Monthly Archives: October 2013

Four States, 2013: Day 3

Sun. Oct. 6, 2013:

I woke up freezing cold, apparently in the night I had kicked off the bottom layer blanket without disturbing the top layer. Brent pointed out that the alleged corkscrew (I finally remembered the name of it) was also a bottle-opener; oops, my bad. It was cold outside; there was frost on the car.

All the smaller gas stations around were closed, so we had to drive a bit further down the road. Driving east is no picnic when the desert sun is rising, it was impossible to see and I could feel my retinas slowly frying. There was no one else around, two giant ravens had taken over a stretch of road, just sitting there waiting for some nearby pigeons to get roadkilled.

We stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast, alas they don’t have muffins. Breakfast ended up being just a cup of coffee, a bright orange pumpkin spice latte. It’s too bad we were there so early, as I saw that on the menu they serve green chile cheeseburgers! I was tempted by the pralines & cream McFlurry, but I was way too cold to be eating ice cream. As we drove to the gas station I could not find the GPS, panic quickly set in. Did I drop it in the McParking Lot?! As Brent filled the car, I started a frantic desperate search which abruptly ended as soon as I got out of my seat. I had been sitting on the GPS.

Coconut cream fudge-covered Oreos for breakfast might seem like a brilliant idea, but they are not very filling. Thanks to the government shut-down, our plans had to be changed. Instead of going to Canyon De Chelley we were going to Sedona, Arizona for hiking and making fun of all the new age stuff. The trouble with crossing over from New Mexico to Arizona is time. No, not that it takes a long time. Arizona does not follow daylight savings time. So there are times of the year when they are an hour different from the surrounding states. My mind got short-circuited as I used my iPod and logic to try and figure out the time in Arizona. It was after all only 8am (sorry, 7am), it was just us and truckers on the road which delighted me as I kept shouting about convoys. We drove by a train that was over 100 cars long, I almost went cross-eyed trying to count it, as it was going in the opposite direction. Thankfully every few cars or so the pattern changed (from boxcar to tanker etc) so I did not lose track: it really was over 100 cars long.

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The first thing we saw after entering Arizona was (apparently) the world’s largest teepee. In fact it was so large we did not have to pull off the exit, we could see it from the highway. At this point I realized that I had not seen water since the beginning of our trip when we passed over the Rio Grande River. We had also not seen any cops at all, a stark contrast to New York, wherein every few miles we saw a state trooper. We did drive over Crazy Creek but it only lived up to half its name: crazy, it was all curvy and zig-zaggy. As for it being a creek? Not so much, it was more of a creek bed.

Apparently bikes are allowed on some parts of the I-40, so long as they keep to the shoulder. This sounded terrifying to me, it is bad enough to bike around cars, but when they are driving that fast, 75 miles per hour to be exact?! Not surprisingly, we did not see any bikers. Up ahead there was a river that actually lived up to its name: Dead River, it was all dried up but that got me thinking if it should even be called a river now? We passed an exit to the Petrified Forest; alas it too was closed thanks to the government shut-down. It would appear that the government shut-down had put a damper on roadtrips.

The car said it was only 37F outside which just made me cringe. Why was it so cold so far south?! A daring jackrabbit (or “bunny” as Brent cutely called it) ran across the road in front of us. There was a port-a-potty on the highway median which is weird as there were no construction sites or signs of former constructions sites for miles to see. There were fake dinosaurs dotting the hills by the highway, signs about petrified wood and a sign for a gold nugget shop. What the signs failed to explain was why there were (fake) dinosaurs all over the place? A Burger King billboard advertised that they had “clean restrooms”, having finally given up on trying to sell their “food”.

We passed by maybe the greatest series of billboards (up there with the likes of 1-800-POOPY-CREDIT) for Knife City. The billboards touted: self defense, kitchen knives, high capacity clips and best of all: first aid kits. We ended up in a truck convoy with 2 in front of us and 2 beside us, keeping us snug and cozy. We stopped at the Geronimo gift shop to gawk at the largest piece of petrified wood (it was not impressive at all). I browsed the souvenirs but nothing really caught my eye.

There were signs for Route 66; alas we did not have time to take it as there was more driving now that our plans had been changed.  We could see Flagtstaff off in the distance; the giant mountain gave it away, standing in stark contrast against the otherwise flat landscape. We stopped at Meteor Crater, partly to stretch our legs but mostly my curiosity was intensely piqued. As we drove to it, we passed some rather unique road signs: cars 50mi/hr, meteors 26,000mi/hr. There was a $16 admission price which I balked at. I was expecting a small dent in the ground and a shack selling crappy souvenirs nearby. Before we even got to the crater we went through a museum, I was starting to think that this was more than just a small dent. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw a picture of some astronauts training for moon expeditions at the crater. I caught a glimpse of it through a window, surprise ruined, but my God it was enormous. (They should really get rid of that window though).

