Albuquerque, New Mexico
We pondered optional routes for our trip home and noticed Albuquerque was but a four-hour drive from Carlsbad. A perfect place to stop as we made our way home.
A few miles outside of Roswell, the highway turned bumpy for no apparent reason. There was no sign of buckling or wavy pavement that would cause the truck to shake the way it did. Jon pulled over when it was safe to check things out.
My sweet husband walked around the rig, and a few seconds later a string of profanities assaulted my ears. My stomach nose-dived. He tapped on the window. When I opened the door, he said, “!@#%&*. The right rear tire is separating. !@#%&*. We won’t make it to Albuquerque without it blowing out.”
The thought of unhooking the fifth wheel on the side of the road and changing out a tire didn’t sound like a safe plan. “I’ll call AAA.” I grabbed my phone. “Great, no cell service.”
Driving at a slow speed, our five-hour drive just lengthened to six or seven, if we were lucky. U.S. Route 285 turned even lonelier as we crept along with no cell service for miles and miles. We limped into Albuquerque North/Bernalillo KOA around 4:30 p.m., on a Saturday. The tire stores had already closed, so we called AAA to remove the bad tire and put on the spare. Purcell, the same group who adjusted the tire in Yuma, had a store in Albuquerque. All we had to do was wait until Monday.
Sandia Peak Tramway
Not to waste a perfectly good Saturday, we looked for something to do. Why would a height-leery person like me choose a ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway? Was I in the mood to prove something? Conquer my fear?
When we arrived, I looked up at the tower on top of the mountain and said, “That doesn’t look so bad, let’s do it.”
We boarded the tram car, curious to see what was at the top. The car crept closer to the tower, only I didn’t see any platform for getting off. The tram didn’t slow down. It crested the top of the mountain. Then I realized my mistake.
What lay ahead was a vast canyon, the Domingo Baca Canyon to be exact, and a tram car suspended in mid-air on the other cable inched toward us.
I prayed we would arrive safe and sound with fingers gripping to white-knuckle strength as if that would save me during a disastrous 900 foot (274 meters) drop to the canyon floor.
At the top, we walked with shaky legs to the restaurant for a cup of hot chocolate and a chance to warm up and settle our nerves.
Then we ventured outside to have a look around. On the backside of the mountain stands a ski lift. The snow and freezing temperatures kept us from exploring the three trails.
The Sandia Peak Tramway began operations on May 7, 1966. The two tram cars work together by pulling each other with one car ascending and the other descending. I’m sure there are mechanics involved as well. The Sandia Peak Tramway earns the title as the longest aerial tram in the Americas. The span between the first tower and the second tower is the third-longest span in the world.
As of the day before publication of this post, the tram was back in service with COVID-19 safety precautions in place and ticket purchases only online. It might be best to check their website for current conditions, restrictions, and operation days and times.
Although the adventure was super scary, I’m glad I rode the tram to the top. The descent wasn’t quite as bad as the ascent, but still a white-knuckler and we survived.
Old Town Albuquerque
After we recovered from our death-defying adventure, we drove to Old Town Albuquerque for a quick look around the historic village, which was founded in 1706 by New Mexico Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdes. Visitors will find an assortment of art galleries, stores selling clothing and accessories, gifts and souvenirs, jewelry and antiques, and a variety of specialty stores and museums. After dropping a few bucks on purchases, head to one of the many restaurants, or check-in at a hotel or bed-and-breakfast for a rest.
The San Felipe de Neri Church has stood for over 225 years. The first building built in 1718-19 collapsed in 1792. Several additions and renovations have occurred since 1793 and the building is currently undergoing a multi-project refurbishment.
We’ve had New Mexico on our travel list since 2016. In 2017, we had other locations at the top of our list. After two trips cut short in 2018 and 2019, we figured 2020 was the year we would finally spend a month exploring.
So far this year, a nasty little bug called COVID-19 has curtailed our plans again. Perhaps this fall will see us venturing out on the road again. Wishful thinking? Most likely, but I need something to look forward to besides endless days walking around my backyard.
When we do get back to New Mexico, will I take another ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway? Maybe it won’t be as scary as the first time. And I might just enjoy the journey—dangling from a cable over a canyon 900 feet from the ground—as much as the destination.
In closing, I present this photo of a New Mexico sky.
Up next we continue with our 2016 Winter Tour when we arrive in Holbrook, Arizona, to visit the Petrified Forest National Park.