“Travelling, it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” ~ Ibn Battuta
Because the pandemic has halted many traveler’s plans this year, most of us are indulging in low-cost memory surfing of past trips. “You have a new memory” device notifications remind us of places and people once visited. Let me tell you the story of a trip I am grateful to have taken, and one that remains one of my most favorite.
In much need of an adventure during Christmas 2018, my daughter and I decided to meet in the expansive, mystical southwestern desert towns of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. We had picked out a few things that we wanted to see but left some time open for exploring. What we did not anticipate as part of this adventure, was getting snowed in for two blizzards, one in each town!
We started in Santa Fe and before the first storm hit, we were able to visit the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, Meow Wolf’s immersive art installation, do some jewelry store and art gallery window shopping, eat pozole, and catch the Christmas lights at the Santa Fe Plaza. We watched the snow float down, stacking up on the walls surrounding our snug adobe Airbnb house. It blanketed the rooftops, fir trees and streetlights. No more jostle and crunch of tourists now, just a couple days to write, rest, and stream BBC’s Killing Eve.
After the storm, we hopped on the Rail Runner and sliced through the snow drifts down to Albuquerque. Our Airbnb was located in a warehouse a couple blocks from the train station. As we schlepped our suitcases and gear along the sidewalk, a homeless shelter worker offered us doughnuts and coffee. Yikes -we must have looked pretty rough and tumble. The warehouse was converted into cozy artist lofts and apartments. We visited the History & Science Museum, hiked around the Petroglyph National Monument and got so cold viewing the River of Lights display at the Zoo that Emma’s phone kept shutting down while we were trying to connect with our Uber driver. During the second blizzard we enjoyed listening to podcasts and audio books, writing and resting some more. Our last big adventure of the trip was something from my bucket list – a hot air balloon ride! Miraculously, the weather settled down enough for us to take off. I wrote this poem to try and capture the excitement of flying:
ripple and dance silkily
pulling against their tethers
eager to soar up into the sky
adrenaline and immortality raced through our veins
we clumsily crawled into the basket
gripped the sides tightly
waited for bumps and jolts but
high in the air we
miraculously, serenely, floated
curiosity coaxed us to look out north, south, east, west
at an exclusive, birds- eye panorama
We were in the air about an hour and as the sun was setting, the winds started to shift. They blew us past the field where we were to be picked up, and into a nearby suburb. The balloon kept going lower and lower and we waved at people in their backyards. When the balloon basket grazed a garage rooftop, we realized the landing was happening in this suburb….soon! The driver expertly landed in a cul-de-sac. As we crawled out of the basket the chase crew had set up a table and drinks and began packing up the balloon, while neighbors snapped pictures of it all. As the sun slipped behind the mountains and the temperature dropped, our driver gave us a Celtic blessing and we toasted each other with Albuquerque Sunset cocktails.
As we roll into the year 2021, I say “cheers” to hot air balloon rides at sunset, “cheers” to happy travel memories, and “cheers” to future travel adventures when this pandemic ends!