Sunday, October 12, 2014

Los Pollos Hermanos

We are huge Breaking Bad fans so we had to stop by a few of the filming locations while we were in Albuquerque. We took a look at Walter and Skyler's house, the Pinkman mansion, Tuco's headquarters and Hank and Marie's house. Then we dropped in on Twister's fast food restaurant which was the setting for Los Pollos Hermanos, the chicken place owned by Gus Fring where so many scenes were shot.

I snapped a pic of this mural on the wall. We ordered a diet coke and sat in Walter White's booth for a few minutes. Kind of kitschy but we had fun.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

This is quite a show! We attended the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta this morning and had a great time. We woke up at 4 am (!) and drove to the park so as to arrive before the traffic got too bad. The balloons go up very early to take advantage of calm winds in the morning.

At 5:45 am the first six balloons went up as part of the "Dawn Patrol." These balloons test the wind conditions and determine whether or not the rest of the field can fly. The weather was cloudy but the winds were calm. It's beautiful to see the balloons light up the sky before dawn.

Dawn Patrol at the Balloon Fiesta

Check out that Wicked gas jet!
 The dawn patrol reported back... and the yellow flag was lowered and a green flag raised in its place. This was the go signal, and the first of more than 500 balloons started to ignite their jets! 

The sky was soon filled with balloons. They let you right on the launch field and you can wander amongst all of the balloons as they inflate. It's pretty cool to get that close up. 

It got to the point where you didn't know where to look - we were surrounded by balloons! 

Then at about 7:30 things really got interesting when the special shapes started launching. Balloons of every imaginable shape and size were being inflated. It made for some really cool effects. 

Darth Vader and Yoda

Love that cow balloon!

Butterflies and Sharks and Bees and Gators

It was a great experience. By about 8 am most of the 500+ balloons were in the air. We lingered a bit and then departed while the rest of the crowd headed for the vendor booths. We drove to Frontier restaurant (a famous diner in Albuquerque) for a fantastic breakfast burrito. 

As we drove home we saw dozens of balloons still in the air, and a few were trying to land in parking lots and other open spaces (they typically fly for about 1-2 hours). Apparently a few hard landings occur each year and we saw on TV later that one balloon almost got stuck in a tree. 

We plan to go again tomorrow for the Night Glow Show. I'll post a few more pictures then. This is definitely a bucket-list event - worth attending. It happens every October but plan well in advance if you decide to go because the hotels and RV parks book up fast. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef NP is probably the most under appreciated amongst the five parks in Utah. Most people just take a quick drive through and miss some of most interesting sights. We were able to stay 3 days and see much of the park.

Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef NP
The picture above and the few that follow are from a seldom-visited section of the park called Cathedral Valley. You need a high clearance vehicle to navigate the 58-mile drive through the valley, including crossing the 3 foot high Fremont river. The views are spectacular and this is considered one of the best areas of the park.

Denise with our rented Jeep at the Temple of the Moon

Temples of the Sun and Moon in Cathedral Valley
Layers of brilliant color 

There is also a paved scenic drive in the main park with several hiking opportunities. The rock patterns are very interesting and different from what you see in the other Utah parks.

View from Panoramic Poiunt

Denise on a rock cliff as we hiked

On another day we drove the Burr trail which allows you to see the Waterpocket fold, the main geological feature in the park. This is a warp in the earth's cruse that formed 65 million years ago - the largest of it's kind in North America. It's kind of hard to capture on film but here is an attempt.

The Waterpocket fold - a warp in the earth's crust
At one point on the Burr trail you drive down the wall of the Fold via a set of switchbacks. This was pretty exciting. The following is not my picture (it was "borrowed" from an National Park service site) but it shows how the road manages to get down the Fold. 

Burr trail switchbacks which we descended

On the Burr trail we came upon a small slot canyon. It only went for about 1/4 mile and then abruptly ended in a vertical wall.

A small slot canyon off the Burr Trail

End of the Slot
This ended our tour of the Capitol Reef NP area. The area was quite a surprise - I didn't expect that the scenery would be so amazing. It's worth more than a simple drive through if you have the time.

Our motorhome on Utah State Route 95

Sunday, October 5, 2014

House on Fire

There is a famous ancient pueblo ruin on the Cedar Mesa called House on Fire. You can see how it got it's name:

House on Fire

This is an amazing sight if you catch it in the right light. It's not actually a house but rather a place where the people stored their grain over 800 years ago. 

So how does this place get that blazing appearance? Most importantly, you have to get here at the right time - late morning in the summer or about noon in the fall. We got there at 11:15 am on October 5 and waited a bit before the light was right. You have to catch it when ruin is in shadow, with the sunlight hitting the red rock canyon and reflecting up onto the roof. If you wait too long the sun will directly illuminate the ruin and and wash out the scene.

Here's a shot with Denise in her blazing purple shirt contrasting with the fire: 

Here's a view from the side. You can see the entire ruin but the blazing effect is not quite as spectacular. 

If you want to go, it's pretty easy to find if you know where to look. It's in a place called Mule Canyon. Starting in Blanding Utah, travel west on Utah 95 for about 20 miles and turn right just past mile marker 102. Don't be fooled by a sign for "Mule Canyon Ruins" which is a a reconstructed site for "side of the road" sightseers. If you turn right on the correct road you will soon see a BLM sign where you stop and pay a small fee. Travel down the road about 0.3 miles, park at the side of the road at the bottom of hill and cross the road to find the marked trailhead (coordinates N37.53739, W109.73203). The hike is an easy 1 mile walk along well-marked trail beside a dry wash. After about 30-40 minutes look to the right, above the wash, and you can see the site. It's marked with some cairns leading up to the rock ledge on the right.

Time your visit right and you can easily add this photograph to your portfolio.