After getting a good night’s sleep, Sam and I were both ready to tackle Santa Fe. We woke extra early to ensure we’d have enough time to travel the hour north and enjoy the city without feeling rushed. We had breakfast at the hotel (served by the super kind owner) before we hit the road. Before we started the actual journey to the state capitol, I wanted to make a brief stop in the northeast part of town. Tucked away in a neighborhood was the house that was used for Walter White’s residence in Breaking Bad; I wanted to make sure we visited in early morning to ensure we weren’t disturbing anyone.
It’s strange, taking a picture of a seemingly random house in a foreign neighborhood. I’d read online that the owners were good sports about the BrBa tourists, but I still felt really self conscious standing in the street. I’m sure it was amplified by my memories of the emotional scenes that took place on the very pavement I was standing on, but just the same it felt slightly creepy. Amidst my misgivings, though, there was also giddy excitement. It’s Walt’s House! Right there! I took my few pictures, got back in the car, and smiled broadly. Although that house would probably be the ultimate location for fans of the show, we drove north to the site that was MY ultimate find, just outside of Santa Fe. We drove up to the city, skirted the edge of town, and followed some GPS coordinates I’d scoured the internet for to a gravel road off the highway. There, in the scrub brush not far from some really nice houses, was a wooden railroad bridge.
The bridge I’d sought out was used in the final season of Breaking Bad to stage a train robbery. Additionally, it was used in the 1969 film ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’. I like trains, I like bridges, I like westerns, and I like Breaking Bad. This was the quadfecta of joy for me. Samantha enjoyed the cool morning air as I giddily hopped around the area, snapping pictures and reliving memories from television and the silver screen. It was gloriously quiet and peaceful out there; all of the trepidation I felt in ABQ while taking pictures of occupied places had vanished. By the time I was done taking pictures, I felt not unlike I do right after Thanksgiving dinner: gluttonous and satisfied.
Samantha’s main attraction for the trip was the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, so that was our first stop in town. Fortuitously, they were having a companion Ansel Adams photography exhibit. It was one of the more enjoyable museum experiences I’ve ever had! After we finished that, we walked down to an enormous Spanish street festival that had overtaken downtown. We wandered there for a little bit before driving down to a Farmer’s Market to see local artists. Clouds built overhead and it started raining as we headed to lunch. By the time we arrived at Harry’s Roadhouse, it had started hailing. I recalled my last visit to the west, when I was assaulted with hailstones at the Grand Canyon. I must’ve angered some western weather god at some point and not realized it.
We didn’t have any solid plans after lunch, so we went back downtown to look around. We toured the San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in the US, and walked around one of the art gallery districts to see more of the famed local art scene. We also stopped at a little place called Kakawa Chocolate House. If you ever find yourself in Santa Fe, do yourself a favor and GO TO HERE. It’s a hot chocolate bar with all kinds of other goodies. They freely offered samples of all their drinks and treats, which we took advantage of. Sam and I shared a bowl of the best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever had and purchased some take-home hot chocolate mix. Seriously, I’m thinking about it now and want to book a flight just to get some more. It was all heavenly and worthy of their TripAdvisor award on the wall.
Something I didn’t realize: Route 66 used to run through Santa Fe! Although the alignment changed in the late 1930s, there was a time when the Mother Road ran right through town. After learning this, I was determined to drive on it a bit while we were there. Although most of the traditional Route 66 flourishes were gone, it was fulfilling. The old route took us back through downtown and out to Highway 14, which would take us all the way back to Albuquerque. Since we had plenty of time, we decided to take the scenic route…and I’m very thankful we did. Pocket thunderstorms followed us as we curved around mountains and through tiny towns in intermittent rain and sun. Thunder would echo around me when I stopped to take a picture of a windmill or abandoned barn and I was filled with true awe. I could seriously live in those hills and be a happy man.
We arrived back in Albuquerque by meeting back up with Route 66 on the eastern edge of town, which is as full of old roadside signs as any other place I’d been to on the route. I was like a kid in a candy store, pulling off at every opportunity to capture these treasures. I’m sure I upset drivers with some of my erratic excitement. I raced the daylight and reached the western border of town as the sun finally set. It had been a full day and my expectations were exceeded multiple times over.
Tomorrow would be the long drive home, and I wasn’t sure if I would still enjoy it since I’d seen so many places on the way out. I went to sleep with hope that the final piece of my journey would be as exciting as the rest of it had been.