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From WestAllisNOW's unofficial travel reporter: Albuquerque, NM

Bowling, Craps, Gambling, My-Sugar-Na, Nostalga, Restaurants, Vacation

Travelogue from my trip to the USBC Nationals last week in Albuquerque, NM.... 

Friday, July 4 - We arrived in ABQ around 10:00 AM and went to check into the Hyatt Regency (having bid $35 a night on Priceline for four nights).  We checked in and asked for a breakfast spot.  Being a holiday, many downtown restaurants were closed, but Lindy's was open on Central Ave.  It looked like it fit right into historic Route 66 and tasted like decent diner food. 

Back at the hotel, my wife took a nap and I walked to the convention center to watch part of that day's bowling competition.  The Santa Ana Casino was a sponsor and there was a wall full of cards with promo codes on them.  The idea was to take a card, punch the code into the computer that was stationed in the booth, and you would "win" some free play at that casino.  I played it and won $45 for myself and $15 for My-Sugar-Na.  After watching some of the 2:30 squad, I went back to the hotel, grabbed the wife and drove to Santa Ana Casino.  It seemed like an OK place - it didn't grab my attention as anything special. 

After losing a few bucks we went to Albuquerque's Freedom Fourth civic party at Balloon Fiesta Park for the fireworks.  We found a spot near the free Blood Sweat and Tears concert and settled in.  Although they weren't US Bank fireworks, it was a nice display and an overall nice civic festival.  The best part was that I didn't have to slather myself in mosquito repellant to sit on the grass during the summer. 

When we got back to the hotel we ordered a pizza from JC's New York Pizza Department.  The pizza was fantastic, and we would have liked to order another one before we left, but they only offered one size - 20" - and we wasted too much of it (the Hyatt didn't bring the fridge to our room as we had asked until the next day).

Saturday, July 5 - My wife likes nature stuff.  Although I can take or leave it, I had no problem when she found a program put on by the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center to identify wildflowers.  I am not sure whether Julie knew her stuff or if she just had a little stage freight, but it wasn't much of a tutorial.  However, we did take a walk along some trails and she was much better when not working off note cards.  She did a better job stating "this flower is a Mexican Hat Flower as you can see by the...."

Since we were doing mountain stuff, we drove to the Sandia Mountain Tram and went up to the top.  We hadn't had lunch in between and were going to go to High Finance for lunch, but they stopped serving about 10 minutes before we got there.  Instead, we took the chair lift down the east side of the mountain.  I thought this was actually much better than the tram.  They cram you into the tram like sardines and with so many people it can be hard to get a good view.  But on the chair lift, it was just me and my wife riding in the open air with our feet dangling down looking at the mostly-lush, green mountainside.  The ride was 30 minutes in each direction and cost only $7 each round trip.

After the mountain fun but before bowling Saturday night we went to the Standard Diner, which is also on Central.  This place looked diner-ey (very retro from the outside), but was more upscale.  I had the Crab Cake Po' Boy for about $12 and it was great.

At the convention center for bowling the 8:30 PM (and last team) squad, I impressed myself.  As I've bored you with in the past, I had elbow surgery in January and hadn't bowled competitively since last Thanksgiving.  I struggled on the fresh oil right out of the gate, but I finished with a seven-bagger for 234 last game and 612 series.  Although most years I would say that I bowled decent, I couldn't have been more thrilled about how I bowled on a tough shot after an eight-month layoff. 

Sunday, June 6 - The team that I bowled with was scheduled to bowl singles and doubles right away at 7:00 AM.  I was also worried about how my elbow would hold up with such a quick turnaround.  As it worked out, my elbow was much better than I expected, but I still really struggled on the fresh oil again.  A 550ish series had me a little bummed, but a decent start for singles gave me a realistic shot at 1800 for all events.  I just barely missed that - I shot 1784 for nine games - but my sincere goal that I had set before the tournament of 1600 was shattered.

For breakfast, we had Waffle House (which - I know - breaks my own rules against eating at chain restaurants, but we don't have this chain in Milwaukee and I love the double pecan waffle with the hash browns scattered, smothered and peppered.)

After a nap, My-Sugar-Na and I went to Dickey's for dinner.  While I was in the, ahem, library at one point, I saw a coupon in the newspaper for a Buy One - Get One dinner, so we gave it a go.  I would have liked it better if they didn't serve the BBQ sauced.  Although Milwaukee is not a hotbed for BBQ, the late, great restaurants Great Northern BBQ and Q served the meat dry-rubbed with sauce served on the side, and it never occurred to me to request the sauce on the side.  Other than it not being spectacular, it certainly wasn't bad.

We were then planning on attending the minor league (AAA) Albuquerque Isotopes game, but the threat of rain kept us away.  If we were locals, it wouldn't have been a problem, but if the game were to be rained out (it wasn't, by the way) we wouldn't have been able to use the rain check, and we didn't feel like spending possibly two to three hours watching a rain delay.  Instead we went to see that horrible Will Smith movie Hancock (quick review... if it would have been just about an alcoholic superhero, it would have been way, way better.)

(Rant coming...) After the movie, it was a three-block drive from the theater to the hotel.  We had taken the car because we didn't know if we would go somewhere after the movie.  As I pulled away from the curb, I did not yet have my seat belt on.  At the stoplight at the end of the block, I put it on.  However, there was a police roadblock and an officer saw me and pulled me over.  Now I did admit to you that I didn't have my belt on when the cop spotted me (and he ended up giving me a written warning, not a ticket).  But my complaint was twofold... 1)  He was quite rude about it.  Instead of "Sir, I saw you not wearing a seat belt" he said "Can't you find your seatbelt in the rental car?".  He also said a few other things that were rude.  2)  I thought the point of police roadblocks was to come up with probable cause to search for drugs, weapons, warrants, etc.  This officer never asked to check the vehicle or anything.  I am sure he ran my DL for warrants, but he knew it was a rental car... wasn't this a waste of his time to just stop me for a warning?  If the point of roadblocks is to catch bad guys, he wasted his time by pulling me over to make some sarcastic comments.

