“but why think about that when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you’re alive to see?”
―jack kerouac, on the road
My sister Amy and I have been interested in visiting the Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta for YEARS – and earlier this fall, we finally had our chance! The festival was winding down for its second and final weekend of the year, so, determined to catch a glimpse of some of the colorful, polyester-filled magical skies, we left Boulder in the early morning darkness and headed to New Mexico.
Over the past few years, I’ve done some pretty fun road trips (Philly to Denver via Nashville/Dallas, Philly to Denver via the Midwest, Boulder to Dallas, Boulder to Moab, Boulder to Telluride twice!, Boulder to the Black Hills of South Dakota, Dallas to Philly via the deep south, and MORE!) and I’ve picked up some helpful knowledge along the way – some handy dandy tips on how to make a road trip more enjoyable than it is stressful. Wisdom, you might say.
1. Plan ahead, but leave room for spontaneity when possible
Sometimes when you’re working out the details of a trip, it can be hard to squeeze in all the activities and fun stuff you want to see because of time constraints. Work obligations, distance, money – all of those factors can play a part in deciding what you can fit into a trip and what will have to wait til next time. If you can, try to allow yourself a little more time for the road trip than the time that Google maps tells you it will take.
Google maps doesn’t factor in bathroom breaks, gas station breaks, getting lost, or time for pulling over to take pictures of those really beautiful mountains or that really awesome pizza place in the middle of nowhere. With some extra time built into the plan, you leave room for all the fun!
2. Bring snacks
This is a great wait to stay healthy and save some money on the road. For our last trip, we were trying to clean out our fridge before some produce went bad, so we bundled it all up in Tupperware and brought it with us for the weekend. Healthy snacks on hand + money saved on junk food + not wasting perfectly good food we already had = win win win.
A few scenes from the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway near Leadville.
3. If you can, take the scenic route
The 475-mile drive from Boulder to Albuquerque should take about 6-7 hours if you’re doing a straight shot down I-25, but we decided to shake it up a little bit and take the scenic route.
We passed through a freezing cold Leadville, Colorado, and then headed south toward Albuquerque via Buena Vista along the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway. And there were some very buena vistas indeed.
4. Be aware of local traffic conditions/laws
You never really know what the roads will be like in the areas that you’re driving through, especially if the place you’re going is completely new and foreign to you and your companions. Speed limits, traffic patterns, and somewhat bizarre laws vary across the country – for example, did you know screeching your tires for any reason in Derby, Kansas is illegal? Yes, insanely trivial and specific, but you never know what you’ll run into in this crazy world of ours. Here are some things you might encounter on your adventure and now you won’t actually be shocked by them!
5. Don’t forget your camera!
Because obviously. Pics or it didn’t happen. Do it for the ‘gram. I like to take my Canon DSLR on big trips to try and capture some of the sights in a deliberate, artistic way, but the cameras on those iPhones these days aren’t half bad either! If you’re a smart phone-photographer, there are tons of apps to edit and perfect alllll of your favorite photos!
“For all its material advantages, the sedentary life has left us edgy, unfulfilled. Even after 400 generations in villages and cities, we haven’t forgotten. The open road still softly calls, like a nearly forgotten song of childhood. We invest far-off places with a certain romance.”
The landscape flattens out and dries out down past Salida…
Who else is nostalgic for……. Bush?
New Mexico is unlike any place I’ve EVER BEEN.
Ryan Adams is that u ?
After an early start and a looooooong scenic route, we arrived in Albuquerque, we got some dinner and went to bed early, because 1) long road trips are exhausting, and 2) we’d be getting up at 3:30am for the Balloon Fiesta!