louder than words.










My Unofficial Guide to the Albquerque Balloon Fiesta

Starting tomorrow, Albuquerque will be home to a weeklong celebration of breakfast burritos, hot chocolate, tourists, and BALLOONS! In other words, the 40th Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta kicks off this weekend!

The Balloon Fiesta  is something that I am excited to brag about on behalf of my hometown and I’ve hardly ever missed a year on the field. Even when I was in college way over in Northern California, I still found my way back home for it.

Circa 1986

With all those years of experience,  I’ve learned a few secrets along the way.  Of course, you can check out  the official website for some good information.  Here’s what they left out

1) Starbucks is not a vendor.  You’ll have to get it ahead of time (every year I have about 15 desperate people ask me where I got mine.  I have to break the news to them that I imported).  The closest one to the park is at Paseo del Norte and San Pedro, just east of I-25.  (See map below: X is Starbucks, A is Balloon Fiesta Park).

2) 4:30 am is a good time to start heading out to the park.  The big rush starts at about 5:00 am, so you’ll encounter less traffic.  Also, avoid taking the Alameda exit.  Tramway (the next exit North) moves faster. The nice police officers will redirect you back around toward the park.  You’ll also get a better parking spot if you head out early.

3) I’m always surprised to see people in shorts and t-shirts.  Albuquerque is pretty nippy at 5:00 am.  A jacket, a scarf, something to cover your ears, something to cover your hands, and closed-toed walking shoes are your best bet.  This week is set to be pretty warm, so dress in layers so you can take off all the winter clothes once the sun comes up.

4) The pottys are all Port-a style.  If you are like me and would rather do just about anything else than use a port-a-potty, I suggest drinking that Starbucks slowly. 

5) There are two lines for purchasing tickets.  The MUCH longer line is for people who are paying with credit card.  The MUCH shorter line is for people with exact change in cash.  Admission is $6 per adult over 12 (children under 12 are free).  Parking is an additional $10. CASH ONLY!

6) This is the most photographed event in the world.  Don’t forget your camera!

7) Come hungry.  You’ll have burritos, cinnamon rolls, and all sorts of goodies to choose from.  Our favorite burritos came from Pedro’s.

Enjoy! (And if you are visiting Albuquerque, WELCOME!)