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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.