As a native son, I feel obligated and peer-pressured by some members of this publication to lay out some ground rules, spin you a tale of our local haunts and generally get you ready to run through a brick wall because you’re so excited about about visiting Albuquerque this weekend for the USATF Indoor National Championships.
I was born and raised in Albuquerque. I spent most of my youth trapezing through the thin-mountain air clad in Hollister, while pushing back against my home – a severely misunderstood metroplex. Simply put: Albuquerque catches too much flak. One time a dude was ragging on Albuquerque because it was “too hard to spell Albuquerque.” That is the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard. (Editor’s note: Just Googled it and copied it and pasted it whenever I needed to add it anywhere.) Don’t judge a city based on your struggles when it comes to sounding out vowels and consonants. That would be like me saying I don’t like Chicago because it sounds too much like Hidalgo which was a movie about horses and horses are powerful, plotting beasts but shout-out to Viggo Mortensen for a hell of a career.
When I tell people I’m from Albuquerque, the first thing they tell me is to speak Spanish at them and to tell them where all the grass went. I do not generally continue conversation with these people. Anyways, here is my thesis: Albuquerque, New Mexico sits in a beautiful high-mountain desert. You can get red and/or green chile on anything you want to eat. Johnny Tapia is our godfather. This isn’t a thesis but here is the kicker: I love Albuquerque.
Take my hand as we plan out your three-day weekend in the City that Never Beeps. (No one honks in Albuquerque!).
After arriving mid-afternoon to the quaint Sunport International Space Station and Airport, either grab a taxi or call up Scott Olberding – rumor has it he will be renting a car for the weekend – and head to Marble Brewery for their red ale. It’s delicious and with the altitude conversion, that one beer will have you feelin’ loosey goosey and ready to take in a museum. Check out the National Hispanic Cultural Center to dive deeper into our culture than binge watching Breaking Bad with your ex.
ASIDE ABOUT STEPHEN
My cultural center growing up was my baseball team when I was 14-years old. I had been playing at Lobo Little League with all my little gringo friends for most of my childhood, but then we realized I wasn’t even in that district and had basically been living a lie for quite a few years. So, my parents shipped me off to Zia Little League. I left all my friends and joined the Marlins. The Marlins were dope and I was the only white kid on the team. They called me Sunshine. If I wore sunglasses during a game, my name was Hollywood Sunshine. Kids are so creative. I don’t think they knew my actual name. I look back fondly on that year because I started to like lollipops dipped in red chile powder and I realized how powerful it is when everyone gets along. I’m lucky to have experienced that at a relatively early age.
ASIDE ABOUT STEPHEN IS DONE
Before you take in the the day’s track action, make sure to stop by the Frontier for breakfast. If you’re driving down Central, you can’t miss it because it looks like a barn. It isn’t a barn though. It is a world-famous college hangout specializing in New Mexican food and 2,000-calorie cinnamon rolls. You’ll want to get a breakfast burrito smothered in green chile and one of those gut-bomb pastries.
Track action got you in the mood for a run, eh? Nice. Burn off ¼ of that cinnamon roll by jogging from the Convention Center to Kit Carson Park. From the park, access the bike path and head north. The soft surface can take you on a beautiful out and back while taking in views of the Bosque and the Sandia Mountains or check out the trails around the Rio Grande Nature Center. You may get lost, but everyone is friendly for the most part.
After your 45-minute jog turned into a 3-hour death march because of bad directions, refuel at El Patio – my personal favorite New Mexican restaurant. It’s tiny, it’s perfect, and my car got booted in their parking lot once. You can’t go wrong with Combination Plate but, do note, your bowels will undoubtedly turn against you in the morning.
ASIDE ABOUT NEW MEXICAN FOOD
Pretentious. Sloppy. Spicy.
Wrong. A little. Yes.
New Mexican food is not Mexican food. New Mexican food is not made with green chiles, it is made with green chile. You do not put salsa on New Mexican food, you smother it in chile. New Mexican food hinges on chile. I cannot stress this enough. Chile. Red. Green. Both. Chile.
ASIDE ABOUT NEW MEXICAN FOOD IS DONE
Tonight I want you do one thing and one thing only: LOOK AT THE SANDIA MOUNTAINS. They will turn pink. These mountains are like normal mountains in that they are made of mountain. But these mountains turn pink at sunset. Sandia means watermelon in Spanish. Our mountains are watermelons. It’s special. Enjoy.
Let’s go for a long run! Time to get lost again. Head for the Sandia Mountains to risk being assailed by a mountain lion. There are many entry points for trails in the foothills, but my recommendation would be Trail 365 or, if you want to really regret the El Patio Combo Plate, check out La Luz Trail. I ran this trail at sunrise one time and I swear I saw God. It was beautiful.
After your bout with the natural world and before you head back to the track, grab some breakfast downtown at Slate Street Cafe. If you still want to poop fire, get the Huevos Rancheros. If you’re not thinking that’s a great idea, get something else!
There’s plenty to see and do in Albuquerque and all over New Mexico. The uniqueness of the city, and the state as a whole, can go unnoticed and unappreciated. Take a little extra time to talk to locals and to walk around Nob Hill, downtown or the UNM Campus. Immerse yourself in the hundreds of years of culture, and if you have any questions or want to meet up for a beer or want to tell me something nice, e-mail me at [email protected].