The first thought in my mind when thinking about Albuquerque, New Mexico, was the old Bugs Bunny line. He would pop up out of the ground after tunneling across America, look around and realize he wasn't where he meant to be.
“I guess I should have taken that left at Albuquerque,” Bugs would say scratching his head.
I took a left and a lot more during a memorable visit last weekend for the annual meetings of the National Newspaper Association (NNA).
Our convention was held at the Hotel Albuquerque near “Old Town” – an artistic section of the city complete with a town square and gazebo. Lisa and I walked the Square looking in the many shops, art galleries and cafes. I stepped in one gallery, Studio 13, admiring some paintings of native Americans when the owner asked me where I was from.
“Mississippi,” I replied.
“That's amazing,” he said. “I've never met anyone from Mississippi, but I'm about to go there.”
Jerome Dupont explained that his business partner, artist Daniel Ramirez, a native Chippewa Indian, is about to begin the longest painting in the world for the “Indigenous Museum” in Paris, France. The painting will feature a woman from every Indian tribe in the United States. Dupont said the Mississippi Choctaws were one of the few tribes they weren't as familiar with and would be coming soon to visit and learn more of their culture and matriarchal figures.
Our visit included a one-hour train ride to Santa Fe one afternoon, crossing mostly desert terrain. We explored more local shops and a farmers' market there near the rail yard. I brilliantly missed the train heading back to Albuquerque when I decided at the last minute I needed a pack of “nabs.” I was left with the option of walking to a local rental car company to find a ride back to Albuquerque or hanging out in Santa Fe the rest of the day waiting for the next train and missing some planned activities in Albuquerque.
My luck turned after arriving at the rental car dealer where I was told the only available car on the lot happened to be a brand new, black Camaro. The 60-mile drive back to Albuquerque, which included a portion on the famous Route 66 and a 75 miles per hour speed limit, topped the train ride for me.
Later that afternoon, I took advantage of a press credential from the University of New Mexico and attended their home football game against Sam Houston State. The Lobos' stadium was beautiful with views of the mountains over the top of the visitor side stands.
The Lobos provided some quick excitement returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but it went downhill from there, so much so Head Coach Mike Locksley was fired the next morning.
Later that evening, NNA hosted a trip to the top of Sandia Peak. Dozens of us packed inside a small aerial tramway that crept up a few cables to the top of the more than 10,000 feet high peak. A crystal-clear, cool evening provided remarkable views of the Rio Grande Valley for miles in all directions. We were on top of the mountain for the colorful sunset over Albuquerque and dined in the mountaintop restaurant. I learned from those views why New Mexico is called the "Land of Enchantment." I've seen few sites more beautiful.
You may email Joel McNeece at firstname.lastname@example.org