Monday, July 7 - We had an expensive breakfast at Hyatt's restaurant McGraths.  They had a buffet that was worth the money, and the best part was that when I told the chef that the pancakes look old, he made a fresh plate for me.  They also had mango smoothies available, and hot stuffed apples with oatmeal... it was almost like eating an apple crisp.

We spent most of the day in Old Town doing the tourist stuff and buying souvenirs (again, just about every store was giving away bowling T-shirts for $5 to $7 bucks).  In one flyer or another, there was a write up about a Old Town Ghost Tour, so my wife and I bought our tickets and came back at 8:00 for the tour.  I don't believe in ghosts in any way, shape or form, but Mykie the tour guide did tell fun stories... usually about bloody murder.  My wife on the other hand, bought into it hook, line and sinker and took hundreds of pictures because Mykie said that many people could see supernatural images in photos.  Luckily for 2008, our digital camera was able to erase the 25 pictures of the same thing that she took.

In between walking through Old Town and the Ghost Tour, we went to Tucanos for dinner (Think Sabor, but at half the price!)  At another point while in the, ahem, library, I was thumbing through a magazine and saw an ad for a free appetizer at Tucanos.  At first I thought "why bother?", but after dinner my wife decided that she wanted desert, and I also had one when I saw Crème Brule on the menu.  The manager was nice enough to take off one of the deserts with that appetizer coupon.

(Another rant coming...) When we signed-up at Santa Ana Casino and got our comp money on Saturday from the USBC promotion, the guy at the player's club who signed us up gave us another promo card.  That night, we went to the Hyatt's computer, and this time I won $75 and my wife won $50.  So after Tucanos on Monday night we drove to Santa Ana to get our free money - the plan was to cash out whatever we could win from the free money, then drive to the Isleta Casino as we hadn't been there.  My wife was first in line at the player's club, and she got the $50 credited to her card (apparently the clerk that took care of her never noticed a problem).  However the lady that took me said that there could only be one promotion per person and that I couldn't get the $75.  I stated that I used the promo card that the guy on Saturday gave me (I had that card with the code number, too).  After talking to the supervisor, it was decided that the guy on Saturday gave me the wrong card, but they still wouldn't accept it.  I was furious, but luckily My-Sugar-Na won about $100 with her free money, so we walked out of there with $100 without risking a penny. 

We then drove to Isleta to spend the money that Santa Ana gave us, and between me and the wife, we won another $130, so it was a very good day.  It still makes me mad that because some guy on Saturday screwed up, I could have potentially wasted a trip 20 miles out of my way for a promotion that they wouldn't honor.

Tuesday, July 8 - This was supposed to be our last day, so after packing and checking out of the hotel, we tried to ship my bowling balls back home using my UPS account number.  I went to five places (two Office Depots, a UPS store and two independents that have "We Ship UPS" signs in the window).  None would process the shipment collect... I finally got directed to the UPS hub near downtown - about shouting distance from our hotel where we had started!  The frustrating thing was the 90 minutes wasted driving around to avoid dragging my bowling balls through an airport.

On the Ghost Tour, one of the haunted restaurants mentioned was the Church St. Cafe, so we went there for lunch in the hopes that the ghost of Sara Ruiz would throw the silverware or take our car keys (apparently, Sara likes to hide car keys as a practical joke.  That nutty spirit!)

Lastly, we stopped at the Natural History Museum to take in Dinosaurs Alive movie at the Dynatheater.  The part that I saw (before dozing off) was pretty good.

We then headed back to the rental car return and then to the airport.  When we checked in, we were told our plane was two hours late coming out of Denver.  By the time our flight would leave, we would miss the connecting flight (the last one of the day) from Denver.  We were given the option of being stranded overnight in Albuquerque or stranded overnight in Denver.  We chose Albuquerque, so we called Knobbleknees, asked her to Priceline a hotel and car for us and we left the airport with another day of vacation.

Another haunted restaurant in Old Town, La Placita, is where my wife picked for dinner.  Again, spirits, no matter how hard my wife tried to talk to Mary, didn't visit us.  It was, in my opinion, the second best meal of the trip (after Tucanos).

By this time it was after 7:00 PM, and without prior planning, none of the tourist-y stuff was available so since we were still ahead $$-wise in the gambling department, we decided to head to the Route 66 casino.  This place was, to me, the most fun looking.  The big sign outside, the neon inside, the Route 66 crazy carpeting... even the chips looked cool.  But this place appeared to have a big vacuum attachment in the ventilation system, because I lost a fortune in three rolls at the craps table.  Steve (if he's still awake through this post) can appreciate this...

  • The point is 5 (I back up my $5 pass line bet with $12 odds)
  • I place a $12 on 6
  • I place a $12 on 8
  • SevenoutLineInPaytheDon'tsLastComeGetsSome
  • Repeat in similar pattern for three shooters

I think I was out $121 in six minutes. My wife had equal luck on the slots, so we drove back with our tails between our legs.  I got out of there so quick, I forgot to cash in my four $1 chips.  Cheap souvenirs, I guess.

I'll save the story about the actual trip home on Wednesday for my next post... ripping Frontier Airlines a new one!

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