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Once outside, I could not stop staring at the crater. It was more than just a dent, it was a giant hole ripped into the earth. You could see the strength of the impact where the rock had been displaced, it was unimaginable. We wondered about the size of the actual meteor that did this, alas it still has not been found. We passed by some Polish people there too. There was one rock resting on the rim of the crater that was said to be the size of a house, but you could only tell that by looking through the provided telescope. It only made the dent seem that much bigger. At this point it was actually warm enough for me to be outside in just a t-shirt and sweater, I liked this day so far. Meteor Crater easily ranks as one of the top roadtrip stops we have ever had.

Driving down to Sedona we passed through the Cococino National Forest. It was odd how the landscape had changed from flat empty desert to cliffs, canyons and lots of trees. Once we got out of the forest we were in “red rock country” and it was gorgeous and a nice surprise. It was so warm out that we actually had the windows down. We drove through downtown Sedona; the gorgeous views are a dead giveaway as to why it is such a tourist hotspot. We also drove by an odd McDonald’s that had a green arch; new age jokes about vortexes and crystals ensued.

We had wanted to hike the Boynton Canyon trail but there was no parking. We drove further to the Enchantment Resort to see if they had any trails and to possibly grab lunch. There was a sign for Deer Trail, we parked nearby and wandered around but there was no sign for the actual trailhead. We ended up going to the lobby to ask for a trail map. As it turned out, we had been on (the stupidly named) Deer Trail, it was the walkway between the cabins. Furthermore, we found out that a mother bear and her cubs had been spotted near the Boynton Trail and that the ranger services were advising people not to hike there.

Oct. 6, 2013- NM- AZ (90)

It was too early for lunch so we went on the Fay Canyon Trail instead. There were nice views of the rock formations from down below. Brent climbed up a giant rock at the end of the trail to get a better view, but I was not up for it, my shoes were not meant for it. As it turns out, it actually does get warm in the desert:  I ended up in a tank top with my pants rolled up, sweating up a storm not to mention panting (damn altitude). There wasn’t a lot of wildlife; in fact we only saw a bright blue and black bird. We did see a smooth triangle rock, which I declared to be the pizza vortex (we had read that people claim there are energy vortexes in Sedona). It was a nice easy hike, not very rocky alas very sandy. My shoes were full of red sand by the time we returned to the car. Given that it was an easy hike, we decided to do another, this time to Devil’s Bridge. Thankfully we had to drive to the trailhead, which meant 10 minutes of rest.

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In the parking lot a guy told us to go across the road and walk down the off-road route, saying it was a shorter hike to start at that trailhead rather than the one near the paved parking lot. Other people were also heading that way so we thought why not. It was a hike just to get down there. We kept having to stand off in the ditch while off-road vehicles passed by, it seemed dangerous yet no one else cared. Along this route there were no trees, we had nowhere to hide from the sun, I kept making Sun Beats Down jokes (from the game Forbidden Desert). We finally got to the trailhead, turns out the trail was shorter than the distance we had walked to get to it.

The hike to Devil’s Bridge was mildly hellish; a lot of rock-stair climbing meant a lot of panting thanks to the combination of high altitude and hot midday sun. I refused to walk out on the bridge itself, those people were crazy, it looked like it was only a few inches wide and it was not flat, you had to still clamber over small rocks. I was perfectly fine on solid land just looking at it. The views from there were well worth the effort, you could see down into the canyon 180 degrees of gorgeous rock formations and trees. The walk back down was just as exhausting, I was so tired by then. All I could think of was the end of the trail… oh wait, then there was still the hike up the off-road route. Brent stopped, touched my arm and asked me if I had heard the growling. He was sure he had just heard a bear, I listened carefully… it was an overhead airplane. Maybe the nearby energy vortexes warped the sound. That had to be it.

I had never been so happy in my life to see a paved road. All in all we had not seen any wildlife, just odd couples. The first couple was a geek/jock (athletic shirt tucked into high-waisted shorts) with a grunge girl. The second couple was dressed in matching outfits. We had a few questions at the end of our hike though: why does everyone on trails always greet passersby? why would you bring your toddlers on a moderate difficulty hike? This last one we had seen multiple times over our years of hiking and it still bewilders us.

