10Remember when you were in 4th Grade? Sure, you do. Both of the readers of this column completed 4th grade. One even got all the way through 6th grade. Back then you had to write an essay on “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.”

My 4th grade class with Ms. Delgrande was many moons ago. But here’s to you, Mrs. Delgrande, my annual vacation report. This year we went back to New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment and home of Walter White’s meth labs of “Breaking Bad fame.”

The most important thing about travel is to remain flexible. Expect bumps. Roll with the punches. At the Albuquerque Sun Port we had a “Seinfeld” moment at the Thrifty Rental car desk. I had reserved a medium sized car several months ago. They had my reservation. Unfortunately, they did not have my car.

As Seinfeld said in a similar situation, “It’s not enough to take the reservation, the important part is to keep the reservation.” All they had left was a giant GMC Acadia Wagon Queen Family Truckster. We are talking a vehicle big as all west Texas. It was as wide and long as an aircraft carrier with half the maneuverability. The Beast was Yuge.

Given the choice of walking across New Mexico or driving the Beast, we took the Beast. Having driven a school bus in high school gave me some confidence, but that was long ago and far away.
Our motel in Santa Fe had two small parking lots, each of which could fit six normal sized vehicles. Squeezing the Beast in and out of the lot provided excitement beyond compare.
The motel had an interesting sign: Zombies Stay Free. Luckily, all the Zombies were out of town at a Brotherhood of Christian Zombies tennis tournament in Albuquerque. We left town with less money but with our brains intact.

Santa Fe was having a festival which meant parking was at a premium. Olde Santa Fe has narrow streets which are not conducive to Beastly driving. Upon finally locating a skinny parking space in a public lot I learned to my dismay that one had to pay for parking using a local parking app on an iPhone.

Oh Boy. I got to stand in the lot while downloading the parking app. The app had at least 60 individual unwanted web sites. While enjoying a baking New Mexican sun, I never located the parking app despite prolonged scrolling. Somehow, I did manage to provide my credit card information to an evil app.

About 10 minutes after leaving the parking lot, Lord MasterCard’s Fraud Alert robot sent me a text asking if I had charged $1.95 to Cosmic Rip Off, Inc. No, I replied. The cancellation dance of my card loomed as inevitable. In full tourist mode, my credit card was compromised in the first 10 minutes of sightseeing. Pretty smooth move.

Fortunately, my wife Lani has her own separate card which meant she got to pay for all the meals. So, it wasn’t a total loss for me. I had cash, but not enough to have survived a week without a credit card. I reminded myself to remain flexible.

We stayed in Santa Fe and then Taos. Apparently, we really like both places as we have been there three or four times and keep going back.
Santa Fe has more art galleries than you can shake a stick at. Downtown Santa Fe has a central Plaza which is always jumping with activity.
Taos, which also has a lot of arty stuff, is a much smaller version of Santa Fe. Taos goes to sleep when the sun goes down. I purchased multiple “Breaking Bad” souvenirs there in honor of Walter White, the Albuquerque chemistry teacher gone bad.

New Mexico is justly proud of their chilies. They have both kinds, red and green. Their license plates proclaim them to be the Chili Capital of the World. They put chilies in everything: Enchiladas, rice, eggs, coffee, ice cream, toothpaste and chewing gum. It’s a chili cult.

Your restaurant wait person will ask you if you want red, green or Christmas chilies. If you order Christmas, you get red and green chilies. I always ordered Christmas.
The Beast was very comfortable out on the lone highway. Beasts are designed to roam free, not to be cooped up in the city. New Mexico is big. Big Skies. Big mountains. Big prairies. Big red, tan and white rocks.
Big elevations — Santa Fe is at 6,000 feet and Taos is 7,000 feet. Just north of Taos lies the Rio Grande Gorge River bridge. You are riding along through essentially flat prairie land. Suddenly the ground falls away into a 650 foot drop off into the Rio Grande valley where the river winds its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Bridge has pedestrian walkways which shake when big construction trucks whiz by. It’s a pretty dramatic walk which I recommend if you enjoy vertigo tinged with fear and quaking. Pretty nifty. There are souvenir tents at the edge of the Bridge where you can buy all manner of silver and turquoise jewelry.

They accept American money in New Mexico. Have a chili and a smile.

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