While I am not saying I am Breaking Bad’s biggest fan, I would argue I could total in with the top 10% of the show’s most dedicated viewers. When BB was on, I was wholeheartedly committed. I would throw viewing parties at my parents house, dress like Walter White, and make breakfast and other goodies for my friends.
(Photos circa 2013)
Hell, the show even ended on my 21st birthday. Rather than go out to a bar, as I feel most 21 year old’s do, I sat on the couch with my dad and eagerly watched the finale.
After the show ended, I felt a sense of loss. It was my favorite show, and now I had no more Breaking Bad Sunday’s to look forward to. Ever since then, I have tried to fill the void with Better Call Saul, re-watching the entire BB series, and other misc. TV shows. Even more recently, I have been Netflix binging on all of Malcolm in the Middle to get my Bryan Cranston fix.
However, there was one thing that I knew I had to do still to truly call myself a die-hard Breaking Bad fan. I had to go to New Mexico and visit Albuquerque. It’s a 16 hour drive to ABQ from STL, however, and no one seemed to want to visit as much as I did (because they are Breaking Bad heathens). Renting a car to solely visit ABQ solo seemed outrageous to everyone in my life and I was discouraged from the journey.
Then one of my best friend’s, Rachel, moved to Taos! What luck!
Rachel is my soul sister. She is a spiritual flower who only ever wants to do good for others and for nature, and I love her for that. She moved to Taos after having lived in Nepal for a long while, where she helped build sustainable homes after the earthquake. Now in NM, she tutors underprivileged kids and lives off the grid in the Mesa. Our lives seem to always flow on opposite but linear paths and we are made for one another. As such, I miss her always.
Her moving to Taos provided the perfect opportunity for me to visit and split up my trip. I decided to visit ABQ for two days, Santa Fe for one, and Taos for two more. My goals for this trip were to really ham it up on the Breaking Bad, hike in the Sandia Mountains, fully embrace the New Mexican enchantment, and keep it on a budget while doing so.
This was the longest drive I have ever made, and the first road trip I have ever journeyed on solo. While I previously have explored other cities by myself, this trip seemed a lot more personal and was far more extensive in my alone time. I was afraid that this could cause my anxiety to exacerbate and nearly cancelled my plans on several occasions. But that fear is also what was motivating me to go: I wanted to do this alone to see if I could, to challenge myself, and to learn about and focus on me.
Here is short breakdown of my itinerary, and a guide on how you could do it too, if you’d like!:
I rented a car and strategically mapped out my drive.
I decided to rent a car after keeping my eye on plane tickets to ABQ for months and then weeks prior. The price always varied around the $400 to $500 range. Compared to renting a car in STL and then driving, flying was just not budget friendly. I would have had to have rented a car anyway once I arrived in ABQ, unless I wanted an Uber to drive me to the mountain hiking trails or the hour to Santa Fe. Additionally, my mom’s fiance works for Enterprise. Because we are soon to be family, he was able to get me a family discount on a rental car. This helped me extraordinarily, as I am still under 25 and renting a car for a week was going to be pricey. He saved me many a dollar bill and my price totaled to $169.00. Thanks Mark!
By renting a car in STL, I was able to save significantly. If you are planning on renting as well, be sure to check around for discounts to save even more. Whether that be putting out an ask on social media for a friend’s discount, checking membership benefits like AAA or USAA, or looking at Groupon, RetailMeNot, etc. Of course, if you have a newer car that could handle a drive like this, just take your car!!
Another strategy for long ass drives? Podcasts. I listened to every single episode of Adam Ruins Everything, and then on the way back I chowed through the entire Serial podcast in one sitting. This made the drive much less terrible – enjoyable even – and I am now at least 2% smarter.
Something I didn’t account for: Oklahoma has one million tolls and they are evil. No credit cards, no bills over $20, some don’t have change, some need exact change, etc. And they are EVERYWHERE throughout the state. They legitimately made me cry (seriously, ask my mom. I called her bawling). Prepare yourself by bringing with $30 worth of quarters, or just go through Kansas, where they have better and updated tolls.
I stayed in affordable accommodation and with friends.
As I mentioned before, the drive from STL to ABQ is 16 hours. I have driven long distances before with friends, but due to my solo status, I decided to stop off in what seemed like the middle of nowhere: Elk City, OK. I chose Elk City because it was further than OKC, meaning I was closer to my destination, and it was not as seemingly strenuous as Amarillo. I stayed at the Clarion Inn for a mere $55, which featured a (nice & vegetarian friendly) continental breakfast. Looking back, if I’d started at 5am or so, I could have probably made it the entire way through since I was thaaaat engaged in my podcasts. But then I’d have missed the beautiful scenery when approaching ABQ, which I suppose was worth $55.00.
Next up, in ABQ I stayed at the Suburban Extended Stay. It was a bit odd to stay here because it was set up for people who intend to stay there… for an extended time. I didn’t need a fully functional oven, but the hotel had nicer reviews, was affordable, and was closer to the places I wanted to go than many of the other budget hotels.
I should state here that I fell head-over-heels for Albuquerque. My expectations for the city weren’t exceptionally high, but I was excited to see it.
I’d heard there wasn’t much to do and that the crime rate was high (laughable statement to make to someone from St. Louis). When I arrived though, it reminded me of home, which I think is what made me enjoy it so much. It was a normal, affordable, wide-layout, small city. Only with mountains, better Mexican food options, and it was warmer and less humid.
For the remainder of my stay, I slept on Rachel’s couch in Taos in her cool-as-shit, off-the-grid, Earthship home.
I planned out my activities to ensure I was getting the best deals possible!
As you already know, if you follow my blog, I am always looking for a deal. For my trip to NM, most of the activities on my to-do list were either cheap or free. These included:
1. Riding the tram up to Sandia Peak for $15.00, enjoying the spectacular view, and then hiking solo back down, which I wrote about here!
2. Partaking in my own self-guided Breaking Bad tour, which I wrote about here! I wanted to go on the official Breaking Bad RV Tour but the price was just too high, and I couldn’t find any coupons. A bummer, but I got to take plenty of photos of myself with my handy-dandy, moronic-looking selfie stick.
3. Checking out Marble Brewery, reveling in the fact that I was drinking beer that Bryan Cranston recommended to me, and meeting some really nice, local ABQ people.
4. Visiting the Georgia O’Keefe museum for $13.00 in Santa Fe. Next time I come back to NM, I will explore the Meow House museum or whatever it’s called, but the price was $20.00 so I decided to pass on it… For now…
5. Exploring all of Taos with Rachel, including peering down the Rio Grande Gorge during sunrise, walking around the Mesa, attending a party at an Earthship house, buying souvenirs in the city center, eating amazing southwestern food, and trying to find an affordable pair of sunglasses (which we found at a coffee shop?).
This trip was important to me. Of course, there was the aspect of visiting all of the Breaking Bad film sites that had me over the moon. But voyaging to the Land of Enchantment was more than that to me.
While I received help from friends and family in terms of saving and staying, I pursued and planned this trip on my own. I drove it alone. I slept in hotel rooms in the middle of nowhere alone. I ate at restaurants alone and made friends at bars on my own. I hiked and saw breathtaking views of Sandia Peak completely alone.
This was my first ever, long-term road trip performed solo. During those abundant hours of alone time, I was able to do much needed reflection on myself. I realized how much I enjoyed being alone, and how it allowed me to fully explore new places. Additionally, this trip helped prove to myself that I am capable of anything – despite what my anxiety wants to lead me to believe!
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave me a comment below!