Tired, covered in red sand (the backs of Brent’s legs were covered) and sick of the sun, we went to the weird McDonald’s for a really late lunch. There wasn’t anything too wacky on the menu and no sign of green chiles. I had a bite of Brent’s bacon habanero ranch quarter pounder- and then had to go back to eating my plain quarter pounder which now didn’t seem as good. We did not stay in the McDonald’s for very long, eating as fast we could just to get away from the world’s worst complainer. She apparently kept ordering her coffee in a demanding voice, convinced the server did not hear her. Then she got to her table (conveniently nearby us) and complained that the coffee was not made right. She then told a story about how she ate at Olive Garden one horrible time: she had to send her salad back and the (free!) breadsticks twice. It was unbearable.

Oct. 6, 2013- PS (1)

We passed by a hippy outdoor art fair, but it was not close enough to downtown for us to check it out. Downtown Sedona was just plain weird. We were afraid to go into any of the crystal stores, for fear of delusional sales people trying to read our auras. We laughed at them from the sidewalk. One shop sold maps to vortex locations. A few offered aura photography. And most of them sold crystals of some sort (energy, healing etc..). We joked about getting our chakras aligned, indulging in some reiki healing. We found a nice overlook spot, the only saving grace of downtown Sedona. There was one shop that claimed to make souvenir wet collodion plate images which made no sense to me, it had to be a lie: no way was someone spending that much money on a business that clearly seldom saw customers, let alone customers willing to sit still for a few minutes as the process necessitates.  As we were walking back to the car we passed by a tourist info centre, the guy asked if we were happy to be in Sedona and Brent snapped “no”, the guy was dismayed. Clearly he had not gained psychic powers from a vortex.

Oct. 6, 2013- NM- AZ (171)

Back in the car, the fudge-covered coconut Oreos had seen better days, they were a sticky gross mess, so much for having a snack as we back-tracked through the scenic forest drive. We tried to stop at a scenic overlook, but apparently it closed at 4pm. We passed a sign for Sunset Crater Volcano, alas we did not have time to stop and it was closed anyways (thanks government shut-down!). Out of the forest and on the main (boring) stretch of the interstate, there was actually a cyclist riding on the shoulder, I was absolutely bewildered. Slowly we crept back up in elevation to 7276 feet above sea level (just for context: Toronto is at 249 feet in elevation).

Oct. 6, 2013- NM- AZ (185)

The views were all so pretty, but my memory card was already 1/3 full, I was starting to get worried it would not last me the whole trip. There was a shitty handmade sign by the side of the road: dinosaur tracks turn left ahead. I was very intrigued, alas we missed the turn. Looking down the road all I saw was a run-down shack, we may have dodged a bullet in the end. There was one lonely shot-gun house (narrow front) amongst other houses that were the opposite (wide but shallow). There was a billboard for a “WWII Navajo Code Breakers” exhibit… at Burger King. I was suspicious but also curious, was this a joke?

The sunset was a gorgeous shade of pink… at 6pm, way too early. And too soon, as we were not at the hotel yet and there were no streetlights on our stretch of highway. It was getting dark fast and we were not even close yet. It went from pink to pitch black quite fast. We passed through Cow Springs, but saw no cows. That is false advertising. At this point it was so dark; I could not see my notebook to write.

Once in the hotel and able to see again, I noticed that my face was rather sunburnt, damn desert sun! Our hotel happened to be wedged between Sonic and Burger King. The brochure in-room, mentioned that one of the attractions in town was to see the Navajo exhibit at the Burger King- it wasn’t a joke! Our dinner plans were set: Sonic for the main course, Burger King for dessert. We drove to the Sonic next door; it is after all a drive-in place. We pulled into what we thought was a drive-thru, only to find there was no order box. We pulled around and into one of the parking spots. We had looked up the menu beforehand, to avoid any more confusion. It was a bit of a wait, but worth it as it smelled so incredibly good. The soft-serve at Burger King wasn’t working, so I had to “settle” (wink) for a mini-Cinnabon instead of ice cream. Brent had the Hershey’s sundae pie (which inexplicably had no need for soft-serve ice cream).

The Navajo exhibit was actually quite interesting, even if it was crammed into a Burger King. They had on display uniforms, radios and stuff taken from Japanese soldiers. It was a bit awkward to be looking at the exhibit while people nearby were just trying to eat their dinner.

