New Mexico - the Land of Enchantment

My sister has finally graduated escaped the graduate student slavery and was moving across the country to San Francisco last September. Normally, I would have convinced her to do an epic road trip to visit all of the awesome places in-between. However, because she was driving with her cat, the primary goal became to get there as fast as possible. With 1900 miles/over 3000 km to go from Tulsa to San Fran, it was going to be a long one, so as the great brother I am, I offered her my help and company along with opinionated blabbing about her job search. Our plans at a glance: Tulsa - Albuqurque, NM - Ventura, CA - San Francisco

I won't bore you with our drive through flat and seemingly excitement-less parts of Oklahoma and northern Texas. Except for some heavy rain we were racing to ditch in Texas and the lack of any rest areas along the interstate in Oklahoma (huh?), there wasn't much to see or write about. I did get a cool panoramic shot of the rolling plains, but that was about it until we entered New Mexico - the Land of Enchantment.

Entering New Mexico - the Land of Enchantment

And the Land of Enchantment it was! The boring plains were replaced by a surprisingly colorful scenery - orange, and in some places red, ground with little trees but a lot of dry and green bushes and the pretty hills seemingly everywhere!

Train tracks in the distance

Deep blue and dark gray sky just added to the contrast with rain meeting us here and there.

Colorful rain in the distance

With our jaws somewhere on the floor, we kept pressing on to Albuquerque (all these shots are from the car moving at 75 miles an hour - I was imperessed with my new Canon SX260).

We got in town just before darkness - it was a nice middle point between Tulsa and the west coast and I am a fan of the TV show In Plain Sight, which is filmed in Albuquerque - another reason to check it out :) Besides I was able to get us a free room, courtesy of Club Carlson crazy promotions earlier last year (have I mentioned what an awesome brother I am?)

My sister's cat caling dibs on one of the beds. I guess I will take the floor

We dropped off all our stuff and headed out to the historic downtown just to realize that pretty much everything was closing down at 7pm there. Really?

Old town Albuqurque

We walked around for a bit, but as all restaurants were already closed down, we had look for an alternative and chose to check out Monroe's - supposedly serving the best of New Mexican cuisine since 1962. I figured something that stuck around for 50 years must not be too bad and we were not disappointed - New Mexico's traditional red and chiles were quite spicy but delicious!

Sampling Monroe's signature chiles

Next day we had an even longer drive ahead of us to reach the coast so we left early with hopes of stopping by the majestic Rio Grande - one of three rivers in the US I kept reading about again and again in many of the adventure novels when I was a kid. I was looking forward to it, but the weather had it's own plans with more rain covering the town. So we pressed on.

Our next quick stop was the Great Continental Divide - a hydrological feature that marks the point to the west of each all water is flowing down to the Pacific and to the east will eventually get to the Atlantic. It is actually a line that traces through the Rockies, and being on historic Route 66, someone decided to make the intersection of the two into a place to visit - so we bit.

USA Continental Divide

The sign and the gas station is all you get there so we were soon on the way, finally escaping the rain to clear blue skies and more jaw dropping color contrasts.

Somewhere in western New Mexico

The weather was so nice that we even decided to take a little break from driving and go for a hike at the Red Rock state park near Gallup, just before leaving New Mexico. However, once we got there, we realized that "state park" actually meant a camping ground and a horse racing track situated in-between the beautiful Red Rocks.

Red Rock state park

The various colorful layers of sandstone reminded me of one of my other favorite places - the Badlands in South Dakota. It was fun while it lasted. Definitely need to come back and spend some time in this colorful state and actually explore all it has to offer!

Onto Arizona and California next.