Vacation With Friends: Part 1 - Santa Fe and Balloon Fiesta at Dawn
Just do it. We had an amazing time. Elaine and Allan were such wonderful people to be with for our 4 short but action packed days together! They arrived a day before we did, and I suggested that they take the tram to the top of the Sandia Mountains and visit Old Town. We didn't arrive until 3 pm so it would have been nuts for them to just sit around and wait for us to get in. Little did I know Elaine was afraid of heights! But they both said it was a beautiful ride up and on the drive to the tramway, they found a herd of buffalo with babies. Welcome to Albuquerque!
Michael and I became tour guides, which we do whenever we bring people to New Mexico. We love taking family and friends around and showing them sights and all the things that get us excited. On Friday we went to Santa Fe. On the way to Center Square, I made (asked politely but forcefully) Michael find the paper store that Denise recommended. Total bust. They only had one type of watercolor paper and it was 4 dollars a card. For a 5x5 card! Boo hiss. But Elaine found me the perfect purple compass and protractor set at Office Depot. And off to the center of town we went!
We had lunch at the Shed, which is an awesome place to eat if you ever are in Santa Fe. One thing we couldn't understand was why they served garlic bread instead of sopapilla's. But the food was excellent and so was the company. Friday also started "The Great Black Purse" search for Elaine, and we had a blast looking in all the stores for the perfect black purse. Unfortunately, we never found it, but it was fun looking! Allan and Michael drank beer and people watched while waiting for our table at The Shed. It was a long wait, but I will say this, it was worth the wait!
After leaving Santa Fe later in the afternoon, I drove home because Michael and Elaine drank the world's best margarita's at The Shed and I was self appointed DD. Plus I wanted to take them to Cochiti to see the reservation. Believe it or not, our government was hard NOT AT WORK and the scenic lookout over Cochiti Lake was closed due to shutdown. I drove us down to near the boat launch (which was also closed) where we ran into a woman who's GPS system failed her miserably. She was looking for the "shortcut" to Albuquerque and although we knew where we were in the middle of nowhere, she hadn't a clue. I told her she could follow me and I would get her back to the road that would get her back on I25 so she could head to Albuquerque on the proper road. Once we got to the stop sign, she said "But I wanted to take the short cut". Insert head slap. She was LOST. I got her unlost and she was complaining that it wasn't the short cut. I said "that IS the shortcut-good luck!" and headed toward the reservation. I wonder if she ever found Albuquerque? LOL!
So we totally missed Cochiti, and ended up going to Santo Domingo (I think, correct me if I'm wrong Elaine) pueblo and immediately she wanted to jump out of the car and proclaim "I am a labor and delivery nurse, anyone need me?" And then Michael said he would gladly help anyone who needed a dental repair and I was so touched because you know what? They meant it. Both of them would love to spend time helping indigenous people. Elaine said she wanted to spend a few weeks on a reservation to help provide medical care and education and it had always been her dream. I would be her assistant in a heartbeat. She is such a kind hearted woman, and she makes people smile. But alas, we got to feeling like we shouldn't be there looking. I felt like a gawker and those poor people. Oh so poor. I hate myself for being a citizen of a country who slaughtered and rehomed the people who were here first. And they are poor. Ok enough of the sad part. An Indian reservation will make you thankful for every blessing in your life.
On Saturday, we got up bright (well dark, not bright) and early at four am and headed to the Park and Ride a few miles from our house to head to the fairgrounds for Mass Ascension Day. Michael and I have been in Albuquerque for Balloon Fiesta before, but we had watched from a service road near General Mills, and had never been to the fairgrounds before. Mainly because people we know who live there all the time have told us what a nightmare traffic is in and out of the Fairgrounds. Well, that just isn't so with the Park and Ride. And thank you Virginia for telling me how easy that makes attending the Fiesta!
We arrived at 5 am and first thing Michael and Elaine and Allan bought coffee. Ordinarily I would have wanted it too, but coffee wakes up my body if you know what I mean and I didn't want to miss anything while waiting in line for the bathroom which is where I would have had to run to if I had coffee at 5 am.
The coolest thing about Albuquerque's International Balloon Fiesta is that they let you wander the launching field while the balloons are inflating and lifting off. Holy cow was that cool. We kept losing Allan, it was dark and he's a wanderer. Elaine was certain he would be wanting to help with a launch, and if he could have, he would have because he is just that kind of guy, super nice.
After wandering around while the dawn patrol was inflating, we started looking for a seat... anywhere. We weren't smart enough to bring chairs, well heck, we didn't know you could. I saw an area that had fake grass and lots of empty white tables and chairs, fenced off, but people were walking through a gate where a man was saying "Purple or Green" as he ushered us through. There was a tent attached to the courtyards, so we just followed the crowd into the tent, where we were greeted with warmth and Krispy Kreme donuts. And a sign that said "Pilot's Headquarters". We laughed, we had just crashed the pilots tent! Elaine said she would tell them "my daughter is a pilot" if anyone asked, which is the truth actually. Not a hot air balloon pilot mind you but she does fly jets so that counts right?
After our great breakfast of donuts and coffee (which I didn't partake of because of the fear of public bathrooms) we headed back outside in time for the Star Spangled Banner balloon flight and... they all had to go to the bathroom. HA! So I stood by the fence and waited for them, I didn't want to miss anything. I made a friend who was also hanging outside the fence waiting for his sister and we watched the balloons go up in the dark and then the sunlight splashing on them. What a beautiful sight. Too bad Michael, Elaine and Allan were waiting in line for the portapot! They didn't miss much, as the balloons flew overhead. They just had a crappy perspective (nyuck nyuck). The great bathroom adventure took them 45 minutes!
Once Michael Elaine and Allen returned, we headed back to the fairgrounds and stood near the Channel 13 announcer who was letting us know the names of the balloons as they took off. The sun was up and warming things up, and the sky was awash in beautiful color.
Stay Tuned For part two!