Oct. 6, 2013- PS (2)

We watched Family Guy as we ate dinner. The Sonic hot dog was good, but not Chicago-good, but for fast-food it was up there. I, being on vacation and gluttonous, ordered mozzarella sticks instead of fries. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it was- until about the 3rd or 4th mozzarella stick. Then it was a bit much. The cherry limeade was the true winner and that is what will keep bringing me back to Sonic more than anything else: it was fizzy and topped with a cherry. I had a bite of Brent’s toast cheeseburger (so good, I wish I had gotten it), jalapeno poppers (so gross) and Hershey sundae pie (good, but I prefer Cinnabon).

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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!


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Four States, 2013: Day 2

Sat. Oct. 5, 2013:

Waking up at 4am was no problem, for I had gone to sleep at about 8pm the night before (ah the joys of skipping over time zones). We called a cab to take us to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta; there was no way we were driving there: we had been forewarned. We stood around outside waiting and waiting, while I shivered and shivered. Eventually I gave up and ran back inside to put on another layer for a grand total of: 2 t-shirts, a cardigan, a sweater, tights and jeans. On my way back, I noticed that Brent was still waiting, I had been so worried the cabbie would have to wait. We asked at the front desk if they could call the cab company and see what was up with our cab, giving me the perfect opportunity to sneak off and grab breakfast. The hotel was serving breakfast early for all the Balloon Fiesta go-ers; apparently it is a huge deal in Albuquerque.

As it turned out the cab company was really busy and had neglected to tell us it would take forever before the cab arrived. Frustrated, we got in the car and drove to the Park & Ride, hoping it would all work out and we would not miss the lit-up balloons that take off before the sun rises. We got there and as it turned out, the Park & Ride was included with our pre-purchased tickets (the hotel desk had failed to mention that, hence the reason we had called a cab). So much undue stress and it only turned out to be about a 5 minute wait before we were on a school bus headed to the balloon park. It was still dark out, not to mention unbelievably cold. Thankfully the bus was heated… until it got too warm.

We wandered around the park in the dark, laughing at the giant line-ups of people getting breakfast. It was surprising how many people were at the park given it was only 5am. It was dark and hard to see, the place was not lit up very well and I ended up stepping in a puddle- not good when your feet are freezing cold. Brent ended up buying me a “Navajo-print” fleece blanket which I happily wore as a shawl. Eventually we found a short line and Brent got a breakfast burrito, of which I only had a bite (way too early in the morning). It was very good and it got bonus points for being portable. It was really cool being able to wander around, up and down the rows of hot-air balloons as they were being set up. There were no barriers, you could walk right up and talk to the crew.

Oct. 5, 2013- NM 66 (2)

We saw a crowd ahead which piqued our interest; maybe a balloon was taking off? Nope, it was just a news reporter. Up ahead we saw another crowd but I was skeptical, thankfully it was not a news reporter, it actually was a crew setting up a hot-air balloon. As we watched the set-up, the sun was starting to peek out over the horizon. The tension was mounting, furthermore when they blew the top out of the balloon and had to repair it. It was scary to stand there and watch as the balloon was positioned upright only to start toppling over, threatening to land on us. As we looked around, balloons were starting to pop up, but none were actually rising yet, unlike the sun. In the end the Dawn Patrol went up after the sun had risen, the lanterns hung at the bottoms of the balloons were barely discernible against the light sky. As the balloon we had been watching finally started to rise we saw a shooting star.

There was a break in between the Dawn Patrol and the Mass Ascension (when all the balloons go up); I finally had a chance to warm up. My fingers had frozen as I photographed the Dawn Patrol and my blanket had fallen off. I was in desperate need of wrapping up in it and keeping my hands warm. I felt sorry for the mariachi band that was playing; they must have been freezing cold. We walked around trying to find the best spot to watch the Mass Ascension. We found a spot at the far end of the field, near the corporate-sponsored seating; we were guaranteed good sightlines from there.

Oct. 5, 2013- NM 66 (43)

At first just a few balloons went up, then more and more. It was the same with the crowd. By the time the Mass Ascension was in full swing, the place was packed. Pretty soon the sky was full of balloons, every direction you looked there would be a balloon or two. The festival lived up to its name: there were balloons from Germany, Canada, and Norway. After sometime the novelty balloons started flying (I assume it takes more time to get them up and off the ground) and the sky was full of hilarious balloons. There was Darth Vader, a pink pig emblazoned with When Pigs Fly, a princess, a pirate parrot. There was a cat balloon that appeared to have bumped into a bird balloon in the sky. On the ground, from where we were standing, it appeared that the sunglasses balloon was having its way with the Humpty Dumpty balloon. Some of the more novel balloons however did not end up flying; we only saw the cow and Wells Fargo carriage inflated but not flying.

