But it’s a “dry heat”!
Continuing west along Route 66 we’re noticing the changing landscape as we put the Texas Panhandle behind us and cruise into New Mexico. The terrain is getting more mountainous and seemingly barren of vegetation. The rich greens of pasture and forest are muting into varying shades of browns and tan. They call this the “High Desert” climate and this is new to us. The humidity is going way down and we are experiencing that “dry heat” that you hear the locals talk about. What a weird sensation to be in 95 degrees and not sweat. Being from Florida, I understand the importance of drinking plenty of water. The rule of thumb here, in this “dry heat”, brings hydrating to a new level. One ounce of water for every pound of body weight, wow! I’m not a little guy and it looks like I’ll be hydrating from morning till night to achieve this priority. So, let’s say I weighed 215 (not saying I do, but if I did) following that principle, I would need to drink 13.5 of the 16 oz. water bottles per day!
Quite a few years back I was watching a show on the Discovery Channel about an RV Park in Albuquerque that restored vintage trailers and set them up in the park for rent like scenes from a colorized black and white movie of a simpler time and using appropriately aged classic cars with period correct patio furniture to complete the scene. I remembered the name was something Enchanting or Enchanting something or other. As we approached Albuquerque I Googled it and found “Enchanted Trails” RV Park. With a quick search on my Passport America App, there it was. A phone call later and we were in for a week to explore Albuquerque and the surrounding area. We arrived late in the day and as we navigated around the park to find our spot, I was delighted to see the vintage trailers set up around the park.
As I set up to stay for a week; water, electric, sewer, awnings, table and chairs, I noticed how easily this lowlands zero elevation Florida guy was getting winded. Albuquerque sits at 5200 feet above see level and the air is without doubt thinner (5280 feet equals 1 mile). As the sun set on our first night in this new environment, we sat outside and soaked in the beauty. Albuquerque sits in the shadow of the Sandia Mountains. For the first time in my life I understood “for purple mountains majesties”. The mountain range displayed varying hues of regal purple as the sun retreated for the day. As the sun set, the temperature started to plummet, too. The temperatures here range from 95 degrees in the day to 62 degrees at night during this time of year.
When we checked in at Enchanted Trails RV Park, we collected brochures on things to do in the area. As we reviewed them we noticed one for the Sandia Peak Tramway. I mentioned that Albuquerque sits at the base of the Sandia Mountain Range. Sandia Peak sits at 10,378 feet of altitude. That sounded like something we needed to do, so the next day we were off to visit the mountain. We timed this to have dinner at the base of the mountain, ride the Tram up at sunset and then take the return trip down the tramway after dark. To add an element of excitement, it was the 4th of July.
At the base of the mountain and part of the Sandia Peak Tramway complex is an authentic Mexican Restaurant named Sandiago’s. This restaurant was voted best Albuquerque Views by the Albuquerque Journal. The food was exquisite and they didn’t lie about the view. Now I’m not one of those people that posts pictures of every meal on their Facebook page, but this is worthy. Perhaps I was overwhelmed with the view or maybe it was the thin air, but I have to give credit where credit is due.
The presentation was only exceeded by the taste!
After a nice dinner together we went to the boarding area for our Tram experience with tickets in hand. The boarding went smoothly and as we headed up the mountain it became clear that after we went over the first mountain peak that we were actually heading to the second mountain peak which was even higher. Reality hit…between the two mountains the ground was at…ground level. I know that sounds pretty dumb but when ground level is 5200 feet elevation and the Sandia Peak is 10,378 feet, that means that as we travel between the two mountains we are precariously suspended on a cable at a significant distance to what I’m sure would end in a sudden stop if the cable broke. As the Tram traveled over each of the two towers used to support the cables, it lurched and started to swing. I’m typically not faint of heart, but this took my breath away and left me weak in the knees. After about 15 minutes of accelerated heart rates, we reached the peak and unloaded onto solid ground. The first thing I noticed stepping out of the Tram was that our temperature had dropped considerably. I asked as to the temperature and it was 30 degrees cooler at the peak than at the base of the mountain.
As part of the Sandia Peak Tramway, there is a beautiful restaurant/bar at the top called “High Finance”. I can’t imagine how much the construction for that would’ve cost, but I’m pretty sure the name was appropriate. After walking around on the mountain top, experiencing the lack of air at 10,378 feet and finding ourselves chilled to the bone, we went into the bar for a couple Irish Coffee’s.
With the sun now set, we looked out over Albuquerque and the city lights seemed a magical display of how this “high desert” barrenness had evolved in this one spot into a cultural treasure chest of surprises that we were excited to explore. Okay, the thin air is getting to me.
I wish I could show you better photos of the 4 or 5 neighborhood areas around Albuquerque with fireworks displays that we viewed from the Tram. But with the darkness and the distance and the movement of the tram, none of my shots turned out well. It was beautiful to see the fireworks displays from the top side with the town lying underneath.
I do know this, the darkness and the Irish Coffee made the ride down a lot less anxious than the ride up the mountain.