Albuquerque area, September 2004

Wednesday, Sept 1: I flew to Albuquerque in the evening. There was a delay due to weather in Atlanta. Got into Abq around 8:30 pm. Picked up a green chile cheeseburger at Lotaburger. Arrived at Dennis' house. Got a quick tour of his petrified wood and other rocks.

Thursday, Sept 2: I headed out early in my rental car. I got a green chile breakfast burrito at a local fast food chain. Mmmmm. Visited Petroglyphs National Monument on the west side of time. Did a really quick hike around Boca Negra. Nice, but not spectacular. Quite a pleasant way to start a lovely morning in NM. Drove to Fat Tire Cycles to shop for my new bike. I was there when they opened. I spent *5* hours there. I got to have a nice conversation with a guy stationed at Kirtland. They were a busy, busy shop, but they seemed ready to help me as best they could. I talked for a long time with Tony. Then I worked with Steve, one of the owners. Steve said to come back on Sunday to test the Titus Switchblade frame he'd have to build up. Then I headed to Old Town and bought two pottery mugs, a squirrel magnet, and a couple of trinkets. Back to meet Dennis at his house at 6 pm. We both drove to the airport where I dropped off my rental car. They have a really strange, but interesting sculpture hanging from the ceiling of the car rental terminal. It has Pangea at its apex. Dennis then drove me to "The County Line" restaurant at the base of the Sandias.

The Restaurant Story: The restaurant was very noisy, so we asked if we could sit outside on the patio. No one was out there when we were seated, but slowly more folks arrived. As dusk deepened, we noticed a 3 foot long, distinctly patterned snake slither out from under Dennis's chair. Whoooo hoooo! People went flying. I jumped back, then stayed close enough to wait for it's tail to eventually emerge from under the table and chair. Phew! No rattles. It was a bull snake. Fortunately someone slammed the door to the inside restaurant. THAT would have been really wild!

Friday, Sept 3:

The Ranch: Dennis, Sue, and I drove up to Cuba to their ranch. Their adobe cabin was looking quite nice. A LOT of wood on the inside. We headed off on a hike to see the alien rock. Pretty weird. A perfectly round concretion, precisely half weathered out of the surrounding rock, and split by a fracture. On the way, I saw a piece of obsidian in the sand. I called Dennis's attention to it and he discovered it was the nicest scraper he'd found on his property. We continued on, hiking the eastern perimeter of the ranch. We admired the small grove of baby aspen clinging to life on the shale below the Ojo Alamo Sandstone outcrops. The "trees" were really 1-2' high shrubs. Around the corner, we saw the remains of the cliff where a massive section, maybe 100' wide had broken off a few years ago. About now we began to get concerned about the thunderstorm building to the west. It was turning to continuous thunder and moving our way. We hustled back to the cabin along the base of the cliffs. I explained to Dennis how lightening actually was drawn to "cave" entrance and a bad place to weather out a storm. We were glad when we arrived at the 10' deep arroyo. As we neared the cabin, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped rapidly. Right when we got under cover, the sky let loose. There was even some hail. This was the perfect opportunity to have lunch. We'd picked up carryout Mexican food and heated it up. I had green chile calabacitos. Mmmm.

After lunch, we struck off again, this time to the west, on top of the sandstone mesa. There were a few nice pot sherds scattered in the sand. We crossed into public land and had a long hike, getting sprinkled on by the margins of another thunderstorm that had developed to the south (fortunately moving away). We were exhausted when we got back. Dennis's Tundra did a fine job of getting us back to pavement for our drive home to Albq. On the way, we stopped in Bernalillo to eat at "The Range" restaurant. Very good. I had green chile blue corn chicken enchiladas. Afterward, we splurged on dessert. Sue and I split a slice of very dense pound cake with creamy icing on a creamy orange sauce. Mmmmm. But WAY too much food. Don't eat that much again.

