A Travellerspoint blog


A Unique and Historic Town

sunny 85 °F

"Buenos Dias";

My last blog mentioned climbing from Oklahoma City to ABQ so I checked the comparative elevations. Yes, there is a difference of 4,100' so no wonder the MH downshifted on the way!

ABQ was first settled in 1706 by the Spanish Conquistadors who established a mission here on the mesa and near the Rio Grande River. It is surrounded on 3 sides by the Sandia Mountains which rise to 10,000', 4,000' above the mesa. They provide spectacular scenery, especially in the early morning or in the evening with the shadows highlighting their ruggedness.

My friend, Pat flew in from MN to travel with me for 10 days so I met her at the airport on Sunday. That evening we had dinner at quaint Wine Bar and Bistro near "Old Town", a historic district in ABQ. It was a very nice experience with good wine and delicious food. I inquired about a hot air balloon ride for ABQ is the Hot Air Balloon Capitol. In the fall they host the world's largest balloon festival, quite a spectacular sight, I'm told. Anyway, balloon rides are offered once daily at 0545. A little too early, we decided! An alternative was to take the Sandia Peak Aerial Tram to the top of the 10,000' mountain. The tram is enclosed, holding about 30 people, and rides on steel cables. The views of the mountain gorges, sometimes 1.000' below the tramcar, and of the 11,000 sq. mi. panoramic scenes of the desert valley below are amazing. We had a delightful lunch in the cafe overlooking the valley and the city of ABQ. It made for a nice memory.
After lunch we drove to the National Museum of Nuclear Sciene and History, a National Historic Site, and Smithsonian Affiliate. A little background.
It all started in a letter written in early 1942 to President FDR from scientist Albert Einstein. In it he explained scientific work being done by a group of mostly German physicists who had escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930's in fear of their lives. They emigrated to the United States. Their work was on the theory of splitting the atom, which they believed would unleash unmeasurable amounts of energy. This energy, if captured, would cause an explosion of incredible size. He pointed out to Roosevelt that Nazi Germany was already working toward developing such a device. Alarmed, FDR appointed a commission of scientists to explore the matter, and then directed Lt. Gen. Leslie Groves, an agressive individual to head up the government's role. J. Robert Oppenheimer, a Berkley scientist, was to lead the effort. National security at risk, Gen. Groves and Oppenheimer chose 3 primary locations in which to conduct their work, dubbed, 'The Manhattan Project'. One a remote desert location near ABQ and Santa Fe, NM called Los Alamos. A second, Hanford, WA, a third in Oak Ridge, TN. Los Alamos was the lead, super-secret location. Hanford was focused on plutonium atom splitting research, and Oak Ridge was where uranium splitting work was done. Collectively, by war's end in 1945 there were 120,000 people working at several hundred locations in this Manhattan Project. The United States spent in excess of $2 Billion in developing this weapon. An amazing story told at the Nuclear Museum.
After a 'power nap' we drove to Old Town, the historic district in ABQ for dinner. We chose a noted, historic restaurant named 'Hacienda del Rio' , in an adobe building, supposedly dating back to 1706 when ABQ was settled. It listed on the menu famous people who had dined there. We found the margueritas to be not very good, and the food not much better. It was all in the experience, I guess.
Tomorrow we leave ABQ and climb another 2,000' in elevation to Santa Fe.

Posted by dixter 07:02 Archived in USA Tagged sites abq

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