1

Confronting Fate in Albuquerque

I'll never forget seeing "actual" mountains for the first time in almost a year when approaching the Sandia Mountains on our way into Albuquerque.  As we've traversed this gigantic country and met all kinds of people, it's become apparent that there are different types of people (well of course, but I'll explain...).  There are river people, and beach people, and desert people, and city people, and mountain people.  Upon viewing the massive cliff lines, jagged rocks, and tall peaks, I was reminded once more that we are most definitely mountain people.   

Albuquerque was strange for a few reasons;  the city certainly does have it's own unique flavor which I have not experienced anywhere else (for a taste of what I'm talking about, check out Breaking Bad, it seems like they nailed it), and because I lived here when I was was in 1st and 2nd grade.  It wasn't anything like I'd remembered it, but then again I didn't remember much.  We decided to sit down for a coffee downtown and took advantage of the WiFi to consult CouchSurfing for something to do.  As it turned out, someone was having a bonfire in their backyard that night and all CouchSurfers were invited - score :)  We connected with another CouchSurfer who wanted to attend but needed a ride and headed to the bonfire.

We had a great time that night just sitting around the fire, sharing drinks, swapping stories, and making music with the various instruments available to anyone willing to pick one up.  BUT...  our story does not end there.  It seemed we had a greater purpose in attending this particular bonfire.  While talking to the host, he told us about the legendary Chaco Canyon and the enormous Indian ruins that can be found there.  He told us the size of the ruins trumped Mesa Verde and was referred to by  many as "The Machu Picchu of the American Southwest".  Our faces lit up like a couple of 4 year olds on Christmas morning.  Our minds tumbled over the possibility of fitting this excursion in on the way home and we knew - this was the type of adventure we'd been yearning for since we left North Carolina!  

When the bonfire party had come to an end we thanked our host and he offered the option for us to park outside of his place overnight and use his shower, etc. in the morning.  Instead, we opted to drive through the night so we could end up at Chaco by morning.  We were way too excited to sleep and knew that adventure waits for no man, or woman.  With that, we were headed northward with visions of of dirt, sandstone bricks, and kivas dancing in our heads.

The road to Chaco from Albuquerque is dark and desolate in the middle of the night.  While navigating our way down a winding road with sheer drop-offs in the middle of the nowhere, something intense happened:  Our lights and all the electronics in the van (except the front parking lights) randomly shut off right as we were approach a sharp curve.  I franticly fiddled with the headlight switch with no success.  Luckily, the parking lights gave off just enough dim glow for mean to see the guard rail and turn in time.  Strangely enough, as soon as we'd rounded the corner, the electronics returned on their own and just as the headlights illuminated the road once more, we noticed a cross marking a roadside death on the right side of the road.  Strange and creepy?  Youbetcha.  We literally almost died.  After that, our minds raced as we mulled our experience over.  Since we hadn't told anyone our travel schedule or route, nobody had any idea where in the world we were.  Had we gone over the cliff side, there's no telling how long it would have been until our wreckage and whereabouts would have been discovered.  Now this was really an adventure!

We spent the next couple of hours of our drive engrossed in existential conversation regarding our near-death experience.  Were we actually still alive?  What if we died and were still driving down this dark road in the afterlife?  To justify our hypothesis, we hadn't passed another car in ours to actually prove our existence.  And what exactly caused that strange electrical short just before the roadside grave?  Ghosts?  Aliens?  ...after all, this was New Mexico.

Eventually we came near the turnoff to Chaco Canyon and decided to settle down for the night.  Conveniently, this particular highway was bordered on both sides by public lands, making it easy just to pull off one of the random dirt roads and find a comfortable camp spot just out of the highway's view.  Still electrified with excitement, we eased our way into sleep some time after 3AM.

What happens next?  Check out Part 6 of our Road Home video series:  Ruining New Mexico

Click to share thisClick to share this