A few months ago I convinced another one of my crazy buddies, Mike, to join me on a journey to Moab, Utah for a trail race. Since moving to Santa Fe a few years ago, he always seems to be up for an adventure and agreed to make a weekend out of it. While it would be excellent to have a buddy along, that unfortunately meant that the most efficient route of travel would have to go through 4 different states along the way to this event. It was a rowdy, dirty and stinky couple of days, but we made it.
Thursday morning I stared anxiously at my phone waiting for the 3:30am alarm to ring out in the night. Sleep is not an option for those excited to travel across the country! My bags were packed and nothing, including the fresh 3 inches of snow starting to fall, would stop me from getting there. Thanks to some tricky bribery, I got a friend to drop me off at the airport before the sun came up and made the trip through security like a pro. For some reason packing a slew of Gu gels always makes me nervous that the TSA will think it’s something else and have to search me. Not that I’d be worried if they did, but who needs to be troubled with that at 5am?
We sat on the runway an extra 45 minutes attempting to de-ice the plane, making everyone with a connecting flight nervous. But before too long we were off to Chicago. After an unfortunately quick layover, I boarded the next tiny plane to Albuquerque sitting next to a rather impatient woman. She seemed fairly relaxed but her sudden and abrupt movements reminded me of a cat that immediately needs to sprint across the house and up the stairs only to fall asleep on the other couch. This plays no relevance to the story; I just really wanted to share that metaphor. Per the usual, I slept lightly waking periodically to my seatmate’s agitated shifts.
I may have fallen asleep on a plane, but I woke up in a dream. With control over the window, I peered beneath the shade to reveal a vast landscape of mountain stretching as far as the eye could see. The earth met the sky along a jagged line in the distance. To quote one of my running inspirations, Forrest Gump: “And in the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn’t tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It was so beautiful.” Nailed it, my man. My jaw sat on the floor as we approached New Mexico, dubbed “the land of enchantment.”
Like a kid at summer camp, I hopped off the plane to take my first ever steps onto New Mexican soil. The air was noticeably dry and harder to breathe deeply than down at sea level, though some of that could have been the excitement. Mike’s car truly might not have made the trip up to Moab, so we rented a Hyundai Accent. Imagine a SmartCar with a second row of seating and a tiny bit of a front end with solid gas mileage. Yup; it’s a little chicken nugget of a car. High-pitched horn and all.
Mike had to work for a few more hours so I killed some time exploring Old Town Albuquerque and grabbing lunch at The Mine Shaft. It’s this total dive of a place halfway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. One of those places you drive past like “Really? People go in there?” Do it! You won’t regret the burger. And I used a Snapchat filter on my margarita glass (pictured right), so it was all in all a great experience. After a long day of travel and time zone hopping, Mike finally comes out of the school (he is a teacher, by the way) and leads the way back to his place. We changed quickly and set out into the moonlit evening in search of some epic tacos for this weary traveler.
The evening led us back to the house early enough to chase my new little puppy best friend, Peanut, around the yard before passing out on the futon. We woke up to the sun, bagel-ed up and packed the car for the seven-hour journey through Colorado and into Utah. Beep beep! Onward to the mountains!