9/30 – 10/1
With rooms booked in Albuquerque within miles of the REI, we headed to McDonalds to wait for the bus, and to eat(again)…of course. Three buses later, a train ride that cost us $6 and another bus, we were within walking distance (.1 mi) of the REI.
Reeking like true hiker trash, we wafted through the doors of REI, intent on new shoes (for all of us), inserts and a new air mat for Paul. Remarkably, we got some rather odd looks from the patrons and employees while in the REI. They seemed rather clueless about the CDT, and tried to “upsell” us other footwear and gear. The concept that we had already completed over 2,000 miles and knew what we wanted and needed didn’t seem to resonate.
Having completed our purchases, it was time to get a ride to our hotel. The thought of walking the 3 miles to the hotel did not seem that appealing. Luckily Lyft had returned to Alburquerque, so I “dialed” up a ride. It would be a 20 minute wait, but it was still better than walking. As we stood waiting in full hiker trash fashion, a couple approached us (Cathie and Josh) and asked us where we were headed. Mexico, we responded in unison. Unfazed, they replied, “Oh, you’re doing the CDT. Our daughter is doing the CDT and she’s almost to Cuba”. We laughed at the coincidence, replying, “That’s where we just came from.” We then explained that the hotels were all full in Cuba due to the weather event they were having, and that we were going to Zero in Alburquerque. What followed after that was pure and simple Divine Intervention.
Josh and Cathie asked us if we needed a ride to our hotel. We jumped at the offer and immediately cancelled the Lyft. They asked us how we got to Alburquerque and how we plan to get back to the trail. We explained our bus and train route, and how we planned to use it in reverse on Saturday. Now this is when they offered to pick us up Saturday and give us a ride back to Cuba. Their daughter “Happy Dance” was set to get into Cuba that Saturday. This, Cathie said, would give her an “excuse” to meet up with her daughter on trail. Their offer for a ride was most fortuitous, as we would later discover that not a single leg of the public transit system we had used, was going to be operating, and/or would NOT get us anywhere near Cuba. That left a hitch, or a seriously expensive Lyft ride as our options.
More than ecstatic, we exited their car, apologizing profusely for our stench and thanking them graciously for the ride. They would contact us the following day as to what time they (Cathie) would be picking us up for our ride to back to Cuba.
When we checked into our hotel, we discovered that we (Jan) had gotten the last available rooms in Alburquerque. It seems that we arrived just in time for the start of the annual (and world famous) Alburquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This event has been on our bucket list for quite some time. And, as it turned out, the balloons were “stationed” not far from our hotel.
And with that, we began our 4th zero of the trail. A shower, laundry and a short walk to fresh food and beer were in order.
10/1: 5 mi
Ideally, we would have preferred to not have accrued any mileage, but it just seemed silly to spend money to walk the 1.5 miles to the grocery store, the half mile to the brewery, and the mile to the pizza place. With regard to the grocery store, and in hindsight, we should have gotten a ride back. Or, at least worn our packs in order to carry the excess of food we bought for our resupply that would take us to Grants. And, the assortment of “fresh” food we purchased in an effort to satiate the bottomless pits that were our stomachs.
10/2: 6.7 mi (2350.9 – 2357.6)
Breakfast found us and our hotel surrounded by a plethora of colorful balloons.
549 hot air balloons to be exact, slowly floated above and near our hotel. One even “crash landed” in a lot next to the hotel.
What a treat for us, and especially for Jan who had heard about this fabled event but never expected to ever have an opportunity to witness this in real-life.
Near 1 pm, Cathie picked us up. A quick stop at the REI was in order. Cathie had to pick up some shoes for her son-in-law, and as it turned out, we needed to return the new air mattress Paul had purchased as he was able to find and repair the leaks to his old one.
Assuming correctly, Cathie asked us if we were hungry. When are we not? Our next stop was Sonic, for what would be the largest shake, the lot of us had ever consumed! We figured that we had to have consumed the equivalent of a half-gallon of ice cream. Best Shake EVER!
We talked throughout the drive about trail life and how we came to be hiking the CDT. The conversation was pleasant and in no time we arrived in Cuba. Rather than road walk out of Cuba and have to pay attention to traffic, Cathie graciously dropped us at where Hwy 197 and the CDT intersect.
It was around 4pm, so we decided to hike a few miles with the daylight we had left. We hiked till 6:30 pm and were treated to a marvelous sunset and clear skies atop a sandy red soil mesa.