From Austin, my sister and I headed to El Paso, Texas. The trip itself was about 580 miles. Like many other days, the trip took way longer than anticipated. There was so much traffic and construction around Austin, that it added about an hour to the trip. The good news about this trip was that the time change gave us one extra hour.
I had no expectations for El Paso, it was mainly a place to stop before heading to Albuquerque. El Paso was exactly how I had pictured the southwest. Unlike Austin, which was green, El Paso was a dry desert.
As soon as we checked into the hotel, I discovered that my short zoom lens on my Nikon D3500 was not focusing. This is the lens that I was using for most of my photography on this trip and it was now taking pictures that looked like this:
Needless to say, I was quite upset about this discovery. I turned to google for a solution and tried several different settings on my camera to no avail. It was late in the afternoon and we were extremely hungry, borderline hangry. So I left my camera in the room to deal with later and didn't take any pictures that day, except this one from the view of our room (taken with my long lens):
We were staying in the city center and I figured there would be many restaurants to choose from. Unfortunately, there really wasn't much to offer in the area. We also needed to eat somewhere that had vegetarian options for my sister, which excluded most of the options that were within walking distance. I wanted to eat at a Mexican restaurant since we were so close to the border. We found Kiki's Mexican Restaurant which was 3.6 miles away and decided to Uber there. On the way to the restaurant, we learned from the driver how close to the border we actually were. In the picture above, all of the buildings that sit at the base of the mountains in the background are a part of Mexico. We could see Mexico from our room!
By the time we actually made it to the restaurant I was so hungry that I think everything would have tasted good. I ordered a house margarita and taco/enchilada combo plate from Kiki's. Kiki's uses the same margarita glasses as El Palmar in Carmichael, they have a cactus as the stem.
When we got back to the hotel room, I finished my French homework and then we headed down to the pool for the rest of the evening. The pool had a waterfall and music, which made it enjoyable until the wind picked up.
That night, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't fall back to sleep. So I started researching camera shops in El Paso that would hopefully know how to fix my lens. I then read some more about the issue and again played around with the settings. I tried to clean any dust particles from all of the crevices too. Whatever I did, seemed to do the trick because I was able to take this lovely picture of my camera bag! Since this issue, I have noticed that my camera occasionally lags when focusing. When this happens, the camera will not take pictures even when the shutter button is pressed. It is my hope that this camera lasts longer because I have only had it for a year.
The next day we drove to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was very similar to the drive from the previous day: dry with little to no signs of life the majority of the way. At some point in New Mexico, there was a border patrol checkpoint. It made very nervous. When I pulled up, the border patrol officer eyed my bright red Honda Fit, quickly glancing in all of the windows. We greeted each other and he asked me if "everyone in the vehicle was a U.S. citizen". After I said yes, he told me to have a good day. I drove away angry with so many thoughts running through my mind on our nation's current immigration policies. People who try to immigrate through the U.S./Mexican border do so in hopes of a better life. Many are asylum seekers fleeing for their lives. Then, once they are here, and if they are found by border patrol they are locked in overcrowded cages where they are mistreated, separated from their children, and sometimes even sent back to the very situation they were fleeing. It also did not escape my mind that I did not hit a border patrol check point anywhere in the north.
Once we arrived in Albuquerque, we had a late lunch at a restaurant called Frontier. The restaurant is located across the street from the University of New Mexico, so there was a lot of foot traffic in the area. Frontier has a wide variety of food on the menu: both Mexican and American. My sister and I both had Mexican again because we were determined to find the best Mexican food in the southwest. I ordered a burrito and the tortilla was really amazing, all the ingredients tasted so fresh.
While we were at lunch, I started googling places we could go that were significant to the show "Breaking Bad". My sister jokingly asked "Did you only plan a night in Albuquerque because of Breaking Bad?" and the answer is yes, of course I did! What I did not know beforehand is that there is a three hour Breaking Bad tour that you can take in Jessie and Walt's RV. There were no available tours for the day we were there, but there was a store in Old Town. Our hotel was also located in Old Town so we decided to head over to explore the area.
Similar to other cities, Old Town Albuquerque had shops, restaurants, museums, and other things to explore. In the center of Old Town sat this beautiful gazebo surrounded by trees and flowers. From what I have gathered, the city hosts live music and events here. Right across the street from the gazebo sits the San Felipe de Neri Perish. The current building was constructed in 1793, but the church has been there for over 300 years!
Again, I am not religious by any means, but I was drawn to this church because of the architecture. It is beautiful! It is also how I imagined all of the buildings in the southwest look like. So whenever I saw an adobe style house or building I would point it out to my sister, I am sure she appreciated it every single time *sarcasm*.
(Photo Credit: My Sister)
We eventually made our way to the Breaking Bad store. When you first enter, it appears to simply be a store front, but as you make your way to the back of the store, there is an entire museum of props used in the actual show. I took a bunch of video with my GoPro Hero 9 and compiled a video to showcase some of the items. This TikTok currently has over six thousand views and is my first video to receive more than one thousand likes, enjoy:
When we finished our walk through, we gave our props to the owner. From talking to him, we learned that this business endeavor is relatively new. Within the last year and a half they have expanded three times! His hope is to expand even further. He would like a building where they could replicate the underground lab, have a "Los Pollos Hermanos" on the ground floor, and the store/museum would be on the second floor. Now that COVID restrictions are easing in most places, they are also working on having the actors come through for meet and greets. If you are a fan of Breaking Bad, I highly recommend stopping by and make sure to book your RV tour beforehand.
After exploring Old Town, we checked into our hotel. The hotel we stayed in was big, beautiful, and historic (most likely haunted). We then decided to head to the pool. The pool was hidden behind a brown fence without signs to inform guests. The only reason we were able to find it is because a kind employee overheard us talking about the pool and escorted us there. The pool itself was small but had a lot of trees and plants surrounding it which made it absolutely gorgeous. There was also music playing that was popular when the two of us were in middle and high school, so we enjoyed the atmosphere.
After we freshened up, I wanted to take some pictures in the hotel garden and forced my sister to be my model. Unfortunately, it was in the afternoon so the sun was casting long shadows which made the lighting absolutely terrible. Additionally, hotel staff was cleaning up the area from a wedding that happened earlier in the day, making the photoshoot feel a bit awkward. Regardless, I wanted to show just how beautiful the area truly is.
This picture was taken with the same lens that I was having trouble with in El Paso. After the picture was taken, we were walking to the hotel restaurant and I was carrying the camera around my neck when the lens cap popped off and broke into two pieces. This has never happened to me before, even when running around with it at protests. This particular lens was having bad luck and I decided to put it away for the day.
We quickly decided that we weren't into the ambiance at the hotel restaurant. The bartender suggested we go across the street to Sawmill Market. I took a cool picture of Sawmill Market, but for some reason it has vanished into the abyss. Sawmill Market is this really "hip" new environment that resembles Oxbow Market in Napa. I ordered this amazing watermelon cider by "Sandia Hard Cider", a brewing company that is local to Albuquerque. For the rest of the evening, we hung out in the outdoor area where they had tables, music, and games. Before we left, my sister ordered some pasta from one a place called Tulipani. She really loved the dish she ordered. I was still full from lunch, but did try her left overs and it was pretty good.
Albuquerque was my favorite stop in the southwest and I would definitely enjoy spending more time there... and of course take the Breaking Bad RV tour!