It’s something you’ve thought about for a long time, but never had the chance. Load the family in the Family Truckster and take a road trip that includes your very first visit to Albuquerque.
As always, you’ve crammed too much fun, driving, and fun into the trip, especially this first one after the pandemic. So, you only have time for a quick night and breakfast in the Duke City before heading west to Flagstaff and points West.
You drive through Tijeras Canyon for the first time and hit the big city, only to realize it’s not quite as big as you’d imagined. Before you know it, you’re west of Downtown on I-40, and it’s time to find a hotel. You look at the tall buildings at the Rio Grande Blvd. exit and that looks a bit splurgy, special trip or not.
So you head on and get to the Coors Blvd exit. Your front-seat passenger/navigator tells you there’s supposed to be plenty of hotel choices at this exit, maybe because it’s the last one before you run out of Albuquerque.
Doing more of the incredible driving that has always drawn family raves, you make your way to southbound Coors:
Driving slow because you’re a bit disoriented and tired from a long day’s drive that started in Tulsa (isn’t Route 66 great!), you make your way while passenger/navigator tells you to get in the right lane and turn on a street that’s either “I lif” “Ill if,” they really don’t know. A joke is made about how the GPS navigator would pronounce it, if you didn’t feel that GPS navigation takes all the fun out of family vacations.
You check-in at La Quinta, which isn’t full because…pandemic, and are quickly soothed by the river-like white noise sound of trucks on I-40. This will work, you think, and. after the usual extended calm down after 500 miles in the Family Truckster, you and the fam fall fast asleep in your very first night in Albuquerque.
Next morning you remember passing that Denny’s on your way to La Quinta. It was on the other side of the busy street named after beer. Well-rested from your sleep, you excitedly tell the fam that instead of the La Quinta “continental breakfast,” you’re gonna splurge and it’s Grand Slam Breakfasts for everyone, except the teenage kid who’s vegan and they’ll just have to deal.
Better yet, to really experience Albuquerque (and besides everyone is still sick of the car and dreads another 400 miles in it today on the way to Flagstaff), you announce that you’re all walking to Denny’s.
It’ll be fun. A family excursion. Besides it’s less than a quarter mile away. Passenger/Navigator looked on a map.
So you and the fam start walking east down Illiff to Denny’s. Once you get to Coors on your side of the street, here’s what you see:
You first notice as you get to the intersection that there’s Albuquerque sand in your shoes because there’s been no sidewalk. Smiling a bit at the 8 feet island of sand-filled sidewalk at the intersection, you also see a sign telling pedestrians they have to cross Iliff, as there’s no crosswalk of Coors on this side of the street.
That’s okay, and after you and the fam take off their shoes to empty the sand and other bits of urban debris, you trek across Iliff and see this:
Yeah, there’s a crosswalk here, but even in the pretty early Albuquerque morning the traffic is pretty bad, and there seem to be about thirteen different directions for drivers to come at you. Your little one is looking pretty worried, and Passenger/Navigator points at something across the road.
“I think that’s a “No Pedestrian” sign.”
“But there’s a crosswalk. You know, it’s striped like a crosswalk.”
“This is stupid,” reports the teenage kid.
Standing together at the crosswalk “beg button,” but before you hit the button, you look more closely:
“So are we supposed to cross this street or not?”
“I’m hungry. Why don’t we turn around and just eat that yogurt at the hotel?”
“No dammit, we’re celebrating our first trip to Albuquerque, and La Quinta yogurt is not a celebration of anything,” you proclaim.
“Okay, hit the walk button then.”
You quickly stick out your hand to hit the button, but stop just before tapping it. You think for a second, more like a minute, while looking away from the button to the Coors Blvd. traffic, the “No Pedestrian” sign, that kooky turn lane, the faded crosswalk markings, and finally at the Denny’s which is actually only about 250 feet away, but seems 250 miles distant.
“Aw screw it. Let’s go back and get the car.”
“Or just the yogurt, I’m hungry.”
Later, during breakfast, Passenger/Navigator does a Google search on their phone for “Iliff Coors pedestrian” and passes the phone around showing all the search response news stories on some of the many people killed trying to cross that intersection. Passenger/Navigator is like that. A born researcher.
Each family member at some point individually tells friends back home after the trip about the morning they could have died in Albuquerque.
“If only we had hit that walk button, I might not be here telling you this story.”