A Few Days (with bonus hours) in the 505

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) Annual Convention. It was held fairly close to home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I could have made the five hour trip by car, but that would have meant losing 10 hours of potential school-work time while I paid attention to the road. Plus, one never knows what November will be like in Colorado and New Mexico and there is a significant pass (Raton) as well as other high elevation sections (near Santa Fe) on the northern NM portion of Interstate-25. So I opted to travel via train, which would require only a one-hour drive to the nearest Amtrak station in La Junta.

I left home early on Thursday and arrived in La Junta about 30 minutes before the train’s scheduled departure. The train was a few minutes late, but I was assigned a seat and boarded without incident. The coach car was comfortable, but not particularly quiet, so I asked the conductor whether there was a quiet car. I was told that the only option for quiet was to upgrade to a private sleeper. So I settled in and put on my headphones. The ride was scenic and uneventful, passing through a few of the communities with which I work, over Raton Pass, through Santa Fe and into Albuquerque.

I’m still processing everything I experienced at the conference itself, and I won’t write about that in this post. I checked into my lodgings, Hotel Andaluz, where I had stayed once before, ten years earlier (prior to this blog—so no link to that trip). I was happy to find a refrigerator in the room, so I took myself to the nearby grocery, Silver Street Market, to acquire some fruit to accompany the oatmeal I’d brought for breakfast. Even though it meant bringing a bigger suitcase, I’d packed a kettle, tea, and breakfast supplies to ensure access to quick and healthy food in the mornings. I didn’t find anything I wanted for dinner, though, so I opted to get a bite in the hotel bar before venturing to the conference’s evening events. I went with sparkling rosé, octopus, and olives. Somewhat odd, but definitely tasty.

The next two days involved primarily conference-going.

Conference center art

I visited the market regularly, and had one breakfast at the hotel. This is the Andaluz breakfast, with quinoa-sweet potato hash and spicy house-made turkey sausage.

Lunch on Saturday was at Urban Taqueria, where I had the Fake News and Libertarian tacos. Worth the wait. Dinner was with a friend at Vinaigrette—my first visit to the Albuquerque location. The salads (think duck or steak with lovely greens and fruit) were delicious, but a “wine situation” that was never explained meant we both had third choice (but still satisfying) wines. We also learned that, for better or worse, Uber is far more efficient than traditional taxis, which in ABQ are now called zTrip.

Sunday was my final day in the Duke City. I did a little yoga instead of running outside, as it was still dark and the neighborhood seemed iffy. The gym across from the hotel (which stood in for a hotel gym) was open limited hours on Saturday and closed on Sunday, so I was only able to visit on Friday. Amtrak was already reporting some slight delays, but I wasn’t too worried when I attended a couple final sessions that day. As the delays began to mount, I phoned the hotel to ask for a late checkout. They were only willing to extend an hour (to noon) which was disappointing, so I needed an alternative plan.

I decided to take myself to the ABQ BioPark. I needed to get there by noon to do the Combo ticket that included Zoo, Botanic Garden, and Aquarium, and my transportation mode was “foot,” so I didn’t have time to spare. It was a warm day, so the walk was pleasant, through neighborhoods, with some sights.

My timing was imperfect, as the train connecting the two sections of the park runs only hourly in the off-season, so I explored the Zoo while I waited for the next ride.

This tortoise seems none too happy about the squirrel eating its food.

No raptors this day 😢

We wear stripes so we must line up?

The train was extremely slow and stinky, but the autumn scenery was beautiful, and it was the closest I got to Albuquerque’s wonderful Paseo del Bosque (multi-use) Trail. Next stop was lunch in the Shark Reef Café. The salad was decent, despite the flavored chicken, and the aquarium view was great.

Views from the train

Lunch view

I enjoyed walking around the botanic gardens, where preparations were well underway for the holiday light show.

I was thrilled to hear the sound of sandhill cranes overhead! I’m sure the people around me thought I was strange as I stopped and took pictures of the sky, but I can’t really be concerned.

If you could hear this photo, you would know what the black specks are.

I returned to the hotel for one final meal in the bar (and my luggage). The same server as the first night took great care of me, as she seemed to do with all the bar patrons. I had a fried chicken pincho(s), Brussels sprouts, and gluten-free, somewhat deconstructed carrot cake.

Did I mention that the train was quite delayed? The scheduled 11:48 a.m. departure had now stretched to after 8 p.m. Thankfully, I had days earlier decided to upgrade to a sleeper in order to have quiet, a tray table, and a place to put a cup/bottle–none of which are available in coach. I thought I would also get some food in the dining car, but at least I got a little “rebate” for that omission. I stopped by the market for ice to restock my cooler, then headed to the train station to wait. I was able to get some work done during the additional waiting time, and the train eventually arrived before 10 p.m. and rolled out of ABQ around 10:30! After a nightcap (Austin Eastciders Original Dry Cider from my cooler, another advantage of being in a sleeper), I settled in horizontally for the overnight ride.

La Junta was icy and cold (as was my car) when we arrived just shy of 6 a.m. I wish that train travel was a little more efficient in the U.S., but I still like it—especially in a sleeper. And the delay had bonuses—I got to visit the ABQ BioPark, eat at Más again, and log nearly 20,000 steps.

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