Retirement, Travel

Arizona Escape – enroute: enjoying the drive

(February 9th – 12th): We drove from Minneapolis straight south to Oklahoma City which was still colder than you know what. Finally on day 4 of our escape from the chilly North, Albuquerque promised highs in the 50’s. So we planned on spending a day seeing some of the town. Our hotel, Best Western Rio Grande, promised they were very close to museums and the Old Town. Perfect!

Saturday the 11th of February. After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel (20% off, not free), we headed out to see Albuquerque’s Old Town. It’s a mish-mash of little quirky shops and some upscale in very vintage buildings. Two things stood out from our visit: the H. Joe Waldrum show at the The Albuquerque Museum of Fine Art and Rolling in Dough, a local bakery:

  • The museum is a good size museum, not Chicago big, but definitely a lot there to see, something for everyone. As we went through the (A Passionate Light: Polaroids by H. Joe Waldrum) we were not only impressed but also inspired. This artist is a successful painter living in New York with a natural affinity for the southwest. Initially Waldrum wanted to use polaroids to bring a fresh new perspective to his paintings. One of his patrons was so excited about this approach that he offered to buy whatever camera he wanted. His ulterior motive was to ensure Waldrum didn’t become too abstract (slipping down the slippery slope to obscure). So he went shopping. At first he worked with a salesman picking out a new Hasselblad with some fancy lenses, etc. But when the guy said he needed a light meter, he balked. The result: an inexpensive standard Polaroid camera with exposure controls, SX-70. What he discovered, and what I believe, was that by keeping the equipment simple he could focus on the image and lighting, putting his creativity where it was best. The result: 900 amazing prints with a lot of subtle and not so subtle variety. Waldrum was so taken with this approach that his Polaroid obsession would run him over $100 a day in film.
    Other exhibits not to miss: an extensive sculpture garden and an amazing collection of Colcha Embroidery. Practiced by Spanish colonials and handed down through generations, Colcha became a lost art until a renewed interest in the mid 19th century when they began to collect, catalog, and create anew these colorful bed, altar and table covers. Colcha means a bed covering, but the colorful images were so popular, they were used for many other purposes as well.  
  • Rolling in Dough is a teeny tiny bakery with big results: there are amazing cookies (we tried the Italian Wedding Cookies), sweet rolls, and breads. To top it off, they have homemade soup so you can make a whole meal of it and take home breakfast, which we did! As Rachel would say, yumm-o.


As much as I wasn’t happy about loooong driving days, I wanted to see more along the way. So we did. Taking our GPS, “Myrtle’s” suggestion (since I had programmed it for the shortest route, not the fastest), we headed south off US 40 on to New Mexico 117. This led us through the El Malpais National Monument and Apache Reservation before getting on US 60 for our final approach. What we encountered was some of the most spectacular scenery yet. It wasn’t quite a gravel road, but it was remote, isolated, and amazing. The highlight of this leg of the trip was the La Ventana (the window) Natural Arch in the Cebolla Wilderness. This area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, El Malpais National Conservation Area.
Finishing off the day of driving, we approached Mesa, AZ via the White Pine Mountains and Tonto National Forest. The first hour of driving was amazing, the second a bit more tiring but enjoyable. Finally arriving at Sun Life Resort, Mesa, AZ.