The last weekend in September, my husband and I piled the kids into my sweet new minivan and embarked on a cross country roadtrip to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We not only decided to drive, but to make the drive in three days. Minimal stops with the exception of some landmarks or places that were on my (apparently very weird) bucket list, like Birmingham and Oklahoma City.
Altogether, the kids got to see Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas and Lousiana. Not bad for a five year old and a seven month old!
Once we arrived in Albuquerque, we spent a week in the most charming, magical basement apartment that we rented when I fell in love with it on an airbnb listing. It did not disappoint and I'm pretty sure both Ethan and I wake up angsty every other morning upon realizing we are no longer snug in our cozy underground digs. Even crazier than the drive to Albuquerque was our drive back, which we made in two days because we decided to extend our trip by a day and my husband had to work that Monday. We arrived back home at 5 a.m. on Monday and my husband made his way into work a couple of hours later because he's absolutely insane, or motivated and responsible. You pick. Since our return home, it's been a steady stream of chaos (did I mention our washing machine broke the day before we left?) and catching up and readjusting to Eastern time and our schedule and the decompressing that has to happen following a vacation, however blissful and relaxing it may be.
On our trip, the kids were able to hike Boca Negra Canyon at the Petroglyph Monument, shop the Downtown Grower's Market, see the BioPark Zoo as well as the aquarium and (absolutely enchanting) botanical gardens. Ethan fell absolutely in love with the old school magic down in Old Town Square, took a tramway up and down the Sandia Peak mountains -- and the highlight of the trip, hands down, was the sheer magic of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. We attended a few different days of the balloon fiesta, including a morning glow, a special shapes glowdeo, fireworks show and an ascension. Watching the balloons take off that first morning over the mountains in the crisp, cool air with hot cocoa (and coffee for me) to warm up our fingertips -- it was truly magical. New Mexico is the land of enchantment and I feel that's a motto that fits every inch of the state. Every moment of our trip, I got to see the enchantment wash over Ethan's face. I cannot wait to watch Carmen grow and take it all in as well. (I'm already counting down the days until next year.)
The trip was a dream. Albuquerque is seared into my heart in a way that I'm unable to put into words, but there was freedom in the fresh air and the beauty of the mountains. It was healing in it's own right, and enough for us all to declare that it would become our yearly tradition. Some Floridian families go to Disney each year but we apparently pile into a minivan and drive across the country to New Mexico. We've been back a few weeks and as I try to (although futile) catch-up on laundry, I'm still missing blue corn donuts and lattes from the cutest coffee houses scattered across downtown Albuquerque (we desperately tried to try them all). We came back to cloudy skies (so much for the sunshine state) and hot, humid weather and I'm still a little nostalgic for the crisp cold mountain air.
As our vacation inched closer, I began to truly fear the drive. Ethan was a horrible traveler from birth and, with the exception of a trip to Georgia the weekend before New Mexico (we're crazy, okay?), he'd never traveled more than four hours in a car. Even driving ten minutes to the grocery store, he's notorious for whining and complaining. We used our Georgia trip as a traveling trial run and came to the conclusion that 4 a.m. was the best time to leave. The kids would doze back off immediately when we carried them into the car in the dark and wake up a few hours later wanting (a packed) breakfast and not yet dreaming of escaping the confines of the car. It worked like a charm. Actually, despite a few necessary leg-stretching breaks (like at a playground in Little Rock), the kids both did magnificent. I had packed the car with bagged snacks, new toys, games -- anything I could think of -- to try to ward off Ethan's impatience. To our surprise, there wasn't a whine the entire trip -- and none of the new toys or games were played with, either. We made the drive without any technology or iPad or movie watching at all. All Ethan wanted was a package of 500 regular white computer paper sheets and a box of markers. He used up the entire package of paper on our drive, but it was perfect. I have plans to place each drawing in a binder, a collection of Ethan's Road Trip Art, or something.
On the way home, he drew Zia after Zia, hot air balloons and mountain ranges. There is still some of that Albuquerque enchantment in us.