Oct. 5, 2013- NM 66 (82)

By about 9am it was too late for any more balloons to take off, the winds had picked up and that was the end of it. On our way to the bus shuttle we stopped at a deep-fried stand for deep-fried Reese Cups. They were good, they hold up very well when deep-fried, but they are also unbelievably messy. From the bus we could see that we had just beaten the rush. As we rode back we could still see balloons off in the distance, floating along. We also passed some balloons that had already landed and the crew was there packing it up.


Back at the hotel we packed up and left for Route 66. Our original lunch plans had been to stop at Piggy’s on Route 66, but the internet said it had shut down. We were going to stop at the Dog House (Breaking Bad #9) for lunch but I was not in the mood for a chili dog. The section of Route 66 just outside of Albuquerque was an odd combination of cool (old motels, Grandpa’s Grill) and meh (I-40). We passed one motel that claimed to be the “purest motel on Route 66” and it sure looked the part: decrepit and abandoned. The road was decorated to remind people they were on Route 66, the road signs all had banners. We stopped at Grandpa’s Grill old location (now a New Mexican Restaurant) because it had been briefly featured in Breaking Bad (stop #10).

We tried to by-pass having to take the I-40 by taking what could have been Route 66, running parallel to the I-40… only to hit a dead end and have to turn around. At least on the way back I saw an abandoned RV out in the middle of a field (again, more Breaking Bad). It was weird to be on such a nicely paved part of Route 66, but I think that is because it was the I-40 as well. The exit we were supposed to take to go our first Route 66 stop (the Rio Puerco Bridge) just so happened to also have a Dairy Queen and I was set on trying a Blizzard in a waffle cone.  Alas there was no sign warning us that our exit was coming up and we drove right past it, I could see the bridge from the highway though.

It was a long drive before the next exit so we could turn around. We passed by a tanker train with round black cars and made jokes about Breaking Bad, wondering where the train scene had been filmed. The exit we took to turn around just so happened to be to To’hajillee, as in where Walt buries his money in Breaking Bad. It was kismet! We passed by a really tacky Route 66 casino on our way back. We stopped at the DQ first. It was poorly constructed, the road was very confusing and it was hard to get to the parking lot. More confusion ensued when I ordered a Blizzard in a waffle cone and was given a Blizzard and a waffle cone with ice cream. I stared blankly and was going to walk away but Brent argued for me, getting me my waffle cone Blizzard and my money back for the cone. The idea of a waffle cone Blizzard is good, but in reality it fails, it is too messy to eat and the cone falls apart.  It was also a bit confusing as to how to get to the Rio Puerco Bridge, there was construction and no clear signs. It was all very anti-climactic in the end as the bridge had been replaced in 1999 and thus was not the original. I ended up being more interested in the road itself, which in the usual Route 66 fashion dead-ended. It was full of cracks through which plants were growing. As we were driving back towards the highway we saw a sign for Route 66, followed it only to realize it was going the opposite direction: back to the following the Google Maps directions.

Soon enough we were back on Route 66, and I found myself behind the wheel (this portion was nicely paved and had no traffic). I lasted less than a minute and had to pull over to the shoulder. I ran back with my camera, desperate to photograph what I had missed: Route 66 emblazoned on the road itself and on a giant boulder by the side of the road. There was a memorial to a dead German biker in the side of the boulder. It was clear that I was not meant to drive, and good thing we had switched back, the road became curvy and full of switchbacks- not my cup of tea.

This section of Route 66 featured a lot of run-down and crappy shacks; one house was built halfway below ground-level. An old bar had been turned into a liquor store. It was really easy to see why Route 66 had died as we drove along, parallel to the I-40 albeit with a slower speed limit. We passed by some hitchhikers, alas they put their thumbs up too late; we were already passing them- amateurs. As was coming to be expected, Route 66 ended abruptly and we found ourselves on the interstate yet again. It was hard to follow the Google Maps directions back onto Route 66 as not all the streets had signs, some streets had two names, it took forever to figure out where we were. Bowlin’s Old Crater Trading Post was nowhere to be seen, I did see a groundhog, but it’s just not the same as a Route 66 landmark. A really long train passed by, once again reminding me of Cruis’n USA. Once more Route 66 dead-ended and we took the I-40 the rest of the way to our destination: Route 66, in Gallup, New Mexico. We stopped at Blake’s (another Breaking Bad reference) on Route 66 for lunch.

