On the Road and Under the Skies #5 (Carlsbad and Albuquerque)

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IMG_1773Carlsbad & Albuquerque, NM – (Days 8, 9 & 10) We rolled into Carlsbad, NM and got checked into our motel, the room they gave us was hot as heck, so we cranked the air up, and, as luck would have it, nothing but more hot air was coming from the unit.  We gave it about 45 min and still no cold air was forthcoming, so back to the desk  and then a move to another room.  But, first I wised up and went to check to ensure the A/C was working, which it was,  so finally, into a cool room.

For dinner I wanted to check out a place that I’ve know about since I was in the barbecue business back in 2000.  It used to be a combination Dairy Queen and barbecue joint and I found out that in 2005, the owner had quit the DQ franchise over differences of opinion on food.  The restaurant name is Danny’s Place and is in the style of any small town Mom & Pop restaurant.  I ordered the brisket dinner and Debra got the smoked turkey sandwich.  My brisket was very good and rated in at a high three on my list of best brisket I’ve ever eaten.  Debra gave the smoked turkey a very good rating also as her eyes rolled back into her head and she nearly fainted from an ecclesiastical euphoria food high.  In fact, the food was so good we ate there again the next day after we returned from touring the caverns.  For that meal, I ordered St. Lois Style Ribs, and oh but were they good.  The ribs were better than a lot of ribs I’ve eaten in lots of Q-joints in the South.  Debra ordered a beef burrito that was nearly the size of a footlong sub, in fact it was so big she could eat only about half of it.

The first morning we were in Carlsbad, we went to the motel’s sad little breakfast buffet which consisted of nothing but carbohydrates and so we just had a bagel with some peanut butter smeared on it, but at least it was free with the room.  Then, it was off to see the caverns which are located just outside of Carlsbad.  The drive was mostly boring until we got to the turn off to go into the park.  There is an old Adobe motel on one corner and a building with all kind of Native American items for sale and a museum on the other corner, you know the kind of building I’m talking about if you’ve ever been to the Cherokee, NC side of the Smoky Mountains.

The drive from the turn off is one of rising elevation, in other words your driving up a really big hill.  At the top of the ridge, or mountain, (depends on where your from) is the Carlsbad Caverns National Park Visitors Center.  I went into the center to purchase the tickets to go down into the Caverns but before I went to the ticket line I grabbed a brochure on ticket prices.  It was $10 per person to ride the elevator down to the entry room.  However, if you were 62+ you were eligible to purchase a “Senior Pass” that allows you to enter any National Park for free, the cost was $10.00.  So now I’m a the proud owner of a NPS Senior Pass, I guess I can say I’m a true senior citizens now, since I’m always looking for the best deals.

We got onboard the elevator and the Park Ranger driving it, told us it was 750 ft. to the bottom and it would take about a minute to make the trip, and, he was right.  We were there in the entry cavern before we could blink.

There are various tours you can do by yourself or you can sign up for Ranger guided tours that are more difficult to maneuver.  We chose the easiest of all, the Big Room, and while Debra could only make about half of the trip, I went ahead walked the big circle route which was nearly a mile long.  It had some really steep sections on it that would make you start sucking air, however, since the cavern temperature was only 58 degrees, you didn’t get overheated.  But, the views were well worth the effort.  Be sure to check out the pictures below.

(Days 9, 10 & 11)  On our last morning in Carlsbad, we decided to check out a local diner down the road from the hotel that was reported to be the best breakfast in town.  After eating there I can tell you they were surely judging it using the local low standards of breakfast food preparation. It was alright if you like you eggs and sausage served on Styrofoam plates, but it was reasonable priced and not to greasy so we scarfed it up and hit the road heading to our next stop in Albuquerque.

The ride from Carlsbad to Albuquerque is a long non-scenic route with sweeping vistas of scrub bush and dessert scapes.  However, when we went into Roswell, NM we decided to stop and tour the UFO museum, why you ask?  Well, we may never be back that way again and can mark it off our bucket list.  They did have a lot of newspaper stories and supposedly real interviews with people that saw the UFO posted on the wall.   The mystic of the Area 51 and UFO’s, along with the Fiddlin & Grillin Festival keeps the town alive I guess.

After the boring ride from Carlsbad we arrived in Albuquerque and checked into our motel, this time a Quality Inn.  It was an older property that just had recently undergone a renovation and was a fairly nice motel.  One of the renovations they did was to put new a/c units in so while we were gone to dinner, the a/c unit turned itself off because of no movement in the room.  A great money savings for the motel but it sucks as a guest walking back in a hot stuffy room.

We were tired from the ride so for our dinner we opted for a chain steakhouse because they can always be counted on to be consistently mediocre, enough said on that meal.  The next morning we visited the motel free breakfast area and it was a small improvement over the previous Econolodge offerings.   At least there was some pre-cooked sausage on the bar.  We made do with the offerings they had and then headed out to ride the tram up to the top of Sandia Peak.  The tram ride itself lasts about 15 minutes during which time your crammed into a tin can with 40 new found CLOSE friends all standing up.  The view from the tram was spectular and well worth the price of the ride.  When we reached the top of the peak, which is a shade over 10,000 feet in elevation, we checked all of the views and sucked wind like addict with an unlimited supply of illegal substances.  At 10,000 feet the air is thin and it makes you feel your age quickly.  The Rangers told me for the best pictures I could hike 3/4 of a mile to a stone cabin, I told them, yes I could hike over there, but they would be sending the mountain rescue team over to haul my big butt back to the tram station.  Needless to say, they didn’t see the humor in my joke because they said “Well you better stay here with the old folks then.”  So now I have a good excuse why I didn’t hike to the cabin and take the pictures, the Rangers told me to stay where I was.

After we rode back down the tram, it was the middle of the afternoon and we decided to have another late lunch/early dinner better known as the early bird special at The Owl Cafe.  The Owl is a unique piece of Americani that takes you back to the days of chrome fixtures, a jukebox selector at ever booth and waitress that were a quick with a “How Ya’ll doing” greeting.  The menu is extensive for a diner but their signature sandwich is the The Owl Burger, a half pound of artery clogging, lip smacking,  cooked on a flat top griddle master piece burger that is smothered in green chili peppers.  So, I figured if a meal was gonna kill me, the least I could do was enjoy the signature burger and die happy.  I ordered that bad boy and it was so big it was hard to take a bite out of it but I took one for the team and handled the job.  And, to enhance the meal, we ordered a loaf of fried onion rings to share.  Debra ordered just a plain burger with no green chili peppers, just no spirit of adventure I guess.  Both burgers were outrageously good and the green chili peppers did have a bite to them, but weren’t near as hot as a jalapeño pepper so I survide to live another day.  To wash all of the burgers down, we ordered peanut butter shakes made with Blue Bunny Ice Cream, the waitress brought a soda fountain milkshake  glass full of the frozen delight as well as the remainder of the shake that wouldn’t fit in the glass.  It was actually two glasses full of shake so it was all we could do to get them eaten.  We should have shared a shake on these.

While we were at dinner we checked out their breakfast menu and decided just to have breakfast at The Owl Cafe.  Their breakfast is as good as their dinners so we hit the highway toward Holbrook, AZ and the Wigwam Motel on a full stomach and a happy smile on our face.

So watch for the next installment where we will be sending smoke signals from the Wigwam (they don’t have internet connections) and be stepping back into the 1950’s on Route 66.

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1 comment

Rosedale Gardens June 16, 2013 - 6:27 pm

Love the caverns. Looks like you are having a great trip. Sequoyah Caverns is closing at the end of the summer. I’ve never been there. A trip is planned as a weekend allows.

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