Saturday, Sept 4: Our plans to go hunting for fossils in the Upper Cretaceous shale were dashed by the rain. Hurricane Howard was blowing through from Baja. In the morning, Dennis took me to the NM Natural History Museum. It was great to see the exhibits with a lot of background info from him. Dennis had collected, or coordinated the collecting of two of the petrified wood displays. We saw the cast of the Seismosaurus skeleton, and a lot of other cool stuff. I was happy to see a natural history museum that was dominantly geologic (and paleontologic). We watched the IMAX movie, "Ocean Worlds" which was well filmed. Lunch at the new(ish) Albq branch of the Owl Bar Cafe for, you guessed it, a green chile cheeseburger. Better than Lotaburger's. Mmmmm. We headed over to Cochiti Lake and a little father into the mountains to see if the apple orchard was open for business. Alas, no, but we could see apples hanging beautifully on the trees. The weather was NOT cooperating. Black skies. Patches of rain. Lots of wind. We turned off to see what the deal was with Tent Rocks which was declared a National Monument. It was almost 5 o'clock and nasty out, so we didn't park and look for a visitor center. We continued up the road to find an overlook that was advertised by a road sign. We drove across a lousy road on private land, then onto a very, very nicely graveled road section that was partially under repair from a slide. We got to the top, and the two of us huddled behind Dennis' umbrella to see the overlook. We had to get "behind" the umbrella because the wind was blowing the rain horizontally. The overlook was very nice, and would pretty to return to in nicer weather.

We headed back toward home, but stopped at "Traditions" an arts and crafts mall along I-25. I bought a Mexican pottery cover for a kleenex box (big deal) and a bottle-brush-style Christmas tree ornament in the shape of a squirrel. Back at home, Dennis put some bratwurst on his new gas grill and Sue made some yummy German potato salad. No green chiles for a change.

Sunday, Sept 5: Dennis gets a reprieve from me for a day. Lewis (whom I knew in grad school at UNC) picked me up and took me over to the Flying Star cafe in Nob Hill. Green chile huevos rancheros. Mmmmm. Then we went to the Maize Maze. Neither of had been to one before. It was kinda fun, but no big deal. We were able to keep our bearings, in general, by seeing trees, etc. on the flanks of the cornfield. Nevertheless, we got confused enough that we exited via the same trail we entered, instead of the exit trail. Oh well.

We drove north to Bernalillo to the New Mexico Wine Festival. I wasn't overly impressed with the red wines, and I liked the sweet whites the best. But overall, I don't think California has anything to worry about for a while in terms of competition. I bought one bottle of sweet sparking white wine. I'll save it for a special occasion.

We had about an hour to kill, so we went to the National Atomic Museum. It was very interesting, and I'd like to go back and spend more time some day.

Next I dragged Lewis to Fat Tire Cycles. They didn't have the Switchblade built for me, but I did test a LocoMoto that was in for frame replacement. It was pretty nice. I ultimately decided I'd rather have the 4 Bar Linkage than the Single Pivot model, so I bought the Switchblade. I'd been hemming and hawing over the paint color I'd order, but ultimately they gave me such a good deal on the grey frame they had in stock, that I settled on it. I got all the best components that I wanted. So the bike was REALLY expensive. I think they gave me a good deal, but it still came out pretty pricey. I'll be eating Raman noodles for a LONG time. They expect to ship my bike on Sept 14th. Woo hoo. It took another *3* hours at the store. Lewis was a trooper for not complaining too much as the hours ticked by. I tried to make it up to him by taking him to dinner. Steve at Fat Tire recommended "Blue Corn" restaurant when Lewis queried on a good microbrewery. For a change, I ordered the salmon, though there may have been a few green chiles in the calabacitos side dish. Awesomely good food. The salmon took forever to be grilled, but it was soooo tasty. Lewis claimed his chicken enchiladas were excellent, as well. No dessert this time (thank goodness).

Late in the evening, Lewis dropped me off at Dennis's. He had just started up Terminator 3. I hadn't seen it before, so that was fun to watch. What a fully "guy flick" (the antithesis of a chick flick).

Monday, Sept 6: I got up early, as always, and was able to finish packing. We had a leisurely morning, and I got the last of the "rock" tour and saw the specimens in the back yard. Dennis dropped me at the airport and I spent a LONG day coming home.

All in all it was a terrific vacation. Thanks for Dennis for catering to all my needs. To Lewis for a nice day, and patience at the bike shop. And I can't wait to try my new bike!