The green chile cheeseburger was delicious and it cemented my love affair with green chiles. Some girls came up and tried to sell us earrings while we ate, it was really quite awkward. As we got into the car a woman came up to us muttering something about having just gotten out of jail. We drove past a place called F U King Smoke Shop; it amused me to no end. We were staying at the El Rancho Hotel ON Route 66 (there are a bunch of hearts drawn in my notebook with that statement). The lobby was terribly tacky with giant rugs and mounted deer heads and a giant chandelier. Our room was a sauna, the last people had left the heat on full blast and the windows closed. The room itself was in keeping with the tacky Western (movie stars stayed there during the heyday of Western films set nearby): the headboard was half a wagon wheel. The bathroom taps were wonky: either way you turned them you got water.

Oct. 5, 2013- PS (15)

Wi-fi was only available in the lobby so we set up camp to plan our upcoming days (changes had to be made thanks to the government shutdown). Unfortunately there was an annoying guy listening to mariachi music really loud, I gave up and went to read my book while Brent stayed behind and tried to fight fire with fire by blasting Chopin music via the iPad. I was having none of it. I started falling asleep as I read, tried to play on the iPad and ended up having a nap (despite the rumbling train noises in the distance). Brent gently tapped my arm ever so gently, resulting in me waking in a terrified state of panic and near heart attack. The 49er lounge was open, we could go get drinks. I wanted to see all the dollar bills tacked to the wall. Alas, I forgot to bring a Sharpie, even a pen, so I could add my own dollar bill to the collection. Out of laziness I ended up drinking Smirnoff Ice and staring at the baseball game. It was nice to sit and relax after a long day… of sitting in the car.

As soon as I stepped outside, I ran back in to get another sweater, it was so cold outside! We walked to the grocery store to get snacks for the next day’s hike. Somehow I ended up with garlic bread Lay’s chips and coconut fudge-covered Oreos and Mexican Pepsi as well. I contemplated getting a personal sized pizza from Pizza Hut. Brent had to pee; therefore I ended up with pizza. It was a very cold walk back, the sun was setting and it was not even 7pm yet!

The door jambs in the hotel were weirdly small; I could not smack the top off the Pepsi bottle. I went down to the lobby, in my socks, past the fancy-pants formal kids (for the 3rd time now) and asked the guy at the front desk for a bottle opener. He handed it to me and watched me struggle to open the bottle. He had to open it for me, but I saved myself by joking that I am more of a wine girl myself.

Junk food and watching Cupcake Wars is the epitome of a vacation. The shower was eerily creepy, the curtain was heavy and let no light in, and there was no overhead lamp. I had watched Psycho way too many times to be ok with a situation like that. As I left the bathroom I noticed on the wall by the doorframe what appeared to be a corkscrew that popped out. I photographed it for confirmation later. The night ended with me, belly full of junk food, writing out postcards. I was asleep by 9pm.

Oct. 5, 2013- PS (19)

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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!


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Four States, 2013: Day 1

Fri. Oct. 4, 2013:

Almost getting killed by a cab that took forever to even arrive is never a good way to start off a vacation, especially if you had to wake up at 4am and had been unable to sleep (complete with a midnight dinner of McDonald’s). He had started to pull away as I was getting in, not realizing that you are supposed to wait for the passenger to get in before driving away.

Oct. 4, 2013- PS (4)

I was so tired and grumpy at the airport, it was after all only 5am by that point. I could barely handle my iced coffee in a can from Starbucks (mocha, too much for that early), I ended up having to toss it before going through security. Once inside I found myself in line at Starbucks, not making the same mistake twice I opted for a strawberry lemonade refresher. It was too early in the morning for hot coffee, let alone food.

Yet again I encountered another sexist border customs agent. We went in together, when Brent was done answering questions it was my turn only I was asked if I had any food, he said it implying that of course I would be the one to pack food for the trip.

It was all worth it to watch the sunrise from above the clouds, so beautiful. Once that was over, I turned my attention to the TV in the seatback, but not for long. As it turns out the TV programming was not free, you had to pay once the preview ended. But not before seeing a sexist ad for GoGo wireless internet, available on the flight. It showed a woman shopping online for shoes and accessories and then a guy checking sports scores. I alternated napping and reading, and ended up sleeping through the drink service.

