One of the bosses of our program always likes to tell us “manage expectations,” which is good advice for about 99% of our job. However, what I’ve learned is that it’s near impossible to manage my expectations about the cities we visit. Some cities, like Pierre, SD, I expect to be extremely boring and then end up having the time of my life, and others I expect to love and end up feeling more ‘eh’ about them. Going into Albuquerque, I had my expectations set pretty low because I knew nothing about it other than what I’d seen on Breaking Bad. But, as usual, my expectations were not effectively managed, and Albuquerque and its green chile sauce proved to be one shell of a week.
If you know me, you know that one of my favorite things to do is lounge by a beach or pool and take in the sun with a book in my hand, so on our first 100-degree day in Albuquerque, I decided to do just that. Elise, Conner and I spent hours laying out and jumping in the pool while listening to music and eating snacks. It was truly a perfect day until we realized that Albuquerque is at an even higher altitude than Denver and the sun is more powerful than any of us are used to. Elise and I had minimal injuries, but Conner refused to put any sunscreen on (despite our multiple insistences and the fact that he is one of the palest people I’ve ever seen) and had severe sun burns as a result. You might think Conner suffered a lot for this, but Elise and I had to take turns rubbing aloe onto his bright red, blistering back multiple times a day…so I’ll let you decide who the real victim is.
After our much-needed time by the pool, Elise and I got our adventurous spirit back on our second day off, and we decided to go explore Albuquerque’s Sandia Peak Tramway (Conner’s burns kept him in the shadows for the rest of the week so he hit up the aquarium instead). The tramway is sort of like a ski lift with one big car covered in windows so you get amazing views of the mountains and of Albuquerque during the 20-minute-ride to the top of the mountain.
Once at the top, we did a trail through the woods where we romantically carved our names into a tree, saw a deer up close and failed to realize that our hike was almost entirely downhill (meaning we had a miserable 2-mile uphill trek on the way back). Nonetheless, we made it back for our tram down the mountain and promptly negated our physical activity with a feast of Thai food and froyo for dessert. It was a solid date day for me and Elise (don’t worry, Conner had fun at the aquarium too)
While in Albuquerque, our boss, Molle, paid us our first visit on the road. Some people might dread a visit from their boss, but Molle is a former Hotdogger and she understands our lives on the road so we couldn’t wait to see her! On our way to the event, we were bragging to Molle that, despite only having one working key for Shelly, we had only locked ourselves out one time. Naturally, as we arrived at Walmart and began setting up, we realized that none of us had the working key — it was still in the ignition and we were locked out with Molle there to bear witness. Luckily, we were able to open a window and I hoisted Conner up by the butt (sadly, he is the lightest person on our team) as he attempted to reach the keys from the ignition. We ended up having to buy some metal contraption from the store, but we were eventually able to successfully retrieve the keys and go about our business as usual.
While we may be experts at breaking into our own NUTmobile, we don’t mess with real crime, which is why we were pretty put-off when several people warned us about the crime in downtown Albuquerque (Breaking Bad??). This was in the back of my mind as we walked one night to grab a drink in an area that was sketchy enough to trip some of my alarm bells and make me think, ‘My mom would be so pissed if she knew we were walking around this area at night’ (my mom is very protective and only recently stopped texting me every night to make sure I make it home safely). Just as we were contemplating turning back, three adults approached us and asked where we were headed and if we would like to walk with them, which made us feel instantly safer.
During our walk, I asked one of them about the crime in Albuquerque and they responded that it was just like any other city, there are good and bad things about it, which really resonated with my travel experience so far. I haven’t fallen completely in love or totally hated any one place we’ve been, but rather I’ve just tried to find the best every city has to offer, which is one of the coolest things this job has taught me so far. Anyway, after a lot of good conversation, we politely declined our new friends’ invitation to an 80’s-dance-themed birthday party (I still have some regrets about this), and parted ways with a new love for Albuquerque and the people in it.
Albuquerque was definitely not as action-packed as other weeks on the job, but it gave us the down-time we needed. We finally went to a movie theatre to see Wonder Woman, struggled through several run/walks in 100+ degree weather, caught up with a bunch of work and, most importantly, ate tons of good food (I’d like to take this opportunity to plug Conner’s food Instagram account, @morefoodpal, where he posts pictures of all the best food from every city we go to). Give him a follow, throw away your Breaking-Bad-Informed expectations and visit Albuquerque, and, as always, keep it nutty!