Oct. 4, 2013- PS (17)

We had a connection in Dallas and despite how large the airport is, we were determined not to get stuck riding the tram all around the airport again. In total, we walked by 3 McDonald’s and no Dunkin’ Donuts. I had to settle for coffee from Au Bon Pain, it was really bad. I wandered around while we waiting for our flight to board, there were some mannequins with cow heads. On the second flight we found a map of the US in the back of one of the in-flight magazines and after much debate, counting and recounting we finally determined that New Mexico would be state #28 for me, fair enough, I am still in the lead.

At first glance New Mexico looked really dry. The airport was gorgeous with desert-inspired decorations and little paper hot air balloons as far as the eye could see. I was starving at this point; thankfully our first stop after getting the rental car was Twisters. We were going there because it had been used as the set for Los Pollos Hermanos in the TV show Breaking Bad, the first stop of many on our Breaking Bad tour of Albuquerque (half the reason we were there). We ended up driving along the pre-1937 Route 66 which was a nice surprise. There were a lot of car crash memorials, either no one ever takes those down or that is one dangerous stretch of road we were on. As we drove we passed a lot of signs for home-grown green chile peppers, they appeared to be rather popular. We also drove by Gun Club Rd., much to our amusement.

Oct. 4, 2013- PS (21)

Twister was indeed the setting for Los Pollos Hermanos, and in case you were not sure, there were posters all around telling you so as well as a Los Pollos Hermanos logo on the wall by the entrance. I ordered a chicken taco bowl which seemed like a good idea at the time, until it arrived at the table. It was massive and a fun mess to eat. I gave up on trying to rip off pieces of the bowl and resorted to using a fork. The bottom had gotten really soggy and gross; I ate around it- and the tomatoes. I was fine with eating beans, but one (accidental) bite of tomato and I had to draw the line.

Oct. 4, 2013- NM (4)

Up next in our Breaking Bad tour was Jesse’s house. There were other tourists there as well, so it did not feel as awkward to be taking pictures of someone’s house. It was easily recognizable from the corner as we walked up to it. Unbeknownst to us, we drove by another Breaking Bad location (the Dog House) on our way to the next stop: Jesse and Jane’s duplex.

We ended up driving through downtown Albuquerque on the way, which just so happened to be Route 66. Right downtown there was a Route 66 clock tower that had the distance to Chicago and Los Angeles. We drove by a famous Route 66 landmark: the Kimo theatre. I was antsy to get out of the car and photograph it all but we had planned that for later. I kept myself amused by staring out the window, laughing at the place called Lord of the Onion Rings, bemused by the Chicago Dog next door to New York Pizza… in Albuquerque no less.

The streetlamps along Route 66 were all adorned with Route 66 metal cutouts, and the bus running along it was of course bus #66. Jesse and Jane’s duplex had been re-painted and did not look the same as in the show, plus there was a guy leaving right as we pulled up, making it too awkward to take a picture.

On the way to Walt’s house (Breaking Bad stop #4) I demanded that we stop at a Route 66 collage wall we had passed earlier, I needed a photograph of it. As we turned to leave, I noticed that the wall was next door to the Route 66 diner, how nice. Again it was awkward at our Breaking Bad stop, there were residents driving by and staring at us. There was a sign on the fence that said Private Property (I assume people kept sneaking in to see the backyard and pool).

Our next stop (#5) proved to be the most disappointing, what should have been Saul Goodman’s office located in a crappy strip mall was just a crappy strip mall. In retrospect I am not quite sure what I had expected, I wish they had left the inflatable Statue of Liberty on the rooftop. When we got to Hank & Marie’s house (stop #6) we had read the address wrong and I had photographed the wrong house. We pulled into a parking lot to turn around but decided to stop and get out. We ended up going on a walk through a park. We saw some cactuses and we may have heard a rattlesnake, one that was too smart to think that the rock I threw was food. We drove by the house again and this time I photographed the correct house. The neighbourhood was gorgeous, set in a hillside, looking down over Albuquerque, with hiking trails in the back. These people were rich.

The address we had gotten for stop #7, the car wash was wrong. We arrived in a residential area; the GPS saying “you have arrived at your destination” was rather anti-climactic. Brent was about to give up and move on (we still had one more day in Albuquerque when we could backtrack and see it). I found it in the GPS search menu. We stopped at the CVS across the street both so I could get a good shot of it and so we could stock up on hiking supplies for the week. Sadly the CVS did not have the coconut Oreos I was determined to find on this trip. We did find Chips Ahoy made with Reese’s chips so all was not lost. I also bought postcards, this time I would actually make an effort to mail postcards to people.

We drove by a Chili’s that had a sign below the restaurant sign saying: full body waxing. There is no explanation I can think of for that. As we tried to check-in to our hotel there was a creepy old hippie who was amused with Brent’s left-handedness. He wanted to see if Brent could write with his pen. Then he joked about why the hotel clerk covered up our room number so he could not see. We bolted for the elevator, desperate to get away from him.

Having successfully gotten away from the creep, we dropped our stuff in the hotel room and headed back out. We were off to see Breaking Bad stop #8: the plaza where Walt is to meet Jesse (if I say any more that would be a spoiler). They had rearranged the benches in the plaza to film the scene but it was still recognizable. It was also one of the few spots where we were the only Breaking Bad tourists, meaning we were the only hardcore fans there of course.

We walked along Route 66, and even Route 66 is not safe from the plague of condos. We gawked at the price tag: 100k for a condo in downtown Albuquerque! On Route 66!! I contemplated (briefly) the idea of living on Route 66. We had dinner at The Grill (formerly Grandpa’s Grill on Route 66). I had found out about the place when a scene of Breaking Bad was filmed with a brick wall that had a Route 66 logo on it, I Googled it and found out about the original location and the new one. Seeing as we were in New Mexico, there was no getting around it: I had to try green chiles. Add in some pepper jack cheese and you have got yourself a good burger. The owner was out and about talking to customers and he explained that he grills the burgers over a mesquite wood fire- and you can definitely taste it. This was easily one of the best burgers I have ever had. Ever. One bite and I was in love with green chiles. I was already in love with The Grill, the décor had lots of Route 66 memorabilia and they were tuned to an awesome rock music station. Throw in the self-serve toppings bar and nachos on the side and that’s my idea of heaven.

Oct. 4, 2013- PS (25)

I was however; left with a very strong craving for frozen custard (the dessert of Route 66) and none was to be found. Thankfully I was too tired to really care, I had been awake since 4am and we had another 4am wake-up the next day.

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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!


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Pinky’s Out At The Windsor Arms!

I was really excited about going to the Windsor Arms for best afternoon tea– you know, once the “OH MY GOD WHAT AM I GONNA WEAR?!” anxiety had passed. Turns out the panic was all for naught, as there were people at high tea in jeans (were this a real high tea, a lady would have said “my word!” and fainted ever so gently and a fancy man would say something about society going downhill and his monocle would then pop out and fall into his tea).

We were the stragglers, the last to show up because when we arrived the hostess knew the name of the reservation. Clearly we were the last people to show up to high tea. At least we were dressed nicely. I was  in tea heaven: they gave us each a small book with listings of tea, like a wine list but better. The passion-fruit green tea won my fancy, there was no contest even. Even Brent, the non-tea drinker, managed to find a tea to his liking: lemon mint.

We could hear the service staff whispering that they would not serve us our food until we had our tea so it was a bit of a wait but well worth it. The tea was delicious. We were each given our own teapot. Looking around the tea room, it was cute to see that each teapot was different, it made the place seem less intimidating and more inviting.  We were presented with a tiered serving tray of food, ever so fancy. There were even tongs for serving the food ourselves. The fanciness was interrupted by Brent’s teapot dribbling tea on the table, but I told him to just keep his teacup and saucer over the spot, worked like a charm, everything was back to fancy.

Windsor Arms- high tea (1)

The bottom tier was two different types of scones. I do not generally like scones, they remind me of stale rock-hard baked goods, but these were soft and fresh. Alas, a person can only eat so many scones, and two full-sized scones is a bit much. No amount of homemade jam could make me eat that last half. The sandwiches were the tiniest little things I had ever seen. They were made all the more fancy by being rolled up. There were four sandwiches of each three types. In the first round the salmon with roe was the best, but the second time around I preferred the chicken with apple. The cucumber and something one was the least tasty.

Windsor Arms- high tea (3)

With the sandwiches gone all we had left was dessert. There were four different ones. At first I was less than thrilled at the idea of eating four halves of dessert bites. I soon realized why the small amount: these delectable treats embodied quality over quantity to the highest degree. Even half of the chocolate flour-less cake proved to be a lot, there was no way I would have been able to eat a whole one on my own. Ditto the white chocolate ganache one. The red velvet cupcake had a raspberry flavoured icing on top, thankfully it was not a buttercream (bleh).

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Apparently high tea was not over yet. There was still a raspberry sorbet to finish it off. It was delicious, you could taste that it had been made with real raspberries.

How many cups of tea were in my teapot? About four and a half.

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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Fooding


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